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A Better Approach to Complementary Therapy

by Thea Bailey MRSS(more info)

listed in bodywork, originally published in issue 43 - August 1999

"Good health means existence in harmony with evolution"[1]
– His Holiness Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

We live at a remarkable time of technological and scientific knowledge, which has arisen from the disciplined and rational mind. But, just because we can stay active and working through the hours of darkness doesn't mean that this is good for us, or our bodies. As Traditional Chinese Medicine and the Ayurvedic systems explain,[2] our bodies have their own rhythms and twenty four hour clocks, a knowledge our neuropeptide messengers hold at our very core and which sustains all our body functions. To regularly override the body's need for deep sleep causes an imbalance to the whole system, and can lead to illness. To begin with perhaps just a susceptibility to the flu bug, but later, far more seriously, to a life threatening disease. Why do we let this happen?

Listening to the inner communications of the body requires much stillness

Listening to the inner communications of the body requires much stillness

I suspect that all Complementary Therapists (CT) would agree that, no matter which technique, 'map' or energy system is being used, amongst the myriad therapies on offer today, all would see themselves as dealing with the whole person. That is, reconnecting the body-mind-spirit harmony to again access its own powerful capacity to heal itself, supporting the homeostatic state of balance.

For well over a decade now I've been lucky enough to be doing what I love and value profoundly. I've been working as a Shiatsu Practitioner, seeing people at both ends of the spectrum, from the very sick and dying, to those seeking just to indulge, relax and maintain the healthy happy state they are already in. (For a fuller description of Shiatsu see Positive Health Magazine, Issue 24 1997/8.)[3] My work is based upon an energy meridian system inherent in us all, contacting the Ki/Chi, Prana, through touch.

Reconnecting the body, mind spirit harmony

Reconnecting the body, mind spirit harmony

As a practitioner, obviously I've had many insights, and shared in some remarkable healing journeys. But, I've also been deeply struck by two common themes. The first is that just choosing to adopt an alternative therapy, rather than to yet again consult the doctor and take his pills, isn't enough, an education seems to be required. People don't seem to understand how to make the best use of all these wonderful therapies. One of my favourite bodywork books, Job's Body by Deane Juhan says it so well: "Neither utmost endurance nor utter passivity is the condition which best serves our health; health is always a dynamic balance between the two. We suffer from too little, and we suffer from too much. We prosper when all elements are present in their proper proportions. The role of bodywork is not to eliminate stress, but rather to educate the individual to recognize the right kinds and the right amounts."[4]

The second, and to me totally inter-related issue, is that we seem to have lost touch with our common sense knowledge of how to take care of ourselves. The great speed and acceleration that modern technology and progress demands of our late 20th Century lifestyles has, it appears, driven us to ignore the signals that our bodies and emotions keep trying to scream at us. We have lost the art of that commitment to ourselves, to take care of what compromises the person, our whole unique being.

What is good health anyway? Isn't it about being in harmony and balance, about having a joy for life and living? Wanting to engage with as much as possible and to be able to contact our creative energies and do what we feel inspired to do? To love who and how we are, so our inner joys and sparkle overflow and we have the energy to achieve our goals. Yet, despite wanting this, we often don't see how to give time, or energy to maintaining it.

It is when these systems are not functioning that we turn to someone for help because the issue begins to manifest constantly as an ache, tiredness, pains and depression. In her superb book Molecules of Emotion – Why you feel the way you feel, the scientist Candace B. Pert says in her concluding Appendix A: "Aim for emotional wholeness. When you're upset or feeling sick, try to get to the bottom of your feelings. Figure out what's really eating you.[5] To me, delving into this is a way of showing profound respect for ourselves, listening to the inner communications of the body requires much stillness – hence meditational disciplines. A time away from the constant modern day noises and electronic vibrations assaulting our senses, bombarding us with a constant pollution. No wonder we feel sick! I like to refer to this silent listening as our deep innate wisdom. My desire is to help people through Shiatsu and sharing, to find the best way of truly helping themselves once again to discover their own healing potential and remember the very basics from the needs of diet, exercise and emotional/spiritual nourishment.

