Therapy Review – Myofascial release and cranio sacral therapy

Therapy Review – Myofascial release and craniosacral therapy, by Emmeline Gee, Angels on Board

I’ve known Emmeline for a while, back from my yachting days when I was living in Mallorca. Having worked in the same industry that she runs her business in (and is highly recommended within), I was aware of her reputation as being an extremely good massage therapist when we first started to become friends and I’ve since had a lot of massages from her which have always been very intuitive and therapeutic. This isn’t why I made friends with her, she’s an absolutely amazing person too and has been a great friend to me, especially in the months after my Dad’s death when I was trying to hold jobs down and work through, what in reflection was, the worst period of my life. She’s a gem and when the opportunity comes up to hang out with her and explore new therapies that she’s learnt, I jump at the chance.

My review is set into three parts – description of the session, how I felt directly before and after the treatment, my overall review.

The Session – 7th July 2016, 1pm

This session wasn’t a usual massage session. It was more of a specific bodywork session to see how I reacted to some new methods of trauma treatment which Emmeline had been working with. Having already known me (and my body, the story and the physical manifestation of my emotional pain) we worked together through feedback throughout the treatment and she used her instinct to try out different movements based on a collective knowledge of all her therapy training (it’s pretty extensive in terms of physiological and psychological subjects).

One thing that I admire about the way Emmeline starts her treatments is that once she has the client settled in the correct position on the couch she takes a moment to focus on herself by taking a few deep breaths. She told me what she was doing and I know that this simple moment allows her to focus on her intention for the treatment and I guess it helps her step out of any busyness that might be happening in her mind – I try to do the same thing when I find myself racing around in my thoughts, it always helps, when I manage to remember. By doing this at the start of the treatment it also gives the client space to take a few breaths and settle into the treatment themselves.

Firstly Emmeline told me that she was going to perform some myofascial stretches from my legs. According to the theory of myofascial release therapy, the myofascia (the 3D network of connective tissue which holds the body together) can store physical and emotional trauma. .,By performing these slow, gentle and sustained stretches, the tissue can be encouraged to release restrictions that may have been caused by such trauma. I lay on my back and she began to gently pull on my left foot, very very gradually stretching my whole left side and I could literally feel the stretch as it travelled up from my ankle, up my calf, knee, thigh, stomach and my rib cage. When the stretch got that far my body started to numb out and rather than feel a stretch, I was just receiving some random twangs of stretches in higher parts of my body, like my shoulder and neck, but no general stretch as I had felt so prominently up my leg. She performed the same stretch on my right leg and it had very much the same effect. It was quite interesting realising such a numbness in my chest area and as it is the area where I feel the most discomfort (especially on my left side), it was strange to feel such a numb sensation when I’m used to, at least, feeling discomfort. When she did the stretch, I just felt numb.

Following the leg stretches, she then performed a stretch on the top half of my body. She placed on hand on my upper left arm and one on my head to help stretch my neck, and this I could feel. Again, it was very subtle but I felt very small releases which were really gratifying. The only thing I can think of to physically compare this to is to think of bubble wrap – it was as though by stretching this tissue that the little bubbles of tension (like the bubble wrap air bubbles) were gently popping, but not in a harsh pop and bang way, more in a gentle squeeze then release kind of way.

Emmeline asked me to turn over onto my front and carried out some myofascial release on my back. With both hands placed on my back, she moved them in certain directions which caused a really interesting kind of stretch. I’m not sure if it was my imagination or what I was actually feeling but I felt subtle stretches quite far deep inside my chest. It was as though my chest muscles had a netting holding them and I could feel the tension as it stretched one way and a release as it was moved to stretch another, much in the same way you’d feel if you were wrapped in fishing net – one strand tightening as other areas loosen off. It was such a strange sensation at first but the release was quite incredible, especially considering that the movements were so slow and subtle. Usually, I have to have quite strong massages with a lot of pressure to feel a release so this technique really surprised me.

After the myofascial part, she moved on to the craniosacral part and asked me to turn around onto my back again. To be completely honest, I had no idea what this treatment even was at the moment that I had it and every time Emmeline went to tell me the theory about it, we seemed to get interrupted and I never found out. I think that worked in our favour as I found the treatment to be really powerful and I just went with the flow not knowing what to expect. As I can have a tendency to really over think things, had I known the theory behind the treatment there is a chance that I could have subconsciously created or blocked some aspect of it but because I didn’t then I couldn’t use my mind to steer my body responses.

She placed one hand on my neck and one on my chest and seemed to keep them there still. She didn’t say anything and didn’t seem to move and I just lay there, feeling what was happening to my body. Firstly I felt a strong warming sensation travel up my legs from my toes up my body, it was a slightly tingling feeling but the main thing I noticed was a general sense of comfort that came with the warmth, it felt nice. As the feeling travelled up I felt it up my stomach, and then I felt nothing move further up. Again, the feeling stopped around my chest area and there was a total void of feeling there. Then suddenly I felt the feeling move from my upper arms, down to my fingers and up my neck until my whole body felt warm apart from the ‘nothing’ feeling around my neck. The phrase ‘heart of stone’ came to mind which made me feel really frustrated with myself and I had to concentrate on my breath before I started to go into negative talks berating myself for not feeling something.  I’m not sure how long this lasted, possibly 5-7 minutes.

After this, Emmeline moved her hands to what I think was the side of my head – I say think, because she didn’t actually touch my body but I somehow knew that’ where they were, maybe I felt the warmth of them or sensed them through the shadows of darkness that blocked the tiny fragments of light through my eyelids – the same way that you know when someone draws the curtains when you’ve got your eyes closed in a light room. She did explain every movement as she went through but I felt relaxed by this stage that a lot of the words didn’t stay in my brain, I was just too busy relishing in a really nice feeling of warmth and comfort. I do remember her saying that this part can cause some involuntary movements and although I did have some twitches I wonder if me knowing this may have blocked some involuntary movements which may otherwise have happened if I didn’t have that nugget of information. The thing is that in post traumatic stress the mind tries to control a lot of things in fear of losing security and I know that with me there is a very strong control on ‘letting go’, as if I subconsciously think that if I do, someone will try and attack me. I do know that I allow myself to let go more when I’m in the presence of women, more so than men and also around friends more so than strangers, so at least both these things were going in the favour of this treatment. The twitches that I did have were that the ring finger on each of my hands flicked at one point, individual of each other, and at one point I felt my whole body wobbly very gently.

After this, Emmeline asked me to lie on my right side and curl up into the foetus position, while she sat down on a small stool and faced my back. I think she placed one hand behind the bottom of my spine and one at the top of my neck, I don’t know why I think this because I don’t remember her explaining where her hands were but I just felt that they were there even though, again, she made no body contact with me. I was in this position for a few minutes again and when this was over she whispered that she was going to leave me in the room on my own now and that she would be outside when I felt I was ready to come out of the treatment. I’m not sure how long I ended up staying there in that position, but I do know that I felt a few more gentle rocks, again, extreamly subtly apart from one which felt like quite a noticeable one. After a few moments I felt the need to lie on my back with my arms stretched out and I took the opportunity to really tap into what I was feeling and then I felt a sensation come from the pit of my stomach, up my body and out of my eyes – that familiar ‘whosh’ of tears. I didn’t feel sad and there was no sudden in takes of breath like you get when you’re crying hard, no, just the exiting of water out of my face again. Just a few tears this time. After the tears went I felt refreshed and more energised than I had done earlier. I got up, got dressed and went off to find Emmeline and discuss my thoughts.

Pre-session sense check (7th July 2016 DD MMM 2016, 12 O’clock – one hour before the treatment)

Physically – As a standard my left side is feeling tense. I’ve noticed that this is an ever-changing sensation, sometimes intense, sometimes loose, and I think it must change depending on how I’m feeling about my security. It did seem to intensify in the morning before the treatment and it could have been because I’m scared of letting go and new treatments are obviously a way for me to push these boundaries, so if I feel this I know it’s linked to anxiety. Apart from that I felt well rested and healthy in my body.

Emotionally – My mind felt busy from the morning and Emmeline had already sensed this because she suggested that we meditate for 10 minutes before the treatment – great idea and it calmed me down. I originally explained this to her as I felt like I could be worried about her seeing my vulnerabilities, which is ridiculous because this woman has seen me at my utter worse so I don’t know why this would bother me. We talked this anxiety through and just voicing it cleared a lot of it away.

Post-session sense check (9th July 2016 – 2 days after the treatment)

Initially I wrote down how I felt an hour or so after the treatment but I had much greater sensations throughout that day of the treatment and in the following days that I’ve done my sense checks after I experienced the main effects.

Physically – The days following the treatment I felt very subtle shakes within my body when I really focused on it, this was mainly during my meditation that I do every morning but I also felt the need to meditate in the evening after the session too. I felt like that was a lot of emotion in my body that I was trying to let out but somehow couldn’t and I know that if I meditate when I feel like this then it gives an opening to the emotion that my mind can’t shut in. During the meditation I felt subtle shaking like quick but gentle wobbles that were across my whole body simultaneously, as though I was inside something that was shaking, rather than it feeling like my body was shaking. The only thing I can think to compare it to is being in a swell and feeling your body pulsate with it, apart from it was a lot faster, however just as gentle. The pace was about 4 beats per second (yes I tapped into it and timed it but it’s the only way I can think to really describe it accurately). Tears also came out of me during the meditations, so I know that something got stirred up during this treatment and came out in the days following it. I’ve never had a sensation like this before and to physically see this in my own body was pretty powerful.

Emotionally – I feel very sensitive to a lot of feelings after the treatment and I’m aware that I’m reacting on this. It’s weird because I get waves of numbness and I’m aware of the numbness and it’s strange sensing feelings and learning to actually feel them again, it’s also really comforting knowing that I’m getting these sensations back but with the joy and the security feelings I’m also getting pain, upset and excruciating vulnerability that I’m consciously nourishing through self care. I’m also making sure that I am vocalising these feelings, as if to educate my conscious mind on what is going on so I can attach a language to them. Luckily I’m in Palma and have lots of consciously aware friends who understand the sense I’m trying to make out of my treatment exploration so I’ve got people around me who are comfortable hearing my vocalisation of these weird and wonderful feelings that are popping up.

