The Practitioner-Client Relationship & the Phases of Motion

The Client-Practitioner Relationship

Do you ever wonder why you relate differently to each client that shows up in your treatment room? Of course, personalities (ours and theirs) play a big role, as well as circumstances, conditioning, expectations, etc. But there is another, rarely identified reason for why we vary our approach in working with each client: the phase of motion that is currently prominent in their body. In other words, the amount of life force flowing through someone’s system determines not only how we do bodywork with them, but how we relate to them. Most of the time this is done unconsciously; by doing it consciously we can interact in ways that promote effective treatments.

The 3 Phases of Motion & Treatment Approach

If you have studied Shin Tai work, you have heard about the ‘phases of motion’ or ‘phases of resonance’ that are broadly delineated as Phase I, II & III. Motion throughout the body reveals the internal life force and healing power that is flowing through someone’s system. We learn to identify specific motions that indicate restrictive forces are releasing and the life force that has been trapped is circulating more freely.

These motions can quite general, such as increased breath amplitude, or very specific, like lateral rib motion. They are broadly grouped into 3 categories, I, II & III. Identifying the dominant phase of motion at any time during a session becomes a guideline for how the practitioner applies technique.

The motion in the receiver’s body is an effective guide for how to work in order to give an effective, efficient session. For example, if there is ample motion in the thoracic/cervical spine, and ribcage, but little movement in the hip structure, the practitioner may work to mobilize and align the hip joints and sacrum so that motion/life force can distribute down through the pelvis and into the legs.

In our last article we mentioned that when there is less motion in the body, the practitioner needs to do more hands-on, physical techniques in order to introduce adjustments in the body. We are initiating change from the ‘outside - in.’ As movement increases, indicating release of compressive forces, the client’s own inner life force begins to do the ‘work’ of the treatment more. Now the practitioner gives less physical input. For example, a vertebral adjustment during Phase I motion requires more time and a deeper touch that one done during Phase II/III resonance.

Using motion in this way is quite unique in the bodywork world and one of the things that makes shin tai work so effective. Although being aware of motion in a general way is common, it is another thing to go into it with such detail and use it as a framework for how to proceed during treatment. This capacity of the practitioner to perceive motion in this way helps to amplify life force deep within the body and heightens the potential to introduce deep change. Applying this principle of identification and perception of motion to the client-practitioner relationship can increase efficiency and effectiveness in a similar way.

Motion & the Emotions

Dealing with client interactions before, during and after treatments can have quite a learning curve. Usually bodywork training focuses on theory and technique, without much education on how to relate to those who will show up in your treatment room. It can be one of the most challenging parts of doing treatments and one of the main factors in building a thriving practice. We would like to offer insight into using the phases of motion as a tool to better navigate interactions with clientele.

During pre-phase I/phase I motion, a person’s body is in a more restricted and dense state. The hara may feel like it is in separate ‘pieces,’ with some areas being tight and others very loose. The spine feels rigid with little wave motion into the head or down into the legs. When the body is in this condition, the emotional and psychological state is usually in a similar state expressed at these other levels: more separate and polarizing, rather than synthesized and functioning together.

Opinions might be strong and defensive. People and situations and the overall world view is seen in a polarized fashion with little room for open listening. Perceptions and beliefs tend to be more narrow. Because there is literally less space in the body, there is usually less ‘space’ in the emotions, beliefs and perceptions. As a practitioner, you can use this awareness to guide your choices in how to interact with the people who come to you so that you can work more effectively and enjoyably with them.

The Practitioner-Client Relationship…. or is it?

Phase I

Some clients will come to you with a list of symptoms and a litany of explanations and questions. They want a condition cured so that they can get on with their life. Perhaps they have a herniated disc in their lower back or menstrual issues or migraine headaches. The symptoms or diagnosed condition have the focus of their attention and are usually a large part of the conversation.