Let me return to some fundamentals. No one would comment or show surprise at the explorer returning from the North Pole who expresses the desire for rest, sleep, dry warm clothing and some good food. Yet all too often it seems we forget that the same needs might apply to our own daily lives. We are so used to the car and central heating, we've almost forgotten that when it is cold, wet or windy it is good practise to care for the body. That wind and rain can and do invade our bodies and cause much upset to the finely tuned balance within. Keeping warm, dry and protected, ensures a far longer healthier life. I am constantly amazed that it is now cool for young people not to wear an outdoor coat! When people come for Shiatsu, (or go to anyone for bodywork and an energy based therapy) they rarely have enough warm clothes on, which is essential for going home, because, so often with this work, the body chills down considerably. There are many reasons for this; through the release of old traumas or shocks; maybe the connecting to letting-go or confronting deep seated fears, when powerful shifts in the meridian channels takes place. We need to focus some tender loving care upon ourselves far more often. Sadly we now seem to hold a notion that being sick isn't ok or allowed in office politics. Never mind that we pass on our germs in trains and offices. We carry on regardless, ignoring the warning signs that something isn't well within. And then there is the time of grief and shock, which leads to exhaustion, and we become vulnerable to emotions and a sense of emptiness. We struggle and don't know how to release our anger and tears. The rituals for loss have been so sanitised.

Good therapy means finding what is good for someone at a given time and then working with it over time to allow results to take place. The problem may have taken one's lifespan to develop; why would it disappear only after three sessions? Even if the first session was superb, it has usually only dealt with the basic scenario; the second is about learning to trust the CT and the third may begin to truly touch the root causes of our problems, or to appreciate what is being done and advised. Several sessions later the real releases and symptoms may then begin to change and become consolidated. Exercises and advice given by the therapist are usually based on much experience and knowledge of what works well for the individual's needs and in conjunction with that particular therapy. It is the homework of the session and allows in the long term for the client to find out how to cope when alone, and to have some extra support mechanisms in their life. I'll never forget the Transpersonal Counsellor who showed me such a profoundly simple aid, which I still use to this day: That if a day was a write off, and a long sleep was required, then that was fine, it wasn't like that every day. So relax and let such times have their space too. Do something nurturing and indulgent, take a bubble bath or go to a film.

Just because something appears not to be working, doesn't mean it isn't good, or that it isn't actually doing much towards helping the problems change. The body is slow at times to re-educate itself and cope with new sensations or demands of a new alignment in the structural postures. It is time that tends to create a lasting result. The more the whole body-mind-spirit is asked to take on board, the more confused it is likely to become and the more problems are likely to arise. Possibly, one of the aspects that is easy to overlook is that change can be subtle as well as frightening. So we need to ask ourselves, do I truly want to get better, or change this issue that has been a way of life for a long time? If we don't want the doctor's pills and are prepared to pay for complementary therapy, maybe we need to review why? For me always the root questions are: What is the cause of this person's problem, anxiety, stress and failing to heal? Why am I the third therapist to be consulted? What aspect of their lives is out of balance to cause this? Why are ancient issues reactivated and keep resurfacing to knock the entire system off centre? What seems to occur is that the client falls into a trap of giving up the GP, only to turn to the CT and transfer once again the responsibility for all on to them. As if 'They' will know all the answers and do the work. No, therapy of whatever kind is about giving someone support through a process, so that they are able to make informed choices again and cope, feeling safe and acknowledged, the back ache and pain has been reduced, and will get better with rest, warmth or a change in lifestyle.