Overall Review

This was a very subtle but very powerful treatment for me. There were obviously a few things at play here – I felt very comfortable at the time of the treatment because Emmeline and I had talked through the anxiety I had that morning, we had also meditated and I know her well, I trust her and I feel safe with her so obviously I was able to go quite deep into this treatment. Emmeline is the kind of therapist that does create a strong space of comfort for the client and I remember this from my first treatment with her which was only the second time I’d met her. She also explains what she is going to do, what she is doing and if the client is comfortable with it she will ask for feedback on what is being felt and put this information with the intuition to guide her next movements. She is in fact one of the best therapists I’ve worked with for this very reason and I’m conscious that I do benchmark a lot of my treatments on the standard that I’ve seen from her. From what I know, this high standard has been reached because she is consistently working on fine-tuning her knowledge and skills in terms of feedback, review, investigating new therapy methods through workshops, reading and experimentation. It’ a very interesting student-therapist dynamic that keeps her intuition sharp and her game spot on, many therapists could learn from having a simple massage with her.

I found the mysofacial massage to be subtly powerful and I didn’t expect that. Some of the movements felt similar to ways I’ve felt when I’ve done some advanced twisting yoga moves, a subtle gentle inner stretch which is almost undetectable. I think that to be able to really benefit from this kind of massage that a lot relies on how conscious the client is of their body because without this I suspect some of the benefits could go unnoticed, or if someone was concerned with busy thoughts and unable to sink in to the treatment. It’s definitely something that I would like to explore more and over a longer period of time to see it if releases any deeper trauma.

I’m not sure if it was the craniosacral massage itself or the combination of the two together, but I felt a very powerful response during this part of the treatment. I’ve tried a few other therapies which try to encourage involuntary movements and I’m conscious that I have a strong mind that can usually block a lot of these efforts and I know this comes from a protection stance because the most prominent time of my life when I felt involuntary movement was when I was fighting with my attacker. I’m still scared of involuntary responses and I’m aware that this means that I’m missing out on a lot of good things in life but I will venture there when I’m ready. In the mean time, the gentle fast-paced rocking that I experienced was phenomenal and although it brought tears with it, I was fascinated when I felt this, especially when I could tap into it the following days after during meditation.

I think that these two massages could be very effective as trauma release therapies, however I think it is imperative that the client feels emotionally safe before the treatment and has a place where they can feel safe in the days after, otherwise I think the benefits could be limited from what they could be.

 If you like this Therapy Review, please check out my Blog, my Sketches and my Therapies.

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Therapy Review – Ecstatic dance Ubud

Therapy Review – Ecstatic dance Ubud

It’s undeniable that dance is a therapy. In terms of exercise it releases a lot of tension in the body which builds up endorphins, music can also bring up your vibration frequency and, well it just makes me feel good really.

My research is set into three parts – description of the session, how I felt directly before and after the treatment, my overall review.

The session

I’ve been to the ecstatic dance at the Akasha villa in Ubud a couple of times and the crowd never ceases to surprise me, it’s always full of vibrant and colourful people. The last time I went there was a man dressed as a unicorn and almost the whole crowd was wearing glitter or a face paint of sorts.

The dance is held in the beautiful Askasa villa about a 20 minute scooter ride out of the centre of Ubud (where the palace is) and as I walk in I’m greeted with a sacred smudging ritual. Whilst I stand there the man in front of me ceremonially waves a smouldering piece of wood from my head to my feed, ask me to turn around and then do the same thing from feet to head on the back of my body.

I walk up the path and to the left is a fire, alight in a large metal bowl. Directly in front of the fire is the swimming pool, complete with flowing waterfalls and a pagoda which some artists are using as their painting studio.

I can hear the music playing loud as I enter the main dance room of the villa, that’s where the DJ is; happy, engaged and whispering the occasional motivating sentences into the microphone. The villa is huge and the music can be heard from all around. Through the dance room is an archway that leads through to another large space. On the right are some steps which lead to another dancing space where at the back a man is serving tea with a blessing of sorts. On the left of the archway is a large couch which actually sinks into the floor, so I can literally step down into it. I guess it’s for dancers to rest if they get tired feet.

As I was past the couch, the double doors open up to some stepping stones right in front of me which are set in a beautiful natural water feature. They lead down to an enclosure which keeps a monkey on the left and a bamboo dome on the right, which is an exclusive naturally build bedroom. During the dances the bamboo dome is usually occupied, and off limits to dancers, but I’m lucky enough to have been inside during the daytime and I can assure you, it’s absolutely beautiful.

Ecstatic dance is a sober affair, on sale you can find vegetarian food, coconut water and raw food chocolate but there is no alcohol, no drugs and I rarely see anyone smoking, well not smoking cigarettes. All in all it’s a very holistic affair. It’s a place where anyone and everyone can feel free who be who they want to be. Want to wear glitter and do a yoga dance on your head in the pagoda? Go for it. Want to bop around subtly to some tunes in plane shorts and a baseball cap? Feel welcomed. It really is for all and the premise is just to dance. Just feel comfortable and dance, and what a therapy it is too. I can’t say for sure what the music type is because it’s a mix and it changes, but throughout the night there’s something for everyone. Whether you’re into house music, reggae, rock, jazz or anthems. It’s a good variety of beats to dance to. Also for those who don’t want to dance, you can soak in the pool, chill on the sofas or just chat to someone whilst sipping some coconut water. However I decided to approach this as a therapy, so for me it was the dancing that I explored.

As expected I felt anxious when I arrived. There are a lot of people this time and being surrounded by a lot of people these days brings up an anxiety in me, an anxiety that actually almost caused me to leave until a friend sat me down and stayed with me through that discomfort.

This fear sets off a negative chat in my head, and the battle to overcome it cane become challenging because all I really want to do is leave. Leave because of fear. But, fear of what? It’s the ‘fear of what’ conversation that helped me shake it off. I mean, I’m at a sober ecstatic dance in Ubud, spiritual centre of the Universe and I’m here with a group of friends – really what is the worst that’s going to happen? Even if I decided to strip naked on the dance floor, loudly confess my undying love for a randomer then do a serpent dance to the exit in rage-tears I seriously think everyone around me would just carry on doing their own thing as though all of that was completely normal behaviour. Some may even join in to help me embrace my emotional state, or sincerely cheer me on from the edges of the dance floor. As I realised this with my friend, I laughed. Ecstatic dance in Ubud wasn’t the place I needed to fear judgement of others. Acknowledging that highlighted that judgement was another trigger for me, another trigger that needed to be unravelled and reframed and what better time than now?

With a little pep talk and a few tokes on a walk-by shisha I was able to suck in my inner shakes and get on the dance floor, even if for me that can sometimes mean just swaying from side to side until I get into it. It’s one of those things where I know it will do me good in the long run and although it’s scary and difficult to climb over that barrier of fear, it must be done anyway.

By the end of the evening I was in full swing dancing and managed to stay until the end of the night.

Pre-session sense check (30 May 2016, 3pm –  1 hour before leaving for ecstatic dance)

Emotionally – I feel quite anxious. I’m excited for ecstatic dance because I love the dance aspect but at the same time I know there will be some triggers for me to deal with, and with them my own judgements and fear of being judged. I also know that all of this is in my head and it’s stupid, then I need to not beat myself up for being stupid – there’s a lot to deal with today. I’m generally in high spirits and I feel quite clear headed. I also feel very motivated today too and I know that I can shake off the anxiety, I just need to get myself to the dance.

Physically – the anxiety is like a flutter in my chest and stomach. It’s not too unpleasant and it’s not that strong but it’s still there, just a general sense of discomfort really. Apart from that I’m feeling good in my body. The pain in my shoulder is pretty much none existent these days, I feel healthy and alert.

Post-session sense check (30 May 2016, 12 midnight –  1 hour after returning from ecstatic dance)

Emotionally – I feel quite drained because I think that I worked through a lot of inner judgement at the dance. I also had a lot of triggers from the attack come up – fast movements in the dark because at one point there was some very active dancing. I persisted to stay and dance, even the moments when I didn’t feel comfortable in myself and this gives me a sense of achievement but I’m also tired and ready to relax.

Physically – I feel a head cold coming on, my head is foggy and I’m sneezing. I’m not surprised at this because physically and emotionally over the last few weeks I’ve released a lot of emotion so this is probably a sign that my body is ready for a rest, hence putting me out of action. Conversely I also feel quite energised, like the way you sometimes feel after a work out, strangely tired but energised at the same time. It’s a nice feeling, and there’s some purity to it because I spent the evening drinking coconut water and dancing in a beautiful setting.

If you like this Therapy Review, please check out my Blog, my Sketches and my Therapies.

Review of a CBT and Humanistic Approach Talk Therapy (Counselling) Session

Therapy Review – Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Humanistic Approach Talk Therapy, Therapist – Edward Giles

Talk therapy counselling seems to have a lot of stigma around it and because of that, it seems to be one which a lot of people bear away from, especially if they experience a slow onset of negative emotions through some undesirable life situations rather than a specific traumatic event. I believe that we bear away from this type of therapy because of stigma of talking about mental health, so to coincide with my post about the shame around talking to a therapist I’m including my own personal review of talk therapy, to view it in an objective light like I do with all my therapy reviews.

I had my first talk therapy session with a counsellor who was recommended by a friend of mine who had originally sought therapy for grief, however as this was directly after the attack (before my father passed away), I was looking for therapy for post-traumatic stress. As far as I was concerned a counsellor was a counsellor and I just needed to see someone who was qualified. After a couple of sessions, I realised that I was feeling a lot worse after, rather than better, especially when I was instructed that my dreams of doing a particular yacht delivery were unachievable. Luckily, this is the point when Dr Jenn intervened and told me how important it was for me to ‘click’ with the therapist and also gave me a few pointers on how to pick the right therapist. From that moment on I went about finding a therapist like I would a marketing project – I did my research, interviewed each person and then decided on which counsellor was right for me. From that moment on I began my healing journey started and I began to process the recent series of events.

