Connecting Your Body with Nature

“Ah, not to be cut off, not through the slightest partition shut out from the law of the stars. The inner — what is it? if not intensified sky, hurled through with birds and deep with the winds of homecoming.”

— Rainer Maria Rilke

by Carl Johns, LMT, Director, ASIS Massage Education-Flagstaff

Most of us think of massage therapy as a decidedly indoor activity, but it does not have to be that way.

In the same way we might go out into nature to practice yoga or martial arts, we can have the experience of massage and bodywork in the outdoors, connecting the microcosm of the body with the macrocosm of nature. Two of the most well-known bodywork modalities practiced over clothes and traditionally on the ground are shiatsu and Thai massage.

Thai massage is based in the principals of yoga and incorporates intricate patterns of stretching with some compressive work to open the energy channels of the body and promote balance, vitality and good health.

Shiatsu is a Japanese form based in the concepts of Chinese medicine that primarily used compression with rocking, stretching, brushing and percussion to open the energy channels of the body and promote balance, vitality and good health.

We are starting to see a theme about balance, vitality and good health. These bodywork modalities in their cultures — Thailand and Japan — are seen as primary health care. If used in this way, at the first sign of distress in the body, further intervention will not likely be needed.

And while there are many skilled practitioners of these styles, it is not necessary to engage a professional therapist to receive the benefits of these ancient styles of bodywork. For instance, it is a tradition in Japan to teach shiatsu to the children in the family. The one who displays the most talent will be the family practitioner.

Now imagine yourself learning one of these simple and profound forms of bodywork and using them while hiking out into a beautiful forest meadow with your family or friends. There you can lay out a blanket and work over clothes, giving and receiving bodywork in nature all day long — experiencing the power of touch as you are touched by the sights, smells, sounds and sensations of nature.

It just doesn’t get any better.