Colin Sowa Massage

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Body/Mind Awareness

Most of us spend the majority of our lives in our heads. When we are doing one thing, we are thinking of another...or planning... or remembering... or worrying. It is so seldom that we get to focus our attention on just one thing. As a result, our thoughts are scattered and we lose our focus on what's going on around us.

  1. Try this exercise: Close your eyes and sit still for one minute. Try to focus ONLY on your breath. Notice how many ways your mind gets distracted.

Furthermore, through years and years of stress and injury, we get physically less comfortable in our bodies: our shoulders creep up towards our ears, our backs ache, and our breathing becomes shallow and strained.

  1. Try this: From where you sitting right now, try to consciously relax your body... Done? Okay, now try to drop your shoulders some more. Did you find you were not as relaxed as you thought you were? Now, try relaxing your lower back... just let it go, limp and heavy. Now do the same with your butt and legs. The feeling of really relaxing is like sinking (or sitting) into your skin. Be limp and heavy like a sandbag. Did you feel an even deeper relaxation?

  2. Try this too: Look at yourself in a mirror as you take in a deep long breath into your chest and abdomen. Notice how you hold your body as you breathe. Is your breathing easy and deep, or is it shallow and difficult? Did your chest and abdomen expand with the breath? They should. Did your shoulders raise up or your back get tense. They shouldn't. Places that feel tight when you breathe deeply are a good indicator of where you hold your tension.

Studies have been done that show that our bodies create physical and emotional "memories". That is, reactions to things in the past (or present) can become patterns of tension or discomfort in our bodies. For example, stressful situations can make your back, shoulders and neck tight. Over time this can become a chronic condition. Another example would be if you were shy, or picked on as a child, you might habitually hold your head down and shoulders hunched forward causing pain in your back and neck. Your situation may have changed, but the body still holds the memory.

Massage can quickly help you relax and feel more comfortable in your body. If you breathe deeply during a massage and focus on the part of your body that is being worked on, then you can learn to be more aware of how you feel in your body. As you get more comfortable, you can feel stress as it is happening and be more intuitive about releasing it quickly.

Aside from massage, there are things you can do to help you become more aware in your body. Here is a list of things I have had good personal experience with and some brief notes about my understanding of them:


Without altering anything, check right now to see how you are breathing. Is it deep and free or is is it very shallow? As obvious as it sounds, many of us are not proper breathers. Breathing draws in energy, but if we are blocked or disconnected, our breathing can be so shallow as to be almost non-existent. As much as possible, consciously take in deep full breaths. Let your breath fill your chest, and to a lesser degree, your belly. If you feel blocked or tight in any area of your body, imagine you are breathing into that area. When you exhale, do so fully and imagine that the tension or blockage is leaving you along with the breath.

There are as many forms of meditation as there are people. I use meditation to still my mind and to feel connected to my spiritual center. If you find yourself always thinking of a million things at once or unable to focus, then training your mind in "single-pointedness" can be very beneficial. One of the most common ways of doing this is to sit quietly (for 5 minutes to half an hour) and focus your attention on just one thing, such as your breath. Sit upright in a comfortable position. Mentally go through your body and see if there are any places of tension and relax them as much as possible. Bring yourself present by checking in with your senses. What do you hear? smell? see? taste? feel? Imagine yourself putting any worries or cares in a box and leaving them outside the room. (Don't worry.. they will be there for you if decide to pick them up when you are done). Now close your eyes and go within. As you breathe, notice the air as it passes through your nostrils or as it fills your chest. Notice any differences in how if feels as you inhale as it does as you exhale. Perhaps it is warmer as it leaves your body, or it goes out slightly faster than it comes in. If your mind wanders, then bring it back gently, and without judgment. The biggest trick to meditating successfully is not to try too hard. Just keep bringing your mind back to your breath. It may take many attempts at meditation before you feel you are making progress at it. Don't be hard on yourself and don't expect that you will feel a certain way. Over time, you will understand what the benefits are.

Yoga involves a combination of stretching, strength training, balance, breathing and meditation. The focus is on listening to your body and focusing on your breath as you do the moves. If you are interested in trying yoga, I suggest you find a class to get you started. Many gyms now offer classes that are pretty good. Yoga may seem exotic or mysterious at first, but it's not that hard to learn. Classes will have people of many levels. Not to worry if you are a beginner. Give yourself permission to go easy on yourself and make mistakes. Yoga is about listening to your body, not about keeping up with others. (I've recently heard of classes that teach "extreme yoga". As far as I can tell, this is an oxymoron).

Tai Chi is a form of martial arts that is done very slow and mindfully. Like yoga, it is a meditation. It is based on ancient principles of generating energy in the body. It also stills the mind and builds coordination. I suggest starting with a class or video where an instructor can help you as you learn the moves.

This is a form of meditation aimed at relaxing the body and integrating the mind and body. Find a quiet place where you can lay on your back. Relax as much as possible. First, tense your feet and toes briefly, then totally let them go. Say silently to yourself, "I am relaxing my feet". Feel the deep relaxation in your feet. Now tense your legs briefly and let them go. Say to yourself, "I am relaxing my legs." Continue doing this for your pelvis, back stomach, chest, arms, hands, neck, and face.

If you have any questions or comments about any of this, please write me.