I found my new therapist on the counsellor directory which provides a list of accredited counsellors with all their qualifications, experience and specialities. As it was post-traumatic stress that I was dealing with at the time I wanted someone who had experience in this area and when a counsellor I interviewed told me that he had experience counselling war veterans then I knew I was in the right place.

My review is set into three parts – description of the sessions, how I felt directly before and after the treatment, my overall review.

The Sessions

I first arranged to meet Edward in his studio for a free chat to see how I felt about him and having counselling sessions with him. He met me at his front door and asked me to come around the house to his studio at the bottom of his garden. His studio was a self-built timber structure at the bottom of his garden, and inside was a desk, a bookshelf, a few comfy chairs and lot of poems and motivational prose on the walls. I remember at the time thinking how nice and welcoming the environment was, everything about the décor felt nurturing, even the smell of natural wood was soothing to me. Obviously, I value these types of settings very highly, especially when it comes to wellness (I’ll put that down to my interests in environmental construction and organic wellness) but at the time it really helped to ground me and I took this as a good sign.

The intention of this meet-up was to discuss what I wanted out of my counselling, what he could provide and whether or not we ‘clicked’. As well as already feeling very positive about the environment that we were in, there was something about Edward that made me feel quite confident in his ability. I can’t necessarily put my finger on what this may have been, it was more of a feeling or an intuition than anything else, not to mention that he was also a sailor, maybe we had similar values… either way my intuition was telling me that it felt like a good move to pick this therapist, so I did and we arranged that I would return for an actual session a week later.

The first session turned out to be the first of about four sessions in total. Each one started with us sitting down in his studio and him asking how I was feeling. I remember thinking that it was difficult to talk about how I was feeling at first, resisting the desire to answer ‘fine’ which seems to be our societal status quo answer. Over the course of the sessions (and with my commitment to mindful meditation) I started to become more in tune with my feelings and how to express them. This helped immensely as I progressed on this healing journey because although I didn’t realise it at the time, I had a massive inner judgement about accepting how I felt and openly saying it out loud.

Throughout each session Edward would allow me to talk freely and I did. Sometimes I was really judgmental about myself and others, sometimes I was very emotional – angry, upset, dismissive, you name it, I did it. Sometimes I just needed to air what was on my mind about a particular topic that had happened recently and so it landed on his ears. Sometimes we went a lot deeper and unpicked self-limiting beliefs that I had pinned down deep in my childhood which the attack was now highlighting. Through all of this Edward listened and asked very poignant questions at opportune moments, causing me to reflect and think about particular things that I may not have otherwise questioned. Overall this encouraged me to go deeper into my belief system and slowly I became a lot more aware of my thoughts and behaviours, I also then and started to see (and challenge) my ego.

One of the most helpful things I remember him telling me in our sessions was “We often judge others for something that we see in ourselves”. This stuck with me because I started to use it as a tool for reflection, so when I became judgmental towards someone else’s actions I began to stop and ask myself what it was about that behaviour that I demonstrated myself, and why was I unhappy about it? This didn’t happen immediately and there are still times now that I get lost in an emotion and fire out at someone for doing something without realising why I’m so annoyed about it, however slowly this simple reflection has allowed me to step back from situations and see them with objectivity.

Another tool which Edward started to show me how to use was that of self-compassion. This is something that I didn’t seem to have fully developed before and with the setbacks of the attack, I found myself becoming increasingly hard on myself for not behaving in certain ways as if I should’ve known better. When I started to cultivate self-compassion I started to accept what had happened to me and how I was dealing with it, instead of berating myself for it. The biggest thing for me to fully accept was my negative emotions and expressing them publicly. I guess I didn’t realise it at the time but I had such a judgement and stigma around showing vulnerabilities openly and this was taking a hold of my life because not only was I holding myself back from showing these emotions in public but I was also suppressing them deep inside me.

Through talking, reflecting and accepting, Edward taught me to be compassionate towards myself and my situation. As I began to practice this more I noticed that my compassion for others also increased, as if by getting in touch with these feelings helped me connect with other people’s feelings to the point where if someone became angry or judgemental towards me I was able to understand it and treat it compassionately rather than act reactively to whatever was said/done.

Each session lasted for 50 minutes and when we were 40 minutes through each session, Edward would tell me that we had 10 minutes left. This structured approach showed that he was holding the space of the session and establishing his own professional boundaries. Although subtle, this action demonstrated that he was able to hold that emotional space, something which is extremely important in all therapies which I have come to strongly value. At that point we would round off the session, I would pay, make another appointment if necessary and he would then walk me out to the driveway where he would shake my hand and we’d say goodbye.

Although I have written this review of the period straight after the attack, I also went to see Edward for another couple of sessions after my father passed away because that is when my emotions really started to burst out. I think that because of the sessions that we had before I had already started to work on the tools that I needed to process the grief but seeing a counsellor who already knew my back story and was able to objectively listen while I moved through my emotions was extremely beneficial for me. I saw Edward for a few sessions in this period (maybe two or three – my mind is a little blurry from that period) and on the last session I remember feeling that I had everything I needed to work through the rest of the processing on my own, knowing that there was a therapist I could rely on if I needed some more new tools.

Pre-session sense check (January 2015)

Physically – Straight after the attack I just seemed to be exhausted all of the time and would take three or four-hour naps in the day as well as get about 10 hours at night. My shoulder was really tight and I was having weekly massages just to be able to cope with the tightness, some days it was so exhausting that I would just lie in bed. I would, however, get the occasionally bought of energy which I would utilise by going for a run, only to find that I would later crash and burn. My physical energy was very erratic during this period.

Emotionally – Throughout this time I was completely reactive and unaware of my emotions that were controlling all of my behaviour. One minute I could be a little bit reflective and insightful, the next I could lash out after begin triggered without realising it. I didn’t even know what a trigger was at this time, let alone how they were taking over my life.

Post-session sense check (August 2016)

Physically – My body feels a lot lighter than when I began my therapy exploration. This comes down to a lot of different therapies which I have explored, involving physical, emotional and intellectual treatment so it’s impossible to say what the direct effect of the talk counselling was.

Emotionally – The counselling sessions with Edward encouraged me to explore a new way of thinking which made me aware of my emotions and allowed me to accept them for what they are – this in itself reduced stress, anxiety and made me a lot calmer within myself. The effect of someone who has the inner strength to hold your space and say “it’s ok” is something that was massively powerful to me at the time when I was experiencing the intensities of post-traumatic stress. This also gave me a great sense of empowerment that allowed me to start my journey into the inner depths of my psyche and gave me the tools to successfully deal with any dark shadows that arose.

Overall Review

To sum up, how influential this therapy is, I remember something a friend said in our reflection of talk therapy, that “the World would be a much better place if everyone had therapy”. The effects of counselling can be very profound and I would recommend it to everyone, even if it’s just to talk to someone in an emotional space which is free of judgment – that in itself if therapy. Secondly to have someone who is qualified to observe your behaviour and point out your patterns is very effective because this starts us on the path of becoming consciously aware of what we were unconsciously unaware of, once our issues are out there in the open we can start working on them, and with the guidance of someone who can help us do this in the most therapeutic way. I have undertaken talk therapy with other counsellors whilst I was in Bali and different therapist bring different tools to the table so although I’ve discussed the same life events, by doing so with different counsellors from different schools of thought was beneficial because it gave me a variety of perspectives to draw upon. By talking openly in front of someone also gave me the courage to discuss this kind of things with my friends which have brought to closer and more open relationships, as we all become more authentic and help each other out when reflecting on certain issues. The key here is to make sure that the therapist works for you, and as with all things in life some therapies will work for one person and not another, similarly some therapist will work some one person and not another, so just find the one that works for you. If you need some guidance check out my articles on finding the right therapist and when to call it a day with a therapist.

If you like this Therapy Review, please check out my Blog, my Sketches and my Therapies.

Heat, Pressure and Healing Herbs – A Review of the Herbal Ball Massage

This review is an add on to my Thai Massage Review therefore I haven’t gone into depths about the Thai Massage itself, please click here to see this review.

I had the Herbal Ball Massage at The Wat Po Thai Traditional Medical and Massage School, which was opened in 1955 and was the first to be approved by the Thai Ministry of Education – in my opinion it really sets the standard for Thai Massages. The Training School follows the strict high standards and the consistency of the massage but as they masseuses are students the prices are half those of within Wat Po, it’s also in the very accessible area of Sukhumvit Soi 39.

I usually go here for a two hour massage, however this time I decided to try a Herbal Ball massage which consists of 75 minutes Thai Massage and 45 minutes Herbal Ball Massage. Thai Massage itself can be quite intense and involves stretching and back cracking, if you’ve never had one before I would recommend trying a one hour session to start off with.

My review is set into three parts – description of the session, how I felt directly before and after the treatment, my overall review.

The Session – Herbal Ball Massage

Usually for a Thai Massage at Wat Po, they ask that the client change into a cotton t-shirt and loose cotton trousers (a bit like pyjamas), however for the Herbal Ball massage I was asked to change into a loose sleeveless top and shorts. The massage room also had a steamer which had the Herbal Balls in and it was occasionally letting off steam which smelt of green tea, lemongrass and something menthol, possible Eucalyptus. When I was changed the Therapist came back into the room and asked me to lie down on my back while she covered my body with a light weight towel.

The Massuse then proceeded to give me a 75 minute Thai Massage, then when I was lying face down she began massaging me with the Herbal Ball. She asked me to remove my loose fitting top while she covered me up with the towel and then began to pad my back with a hot ball of wrapped up herbs. The smell of the steam coming off the ball was very strong, firstly with notes of green tea but instead of the bitterness that usually follows this, I could smell menthol herbs or possibly something similar to Tiger Balm, either way the dynamic smells were very pleasing to me.

She dabbed my upper back and then proceeded to move down my spine and then up again. She then moved over to my arms, pressing firmly on areas such as underneath my armpits and my triceps. At first the ball was very hot so she dabbed very lightly, however as the ball began to lose it’s heat she pressed down harder and for longer periods of time to give my muscles the benefit of the warmth. After my upper body had been worked on, she covered me back up with the towel and asked me to remove my shorts, again covering me with the towel for my modesty. At this point the ball was cooling down, so she swapped it with the other one in the steamer, she proceeded to do this throughout the massage as one ball cooled down to a certain temperature.

