Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Paula Chin, LAc, LMT

Paula Chin
Paula Chin’s smile is as wide as her hair is long. She has a different look on her face, however, when she is wielding a knife. That’s because she is trained—in the tradition of the Chinese scholar-warrior—in both the healing and the martial arts. In addition to massage, acupuncture and Tui Na, Paula is skilled in Kendo and Filipino Stick and Knife fighting.

It takes a warrior’s spirit to face people’s pain with little more than your hands. Asked how she approaches a client’s pain Paula explained, “It really depends on the individual, and what they are seeking.” Her approach to a client’s condition reveals the creative process at work in a complementary approach like massage or acupuncture.

What about a headache, for instance? “Headaches are complicated;” she replied, “because all headaches are different. Energetically, I look to see if it is part of a pattern. For instance, it might be due to a hormonal imbalance, or an acute pathogen, or a tendino-muscular disturbance. Depending on the pattern, I’ll choose which channels to work on and which external applications to use.”

What about a direct trauma, like a kick in the shin? Is that more straightforward? When you work energetically, maybe not. “With a direct trauma, I first want to know if it is acute or chronic,” Paula said. “I might start by applying lubricant using general strokes over the leg. Then go into deeper strokes. Then add medicated lubricants, like Dit Dat Jiao (an herbal liniment) or White Flower Oil.

“I might add Luo points, as well as work above and below the injury. The more you know, the more selections you’ll have; it allows you to be more creative in your treatment plan. One thing leads to another, like an unfolding path that takes place between me and the client.”

And where is the path going? “I’m seeking to free up an area so the body can heal itself,” Paula answered. “I want to release constriction so fluids and energy can course thru the muscles. With most injuries we have pain, but it’s not necessarily a negative thing; it’s the body’s way to protect itself from further injury.

“Pain comes from tightness, an inability to move forward. If you’re injured and you’re stressed, the body doesn’t know what’s healthy anymore. It goes from one state of tension to another. What I hope to do as a practitioner is help people restore movement and help them go forward with less fear.”

Paula has been teaching Swedish massage and other classes in the Massage Therapy Program since 1988 and in the Acupuncture Program since its inception in 1996.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Resilience and Bodywork

George Russell
When clients new to my chiropractic practice tell me stories of injuries, they will often say something like this: “The thing is, I wasn’t doing anything. I was just bending over to pick up a paper clip and—boom—my back went out.” Or: “It all started last winter, when I slipped on the subway steps—before that, I never had a problem.”

Many people, whether or not they believe they know the cause of an injury, simply want the pain and physical limitations to go away so that they can get on with their busy lives. Who can blame them? Who among us hasn’t wanted the same thing? However, in order to prevent future injury—and possible catastrophe—we all need to be willing to look more deeply at ourselves and engage in a dialogue with our body.

I think of the “phenomenon” of injury as the meeting of a long-held habit with an unfortunate event. The unfortunate event is the more obvious factor; it may take the form of a fall, a car accident, lay-off from a job, or a sudden decline of health in a family member. These events are often truly unpredictable. We may think that the place we injure, whether it’s our back, elbow, or ankle, is also random. Yet the injury is determined largely by habits we had acquired long before the event occurred.

Our habits are recorded in our body and reflect our experiences in the same way that the rings of a tree reflect its life. We can talk about breaking habits we have that lead to bad backs, sore necks, or disease and cancer, but our talk often doesn’t lead to action—we still hunch head-forward toward the laptop screen, smoke, leave late for work and run for the train. We get stuck, and our bodies reflect the way we habitually act. Form follows function.

How can we begin to know ourselves—our many forms and functions—on deeper level? Through a new dialogue with the body. Some experienced bodyworkers facilitate this by touching, shifting and moving the body, not only within and between muscles and joints, but also within the automatic, unconscious part of the mind that controls how we stand and hold ourselves. It is this dialogue that opens the door to change and acclimates our bodies to the change. Bodywork interrupts nervous system patterns and opens the door to new patterns that are more functional, and helps us have fewer injuries and greater resilience.

Resilience is more about the nervous system and mind than it is about our bony and muscular structure or the particulars of the environment. To be resilient is to be open to change. Resilience requires the breaking of habit, which almost always requires an outside perspective, and often requires a crisis, small or large. A wonderful tool for building awareness, breaking habit, and opening to change is to be touched and moved by massage and bodywork.

Dr. George Russell is a bodyworker, chiropractor, teacher, counselor and movement specialist. He is a former professional dancer, and a long-time student of Yoga, Pilates and Alexander techniques. Energy medicine, guided imagery, the 12 steps, and psychotherapy all inform his approach to care. He is a popular teacher in our Continuing Education Department and has several upcoming classes in our current semester

Take a look at all of the classes for Winter/Spring 2010.