They relate to you like a traditional medical practitioner or doctor, wanting to be ‘fixed’ and then requesting a ‘prescription’ afterwards that will keep them well. They are in a painful place and really need assistance. They do not necessarily want to change any behaviors or lifestyle choices at this point. They see illness/pain as something that comes from outside themselves and that needs to be eradicated. There is little motion (of the type we define as Phase I-III) presently in their body. The short leg tends to stay on one side. This is a ‘Phase I’ client.

It is important to relate to this person as a client/patient as that is a framework that feels the most comfortable to them. Keep a professional attitude and firm boundaries. Make an appointment and call it a treatment. Speaking in terms of anatomy and western physiology will make more sense than going into a monologue about lung energy, the role of diet in reproductive health, or chakra balancing. Have them fill out an intake form and go over their health history briefly.

In other words, use your style of dialogue to connect with and open the door to treatment in the same way you use bodywork technique. Just like you will be using more mechanical technique, use more deliberate and focused language grounded in familiar terms. It is important that you direct or lead the dynamic in order to keep it moving. When they ask ‘When should I come back?’ give them a clear answer as to what you think will serve them best. If you say ‘Come when you think you need it’ they will most likely not make another appointment.

Phase II

People that show up in your treatment room with a degree of involvement in self-care regimens, such as exercise, meditation or whole foods cooking will most likely have understanding what bodywork can offer. They understand that it that can assist them in regaining balance and vitality and that it is a process. The mind/body/spirit connection is a familiar concept. They already have a measure of movement in their system and can move into Phase I & II motions during treatment. The short leg is sometimes switching back and forth during sessions. This is a ‘Phase II’ client.

The relationship with this person can be more of advisor-receiver. You can be more of a facilitator while they are a receptive participant. They are usually interested to hear some things about shiatsu diagnosis or nine star ki. They won’t be uncomfortable with the mention of energy and want to know more about how their body functions in ways they may not have heard before. In the same way that you apply technique with a lighter touch and less ‘input’ when there is Phase II movement in the body, you will most likely have less verbal dialogue and give less input. Listening becomes more dominant in your role, with your hands and your heart. No need to be the leader all the time here. If they ask you about the next appointment, give a general suggestion and encourage them to begin to listen to their own inner guidance as to when would be best for them to come again. Since their system is becoming more clear, they will be able to access more accurate information themselves.

Phase III

Working with someone who moves easily into Phase III resonance on a regular basis usually occurs with a client who you have been treating for a period of time, or with a fellow practitioner. At this point the relationship is becoming one of co-creators. You are collaborating on a shared venture of frequency expansion. You no longer even seem like separate people during treatment, but more like a synthesized energy field going on a journey to expand, explore and create. The short leg regular shifts back and forth and leg length check becomes implied rather than biomechanical. Little physical input is required to initiate adjustments in the system for stretches of a session. This is a ‘Phase III’ receiver.

When this person arrives for a session they often lay down without much preamble and leave afterwards without much need to talk. The atmosphere shift that occurs during treatment is affecting the way in which you relate, making verbal conversation (which is at its root more linear) less necessary or desirable. Information is exchanged at other levels much more effectively. Sometimes you may mention other consciousness fields or influences that are participating in the treatment. Alignments are occurring at higher vibrational levels, making certain experiences that used to seem extraordinary more commonplace. There is deep engagement in the process without extreme emotional responses or attachment.

The Phases are Dynamic

Of course, each person with whom we work is not always in one phase of resonance. They will expand and contract into different phases of motion as layers of compression release. This occurs within each session and also over longer periods of time. Being a bodywork practitioner necessitates a constant process of focus so that you can adjust how you relate with and treat the people who come to you. Before, during, and after sessions it is important (and enjoyable!) to bring awareness to what is happening and how to best proceed.

Identifying phases of motion both physically and emotionally/psychologically is not meant to be judgmental in a negative way. It allows us to move more clearly in how we relate to the people who come to us for bodywork and create a positive experience. It requires awareness and ongoing application. You will make ‘mistakes’ and have interactions that don’t go so well. You may realize at times that the way you handled a discussion led to a client going elsewhere. At a wider perspective, this is part of the process you are each involved in and the best thing to do is keep learning without getting down on yourself about it. As we work with others to free up life force in their bodies this will also affect and expand our life force, allowing an ongoing experience of learning and energy to unfold.