The Therapist worked on one leg at a time, leaving the rest of my body covered up with the towel. She applied more firm pressure on the meatier parts of my legs, especially my thighs and also took care to be light on the more delicate areas such as behind my knees. As she dabbed the ball she moved in a rolling motion so as not to shock me by applying the pressure of the whole ball all at once, instead she move it as though she were using an ink stamp. Her movement was also very consistent and predictable which aided to my relaxation. When she reached the soles of my feet she pressed the ball down for a long period of time and the warmth and pressure of the ball felt very soothing.

Then she asked me to turn over while she held the towel up to cover me, once turned she pulled back the towel whilst placing a small light fabric across my breasts to cover them. Then she proceeded to press the ball on the front of my chest, starting at the shoulders, then the armpits and then my breasts, taking care not to be intrusive or actually press the ball on my actual breasts – instead she worked on my pecks where the tendons can be quite tight. She then moved over to my arms, pressing firmly again on the armpit area and as she worked her way down my arms she pressed firmly and for a longer period of time on the palms of my hands. After this she moved to my stomach but again worked lightly. This was a very calming sensation and it made me think that it actually be a very nice delicate kind of massage if I was experiencing period pains. She then moved on to the fronts of my legs, right down to my feet again and then asked me to sit up in a crossed legs position.

Once up, she gave me both of the Herbal Balls to hold on to and motioned to me to dab my own legs while she turned off the steamer and removed it from the room. Once she came back she took the hottest Herbal Ball and worked it on my shoulders very firmly and still in the same rolling motion. She worked again on my upper back, shoulder, triceps and up and down my spine before she tapped the ball lightly on my back and then said that she had finished.

Pre-session sense check (5th March 2016, 6pm –  1 hour before treatment)

Physically – My muscles were tired today (even though I had a two hour massage yesterday). I think that it’s stress from spending two weeks in an emotionally testing state a week earlier, because this week has been spent in a negative mindset with tears. My left side is tight as usual and I generally feel quite lethargic, even though I’ve done nothing tiring all day.

Emotionally – I’ve been feeling a little bit lost and a little bit negative this week and it’s been a challenge to snap out of it – so I’ve spent the week trying to immerse myself in things that make me feel positive. This has left me feeling emotionally exhausted. There’s still a sense of emptiness and general deflated-ness which sometimes finds me in the days since my Dad died.

Post-session sense check (5th March 2016, 10pm – 1 hour after treatment)

Physically – I feel very relaxed and the warmth sensation of the Herbal Ball remains on my skin in memory and it feels really nourishing. It’s a very comforting feeling that I’m trying to hold on to even though the massage has finished, the same way you try to hold on to a hug from a loved one. My muscles feel less tense than they did before the massage and my body generally feels more loose and flexible.

Emotionally – My head seems to be a whole lot clearer now that I’ve had the massage, this could be because I had two hours to lie down and relax or it could be because of the herbs or the massage. Generally my mindset is a lot more positive now and I feel mellow, even rejuvenated – I’m definitely looking at the World through a different lens this evening. I feel calm and collected in myself too, which is refreshing as it’s a rare feeling to have in the days of post trauma.

Overall Review

I found this massage to be very dynamic because it couples together a very interactive stretching and pulling massage which can actually be a little bit hair raising (for those who aren’t used to Thai Massage) with a deeply warming and relaxing massage. Personally I really enjoyed it because even though some parts of the Thai Massage were necessarily uncomfortable as my muscles were stretched I could smell the steam of the Herbal Ball and this presence helped me relax into the intensities of the stretches further.

There is also something deeply therapeutic about the Herbal Ball. At first I wondered if it could just be because of the heat of the ball which in itself is a very nice feeling – the sensation of specific heated attention being given to a secluded place on my body. However after remembering back to a hot stone massage I don’t think it was just the heat, I think it was also the herbs. There’s a lot of research into essential oils and the effect that they have on the body by being absorbed into the blood stream through respiration and the skin and I believe that the infusion of the herbs would have had the same kind of effect. After looking around Bangkok for the Herbal Balls I did actually find a stall that had a variety of different herb concoctions to aid different ailments. After studying Aromatherapy and Reflexology it makes perfect sense to me that herbs can not only be absorbed through this manner but also have beneficial results on the body and mind.

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Find Out Why So Many People Rave About Thai Massages

I’ve had a lot of Thai massages in Thailand and the ones at Wat Po  are, by far, the best. The Wat Po Thai Traditional Medical and Massage School was opened in 1955 and were the first to be approved by the Thai Ministry of Education and in my opinion, it really sets the standard for Thai Massages. The Training School follows the strict high standards and the consistency of the massage but as they masseuses are students the prices are half those of within Wat Po, it’s also in the very accessible area of Sukhumvit Soi 39. To aid me with this review, however, I’ve called in a Thai Masseuse friend of mine to give me some of the theory behind the massage – Thank you Siska Vergauwe.

I usually go for a two-hour Thai massage, however, it can be quite intense and involves stretching and back cracking, so if you’ve never had one before I would recommend trying a one-hour session to start off with.

My review is set into three parts – description of the session, how I felt directly before and after the treatment, my overall review.

Wat Po Training School

The Session – Thai Massage

To begin the Thai Massage the Therapist asked me to remove my shoes and she washed my feet, downstairs in the foot washing basin. I was then asked to slip on some comfy fabric slippers and we proceeded upstairs in the lift to the massage cubicle rooms (rooms that are divided into private spaces with a mattress on the floor), where I was asked to change into the clothes laid out on the mattress – a cotton t-shirt and loose fitting trousers (like pyjamas). When I was changed the Therapist came back into the room and asked me to lie down on my back while she covered my body with a lightweight towel.

The start of the massage began with the Therapist crossing one foot on top of the other and pressing down and then by doing the opposite on the other foot, she then bent both my feet in a forward curl, then pushed back against the bottom of them, flexing them back. She then proceeded to press firmly up and down both legs with her palms. When she got to the top of my legs she pressed down on the inside of my hips firmly for a few second, stopping the blood flow into my legs. When she released them I could feel the warm rush of blood into my thighs and then right down to my feet.

She pulled back the towel from my left leg, leaving the rest of my body covered and began pressing up my leg from my ankle firmly with her palm. Then she came back to my foot and massaged it with her fingers, pressing quite deeply on the instep. She worked her way up and down my leg a series of times whilst pressing with her palm on the more meaty muscles and then pressing in more intensely with her fingers and thumb on the thinner muscles alongside my shin. She also used her knees on my upper leg muscles and used her body weight to press more firmly into the stronger muscles in my legs. Then came the stretches – Thai Massages include movement and stretches, almost like the Masseuse is doing yoga on you, and it feels very therapeutic. To do this the Therapist opened my left leg into a 90-degree angle on the mattress. She pressed down on it first, then folded it against me, across me against her while she massaged all around my leg including my glutes (my butt muscles). After completing the massage on my left leg, she lay it down and covered it back with the towel before performing the same sequence on the right leg.

Once both legs were massaged she moved on to my right arm, starting off by stretching my arm out and pressing into my armpits, similar as she had done with my hips to stop the blood flow for a few seconds. Then she proceeded to massage up and down my arm, again using her palms in a pressing motion and her fingers and thumb in a squeezing and sharper pressing motion. This finished when she stretched my hand backwards to touch just behind my shoulder, whilst she pounded my triceps with her fist. She then did this on my left arm before she asked me to turn over.

Once turned over she started to massage my shoulders, again using a pressing motion with her palms and also by using a squeezing motion. As my shoulders are usually really tense I asked her to do the back and shoulder massage very hard and wow, she did and she was pretty damn strong. She concentrated on the muscle that runs beneath the scapula to the rib cage and this area gets particular knotty for me so she worked hard to press on and flick the muscle where the knots were. Sometimes this was a little painful, but I know that it’s beneficial in the end so I persisted. She also worked on the area behind my armpits where the tendons connect to the shoulder blade, which is another area of tension for me. She worked up and down my spine and the muscles that support it then came back to my shoulders before using her body weight to massage me. By that, I mean she stood on me. I know that for some people, this is something that can be quite scary but I’ve learnt to embrace it in Thai massage because I’ve found that if I can relax into it then I can get the best out of this movement. The Masseuse tends to stand on my buttocks and massage them slightly by rocking from side to side then she will leave one foot standing on, say, the left buttock, while she moves her right leg in a pressing motion up and down the right side of my body. Seen as the massage takes place in a cubicle the Therapist tends to use the sides of the walls to counter balance her weight, however in this case I’m quite sure that she had her whole weight on me. I was confident that she knew what she was doing because she had thoroughly massaged my back and had a good idea of how strong it was and how tense it was – I guess it needed her whole weight… working on yachts gives me a pretty strong back. She then swapped legs and did the same action on the left side of my back.

After this, she knelt down and massaged the backs of my legs with her knees in a pressing motion. She went back to massage my back and shoulders with her hands in the same sequence as previously then she asked me to sit up, cross-legged. This is another bit which isn’t for the squeamish – back cracking – but again, if you can relax into it then you can get the best out of it. At first, she placed my right hand behind my head so it was folded backwards and stretched my right triceps, then she did the same thing on my left arm. After this she asked me to place my hands behind my head and lock my fingers, then she threaded her arms through the gaps in my folded arms and proceeded to swing me from one side to another whilst she cracked my back. Usually, this doesn’t have too much of an effect on me because it takes a lot to loosen my back muscles, however, this time, my back cracked from the bottom of my spine up to the middle where the main twist took place. This happened on both sides and it felt pretty fantastic, I guess that she must have really loosened my muscles by applying so much pressure to my back when she stood on it. She unfolded her arms out of mine and then motioned for me to move my arms backwards and lock onto hers as she pulled my backwards in a bend across her knees, she did this bit by bit as she moved up my back and again each bit cracked, especially the top of my spine.

