Pondering Poulstone

Reflections on the residential weekend of the Holistic Massage Diploma.
By Imogen Quilley.

It was a relief to get away from life in busy Bristol and breathe in the fresh countryside air. The stillness of rural Herefordshire contrasted greatly with the constant background noise of traffic trundling down Park Street. Being there suddenly reminded me of Malvern where I grew up and how  calming it is there too. The house itself was beautiful: characterful without being dated. The top to bottom windows and high ceilings that looked out onto expansive fields gave a real feeling of space. I was happy to be sharing a bedroom with Marianna and Bronwen, as well as our excitement to actually have arrived at Poulstone.

Consolidating our intentions for the weekend was a helpful way to start off. Mine were to enjoy the outdoors and to gain more self confidence in becoming a qualified massage therapist – a common theme with many others in the group. Being halfway through the course meant that we had reached the tipping point in our journeys. From having spent the previous five months gathering a repertoire of skills, we would now be learning how to use them in the most skilful way with clients.

PoulstoneOn Friday morning we were thrown into doing some 5 Rhythms dancing. At first it felt strange to be doing but gradually the group began to embrace it. We started with flowing movements, moving on and changing into staccato, chaos, lyrical and finally stillness. When danced in sequence they’re like the process of a breaking wave. It was a lovely way to let go. I think that strangely if you can manage to lose your inhibitions, people will look on not with judgement but envy at all the fun you’re clearly having! I found the Ecstatic dance session lead by Sarah equally liberating, and he power of free movement as a way to release emotions and connect with yourself will stay with me.

The full body massage swap afterwards was a good chance to tie our compartmentalised approaches to practice into a more connected whole. I felt reasonably self assured that I could feel(!) my way and rely on what I’d learnt so far. It was nice to have totally unbroken focus for an hour and to know that our work was being observed. Receiving such encouraging written feedback from all the tutors once we’d finished confirmed just how supportive they are.

I enjoyed the Anatomy, Physiology and Pathology sessions with Tim and Yvonne, who’ve come in to teach us the theory side of things since the fifth weekend. They deepen our understanding of the human body which is then closely related to our massage work. The sessions are memorable in how interactive and fun they make them: we felt what the consistency of fascia is like by sticking our fingers into cornflour custard, and the brain with a plate of wobbling jelly.

The Cabaret on Saturday night was brilliant and open to anyone who wanted to sign up. Chez and Jess stole the show with their improvised ‘cell rap’ and their sweet, melodic harmonies. I really admired them for daring to be vulnerable in order share their creative sides. Marianna and I both read out a poem, and Micheal performed a fantasy fiction piece. It was an eclectic night, which provoked many misty eyed smiles and lots of laughter. Grooving at the end of the show to Rose’s vinyl record player came naturally, and I remember going to bed feeling wonderfully knackered.

On Sunday we role played the initial consultation that we will start to introduce into our massage work. We learnt to use a variety of questions to find out information such as someone’s previous experience of massage, the ways they use their body and any problem areas they might want attended to. It gives a space in which the clients physical and emotional needs can be heard, and supports the intention to achieve that 50/50 relationship. This is where you work with each other to achieve the best possible massage. It felt like the right time in the course to be adding the consultation in as treading the line between ‘learner’ and professional has at times been tricky. It’s more comfortable I thought be client focused.

The food we were so lucky to eat together at breakfast, lunch and dinner cannot go without mention. I noticed how the ring of the dinnertime bell brought about a practically Pavlovian response. We would queue up with our plates at the ready and help ourselves to a buffet of dishes that were varied and really delicious. Even though the food was vegetarian I didn’t once wish that there was meat. They did a wonderful job of looking after us over the whole weekend should be very proud.

And so finally the big question is… were the intentions set out at the start of the weekend satisfied as much as our stomachs? I can only speak for myself in saying that I certainly reconnected with nature (through some brisk morning runs and a leisurely stroll) and I definitely saw the potential to become a competent massage therapist. Poulstone provided a space in which to reflect on our progress so far and to start thinking about what our personal trajectories with massage might be. I know that after we qualify in July we will look back and appreciate each phase of course, but our time at Poulstone will stand out as the extra special weekend that encouraged and enriched us all.

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