Healing as the Yoga of Acceptance

Tim Sullivan is a yoga teacher and massage therapist in training. You can find him at www.timyasa.com and americainshort.com.

On a recent plane ride from Austin to my hometown of Chicago, after stowing my yoga mat in the overhead compartment and taking a seat, my excited neighbor exclaimed, “So… you do yoga?!” She flipped her hair back, “I’m a professional psychic healer.”

Her expectant eyes seemed to say she wanted me to be impressed by her declaration and all I thought was, What do you want me to do with that?

I was a yoga teacher, she reasoned, and as such, should appreciate and recognize her incredible gift that sets her apart from the rest of us, else why be so forthcoming? It was a power play, a search for recognition.

One of the quests of most spiritually minded practices is to know thyself. Yoga and other disciplines force us to hold a mirror to ourselves and really question why we do the things we do. Why did you first begin massage school? Was it to simply start a new career? Was it to share your ‘gift of healing’ with the world at large? These are questions worth exploring.

I’m not saying there aren’t gifted healers, most of us have first hand experiences to the contrary. I’m simply challenging you to examine your intentions. If you’re seeking recognition because of your own insecurities and past failures, examine that, without judgment. We all have a shadow side. Yes, it feels good to receive a sincere thank you from a client, and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, having the investment that your healing touch is the only thing that can help or cure someone becomes dangerous.

My teachers here at the Lauterstein-Conway Massage School are always telling us to know the scope of our practice, and definitely its limitations– meaning don’t tell your client that massage is sure to cure his cancer or that you are the only person that can fix her ailment. In my years of offering yoga classes, I’ve learned that healing is far less about fixing, polishing something up good-as-new, and much more about acceptance. Maybe the injury, the disease, the virus, whatever it is, maybe it’s here to stay, but what of the 99% of us that feels great? Yes, we can ease pain. Yes, we can increase circulation. Yes, we can make structural changes. But in the long run, the healing is up to the client. If nothing more, our job isn’t to fix or put people back together, but simple serve as a stepping stone toward improvement and acceptance. Leave the full blown healing to the person on the table, and if the desire to tout yourself as a magician arrives, examine that.


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Massage as Poetry in Motion

Tim Sullivan is a yoga teacher and massage therapist in training. You can find him at www.timyasa.com and americainshort.com.

You would struggle to find a massage therapist who doesn’t find it necessary to have some sort of relationship with the energetic body. It is difficult to deny that underlying the complex systems of circulation, respiration, and movement lie far more complex systems of energetic anatomy. Whether you’d call it chakras or meridians, these systems are often tangible not only to us, but more importantly, to our clients.

There are many different ways of connecting with these energetic systems, and often, mystic poetry can transform our inner experience in a heartbeat.

“O friend, understand : the body
is like the ocean
rich with hidden treasures.
Open your innermost chamber and light its lamp.”

With words like these from the 15th century poet Mirabai, your mind has the potential to go from extraneous details right into the interior of your own body. Whatever tension you as the therapist brings to the table needs to be softened as the journey of the massage begins. By simply coming back to this line, I often feel myself receptive to enter into a session.

And why not treat each massage as a journey? We, as therapists, are not simply moving through mechanical action, but rather, an intimate dance with the client’s energetic systems. In Patajali’s yoga sutras, one of the oldest yogic texts, the author says that each asana, or pose, requires sthira, or steadiness, and sukha, happiness or inner joy. While steadiness comes from a cultivated practice of grounding, sukha can be less tangible. As therapists, how do we cultivate our own sukha and more than that, how do we transmit sukha from our hands to the client?

Sometimes, a line such as Rumi’s,

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I will meet you there,”

can transform us into our more intuitive selves. We move beyond our attachments and judgments. At times, poetry can serve as the silver bullet that takes away fatigue before our fourth consecutive massage, or gives us inspiration to devote our energies to each and every client.

Encourage yourself to take poetry off the shelf and place it next to the massage table or next to your bed and allow yourself to find inspiration in these mystics with spontaneity. When you need that little thunderbolt of inspiration, pick up some Rumi and find yourself “fierce like a lion, tender like the evening star.” This becomes the art of living with sukha.

Your exploration into poetry doesn’t have to be from bygone eras, take the words of contemporary American poet Mary Oliver,

“You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.”

Bring the artful dance of sukha with you into your next session, and see if the poetry comes out through your touch.