She finished by giving my shoulders a very intense massage using her elbows and forearms as she pressed down on my sat upright body from a standing position. Then she used her hands again to squeeze and press on my muscles. After this, she gave the temples on my head a massage and the muscles on my neck, especially the ones at the back where the tendons connect to the back of my skull. She squeezed the back of my head as she pulled her hands away, as though she was drawing some kind of energy away from my head, she did this a couple of times. Then to complete the massage she pounded my back and shoulders with her hands that were in a loose clap, placed her hands together in a ‘Namaste’ position and quietly whispered ‘finished’.

Pre-session sense check (7th March 2016, 3pm –  1 hour before treatment)

Physically – Sense checking my body today I can mostly feel the throbbing of my calf muscles, probably because I’ve been walking around Bangkok in flip-flops for most of the day. My left shoulder isn’t too sore today but I do have a subtle neck ache. I feel quite alert for a change, but the heat of the city is starting to tire me as the day goes on.

Emotionally – I feel quite neutral today, I think it’s because I’ve spent the morning working on a business idea so I’ve been quite focused and thus not dwelling on any present emotions, I am possibly numb and avoiding. There is a sense of background negativity in me which is usual these days (as in anyone experiencing grief) but it seems manageable today.

Post-session sense check (7th March 2016, 7pm –  1 hour after treatment)

Physically – My body feels refreshed and it was really gratifying feeling my back crack so many times – this is very rare for me. The massage felt more like a physiotherapy session when the cracking took place and as a result, I feel like I’m walking taller and in a better posture. My shoulders feel slightly sore because they were worked on quite intensively (which I asked for) and I know that not all the knots are gone (even though I’ve had a massage every day this week) but they are definitely looser and the cracking of my back demonstrated this.

Emotionally – Strangely I don’t feel that in touch with my emotions right now, or at least there isn’t anything noticeably positive or negative. I actually still feel neutral and generally unaffected emotionally by the massage but maybe this might change later.

Overall Review

Thai Massage remains one of my favourite massages. It’s a very interactive massage where the client is asked to move into certain positions, it involves stretches, cracking and a variety of techniques all working along the Meridian energy lines. This one was especially intense as I asked her to go very hard and because of this she was able to really push my muscles to loosen up, hence the cracking of my back. Most of the time my back doesn’t crack because the muscles are so tight around it and it takes a lot of manipulation or yoga to release this but this experienced masseuse was able to. The thing that I love most about the Wat Po Training School is that the Therapists are very skilled at what they do and they are all very intuitive. Although the language barrier can provide to be an issue sometimes, once you get to know the rhythm it’s easy to work with the Therapist and get into the positions. The reception area also has a help sheet with some Thai phrases on such as ‘A little harder please’ which is helpful.

I really appreciate the diversity of the Thai Massage as it doesn’t just rely on the Therapist to work on the muscles but the client also has to move around too. I also like that the client is moved into different positions in order to allow the therapist to use gravity to their advantage, simply because it means that the pressure of the massage doesn’t necessarily depend on just the strength of the therapist.

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Is it Possible to Shake Out Trapped Emotions? Find Out in This Review of Kundalini Meditation

There are many kinds of meditation and the one I do in my personal time almost every day is a traditional vipassana – sitting up straight and concentrating on my breath. This can be quite difficult in the Western world because it requires us to slow the internal chatter that has been further increased in modern times with marketing messages, technology, and other stimulations. Fear not, fellow inner peace seekers the Osho Active Meditations that I review in this series have been scientifically designed for the busyness of the Western World, and thus Western mind.

Kundalini Meditation

The Kundalini meditation is a type of shaking and dancing meditation that helps move energy within the body. According to Emerging Sciences ‘Kundalini’ is the name given to the discovery of a certain mechanism in the body which is responsible for spiritual awakening.

There are four stages to this meditation; Shake, Dance, Be Still and Lie down, all are for 15 minutes each and play out in that order.

Stage 1. Shake 15 minutes

The stance for this I to stand hip width apart with both feet firmly placed on the ground. With knees bent and mouth slightly open we were asked to shake from the knees upward by bobbing up and down on from our knees, rickershaying a shake upwards through out bodies. This action moves the body in an up and down motion with slight forwards and backward rocking. We were encouraged to released sounds if we felt this but I’m not that vocal and to be honest I felt in new territory and wasn’t completely able to let go. It’s almost impossible to think at this stage but when I did find myself thinking the most common thoughts were self-conscious judgements ‘you look stupid’, ‘you’re not doing it right’, ‘you’re not doing it good enough’. Every time these came up I managed to shake them away and get back to feeling the shakes but this was a constant process of going back and forth as my mind came grabbing for the wheel of control. The struggle between the two was interesting to observe.

Stage 2. Dance 15 minutes

After 15 minutes of shaking with actually felt like it went n for a lot longer than it did so I was happy when the tape changed to dance music as we were encouraged to dance how we felt like and move around the room. I enjoyed this stage because I like dancing, but again I was surprised at the self-consciousness that came up, that I wasn’t dancing good enough. On reflection these self-conscious judgements stopped me from fully immersing myself in this stage because deep down I know that I wasn’t putting in the same effort of dancing that I do when I’m in my room, on my own singing my heart out to emotional songs which I actually do do on quite a regular basis (don’t pretend like you don’t do that too because I know it’s the first thing that anyone does when they realise they’re home alone… don’t they?). I realised that the notion of feeling self-conscious in front of a group of people doing the same thing in a non-judgemental space actually sounds ridiculous and again it’s another interesting discovery to go deeper into.

Stage 3. Be still 15 minutes

After 30 minutes of movement, we sat down in silence and concentrated on our breath, very much in the way I would do in my regular vipassana meditation. This is where the tears hit me, flooding out of my face like a gentle waterfall. I didn’t actually feel upset or sad, in fact, I felt numb but it was as though someone turned on the ‘eyes tap’ and the water just moved freely out. I’ve had a few experiences like this before when I’ve meditated, especially after my Dad passed away and I spun myself into busy avoidance – living out our ridiculous societal stereotype of ‘Keeping busy’ when something difficult in your life happens (yeah, great idea because by not validating our emotions they’ll just fade away right? No. Wrong. They most definitely will not). In reflection, those emotional releases when meditating are probably what has kept me balanced in times when I refused to acknowledge the inner turmoil that’s happening inside, obviously this stage shows that there is still more that needs to surface from my subconscious.

Stage 4. Lie down and be still 15 minutes

For this stage, we literally just lay back on the mat and again concentrated on our breathing. What I found interesting was that when I lay horizontal the tears began to stop and instead I was overcome with a feeling of exhaustion. An interesting reflection here is that I sometimes do my regular meditation lying down, not for any other reason that sometimes I’m a little bit lazy with it but by seeing this reaction of tears drying up when my body position changed it made me wonder if my positions of meditation affect my emotional expression. Maybe I have a comfort association with lying down and a focus association with sitting up? Maybe it’s easier to suppress tears in a lying down position? I don’t know but another area to investigate and play with.

Overall

I really enjoyed the Kundalini meditation and I found the internal struggle between my mind and my body actually really fascinating. In reflection, I particularly find the judgements towards myself a good insight into who I am and also what self-limiting beliefs lie beneath the surface which ultimately hold me back. ‘I’m not good enough’ is a constant record played that I have been consciously working through but subconsciously it still seems to be controlling the reigns of my thought patterns. Also the ‘looking stupid’ and ‘not doing it right’ are also threads which I suspected were pulling strings deep down. The underlying fear of not ‘fitting in’ or not being ‘perfect’. ‘Bringing this to light showcases how ridiculous it is and throughout the week I gradually felt myself standing into the place of the person I am wholeheartedly, without the shame of being ‘too fiery’, ‘too outspoken’ ‘too direct’ – all the tags that my society tells me I ‘shouldn’t’ be. Consciously I know that these are messages fed to us through corporate marketing to build up insecurities that can be directed to ‘solutions’ of buy this product to fix that. I know this intellectually because of the reading and studying I’ve done in psychology and marketing but I was really surprised how deep these threads ran into my subconscious regardless. I’ve found that underlying all of this is the need to accept myself for who I am, where I’m at and for what I’ve been through. Overall I found some very insightful messages surfacing which I see as positive directions of where to focus my healing.

If you like this Therapy Review, please check out my Blog, my Sketches, and my Therapies.

Ever Wondered What Ayurveda is? Find out in This Review of an Ayurvedic Consultation

Ayurvedic Consultation – at Aiona Garden of Health, Bunutan Beach, Amed, Bali

Whilst in Bali I stumbled across a health food cafe which also did Ayurvedic Consultations, so I decided that I would have one. Before reading up on Ayurvedic on the internet and reading the literature in the cafe I wasn’t too sure what it was about. When I’ve previously heard it mentioned it seems to have been used as a marketing buzz word to make a massage or certain treatment sound more desirable without an actual explanation, so because of this I’ve previously strayed away from it. However, Ayurvedic is actually an ancient way of life which was originally developed in India thousands of years ago and it is centred around principles of creation, energy, and spiritualism. There are many facets to Ayurveda but the main principle is that in order to live a healthy life then a person must maintain a certain balance in their mind, body, and spirit that is specific to them. To find out this balance there are a variety of different factors that need to be considered such as date of birth and characteristics which are defined by DNA. This consultation was for me to find out my body type by an Ayurvedic Practitioner and to find out what type of foods and actions will benefit me in my way of life and which ones won’t. As every person is different, it is worth going to a practitioner to find out what body type you are because it’s not easy to work out and there is a lot of theory to be understood, which is why it takes up to 7 years to be an Ayurvedic practitioner. There is a lot more to understand than I’ve managed to squeeze into this introductory paragraph so if you’d like to find out more check out The Ayurvedic Practitioners Association.

My review is set into three parts – description of the session and my overall review. As this wasn’t a therapy I didn’t feel that it was necessary to perform a before and after sense check.

The Session

I booked the session two days previously and was asked to write down my date of birth when I booked as this also determines something about my characteristics, along with family heritage and a variety of other things.