For information about our instructional video courses, please click on the links below:

Tips for Bodyworkers

When giving hands-on help to those in need, there are a few key points that can make everything you do more effective and safe.  Each of these things could be a whole course in and of themselves.  In fact, in Shiatsu Shin Tai classes we cover them quite extensively.  For now, we will touch on them briefly in order to help improve the quality of your work.

 

1.  Never Force

Always use pressure and movement that is within the receiver's comfort zone.  The goal is to gently encourage the body into new ranges of mobility and freedom.  A receiver may feel slight discomfort at certain points of the treatment, but it should be a 'good pain,' not an 'I can't wait until this is over' pain.

 

 

 

A good way to go about this is to go into each technique as far as is easy, and then take it just a little farther.  If you notice your receiver clenching their body, tightening the whole area you are working on, or holding their breath, you are using too much force.  As you do a technique, the area you are working with may soften or increase in flexibility.  At that point you can take the technique a bit further, always staying within the receiver's comfort zone.

 

2. Use Proper Body Positioning

When doing treatments, using your body properly is of utmost importance.  In shiatsu, practitioners are trained to move and apply technique always coming from their hara.

 

 

 

Hara is a Japanese word that has many layers of meaning.  Anatomically it refers to the abdominal region of the body, or our center of gravity.  But hara can also extend to mean life quality.  Hara is a central theme in the thought process and way of life in China and Japan.  Whether it is shiatsu, martial arts, flower arranging, noh dancing, or any activity, the origin of action is in the hara.

When practicing the techniques in this course with your family, friends and clients, it is important to have an awareness of your hara as you are working.  You can begin on your own to practice moving from your hara, by keeping some focus on your center of gravity and your hip joints.  Allow your belly to relax and settle down into your pelvic structure as you work.  This will help you be comfortable and treat with power, without exerting much physical effort.  

Watching the demonstrations in our videos and courses will give you enough information to begin to cultivate an awareness of moving from your hara.

 

3. Go Slower with Children, the Elderly & the Sick

We can do bodywork with children and the elderly, and with people who are in a weakened condition.  But there is an important difference to be made: always treat with LESS pressure and LESS movement.  If someone's system is not fully developed (a baby through the late teen years) or in a weakened state (an elderly person who is not in vibrant health or someone who is ill), we want to introduce change more slowly.  The idea is to stimulate an amount of movement and energy flow that the receiver's system can handle with ease.

 

When motion and energy are stimulated in the body, toxins that have been compressed are released.  These toxins can be chemical, emotional and psychological.  The physical toxins need to be flushed out of the system through the bloodstream, skin, intestines, and/or kidneys.  The emotional and psychological 'toxins' or stresses need to release through the web of a person's emotional landscape and belief structure.  If too much toxicity and stress is released at one time, it can become bogged down and cause sickness, discomfort and excessive emotional turmoil.  We want to make sure not to give a very young, very old, or a weakened system too much to handle at one time.

So pay attention to who you are treating. If they are very young or old, or in a weakened state, go slower.  Work with less pressure. Treat for a shorter period of time. If the technique says 'do three times', do it one or two times.  The basic rule of thumb is that if you don't force, the body will release what it can handle.  If you force, you may stimulate too much change at one time.  Sometimes there will be some discomfort after a treatment.  But we are looking to not overwhelm the system with too much change at one time.

 

4.  Tools of the Trade:  Be Creative

You will see that Saul usually works on a futon when demonstrating techniques in the online courses.  He also uses something called the BodyCushion, a set of cushions designed to give the receiver maximum support.  These things are useful, but you do not need these things to give a great treatment. 

 

 

If you are already a professional bodyworker, you most likely have a massage table or futon, plus a variety of bolsters and cushions handy for positioning.  If you don’t have these things, don’t be afraid to be creative.  Your receiver can lie on some blankets on the floor or on a bed.  When I was starting out, I even practiced on people on my dining room table!  A couple of sleeping bags made it a great surface to use.  You can also use rolled up blankets or pillows to help provide support when needed.  Work with what you have to make your receiver as comfortable as possible.  

