Originally published in Massage & Bodywork magazine, October/November 2005.
Copyright 2005. Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals. All rights reserved.
In our work, we are passionate advocates for life. Our intelligent hands bring life into the body where it has been deadened for whatever reason. We encourage our clients to live life to its fullest -- getting the overbusy person to stop and pay attention to her inner sensations or giving the timid confidence to take action in the world.
Many of us further connect our work with the ecology of the body to the larger oikos (household) of the earth. Our body is our local "ecology," and its organ systems hold many parallels with the earth's "physiology." In this sense, massage therapists are by definition environmentalists, planetary healers bringing coherence into complex local systems (clients), who then affect the larger systems of the planet. "Healing the world one body at a time" is no joke.
One element flows through this argument from the macro to the micro -- fluid water. Life is unimaginable without water. No animal or plant on this planet can do much in its absence. We are often described in science fiction as "carbon-based life forms," but water-based is closer to it.
Many years ago (young, foolish), I sailed a small boat from Turkey to Athens. One clear sunset, we set off from Patmos (where John wrote Revelations), headed for Mykonos (those whitewashed windmills with blue doors). By midnight, we were in the throes of a violent storm as only the Aegean can toss up. Buffeted by cross-chop and stung with spume in the shrieking winds, we finally reached our limit, turned tail, and planed away on the easiest point of sail. At sunrise, bruised and battered, we dropped anchor in the harbor of Ikarios (where Icarus supposedly fell into the sea after his wings melted), far from our destination, but thankfully still afloat.
Ikarios, to our surprise, had hot springs. We rowed our aching bodies ashore and gimped up the hill to the huts. While it was hardly the cleanest or most "feng shui"-ed spa, our encounter with the hot mineral water in those plain cement tubs was the most welcome and relieving I have ever had. We left magically restored and ready for the long sail we still had to make.
Water within, water without. From the vast heart of the salty ocean (Cancer) to the "veins" of fresh rivers and streams (Pisces), to the "glandular" mineral oasis hidden in the desert (Scorpio), water is a mysterious element -- as simple as H20, and yet still fundamentally unknowable.
The fertilized ovum -- the ultimate stem cell -- is about 98 percent water. The neonate that slips through the birth canal (only a man could use such a glib word for labor) is still 90 percent water. You are, like the surface of the earth, around 72 percent water. Muscle tissue is 75 percent water, 20 percent protein, and 5 percent salt, sugar, and fat. Nervous and epithelial tissues are even more aqueous. Connective tissue is the variable one -- 95 percent water in blood, but only a few percent in the density of cartilage and bone.
These familiar factoids lead to exhortations to drink lots of water and get plenty of exercise and bodywork to make sure water makes it around to all your nooks and crannies. Cellular nourishment and elimination depend on it. Fluidity of mind and body are attributes of the young. Water adapts its shape to any container. As "shape-shifters," massage therapists concentrate on easing restrictions in the 20 percent fibrous proteins. But remember we do so to free the fluid 75 percent.
But step back and look at it: The water that covers the earth's surface is hardly abundant anywhere else. Even as ice or steam, there is very little of it "out there." If we continue to waste water ("aging" the Earth in the process?), we are going to find out how rare it is. Sources of clean water are becoming harder to find. Engineers are considering dragging icebergs to urban areas as a source of drinking water. Sometime soon, water will take over oil as the world's most precious liquid.
Mysterious water -- wizard of changes -- lies at the heart of all life. Whether you buy "Penta" water or not, whether you give full faith and credit to either homeopathy or Masaru Emoto (The Hidden Messages in Water,
2004; Oregon: Beyond Words Publishing), it is clear there are yet unknown properties of the simple water molecule.
So is there a relation between "well" meaning healthy and the "well" where villagers go to haul water? The popularity and effectiveness of spa treatments, many of which have water as their base, point to this connection. Our modern ability to bring water inside, heat it, and control it with the turn of the handle is a luxury few kings ever enjoyed. Let that ease not blind us to the rare blessing of water in ourselves and on our planet, without which our muscles wouldn't contract, our nerves conduct, or our organs sort out our chemistry. Thomas Myers has practiced integrative bodywork for nearly 30 years. He teaches workshops internationally on anatomy, movement, and soft-tissue work. His book,
Anatomy Trains: Myofascial Meridians for Manual and Movement Therapists, was published by Elsevier in 2001. He lives, writes, and sails on the coast of Maine.