Simplicity in all is far more effective and cheaper. Complementary Therapy isn't about a quick fix, and yes at times it can be just that. Acute or chronic issues respond better both within our minds and externally in our daily lives – and pockets – if we recognise that change takes time. That the relief of one symptom may be the beginning of the release and healing of the others! Mixing up various therapies can often confuse and prolong the healing outcomes. You will not get better more quickly or change that lifetime pattern with an overdose of anything. You are not doing justice to the therapist or yourself. You are not giving yourself time to digest what you took in on Tuesday with Acupuncture if you go and do something equally specialised on Thursday, say Shiatsu. It is hard on you and difficult for the therapist to know what is or isn't working.

In my work I often find that a client doesn't want to discuss what is emotionally sitting in their heart. They have come for bodywork, not therapy counselling. They do not realise that the two are connected, that by off-loading something in a verbal way allows access to far more energy. Even with one small statement about what is truly "sitting in the heart" it can be enough. The essence of the emotional overload having been acknowledged, a release takes place and the body immediately lets go of tensions and feels easier. The relief is quite literally palpable. The breathing becomes deeper and so more energy Ki is taken into our bodies and with help, the out breath can also become deeper. Here we are not just letting go of the carbon dioxide, but much of the waste of what we no longer need to carry in our lives physically and emotionally. From this it might easily be seen that yes, Counselling/Psychotherapy and bodywork are two therapies that do go very well together. Yet mixing Acupuncture with Cranio-sacral work close to one another is not wise, due to their similarity. But to see a Nutritionist and Reflexologist in combination could be highly beneficial. To go from lying in deep relaxation on the couch to playing tennis negates the whole process. Your body will not have had time to feel the shifts and to digest what you have consciously or unconsciously learned. If emotions have been stirred, then even more, there is wisdom in taking care to give ourselves space alone.

We wouldn't eat a huge meal and go swimming; it puts a huge strain on two opposing functions, digestion and the actions of our muscles. The heart would have to cope with blood flows in two areas.

To imagine that the therapy one has just paid for or is about to pay for has no other effect than in that hour or so, is to miss the point. Often the very depth of the therapy works slowly over the days, weeks and months or even years. For the rest of our lives, seeds have been sown in the extraordinary library of our memory banks. Therapy can make you feel tired, elated, buzzing and revitalised, whatever; it is crucial to honour that it has had an effect and fully respect what it is that has been set in motion. That means finding some time to be with it alone, rather than jumping straight into the next crisis, deadline or latest fashionable fad. We really don't need to try and do everything all at once, and being honest about what we require from our therapy and to ask questions and take personal responsibility, trusting ourselves and checking that it does still have efficacy is tremendously important. In that we can still try all that is available, but without gorging ourselves in the process.


1 His Holiness Maharishi Mahesh Yogi The Science of Being and Art of Living. International SRM Publications. First published 1963, revised ed. 1966.
2 Andreas Moritz. Our Natural Biological Routine from First Peace an International Magazine – Issue 11 the article by PO Box 95, Broadway, Worcs. WR12 7YJ.
3 What is Shiatsu. in Positive Health Magazine Issue 24 1997/8.
4 Deane Juhan. Job's Body A Handbook for Bodywork Published by Station Hill Press. C. 1987.
5 Candace B. Pert, Ph.D. Molecules of Emotion – Why you feel the way you feel. First published USA by Scribner 1997 Simon & Schuster 1998 U.K.


  1. Dick Page said..

    I suddenly had Thea's name come into my mind today and so looked her up, Thea really helped me so much in the early to mid 80's , how i wish i could engage in some more Shiatsu with Thea again alas i am living in the far South West of Cork Ireland.
    I am glad to see Thea is still working and would reccomend her for Shiatsu

    Dick Page

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About Thea Bailey MRSS

Thea Bailey MRSS trained in Speech Therapy, but in 1983 discovered Shiatsu, which has become her joy and life's work. Later this led to a role on the Governing body of the U.K. Shiatsu Society, dealing specifically with Ethics and Complaints. For over six years she has specialised in working with cancer patients at the Bristol Cancer Help Centre, using a synthesised form, paying particular attention to the importance of the breath. From 1990 – 1997 she co-presented the unique course created by her colleague, Keith Phillips: "Choice and Transformation – Your Life in Your Hands."

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