I arrived at Aiona Garden of Health and was offered a glass of cold water and to sit down until I was called in for my consultation. When called, the practitioner-led me through the beautiful gardens with a variety of vegetation, plants and wooden structures to a small veranda where there was a bamboo table and chairs and bed. First, the consultant asked me to tell her something about myself, which I did – my family background, occupation, the recent life events and where I currently am in my life, the trauma story flows pretty easy these days. The consultant then explained the principles of Ayurvedic living and then asked me to lie on the couch so that I could consider the five different elements and see how I felt about them. These are Water, Earth, Fire, Air, and Space. She asked me to lay down on the bamboo couch and concentrate on my breathing to allow myself to focus and then she talked me through each element by asking me to imagine certain things. For example for water, she asked me to imagine a spring of water on a mountain top, and then a river and a lake and how it feels to be swimming in the water and drinking it etc. At the end of imagining each element she asked me how I felt about it and to associate three words with each element, silently. At the end of the final element she talked me back into being on the couch and when I opened my eyes she asked me to sit back at the bamboo desk. Then she asked which of the elements I felt the most strongly about and which one was my least favourable. For me, I felt very strongly for Water and Fire, and least about Earth, whereas wind and space I was generally neutral about.

Following this, we began to talk about spirituality and how I generally didn’t feel too connected, even though I meditate every day. I guess even though I believe that there’s something bigger out there, I still come from a very practical and scientific mindset, to be blunt the fluffiness of spiritual people seems quite flaky to me so I tend to believe but in secret. This could be because I’ve been brought up in a Muslim/Catholic family which didn’t really practice either religion, therefore religion/spirituality has never been a strong part of my life and I guess I have been somewhat confused as to where I sit with it. I also think that this could be a more widespread problem in my generation as we see the rise of people using religious labels for their own personal endeavours: ‘Catholic’ Priests who take advantage of their position for sexual impulses and ‘Muslim’ terrorists who claim to be acting in the name of God when they kill people to name a few. Unfortunately, regardless of religion or belief this abuse of status actually comes down to a lack of personal integrity and such religious systems have been caught up in this, so like many I’ve ended up staying away from religion and spirituality altogether because of this. However what I’m coming to realise is that regardless of the system you adhere to, it’s naive to believe that there isn’t something greater out there that we don’t understand, I mean science is even starting to acknowledge that there are energies out there that we don’t understand – energies which spirituality has been talking about for decades. What was interesting was that the consultant picked up on this as something for me to work on and asked me if this might be the reason that I found myself in Bali, and maybe it is. I mean, I don’t really believe in many religious frameworks but I do believe that there are energies that we can sense and that something greater exists but I don’t feel strongly connected and after all these traumas, especially after my Dad passing away I do feel a bit lost in the World. The practitioner actually said that my Dad gave me a lot of things, which he did but that he didn’t give me prayer and this is absolutely true because it was difficult for him to continue to pray five times a day and work as a Doctor in a country where the majority religion wasn’t Muslim and neither was his wife, kids or social, political or education system. She mentioned that this is something that I could bring back to my family karma and it’s something that I think I’ll work on.

In regards to my body, she said that I have a kafa – pitta – vita balance, in the ratio of about 60:30:20, this means that I should avoid foods that make me ‘slow’ – particularly white sugar and white flour and instead try to eat raw foods to make me feel more balanced. What’s interesting is that during last year when I went home after the attack, after falling down the stairs and after my Dad died I concentrated on having a healthy diet, meditating and doing yoga. Specifically, in my diet, I cut out refined sugar and instead used honey or coconut sugar and I made my own bread, mainly brown or granary. I also ate a lot of vegetables, specifically raw food and superfoods. I did so because it just felt right to do this for my health, so I was basically living the principles of Ayurveda without knowing it. However, it’s more of a challenge to do that while I am constantly on the go (well, I actually carry coconut sugar around with me so I do try). Another thing that the practitioner mentioned which I thought was interesting was that I feel better by the ocean, which was spot on and probably the reason that I’ve ended up working on yachts. She specifically said that it probably doesn’t feel good for me to work in a city or an office which made me laugh because this is actually my nightmare scenario – I would much rather be broke and sailing a boat unpaid than working in an office earning a comfortable wage. To hear this out loud confirmed my thoughts and made me think that maybe I wasn’t so weird after all (that’s my societal shame right there).

The other thing that she said which is something that I am continuously hearing is that I’m at a point in my life where I’m not sure what to do next – I think I keep hearing this because it’s pretty obvious for a start – find me someone who is travelling around Bali that isn’t lost for a start, secondly find me someone who has gone through a variety of traumas who feels grounded – these things are obviously going to shake me up right to the core! At first, it was really hard to hear that I was lost and that it’s ok to be lost because this is the last thing that I want to admit. I’ve already changed my career four times and although there are massive benefits to this I sometimes reach a point where there are so many opportunities that I feel like I’m not too sure which road to take. The next piece of helpful advice, which I also often get – just do what feels right. This is helpful if you’re connected with your feelings but for me in my post-trauma state, even feeling itself, is still difficult. My usual answer to this is how do I know what feels right when I’m disconnected to my feelings? To which I already know that answer… I’ll work it out… which is why I’m allowing myself to run completely out of money being in a place that I feel nourished at the moment and trust that the Universe will send something my way… won’t it? We’ll see. The other thing that she mentioned was that whatever I was meant to do next might be something like writing. Interesting I thought because I wrote a book last year which I am trying to finish and obviously I have this blog but am I really going to take on a 5th career? I guess right now I don’t need to make any firm decisions, I’ll just keep on doing what feels right, right?

When explaining about Ayurvedic principles, the practitioner also described the Ayurvedic morning cleansing routine – to scrape the tongue clean (because during the night this is where toxins from the body build up), then to clean the inside of the nostrils with salt water, to then wash the eyes with fresh water. Then to meditate to cleanse the mind and to do some small exercises or yoga to wake up the body. Oil pulling is something that can also be done to cleanse the body but as this is more of a remedy for illness it is something that is performed for a week or month as a form of treatments. What’s funny is that back home when I have a routine it consists of waking up and oil pulling for 20 minutes, doing 20 minutes of meditation and then a short series of yoga exercises combined with my physiotherapy posture stretches before then going and having a drink of either homemade water kefir or hot lemon juice. Maybe this is the reason that I have been dealing with the traumas so well and my physical health hasn’t taken too much of a beating under such psychological stress.

Overall Review

The objective of an Ayurvedic consultation was to give me an idea of what my body type was and how I could maintain a mind-body-soul balance in my life, however I thought that some of the information that the practitioner gave me was also very interesting because it made me think about certain elements in my life differently as to why they are important – e.g. Sailing, because it allows me to be close to the water. Spirituality because it fills the void that religion might have otherwise provided. I can imagine that a consultation can also be used as a medical diagnosis but as I don’t really have any ailments at present, apart from the pain in my left side which I know is emotional so this wasn’t how I approached the consultation. Considering that a practitioner needs to study for up to 7 years in order to practice, an independent 80-minute consultation will only ever be a brief introduction, however, it did provide me with a deep insight into a philosophy of life which I wouldn’t have otherwise known. I need to do a lot more research on how Ayurveda and it’s principles but it has definitely encouraged me to build a routine into my life again.

If you like this Therapy Review, please check out my Blog, my Sketches, and my Therapies.

What is Cupping and Why Are Olympic Athletes Going Crazy For It?

I had cupping as part of an Acupuncture Treatment that I was reiving when I was in Bali and seen as Olympic athletes are going crazy for it, I’ve dedicated a specific piece on the theory, my thoughts and how it made me feel.

My overall review of how I felt physically and emotionally after the series of treatments can be found in my review of Acupuncture but I’ve included my notes on how I felt about that particular acupuncture and cupping session on the day, especially for this review.

Cupping is an ancient technique from Traditional Chinese Medicine and it can be used as its own treatment or alongside acupuncture. The British Acupuncture Council states that it’s used to stimulate acupuncture points or larger areas of the body, which may be the reason why it’s being heavily used in the Olympics – all that work on those pumping muscles must require a lot of healing.

The cups are rounded and can be made of a variety of material, most commonly in the Western side of the practice, glass is used. To use the cups, the practitioner heats up the air inside the glass with a flame and then places the glass on the clients skin. Then the natural laws of physics prevail and a vacuum is created inside the glass, causing the skin to be sucked into it. It’s typical that multiple glasses will be used at any one time and they are left on the skin for up to 20 minutes.

The theory behind this method is that it supposed to reduce stagnation of ‘qi’ (energy) and also help draw out toxins. In the news however, it’s been reported that the athletes are using it to aid recovery from the physical aches and pains brought on by constant training and competing.

Red Dots

The Session

This was my fourth session of Acupuncture with Ben and as always it started off with some talk therapy which ended up being a roundup of how I was feeling at the time and how I felt about going home – I was leaving Bali that afternoon to slowly head home (via Jakarta, Bangkok and London). We talked about a recent mindset change that I’d experienced and how I envisaged moving back into the real world once I got home. It was evident that I was starting to come down with a cold which was probably a combination of working through all these emotions so intensely and a little bit of partying towards the end of my trip – I was squeezing in as much Bali fun as I could before leaving. Due to the cold, Ben suggested that I have some cupping as well as the acupuncture to help my body release toxins and move around some of my energy, seen as he’s the expert I agreed.

As I lay on on my back, on the acupuncture couch, Ben took my pulse on both of my wrists and then proceeded with placing some acupuncture needles. After he removed the acupuncture needles he asked me to turn on to my front and remove my upper body clothes so that he could put the cups on my bare back. He left the room whilst I did this and knocked before he returned to ensure that I was decent.

He explained the procedure of cupping and methodically started to place them on my back, one by one. Instantly I could feel the pressure of the sucking of my skin into the cups, it didn’t feel uncomfortable but it was a strange feeling. It reminded me of the feeling of being massaged when the therapist goes quite deep to stretch a certain area, however instead of my skin being moved across my body, it was being pulled outwards. There was a feeling of release as though some kind of space was being created within me, like a void was being created between the pressure of the skin in the glass and the muscles within my body. This feeling felt quite pleasurable but it was difficult to really tap into it because so much was going on. I could also feel that some cups had a slightly stronger pulling sensation than the others, but none of them were strong enough to cause any discomfort. The cups were left on my back for what felt like a considerable amount of time but in reality it was only about 20 minutes, for which time I tried to focus on my breathing.

