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understanding hands-free massage techniques

Hands-free massage trainer and practitioner Darien Pritchard was generous enough to spend a couple of hours with a group of us last week at BCMB in Bristol. As an experienced body worker for over 30 years, with more than 25 years of experience training massage therapists, we felt very honoured to have him share some of the grounding principles of this valuable technique. 

Darien opened the session by offering insight into why he began exploring this unique approach to massage. In the west, most massage training has its grounding in traditional Swedish Massage techniques, mainly focused on using our hands as the primary tools of the trade. If you look further afield to massage styles of India and beyond you begin to see much more of the massage therapist’s body being involved to apply pressure, mobilisation and stretches. For instance, with one particular style of Indian massage the therapist rigs a rope between two posts, above the client, in order to walk on specific areas of the their body. In Hawaii, use of forearms as the primary tool for performing long, sweeping massage strokes is a fundamental aspect of the traditional Lomi-Lomi massage. Likewise, Thai Yoga Massage and Shiatsu both see the client and practitioner working together on the floor, whilst stretches are performed and pressure is applied with not only the hands but also feet, legs and forearms. When you look at this wider historical context, Swedish Massage does seem to exclude many techniques that can not only benefit the client but also preserve the massage practitioner from common injuries sustained through overuse and ineffective use of their own bodies.

Hands free massage photoIn the practical part of the session, we were encouraged to give and receive massage using a number of different areas of the forearm and elbow with sensitivity and care. Darien guided us throughout this process and covered off the benefits of a wide range of possible techniques, whilst highlighting the many advantages to both practitioner and client.

When a therapist applies pressure, the strength should not come from pushing the arms. Using movements not dissimilar to those used in Tai Chi, a good therapist will utilise their own posture to harness momentum from the lower part of their body in order to transfer pressure directly to the client. This not only offers a more stable and grounded basis for treatment, but also one that minimises any possible injury to the practitioner, allowing them to apply much more pressure whilst at the same time being more connected to his or her client. Darien’s experience as MTI director of Anatomy and Physiology shone through as he articulated the impact that inappropriate body use could have on the massage practitioner over the longer term. 

All in all, this was a fascinating insight into the principles and techniques fundamental to the hands-free philosophy and we came away with some great ideas that we could take into our own practice. In a couple of hours, this evening only really scratched the surface so I’m sure I’ll be signing up for one of Darien’s CPD courses very soon. If you’re interested in hands-free massage techniques then take a look at Darien Pritchard's website or the MTI website for information on Darien’s Dynamic Massage courses. Please note that these courses are only suitable for qualified massage therapists. Finally, thanks so much to Darien for giving up his time to share his knowledge and experience with fellow massage therapists at BCMB. A fantastic evening of insight, sharing and practice.

POSTED: by Sam Lacey on Saturday July 14 2012

TAGS: bcmb, complementary therapy, darien pritchard, holistic massage, massage, massage therapist, massage therapy, massage training, mti,

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