Until recently I had never even heard of Amatsu Massage before, so when I was offered the opportunity to experience a session for myself I naively presumed it would be similar to most other massages I’d had in the past, just with a fancy name!
How wrong was I!?
Set in an idyllic location in the middle of rural Hampshire, the Hampshire Amatsu Therapy clinic combines a perfect blend of tranquillity, relaxation and natural beauty making it the ideal place to come for a massage. I was greeted by owner and qualified Amatsu therapist, Jane Mitchell, who took me up to her purpose built treatment room above her garage and it was here that I was introduced to the rather spectacular world of Amatsu.
I had been instructed by Jane to wear loose, comfortable clothes as, unlike many other types of massage, Amatsu is carried out when fully clothed.
Now, this I like!
I’m sure many of you can relate to experiences of massages that have involved the rather delightful and attractive use of paper pants. We’ve all been there right? You turn up at a massage parlour, you’re told by the masseuse that they’ll leave you alone for a few minutes to get changed and then you’re handed the most hideous looking, unflattering, flimsy disposable pants to put on over your own underwear. It’s embarrassing, it’s a little bit degrading and it certainly isn’t pretty! And perhaps what’s worse is that you never know how long the masseuse will give you to change. So, you flap about trying to get your clothes off, squeezing yourself into pants, which tend to be one size fits all and always on the small side, desperate to be ready in time and not caught in a state of sweaty, red faced undress. By the time you’re on the bed ready for your massage, your stress levels are higher than they’ve ever been and that’s just the start…you’ve got to go through all of that again when you get dressed at the end!
You can imagine my relief upon hearing the good news that I would remain clothed for my massage.
FYI clothes are worn in Amatsu because it helps give the therapist key clues as to the problems or misalignments in your body. Jane described it as a bit like detective work; she can use the clues to help assess which areas are under more stress and to also help her establish how each individual person’s body moves. Interestingly she noticed that I had a crease across my right knee; but not my left, and I also had a couple of creases running across my pelvic area.
We’ll discover later whether these ‘crease clues’ hold any relevance…
Having filled in the obligatory health and safety forms and informing Jane that I don’t really suffer from any problem areas, I lay face up on the massage table whilst Jane proceeded to ‘assess’ my body. She started off by pressing on various pressure points across the top of my chest and arms to check if there were any ligament weaknesses in my shoulders. She then moved down the rest of my body before telling me the rather shocking news that…
I have a long left leg!
Woah, woah, woah wait a minute…you’re telling me my left leg is longer than my right?
How have I never noticed this?
And, more to the point, how am I managing to not topple over?
Jane explained how it’s very common for people to become misaligned and once it happens the body overcompensates by using the stronger side more and the problem just gets worse. Simple factors such as bad posture, sitting at a desk all day or even looking down at a phone screen or tablet for any length of time all contribute towards bad positioning of the body and over time this starts to become more problematic. As a still relatively young, active woman I’ve so far, touch wood, managed to get away with it, but as I get older the symptoms will only get worse and if I don’t try and do something about it now, I’m going to know about it later!
As I lay there on the couch, in what I thought was a straight position, it was soon pointed out to me that my whole left side was sitting lower. Jane positioned her hand either side of my pelvic bones and the minute she did this I could feel it for myself. My right side felt strong and had movement, but the left was stuck and was definitely sitting lower, which therefore explains why my left leg was also longer. Now, cast your mind back to those ‘crease clues’ I mentioned earlier and yep turns out they were right. My pelvis has become unbalanced and this was being reflected in the crease of my clothes – pretty amazing stuff!
Having established that my body is a little bit out of whack, Jane then had to work out where the root of the stress was coming from; my lower or upper body. Again using pressure to carry out further analysis, she was able to deduce that the problem stemmed from one of my lower back vertebra; apparently a common problem. Now that Jane knew what the culprit was she set about treating me.
Amatsu focuses very much on getting to the deep root of both physical and emotional problems and as such requires in depth training and experience to truly master the skill. It’s a lot more involved than your run of the mill massage, that OK yes may leave you feeling relaxed and grant you a bit of quality ‘me’ time, but Amatsu takes it to the next level and helps rebalance your inner and outer self.
I’d be lying if I said Amatsu was relaxing; it’s just not that kind of massage, but then it’s also not painful or overly physical in a ‘crack your joints’ or ‘work out those knots’ kind of way. It kind of sits half way between the two; as though your body is a piece of dough being kneaded back into shape in a gentle, but controlled way.
Jane started working her magic from my thumb, gradually leading down to my big toe before asking me to again lie on my back so that she could check whether I now lay straight.
And would you believe it…
My left leg was now measuring up as the same length as my right and my pelvis was now central and aligned. The mobility had also come back to the left side of my pelvis and everything felt as it should. I was absolutely astounded at how these seemingly small, albeit forceful pushes, had somehow put my body back to how it should be. Really incredible.
Now, it’s not something that’s going to cure and heal overnight and obviously because I don’t have any specific illnesses or injuries it’s not as though I ‘m going to notice any significant short term benefits from Amatsu. Jane suggested that for someone in my position, where there are no major problems, she would advise having a session roughly 2-3 times a year to help train the body to support itself in a stronger, healthier manner and to undo any poor posture that comes as a result of everyday bad habits. However, as a general rule and to promote optimum health benefits she recommends having Amatsu every 6 weeks. In the same way that you would take your car for an MOT, your body also needs regular checks to make sure it is performing as it should and this in turn should help prevent certain problems from occurring in later life, such as arthritis, back problems etc.
