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Deborra Clayton, CMT
As the massage and bodywork industry has come into its own in the past several decades, a schism has developed between the well being of the clients and that of the practitioners.

Unprecedented numbers of people now seek out the many bodywork and massage modalities available. This has created tremendous motivation for practitioners to increase the variety of skills they bring to the table. But the cost of this growth in awareness and service is that bodywork practitioners are acquiring techniques faster than their bodies can learn to produce them safely. While the public is happily availing itself of the benefits of bodywork, practitioners are working with injury, burn-out, and fatigue. I have been an educator in the field of massage therapy for the past 10 years, and I have been working on a solution.

When I began my bodywork training and practice 30 years ago, the field was not yet market driven. I built my skills over time, as did many others in that era, through training, informal collegial groups, mentorships, and lots of practice. My work was an avocation, characterized by a sense of ease and exploration. In those circumstances my body was not under pressure to perform for hours at a time. When my wrists or back or neck did complain, I rested.

By 1993 I was teaching at the San Francisco School of Massage Therapy, and maintaining a private practice. Approaching 40, my body required a more precise attention to the details of movement and posture, placement and position than it had in the early days. I began to develop a sound approach to the use of my own body in my work, and joined with other instructors to teach fundamental Body Mechanics to the students. Over time, however, it became clear to me that, once immersed in the rigors of private practice or independent contract work in spas and gyms, practitioners gradually lost touch with their own bodies and learned to "live with" the resulting discomfort.

In the mid '90s I began my training in Aikido and my association with Dr. Richard Strozzi Heckler at the Strozzi Institute in Petaluma, Ca. Finding myself a student, apprentice teacher, and bodyworker in a somatics institute grounded thoroughly in the real world was like coming home to the work I'd first experienced and explored as a young person. Finding myself a mid-life novice in a demanding new physical and energetic martial art was humbling. But both aspects of my work with Dr Heckler contributed to my pursuit of excellence in the field of bodywork: I received extensive training and experience in Somatic Coaching, and a visceral understanding of how the body most freely and efficiently moves and works.