Visceral Manipulation

I am finally starting to feel better. If you’ve been keeping up with my other blog, Buried Carrots, you know that I have been struggling with what is possibly some anxiety or depression. The most troubling part of this issue has been a persistent feeling of not getting enough breath. I’ve been calling it shortness of breath, but it is more like an inability to take in a deep breath, or a constant urge to yawn that never results in a satisfyingly deep breath.

So far nothing, other than the supposed anxiety, has been deemed “wrong” with me. My lungs sound good, my heart sounds normal, my chest x-ray is normal.

After I’d had this breathing issue for just over a month, my doctor recommended an appointment with a pulmonary specialist. Unfortunately the specialist can’t see me until the end of October. The thought of feeling this way for two more months was devastating to me, so I started to consider some other options.

As a massage therapist I have always leaned toward the science side of things. I like to know why and how things work, and I have always been a bit skeptical of the more intuitive modalities in which intention and energy are used to facilitate healing. I think this is largely due to my efforts to work against image of the stereotypical massage therapist — you know, the one who wears a long purple broomstick skirt with a silk tank top and a crystal necklace, and smells like patchouli and has hairy armpits and tells you that your chakras are out of balance even if that’s not why you went to see her.

But I’ve had a feeling that the breathing problem I am experiencing is rooted in my emotions and that I might benefit from trying some other kinds of bodywork. According to Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine and Polarity Therapy, the lungs are associated with grief, so I decided to try Visceral Manipulation. My dad passed away almost a year ago, and we had a troubled relationship, so I wondered if somehow my grief related to his death was responsible for my breathing issues.

You can read more about Visceral Manipulation here, but the basic idea is that the therapist “tunes in” to your organs and the surrounding tissues to “look” for areas of tension and help release them.

My therapist was one of my teachers in massage school and a mentor whom I’ve known for about 6 years. So I fully trusted her with my care. As she worked on my chest and tuned into my lungs, I felt a surge of sorrow building — as if I wanted to cry — but as much as I told myself to just go ahead and cry, the tears wouldn’t come. Instead, this well of sorrow felt as if it moved up and became painfully trapped in my throat. So my therapist worked there next and asked me questions like, “Is there anything you need to get off your chest?” and, “Is there anything you feel like need to say?” — questions associated directly with areas she was working with, as if my words literally were trapped in my throat. The questions were partly rhetorical, but we did make some progress toward uncovering the emotions that might be buried deep within my subconscious.

For the past two days, I have felt better than I have in over a month. I’m still struggling with the troubled breathing, but it is far less intense and much more infrequent. For many hours each day, I have felt basically “normal” again. What a relief!

So, believe what you will about intuitive bodywork. It has certainly made some kind of change for me. Maybe it works. Maybe the power of suggestion is enough for me to begin to heal. And maybe those are exactly the same thing.

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