At the end of the session, I must admit I felt slightly lightheaded and took a few moments to have a gentle walk around the room and slowly feel myself again. Jane informed me that this is quite normal, because, although it may not actually seem like it, the body goes through a significant degree of change during an Amatsu session. She advised me to drink plenty of water, take it steady with exercise and just generally slow my pace down for the rest of the day, which of course was advice I was happy to take!
I feel I should probably explain the photo at the beginning of this blog – yes that’s me lying down on the couch cuddling a skeleton with a cocktail umbrella in his mouth. Well, the skeleton is called Adolf and he stands in Jane’s clinic, welcoming her clients and acting as an example of how our bodies move and as a visual reminder that no matter what we all look like on the outside, we are all fundamentally made up of bones.
Anyway, more on Adolf later…
A few days after my session I went for a haircut and it was whilst I was there that I caught sight of my reflection in the mirror. I suffer from slight double vision in my right eye, which makes it difficult for me to look to the right without having to turn my whole head. This has resulted in my head slightly tilting to one side, but to me feels as though I am perfectly straight. I don’t usually find this much of a problem, but when I get my haircut I do notice that my hairdresser has to adjust my head to ensure he cuts my hair correctly. However, on this occasion, as I looked at myself in the mirror, I realised that my head was actually sitting perfectly straight and amazingly my hairdresser didn’t have to move my head even once! So, not only had Jane managed to balance out my body, but she’d also managed to sort out my wonky head in the process as well.
I was very impressed!
My eyes have been well and truly opened to both the power of Amatsu and by Jane’s obvious skill, expertise and knowledge of a practice that she so clearly loves. I came away feeling stronger, more grounded and a bit more body aware, something I think we could all benefit form having a little more of.
If you would like to find out more about Amatsu massage then take a moment to read through our recent article ‘What is Amatsu Massage?‘, which explores in a lot more detail how and what Amatsu can help you with.
In the meantime, grab a cuppa and enjoy my interview with Jane Mitchell of Hampshire Amatsu Therapy:
How did you discover Amatsu?
“I lived in Welwyn Garden City before moving to Rake seven years ago and always had aches and pains in my upper back, shoulders and neck. I belonged to a local gym, where I had massages about once a month. Although these helped me to relax, they never really got to the root of my problems. The receptionist at the gym then recommended I try a new therapy that was being offered (Amatsu) and I have never looked back. I found the treatment so effective and interesting that five years ago I decided to train and become a Practitioner myself.”
How long did it take you to qualify and do you feel as though you still learn new things now?
“The training course is two years, consisting of a 4 day training course every two months, followed by homework in anatomy & physiology and Amatsu, together with plenty of case studies. The course is not for the faint-hearted, but is taught very professionally by The Amatsu Training School based in Rickmansworth and is great fun. After the first year, having passed both practical and theory exams, you are able to start charging for balances and hold a certificate in Anma Massage, which is the first level of Amatsu. The second year layers on more information, techniques etc. and at the end you are a fully qualified Amatsu Practitioner at the second level; Seitai. There is also a third level; Shinden, which incorporates the organs and their association to the body as a whole and is taught during the following couple of years as CPD (Continued Professional Development), closely followed by a course in cranial techniques. There is a remit to attend at least 4 CPD days a year plus a First Aid Course, as appropriate.
I never stop learning, as new clients bring new challenges and the body is very complex. We have a system of mentoring in the association whereby more experienced Practitioners are always on hand to help and offer advice when necessary.”
Are you able to practice Amatsu on yourself and do you treat your family members?
“There is a certain amount of self-maintenance that can be used to keep yourself free from many problems, but there is nothing better than an Amatsu Balance from a friendly colleague. I treat my husband regularly and my daughter is first on the couch when she comes to visit.”
What has been the biggest lesson you have learnt from Amatsu?
“That the body has an amazing ability to self-heal if it is given the correct tools to do so. Western medicine can have a big part to play in our lives, but we should look to the East to see that “prevention is better than cure”. We do not always need to pop pills or resort to surgery; regular holistic therapies, including Amatsu, can allow us to lead a healthy and happy life. People have to want to help themselves and invest in their health. There is no quick fix, but a healthy lifestyle and a positive attitude is a good starting point.”
What’s your best piece of health advice?
“Always keep your body well hydrated, well nourished, walk regularly and make sure you have some regular “me time”.”
“Balancing, Healing, Kinesiology.”
What’s your ideal way to relax and switch off?
“I enjoy gardening, walking and reading and, of course, relaxing during an Amatsu balance!”
Tell us a bit more about Adolf – how long have you had him, where is he from and why the cocktail umbrella?
“My husband bought me Adolf when I started my studies six years ago. He is German and he likes to have fun ;-)”
If you could set up a therapy studio anywhere in the world where would it be?
“It would have to be in Melbourne, where my youngest daughter lives. I could then spend six months of the year with her and six months here with her sister.