Note:  When working with a receiver in prone position (face down/lying on the stomach), it is important to make sure their neck does not get stiff from being turned to the side. If a receiver is uncomfortable lying with their head turned to one side, put a small pillow or rolled up towel underneath the shoulder on the side to which their head is turned. This relieves some pressure in the neck and makes them more comfortable.

Teaching Central Channel in Scotland: Feedback

By Liz Arundel Dear Friends,

I wanted to give you some feedback on the first Central Channel course in Scotland and what I learnt from the experience.

We had 2, 3 day weekends 6 weeks apart. This big space between the weekends was due to the room only being available at those times. The students said that it was very helpful having time in between to digest the information and practice and rewrite their notes.

2 students sent me their typed notes by email after the first weekend for me to check for mistakes (there were a few but not many) and then we shared them with the group. They had a good grasp of the info and I think it helped them to type them out.

We had 9 students and 5 teachers on the first weekend! We, the teachers, were all very excited about the course and the students picked up on the significance of it being the first CC in Scotland. I felt very honoured to be teaching this material and the other 4 teachers (Char Scrivener, Kindy Kaur, Rachel Boase, Petra Elliott) all made very valuable contributions to discussions and helped clarify the information. At times it was like a mini teacher training for us all! The benefit of having so many of us in the room was that when they worked in 3s, each group had a teacher with them which they found very helpful for guidance and questions. It also gave the teachers an opportunity to teach their group, just like in Hungary! Seeing their confusion really taught me humility, patience and compassion and reminded me of how I felt when I first started learning this work and right up to the TT!

On the second weekend it was just Kindy, Petra and myself. The group was more confident and less confused this time and more settled and clear themselves from all the work they had received so there as a better flow to the 3 days. Clearly the CC was working! So having 3 of us guiding the class was perfect. Kindy led some of the proprio exercises which the class  really enjoyed. After Stage 5 the class did a short treatment in 2s on their own and that helped their confidence.

Alot of their questions were useful in clarifying information. When I was demonstrating Stage 2 and 3 they didn't come up in the person I was treating but stage 4 appeared so they saw how non linear the process was. So I showed them on the spine where to contact and then reviewed it after the practice session when the stages did come up. With Stage 5 it was right there at the beginning of the demo! There was more phase 3 motion in the second weekend while I demoed and when the class practiced which gave them heart that it was working. Lots more proprio suggestion from givers and priopro sensations from receivers in second weekend too.

After all the writing on the board the first weekend, it was suggested to me to organise a powerpoint presentation of the stages for the second weekend so didn't have to spend so long writing them up. This was a major logistical challenge for me as I'm not great with computers. So I got some help from a friend and I did it, only to find that I didn't have  any powerpoint technology at the centre. So I printed out my powerpoint notes for the class for stages 4-6 (just the basic info) which they said was very helpful and it gave us more time to go into the finer details of stage 5 in particular.

I had an hilarious moment when I was showing on the spine the anatomical difference between C1 and C2 and had turned the spine anteriorly and forgot to turn it over to show the spinous processes on the back but gamely tried to show them the processes on the front. Kindy's face was a picture of horror. When I realised  a few seconds later we had a good laugh! So always good to admit mistakes immediately!!

So I'm trying to organise a review weekend in September so follow up their progress. They all have buddys to practice with and go over the material and notes. I feel it was a great success and can't wait to teach the next one.

I hope all your plans and teaching are going well.  Love and hugs to you all,

Liz (Arundel)

Let the Receiver's Body Do the Work

Shin Tai - Central Channel Shin Tai treatments have many pauses where the practitioner is watching and waiting.  The increased life force in the receiver's system is taking over the 'work' of the treatment.

Let the receiver's body do the work; encourage their body to do the work.  Their body knows best how to balance, adjust, and evolve.  When the receiver's body does the work it recovers its powers of self-healing, self-maintenance, and regeneration.

Saul Goodman

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