When Ben came to take the cups away he told me beforehand and then proceeded to remove each glass by releasing the pressure at the side of the glass in what felt like a peeling motion, probably much in the same way that I’d remove a sucker off a glass windscreen. When all the glasses were removed he left the room to give me some space to get changed before coming back and asking me how I felt. We talked a little bit about my experience and also about what to expect in the next 24 hours – that I may be slightly tired. I already felt a little lethargic because of my cold and I was aware that after these treatments I can sometimes feel exhausted, but luckily, apart from getting a taxi to a hotel in the south of Bali I didn’t have much else planned.

Pre-session sense check (02 May 2016, 8am –  1 hour before treatment)

Physically – I’d woken up with a head cold, which has been coming for a few days and is now in full force. I’m feeling tired, achy and without much motivation to do anything other than what is necessary. My head hurts, my eyes feel a heavy and my shoulders ache a little too.

Emotionally – I don’t feel that emotional, or I’m not connected with my emotions much today because my physical sensations are quite intense with the feeling of being a ill. I’m a little upset at having to leave Bali but I know it’s the right time so I also feel contempt too.

Post-session sense check (02 May 2016, 5pm –  7 hours after treatment)

Physically – I feel exhausted and my whole body feels really heavy, my movements are also sluggish. I just want to sleep. I have a weird sensation in my head, as though I had had a pressure build up that was now releasing but very slowly.

Emotionally – I’m feeling pretty fragile. I ended up crying when I got to the hotel, not for anything in particular but just because the tears were there and needed to come out. I feel quite numb to any sense of feeling, as though I’m a bit detached from them at the moment.

Overall Review

The sensation of having the cupping treatment was quite strange at first but overall I enjoyed the treatment. With regards to the ‘success’ of it, it’s difficult to review it individually as I had it as part of a series of acupuncture treatments, however those treatments overall were very beneficial for me because they released a lot of physical pain and also instigated a couple of strong mindset changes so overall I would say that it was effective. As with all holistic therapies, it’s difficult to scientifically measure them as the placebo effect could be having a very strong effect, and because I strongly believe in the meridian energy system which these treatments are based on then of course they are more likely to ‘work’. Whether or not they are proving as successful for the Olympic athletes is something that we’ll have to watch out for when we compare the medals and red spots – hardly scientific but worth a shot to find out. Personally I enjoyed the cupping treatment and would have it again but I think that it’s worthwhile to do your own sense check and reflection to see how effective it is for you.

If you like this Therapy Review, please check out my Blog, my Sketches and my Therapies.

Can Traditional Chinese Acupuncture Assist in the Release of Emotional and Physical Pain?

I’ve had acupuncture before at a physiotherapist clinic and for the most part, it was good. It certainly helped me release some physical tension in my body and relaxed me somewhat but when I had Traditional Chinese Acupuncture, the effect was something completely different.

I stumbled across a good acupuncturist in Bali and for some reason the first time I came across him, I didn’t end up booking a session but when I ended up in his presence again (at Hubud, a co-working space in Ubud, Bali) I decided that this might be a sign and I booked a session – trusting my intuition here was the best thing I did because this treatment at that time brought around a whole mindset change. My Therapist for this session was Ben Elan who’s services include Narrative Counselling and Classic Chinese Medicine (Acupuncture and Cupping). He offers a very holistic care service with talk therapy, and energy work based on the intuition and agreement of client and therapist, the way I believe all therapies should be.

My review is set into three parts – description of the session, how I felt directly before and after the four sessions and my overall review.

The sessions

There were four sessions in total and they were spaced over a course of 4 weeks with a week between treatments. The first session lasted 90 minutes and involved a thorough consultation period, where I explained the physical pain on my left side, how long it had been there, significant life events, and of course the most recent traumatic events. Ben asked a series of questions and I answered them in as much detail as I could. As I’ve talked out the traumas and my life events so much I’m quite happy and open to explain everything and give a therapist as much information as they need so that they can use their experience and knowledge to assess how best to treat me.  After the initial 90 minute session, the following 3 sessions they took on average 60 minutes each, as the consultation period was more of a review of what had happened in the last week since the last session, however we would usually find that some additional life information would pop up and provide more of an insight to Ben and his decision of how to treat me for that session. Following the consultation period, I would lie on the massage couch, on my back while Ben took my pulse on both of my wrists one at a time. This usually took about 5 minutes per wrist and would give him an idea of how my energy was running through my body – not being an expert in Traditional Chinese Medicine I don’t have much of a clue what this means, but when he explained to me what he could feel my pulse his assessments were a clear representation of how I felt inside. For example he explained that he could feel a haze, which is normal after trauma because it’s a way of protecting the body. That falls in toe with how I would sometimes feel completely numb to certain things, as though I was unable to access certain feelings. After this, Ben would tell me how many needles he would like to use and where he would like to place them and then he asked me if this was ok with me. Of course, it was, that’s what I was there for but it felt very empowering as a client to be asked if this was ok, something I always appreciate.

There were never more than five needles used and the number of needles depended on my current state of mind, my pulse and what Ben believed was safe and appropriate for that session. During one appointment he only used two needles because he was concerned that I might have a strong reaction if I had more than that, which wouldn’t be good if I wasn’t ready for it. “It’s like if you pull a scab off that’s not really healed underneath yet, the wound will just scab over again” he said. I liked that analogy and he was spot on because even with two needles I had a strong reaction after that session. It was a positive strong reaction but it felt very powerful, three needles might have overwhelmed me.

For those who haven’t had acupuncture before and might be concerned about the needles, I can assure you that they don’t hurt more than a light scratch. They’re not the type of needles used in syringes; in fact they’re a lot thinner, at most they feel like a scratch when they penetrate the skin and then there’s a somewhat dull ache when the needle hits an energy point. The needles would usually stay in for about 20 minutes, and then Ben would remove them and ask if I’d like a glass of water. Just like all therapies, it’s important to drink plenty of water to flush out toxins in the body once the energy (physical or meridian) has been moved around. After the session, we would usually have a chat about what I might expect to feel and he would assure me that I could contact him if I felt unsure about anything, which was really reassuring.

Throughout the four sessions Ben worked on a variety of things and having a sequence of sessions with one practitioner was really beneficial because we could reflect on how I’d felt the week after the treatment. During the first session he concentrated on my general energy flow and placed needles accordingly to see how I would react, I felt fine straight after and very relaxed that evening. During the second session he started to get a bit more strategically, I guess he had a good idea of how I was reacting to the acupuncture. For this session he concentrated on my left side on the pain that I regularly experience – the ‘heart protector’ area because the muscles there seemed tight and overworked (can you blame me after the year I’ve had??). After this session I was quite emotional and did have a few strong emotional releases throughout the week following this appointment. On the third session he simply placed two needles on my right wrist and elbow to help open up my heart energy flow and this is where I had the strong reaction. Straight after I was full of energy and in a very positive mood which lasted for quite a few days before I then had a bit of an emotional rollercoaster, but I felt physically less tense and happy within myself, something which I had lost in all the numbness. The final session was a more of a general session to get my energy flowing and I also had some suction cups on my back because I was experiencing the beginning of a cold. Suction cups apparently help rid the body of toxins. After the final session I felt sleepy and exhausted, but that was probably more because I was becoming ill rather than the acupuncture, however processing all those emotions, at that intensity and speed probably was starting to tire me out after four weeks.

Pre-session sense check – (20 April 2016, the day before my first session)

Physically – At the start of the four sessions, I still had the grappling pain on my left side. The pain would stem from the back of my neck, across my shoulder, spreading across the front and back of my chest, under my arm and down my left arm, down to my ring finger. I’ve had the pain on and off for about 6 years, which was about the time that I started to feel unsupported emotionally (this ties in perfectly with what Louise Hay’s book You Can Heal Your Life has to say). It goes on and off but intensifies at times when I feel vulnerable or scared. Generally, I felt a little fatigued at the start of the 4 weeks but that’s something I was coming to accept after experiencing the emotional traumas – processing is exhausting.

Emotionally – I still felt like I was in a bit of a flux emotionally. Ok one minute then not the next, confused most of the time as to whether I was feeling clear headed or not, and in general still a little numb sometimes. During the time I was having the acupuncture sessions I was in a period of ‘time out’ to specifically work on process things as they came up and working on accepting and expressing my emotions. I was knee deep in a messy process and I wasn’t sure when I was going to be done so I was just taking things one day at a time, and Bali allows for this which I am grateful for.

Post session feeling – (23 May 2016 – 3 weeks after my final session date, 2 May 2016)

Physically – It was during the third session that I felt a physical release in my left shoulder. I had two needles in my right arm and they were placed strategically to help open up my heart – the physical pain that I was experiencing was from my heart being tightly protected (and who could blame me after everything that I’d been through). I remember this session vividly because after it I was full of energy and I felt like a whole weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I felt light again and I had forgotten what it felt to be like that, that pain that used to come on and off over the last 6 years has dissipated completely and it’s remarkable to feel so free from it.

Emotionally – Just before the last session of acupuncture I remember feeling like I was just bored of my trauma story now. I had a complete mind shift in the last week of the acupuncture sessions (and last week in Bali) and I felt like I was making decisions with a clearer mind, one that wasn’t so muddled up by emotional stories playing scare tactics in my brain. A mind that wasn’t fogged by emotions, judgements and should I or shouldn’t I. Since the last session I have felt more open, refreshed and comfortable in my own skin to the point where I feel like I can be here for others – a state which I haven’t felt for a long time.

