Why Energy Matters – Training for Spa & Massage Therapists
Why Energy Matters?
E = MC2 and The Spa
As the Spa community looks towards a more holistic approach to client service while meeting client expectations; I invite you to explore the following seemingly not connected yet very connected worlds of quantum physics, energy medicine, practitioner self care and ordinary everyday energetic interactions between people. Energy is around us all the time. As human beings we possess consciousness and the ability to express emotions. E-motions can be best described as energy in motion. Suppression of strong emotion can result in illness, just as expression of emotion can aid recovery. Knowledge of and conscious connection with our emotions and energy, point the way to self-mastery.
Zen or other meditative Spa practices are not uncommon within the Spa experience. However the view of many people is that such practices can only be understood and applied by those who have been involved in rigorous spiritual practice, that is regular meditators or spiritual devotees. For a moment think about the qualities for which Zen is known. Perhaps you have had a direct experience, observed someone practising Tai Chi or you may have seen a martial arts approach to life and being at the movies, such as Quentin Tarantino’s Hero with Jet Li. A few words that describe the Zen experience might be that you notice focus, flexibility yet containment, mindfulness, serenity, a feeling of altered time and space and empowered presence. What we can both see and sense is that a Zen practitioner or martial artist can demonstrate in a tangible form, their ability to be masters of their own energy. How and by what means are these qualities achieved? How can we, who have not dedicated our lives to a spiritual practise of Zen or martial arts, understand, learn from and apply some of this information to enhance the delivery of Spa care for our selves and our clients? Firstly let us think about simple ways that we might become more aware of how we use and direct our personal energy at work in the Spa and in other dimensions of our life.
Being a student of Tai Chi for the past 32 years has allowed me to deeply experience and become familiar with my energy system. As my understanding increased, I realised that there were many ways to provide my clients and students with small “taster exercises” using some universal but key principals that I had learned from martial arts. When I began teaching this way I found that once they knew in what direction they were looking, for example what being present actually felt like even for a brief moment; that their lives moved forward in positive ways. Change became a more easeful quest of discovery of their inner being, as once they had some awareness of how they used their energy, and had some direction; they were on their path of learning to master our own energies. When we become aware and understand why energy matters, we also recognise and appreciate the essential nature of self-care for all who practise hands-on therapies. In this context, self-care can be defined by all that we do for our selves to nourish our inner life or soul.
How we perceive energy in everyday living
Have you ever been invited to dinner and the couple have just had an argument, but pretend that everything is fine? Most people can sense that something is not right. There is something that resonates in your body that gives you information. Have you ever had the experience that someone is watching you, or if you are being followed by someone with ill intent? Have you ever had a gut feeling and found out that later you were correct even if you didn’t act upon the information? We now know that the brain actually does talk to the gut. There are receptors in the stomach that have a chemical relationship with substances put into circulation from our limbic (emotional) brain. We don’t always need our eyes to see and interpret information; our spine or our skin can act as a sensor in our environment and feedback information. The mechanism at play here is understood to be an extension of our nervous system including of course our brain. The appearance and fluctuations in our body’s energy has been able to be recorded in many ways and is well understood in practises such as acupuncture.
At least fifty per cent of people who come to my workshops ask about the necessity of religious/spiritual leanings when learning and applying “energy work” in the Spa or massage room. Energy or vibrational medicine has been typecast as either deeply spiritual or a New Age philosophy, but these principals were known to ancient peoples and there is nothing new or wildly esoteric, only the names we call it. The human energy system is a natural phenomenon. Every day we notice energy and its movement or lack of it; ambience in a room, whether people around us are peaceful, sad, grieving, angry etc. States of feeling or emotion generate qualities of atmosphere that we automatically read and interpret. Intuition, gut feeling and sensing are all associated with how we read and interpret energy! Most of us innately possess these skills and in days passed, skills such as these would have been necessary for survival. Some have learned to develop their sensing skills more than others. Can it be taught? Absolutely. Does it have a place in Spa therapy? Absolutely!
The Spa Environment – the materials
A great deal of money and effort goes into Spa location, design, colour, building materials, equipment, fixtures Spa menus and ambience. All this helps to create a certain feel or emotional “space” for a client who enters the Spa. These aspects are quantifiable achievable and important in helping to create atmosphere.
The Spa In-vironment – the people
People are not so easily quantified. The first point of contact by phone or at reception is where a treatment begins, even though this person may not be involved directly, they set an important tone. The next contact is with a therapist who delivers a particular method or technique to the client. When a therapist is trained in not only technique but also how to deliver that technique or method; they are adding their energy to the experience. What makes a difference? Is the therapist present to the client or thinking about what they will do after work? The latter will be noticeable by the quality of their touch! Have they had an argument with a loved one or colleague that morning and are they taking that energy to the therapy room? Are they mindful and focused about how they are using their energy and intention? Are they taking short breaks between clients to recharge, centre and focus before the next client? Are they consciously in charge of their own energy? All of this and more will affect the quality and experience of a massage by both the client and the therapist. Importantly, when a therapist is not present to the client, there can be an unhealthy exchange of energy that can leave the therapist or client fatigued and vulnerable. To conserve energy it is important to be aware of your posture while delivering a treatment – to have a table at the correct height for your size, and to use smooth and flowing movements. Seemingly small tips but they will help to contain the integrity of your energy throughout the day. When you know your own energy, you know how to care for it.
A therapist can take away a clients pain. The client feels relief but the therapist can feel drained and can acquire the pain. Lack of attention and awareness to self-care factors may be why so many people in healing professions become ill.
Importantly therefore, this is why energy matters, particularly where we are practising hands-on therapies.
I studied sciences all through school after being inspired when I was eight years old by a man called Professor Julius Sumner Miller. His science television program was titled “Why is it so? He had a huge influence on my life and I have never stopped asking that question! So when my own interest in this area was inspired by seeing and feeling first hand the power of psychic healers in The Philippines during the seventies, instead of saying this cannot be possible, I asked why and how can this happen? I have spent my life so far exploring what this all means in terms of how we exchange energy in any hands-on therapy and indeed, life! I encourage you to practise your life and work consciously with awareness and presence. The quantum physicists are now saying that consciousness is ultimately tied up with quantum processes i.e. how atoms behave. Perhaps this holds the key to why energy matters?
Benefits of knowing and understanding your energy
• Self care – avoid burnout
• Encourages work-life balance
• Knowing how to create healthy boundaries
• Increased awareness
• Not taking home some of the clients energy and vice-versa
• Adopting postures that enhance the delivery of your energy
• Avoid fatigue
• Adds a new dimension to your work and helps you to practise what you preach
• Enables you to develop personal presence
• Nourishes, inspires and uplifts consciousness
Grace Gawler is an Australian natural therapist, author, naturopathic philosopher, motivational speaker and healer and has developed training courses in energetic & vibrational medicine GEM (Grace Energy Method). She is founder of The Australian College of Supportive Medicine and in8potential – Based in Queensland with an international focus.