Massage Training Institute Annual Conference 2017
Tim Bartlett, MTI Director and Remedial and Sports Massage Course Leader at BCMB reports back from the annual MTI conference. This years’ theme was ‘Celebrating Difference’.
Well it seems very recent, but it’s now over six weeks ago that the latest MTI conference took place in Solihull and once again it was a fantastic success. Unlike the year before when Cardiff Metropolitan Uni hosted the conference and I had a much more hands-on, organisational role, this time, it was more about meeting colleagues, old friends, ex-students – not exclusive categories at all – and doing ‘Director’ type things like trying to record some pithy sound-bites for the MTI website (still haven’t seen the edit, spent a bit of time trying to get the unruly plant in the background to stop interfering with the back of my head, so unsure what it’ll look like).
Somehow, even amongst 150 people in a very busy day, there’s always a great community feeling at the conference – the stallholders in the market-place are familiar faces too and it’s great to catch up with John from Lotus Publishing, Andy from Songbird Naturals and see Sarah Bryan and Marian Hardiman selling the products they’ve developed.
As you’d expect from a conference celebrating difference, the break-out workshops were diverse – from working with animals (the magnificent horse won’t be at the conference in London next year I fear) to healing trauma, from mindfulness and energy work to soft tissue therapy, working with the neck and sciatica – really reflecting the huge diversity of work that we do.
Normally it would have been a teaching weekend for me – the BCMB Remedial and Sports course seems to coincide with the conference each year. I was with the student group on the Friday but was sad to miss out on the Saturday which was lots of practical and more theory on the ‘shoulder’ weekend. It’s always a bit odd returning to the group after missing a day or two as it’s hard to just slot back in, not knowing exactly what was said previously, even though I know what’s been covered. I end up saying things like ‘have you heard this before’ far too much!
My contribution to the conference was two hours of assessment techniques and tests making it easier to decide what and whether to treat if someone was presenting with leg pain – differentiating between sciatica and piriformis syndrome, testing for neural and somatic pain, and thinking about appropriate treatment. It wasn’t the aim to do much practical in the time we had, which could have been another day’s work, though it worked as a reflection of the kind of assessment, thinking, and approach we use on the RSM course, leading into treatment.
The only thing missing from this year’s conference was Ruth Duncan and her Myofascial Release workshops, which have become a regular and popular feature, always selling out in advance – sadly she was teaching elsewhere, but we’re lucky in BCMB in that she’s coming to teach the full Level 1 and Level 2 workshops in Bristol in October (which can be part of a full diploma in MFR, or stand alone CPD) with more fascinating insight and techniques in working with the tensegral nature of soft tissue and fascia.
Next year MTI turns 30 years young! The conference will be in London and should be a great celebration. See you there!
*All photos courtesy of Kate Gallow/Massage Training Institute.
This weekend was my first experience of the MTI conference. I was looking forward to meeting other members as well as attending and presenting a workshop. Cardiff Met University is a great venue with the added bonus of being an hour down the road! The keynote speech from Darien Pritchard was thought provoking and entertaining including anecdotes and practical exercises to explore the quality of touch.
After Darien’s introduction to the day, I went to Sharon Bull’s workshop on Mindfulness in Practice. We talked about the power of mindfulness and its teachings of awareness, non-judgement and living in the present. Sharon gave plenty of opportunity to explore these ideas, highlighting how a simple short practice can open a different space in a day of busyness. Where Darien had talked about the quality of touch, Sharon invited us to consider the quality of our internal space.
This led to my workshop (Thai massage and the power of the breath) where I wanted to bring attention to the quality of breath. The conference was focused on practitioner self-care. As practitioners we are aware of our client’s breath but how often are we aware of our own? I wanted to introduce Thai massage, which was new to most of the group, and how to work with our breath to support us in practice and bring a deeper engagement when receiving bodywork.
I am a yoga therapist as well as bodyworker and in the course of my studies I have been introduced to the concept of the inhale creating unlimited internal space rather than filling it up. The exhale can then support the space created by the inhale and maintain it rather than there being a gradual deflation. Then there are the pauses in the breath cycle where we can be in the space and acknowledge stillness.
Thai massage is sometimes called Thai yoga massage. The consideration of where yoga is in Thai massage is a huge question for me. As with yoga there are different types of Thai massage, different teachers and different lineages. I follow the yoga tradition of Krishnamacharya sometimes called viniyoga. Yoga can be defined as ‘to unite’ or ‘to be in relationship’. In a therapeutic situation we are in relationship with our client. The breath brings us into relationship with our clients. It keeps practitioner and receiver engaged with the practice. From a physiological point of view, mindful breathing can influence the parasympathetic nervous system to bring us to a state of rest and repair rather than fight or flight. The breath also guides release of restriction within the body as well as the mind. It can bring length and space to the physical and energetic body. The breath also provides a mirror. If my breath is compromised during yoga practice or bodywork practice, I question whether the practice is right for me. In yoga there is always a variation so that each student can engage safely and learn something about ‘where they are’. If the length of the breath can be maintained and be smooth (rather than ragged) then the practice is working with both stability and ease or strength and flexibility. All this holds true for Thai massage and for me this is the yoga aspect of bodywork.
Darien told us this wonderful quote from another massage teacher, ‘we are working with the stiffest muscle in the body, the one between the ears’. So often yoga becomes focused on posture and movement when it is actually a tool to clarify our relationships with others but most importantly ourselves. Through clarification comes a stillness in the mind and this is reflected in the body. So it is with Thai massage. Thai massage can be as client centred as holistic massage or any other therapy. And when it is, it is liberating, grounding and developmental.
On Saturday, the group were introduced to the simplest of techniques whilst working with the breath when giving and receiving. The feedback was positive and some misperceptions and unfortunate previous experiences were challenged. It was a delight to see the enjoyment of practice and pass on my love of both Thai massage and yoga and the role of the quality of breath in self-care.
If you have the opportunity to go to conference next year, please do. It was an inspirational day full of generous souls. If you want to learn Thai massage, please join me at BCMB in Clifton, Bristol, at a workshop this year (12/13 May, 25/26 June and/or 1/2 October) or sign up for the MTI accredited diploma that starts in January 2017. See the BCMB website for more details www.bristolmassage.co.uk
By Yvonne Cattermole, BCMB Tutor