I have fond memories from my childhood of helping my grandmother untangle the golden necklace chains that would get tangled together in her jewelry box. I never understood how it was possible for chains to get tangled in a stationary box. I sometimes even wondered if there were little gnomes who would sneak into the jewelry box at night and tangle them. But I didn’t dwell too long on figuring out a cause, because I liked the ball of chains and the puzzle they created for me to solve.
I would take this little ball of tangled charms and dangling chains and slowly, piece by piece, work to unravel them. If I pulled too hard, it could make them worse. Sometimes, I would have to get slack from one chain in order liberate another one. Other times, I had to put the tangled ball down and come back to it later.
Looking back, it’s quite fascinating to see how my curiosity for liberating my grandmother’s golden chains actually served me in my bodywork practice.
Various types of tissue can act like “chains” that link our knots together. Muscles, bones, ligaments, tendons, nerves, blood vessels and fascia can get bound up to each other, just like tangled necklaces. Injuries – either traumatic ones (like whiplash) or repetitive ones (like working at a computer all day) – create the tangles.
Just like unraveling delicate necklaces, the body often needs the same kind of patience, curiosity, and willingness to see things in a dynamic and multidimensional way in order to create healthy movement. At times, pressing or pulling too hard makes the body tense up instead of soften. Sometimes, I need to first get a little slack from the back or chest in order to liberate the linking knot in the neck. Other times, I need to mobilize the shoulder blade while pulling on the arm to free up tension in the shoulder. There are also times when the body needs a break and time to integrate before liberating the next knot in the chain, so the integration time between sessions can be crucial.
Over the years, life can create tangles and holding patterns in our body that may seem impossible to unravel. My truth is that most patterns can be improved, if not completely unraveled. All that’s required is the patience of the receiver and a practitioner who has the curiosity, care, and enthusiasm.