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If you’ve ever tried to soothe a crying baby or console a loved one, you know that one of the most helpful things you can do is to make physical contact and rock with them back and forth. This simple act has an incredibly powerful and calming effect on both the body and mind. It’s a comforting and reassuring gesture that’s practically embedded in our DNA. When you consider the fact that the average adult male is about 60% water, the adult female, 55% water, and a one year old infant is close to 75% water, it’s no wonder our bodies have adapted to this movement. Much like the tide, the inherent rhythms of our bodies have an ebb and flow.

The therapeutic benefits of rocking can be clearly seen in what Thai yogis refer to as the rhythmic, rocking dance. In Thai yoga massage, the practitioner moves their body in rhythmic and swaying fashion to help create an even distribution of pressure during the massage. And herein lies the key to getting a great massage that’s both therapeutic and extremely relaxing.

The principles behind rocking are rooted in Thai Chi. A Thai Chi master uses very little of his or her own energy to create their movement. Their bodies are never rigid or stiff but instead fluid and graceful. This is because their center of gravity is rooted in what Eastern body workers refer to as the Hara, which in Japanese loosely translates to “soft belly.” The area three finger widths below the naval is anatomically referred to as the solar plexus. It’s the location of the your 2nd chakra or sacral chakra. It’s also referred to as the Tanden or Dantien.           

When movement is initiated from this area, the practitioner is using their body weight instead of the force of their muscles to deliver the pressure. As a result, energy can move freely up and down the spine, through the practitioner’s limbs, and out their hands. When pressure is applied in this way, it feels great. The pressure is even and deep, never jerky or awkward. If the body is stiff and the practitioner is using their own strength to deliver pressure, the kink in the flow of energy will quickly tire them out and eventually affect the recipient. In other words, it’s not going to feel good.

There are three basic forms of rocking employed in Thai massage, the bamboo rock, the forward rock, and the whirlpool rock. The bamboo rock or side rock is used frequently during meridian work in Thai massage. The movement is a fluid side-to-side motion much like a bamboo reed being blown in the wind. The bamboo rock is a great way to gently stimulate the energy meridians throughout the body without causing pain in stagnant areas. The forward rock is often used during certain stretches and tractioning movements as an effective way of opening up the body. A traditional stretch can be painful if done too aggressively. The forward rock allows the body to relax during the entire stretch. The whirlpool rock can be looked at as combination of both the bamboo and forward rock. The circular motion of the whirlpool rock has a very meditative quality which can be employed anywhere from Hara work to range of motion movements of the limbs.

So far all the rocking techniques discussed have been movements the Thai yogi employs in administering a natural and even distribution of pressure. Another form of rocking, which is commonly used in Shiatsu but can be translated into Thai or even table massage is called kembiki. In this form of rocking, the recipient is lying in a prone position while the therapist is applies an oscillating motion to the torso and limbs. In kembiki the recipient’s body is in constant motion. Doing this creates an almost trance like quality which is deeply meditative and very relaxing.

Regardless of the form it takes, rocking is an effective tool in reducing tension and stress in the body. Unfortunately, it tends to be under employed in traditional massage. For those people that find a static table massage uncomfortable or painful for whatever reason, a little bit of rocking can be a transform a regular massage into a truly amazing experience.


joe-azevedo2Joe Azevedo is a New York State/NCBTMB Licensed Massage Therapist, ARCB Certified Reflexologist, Certified Thai Yogi, and an Advanced Reiki Practitioner. He is a graduate of the Swedish Institute and is the owner and founder of Brooklyn Reflexology.

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