Overall

I was having the acupuncture sessions during my last month in Bali and it was a time when I had decided to stay in one place and work through my emotions, so as well as having the acupuncture I was also talking through a lot of things, dancing and expressing myself creatively. However, I know that acupuncture has a strong effect on me and I think it was the tool that I needed to help speed up my recovery journey and get me to the point where I felt empowered to move forward to the next chapter of my life, whatever that may be (stay tuned). As well as working with a therapy that I know I respond to, a lot of this also comes down to the therapist and in this case I couldn’t have asked for someone more intuitive or safe than Ben. He has an air about him which creates a space of emotional safety and I could feel this from the moment that I met him, almost like that comforting feeling of someone you trust placing their hand on your shoulder. I found him to be professional and supportive throughout the treatments and the ability for him to hold space for himself and for me, his client was something that he was able to do very successfully. This is extremely important as a therapist because without this security then I client cannot relax into their hands, inhibiting their own recovery by holding back. Ben allowed me to feel safe enough to express my emotions and vulnerabilities fully, which I know aided my response to the treatment even more.

Acupuncture worked for me and I was lucky enough to find a very intuitive therapist which is key to any treatment. It’s something that is worth exploring and I would highly recommend it for someone who is going through any emotional or physical pain. Going to an acupuncturist who is also a trained counsellor was also very beneficial. I’m unsure as to whether all Traditional Chinese Acupuncturists are trained in counselling but it is definitely worthwhile finding one who is and arranging to have a series of sessions to allow for sense checking and reflections. Check out my 3 step guide to finding the right therapist if you’re ready to start your own healing journey.

If you like this Therapy Review, please check out my Blog, my Sketches, and my Therapies.

Therapy Review: A Week at Osho Leela on the Community Experience Program

Whilst exploring therapies in Bali a friend told me about a place back home in the UK which he strongly recommended I visit if I was seriously interested in therapy exploration. I remember at first, thinking that some of the things that he told me sounded a little bit strange and initially my reaction was something like ‘a community experience at some spiritual centre? No thanks’ but as he told me more about Osho Leela and their no bullsh*t approach I began to become intrigued and I booked myself on a one week of the Community Experience Program. That one week really opened my eyes to an integral and authentic approach to self-development, with the kind of realism that I’ve been craving as I work on my own trauma recovery.

Osho Leela is a community in Dorset which runs workshops on a variety of subjects all to do with personal growth. Concurrently they run a Community Experience Program which is an opportunity to experience living in the community and doing certain exercises (active meditations) as well as working on house and ground upkeep as a affordable way of exploring personal growth, which is an amazing opportunity for those who can’t afford to do expensive workshops or therapy sessions but are committed to working on themselves.

The Osho Leela centre is a mixture of Osho teachings and Humaniversity therapy, basically, the combination of inner recognition with a psychological realism approach served on a plate of honest integrity. What do I mean by that I hear you ask? Well, I mean no fluffy spirituality talk shoved down your throat on the promise that all your inner conflict will be fixed by doing a few workshops or meditations. They’re authentic with the message that if you want to look inside yourself and grow as a person then they will provide the safe environment and opportunity but as with all personal growth work, the actual work comes down to the individual.

My review is set into three parts – description of the week, how I felt directly before and after, and my overall review.

Osho Leela

The Week

New Community Experience Program members (CEPs) arrive on Sunday afternoon and they’re greeted into the community by a long term community member with the usual introductions, why you’re here kind of conversation and just a general get to know each other. There were four of us, and everyone had either been here for a workshop or had been to an Osho centre before… apart from me, who as usual was just rocking up to try something out for the sheer fun of exploration. Exploring the inner self and all its scary dark shadows? Sign me up!

The CEP program has a working schedule made up of three mandatory meditations on weekdays, two of which are usually active meditation and one 30 minute vipassana. The active meditations are usually before breakfast and in the afternoon, with the vipassana typically before lunch. On the weekends the schedule usually doesn’t have the active meditations because the rooms are being used for workshops, but that doesn’t stop the organisers holding an impromptu dance rave ‘meditation’ on a Sunday evening for those with bubbling energy that needs expending.

As well as the meditations there is a morning meeting every day which starts with a gentle dance (which I am now of the opinion that this is the best way to start any meeting and also just a great way to start the day). After the dance, there’s general meeting-y kind of topics which are discussed, a welcome to new CEP’s and a goodbye to ones leaving and then everyone is released on to their work duties.

Throughout the week CEPs spend six hours a day up-keeping the house and the grounds, that can be anything from cutting the hedges or cleaning the bathrooms, through to cooking for up to 30 people. It gives the general community experience of everyone looking out for each other and understanding that we all have a vested interest in the upkeep of such a beautiful house so that it can be used for workshops that undoubtedly offset the cost of a very reasonable personal growth program. I’ve lived in communities before, mainly when I’ve taken part in volunteer or student opportunities and when they’re run well, like the Osho Leela one is, it leaves you with a sense of appreciation for hard work and pride in what you’ve accomplished. Even if it is just hoovering the stairs, making it look nice and clean is really gratifying.

Apart from the normal program, Wednesday is community day and that’s where the schedule changes. May I introduce you to the AUM meditation: Awareness, Understanding, and Meditation. This meditation is taken from the humaniversity side of Osho Leela and it’s a 1 & ½ hour session that explores 14 aspects of the human experience: hatred, forgiveness, love, stamina, life energy, chaos, dance, sadness, laughter, sensuality, chanting, silence, respect and sharing (humanaversity.com). To put it bluntly, it’s like speed dating with your emotions and as with any kind of dating, the best connections are made when you put shame aside and put all your effort in. It’s intense and it allows you to really shine a light into your dark shadows where some uncomfortable home truths might be hiding, but all within a safe and supportive environment, check out the full review here. After the AUM there was shower time – there are lots of showers breaks at Osho Leela because the active meditations make for very sweaty volunteers, but it’s because it feels a little like a cleansing ritual every time. Later on, in the day we had a group sharing which is an opportunity to confidentially talk about where you’re at and how you feel to the group. It’s also an opportunity for the organisers (who are also therapists) can give some guidance, much like any therapist would, which is insightful. It was also really beneficial to explore each emotion in the morning, reflect upon this and then openly share it with a group and two therapists because after the AUM I seemed to be a lot more in touch with how I was feeling, which was, in fact, a huge numbness. Like a haze that had been stirred up and was now waiting to lift. I can imagine that this kind of group sharing/therapy session is very beneficial for people who stay on the CEP program for a long period of time because there is the opportunity to bring out emotion, discuss it in a session and reflect continuously with therapists who get to know you well enough to ask you the right questions to help you pull yourself out of your old tricks and patterns.

Throughout the working week, there were a variety of Osho and Humanversity meditations that I took part in. The Khundalini Meditation, which is a shaking meditation, The Dynamic Meditation, which explored 5 areas of expression, Bio Energetics Meditation which combined dance and bending exercises, Sacred Earth Meditation which was a predominantly dancing, and also the Gibberish Meditation, an Osho Meditation which is literally talking gibberish. I’ve never known a place where there is such great exposure to such a wide variety of personal growth exercises with such a realistic an authentic approach.

Pre-session sense check (6 June 2016, 2pm – Arrival at Osho Leela)

Emotionally – I feel anxious and very resistant to being in the place which I spent over 3 hours driving to. I’m not entirely sure what I’m getting myself into this week or whether I’m ready to deal with the ‘crazy’ emotions that I could be suppressing deep down. In my head there’s a ‘what the hell am I getting myself into?’ kind of question, as images of floaty hippy types appear in my head, telling me to ‘Just be’ and then the fear of my fiery Arabic nature arising and telling them to F-off… It’s an interesting stereotype that I hold against the spiritual community, and the judgement and resistance towards myself on this journey too. I know that this resistance and judgement is a signpost to explore something, a deeper fear maybe because I don’t want to deal with the discomfort of my own emotions or a huge fear of vulnerability. This realisation of inner fear is what stops me from turning the car around and running away, that and the realisation that if I did do this then those emotions would just come along with me anyway.

Physically – My shoulder is tensing up and there was a definite stiffening up in my body as I drove down here but generally, I’m feeling quite awake and alert and I’ve been eating healthy food all day which is probably the reason for this. I’m also well rested so apart from tensing, my body generally feels in good health. There is a feeling of butterflies in my solar plexus, like a gut reaction of fear. It’s kind of like nerves butterflies but not the good kind, the kind that makes you feel a little nauseous but will gently fade away if ignored… Ignored for now at least.

Post-session sense check (13 June 2016, 4pm – Arrival back home)

Emotionally – I feel energised and empowered. I feel like I explored a lot about myself and my inner emotions this week and it’s left me feeling more accepting of myself. It’s difficult to put my finger on it but I feel free to be my authentic self and if people don’t like that then that’s ok, they’re not my kind of people so they can bugger off and make way for those who are.

Physically – My body is tired but also energised, which is weird because these two feelings seem to contradict each other but the best I can explain it is the feeling you have after a really good workout. Throughout the week I had to take some hour long naps, especially on the 4th and 5th day and I think this was because of the emotional processing, it just exhausted my body and I had to sleep to replenish my energy.

Overall

At Osho Leela, they are upfront about what they deliver – an opportunity for people to go deeper into their inner-self – with the support of therapists who can hold that emotional space, should anything overwhelming arise. I think the thing that I felt most reassured by Osho Leela was the acknowledgment of humanity here – that the people leading it are also only human too and equally have desires and needs that must be met. For example, in one day we might take part in active meditations, reflections, and open conversations about our innermost vulnerable truths, all in the safety of the house. Then some of us would go to the pub for a drink whilst another group gathered together and watched some apparently important football match (no idea which one). This strength and integrity is refreshing to see and by feeling this comfortable it allowed me to go full throttle with the meditations, no matter how ‘strange’ they seemed at first (yes, I had judgements and resistance… I am at least only human too). So regardless of the voice of resistance in my body and mind I pushed through the discomfort and delved right in.

Having meditated consistently for well over a year now I feel like I have the ability to step out of my emotions and see them for what they are – sometimes. I find this process to be a skill that needs regular practice, with the acknowledgement that perfection of it is an illusion. The tools that I picked up from the Osho Meditations were how to fully feel, express and manage emotions so that I don’t numb out like Western society conditions us to. I believe that by going deeper into emotions we widen the spectrum of what we can feel, so by becoming accustomed to my deepest anger, fear and shame I can also feel ecstatic, love and joy to a deeper level too, leading to a more fulfilling life. I mean that’s the point of us being here right? To live life to the full? Well, that’s what I believe anyway.

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