Thursday, 12 December 2013

Take A Breath This Christmas

There is a lot of stress going about at this time of the year. The holiday season can be so much fun, but for some it's a time of mounting pressure to make it all 'perfect'.

If you are stressing out about how to make your home the model of chic style, I urge you to stop now and take a seat. Your home is not a Hollywood stage set and it never will be. The 'perfect' pictures on Christmas cards and in the movies of families huddled around the fire with a wonderfully dressed tree or eating a massive roast with all the trimmings and gifts over flowing are just that - Perfect Pictures. They have been stage set, dressed by set decorators, and costume experts have clothed the people you see and guess what; the gifts are empty boxes.

There are three tips that I would encourage you to do over the next week to help with the planning and running of Christmas time. They are what I have personally found to help myself and clients each year.

Don't believe it - it's a set, not your home!
A Plea To The Host - If you are hosting Christmas this year I would really encourage you to delegate a few things out. You still have time to do this, so get a drink, a piece of paper and a pen. List out all the things you feel you need to do for those coming to visit as well as the jobs for the meal prep. Then, next to each item write a name of one or two of the adults that are coming to visit and give those jobs to them to do. They are over 18 - they should man-up and help!

Not only does this take the weight off you, but it also allows others to feel that they are able to help and participate in a week long visit (in some cases). For example:

  • Drinks - Jack
  • Vegetable Prep - Jane
  • Bedding - Tom 
  • Kid's games - Jamie
  • Table setting - Emily 
  • Table clearing - Peter
  • Puddings - Auntie Mabel
  • Sauces - Mum
You get the picture. You have a week and a half to go, so if you email the list out to all your guests this weekend they have a week to get their items together and sort it out for you. Believe me, everyone knows Christmas is a mad rush and people need help, so allow them to do things for you. It won't be perfect, but hey it never will be, so let it go!

Present Buying - This year I banned Amazon and our big local town as sources of gift giving so I stayed close to home and spent my money in the market town where I live and made a huge amount of our gifts. It took a bit of time management, but if you can do this for next year I would really encourage it, as it not only helps your local independent businesses but you can get it done easily during your local errand runs. It's a lot less stressful - believe me! 

However, if you haven't got it sorted yet, cancel everything you have for this weekend (December 14th and 15th), and get it done now. There is no point waiting for the next weekend, which is a time to start snuggling down and enjoying the pre-Christmas Nativity concerts at your local church, meeting friends and eating mince pies. It's not a time you want to faff around in large shopping malls with stressed kids and partners. 

If you are shopping for gifts on your own, make a list of people you are buying for and next to their names write TWO options so if you don't find your first preference you can simple get the second without a thought in the middle of town. Get in to town at 7:30 in the morning on Saturday, get a parking spot and enjoy a coffee and pastry before the shops open. Then just do it - no hesitation - hit it baby! If you are shopping with a partner, simply tear the list in half so it's done in a fraction of the time and you can get back home quickly. Little stress and an easier win than last moment issues. 

Make Time - This gets a wry smile from people with large Christmas plans, but trust me, it'll do you the power of good. Phone your therapist up and choose the one kind of treatment that relaxes you the most and make an hour in your diary for next week to chill out! This investment of time will benefit you more that you can imagine during Christmas and will prep you for New Year as well. 

  • Massage will allow you to calm down and your Massage Therapist can work with either soothing oils, deep fascial release and long held calming and releasing stretches. Your Thai Yoga Therapists will also be able to clear your energy flow, as will your Acupuncturist or Shiatsu Therapist. 
  • Facials are amazing at calming the tension in the face, relax headaches and sort your skin out so that all you have to do is pop some makeup on at home to look as fresh as a daisy! I would recommend soothing, calming facials this time of year as there is no need to add extra energy into your system. 
  • Manicures, Pedicures and Waxing allow you to feel 'sorted' as well as give you time to relax whilst someone looks after you. There is nothing nicer than looking at neat, short, freshly painted nails with no chips whilst preparing the Christmas turkey, and no one wants to see the New Year in with hairy armpits. 
I hope this has given you three ways to ease the stress out this holiday season. Enjoy it to it's fullest extent and if you are feeling the pressure, go to a quiet room and take ten deep refreshing breaths, swing your arms around and then head back into the frey. 

Happy Holiday love to you all xXx

Monday, 2 December 2013

Natural Selection - The Stuff Of Life 3

I have been chatting with friends, family and clients over the past couple of weeks about natural selection. Seeing that there is a break in the proceedings to being Stoned At Home due to technological issues (lack of camera man during the day), I thought I would expand on the natural flow of the conversations.

Many of you have read The Stuff Of Life blogs that were written over the late spring concerning how we are looking after our bodies and our planet, and I feel that this runs along with the themes that were blocked out there.

I was at my slow running kitchen sink a month ago. Again the water was not rushing through at a good speed and my heart sank as I thought of all the little bits of grated carrot that must be blocking the pipes. That self-annoyed feeling is normally the que to do the six month sink flush in which I reach for a plastic bottle, pour junk down the sink and try not to think about the toxic shock I have just leveled through the water system.

But this time I had finally had enough. Why are there plastic bottles around my house that have pictures of dead fish on the back of them with massive warning symbols? At what point was I deluded into thinking that cleaning my house with chemical based products was normal? I never thought I was a sucker for advertising, but at some point in my life there must have been a slip through my mental barricades.

There is enough science based evidence to show that essential oils cannot only be nice smelling, but also provide anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties and they are very potent natural offerings. (Just do a Google search if you doubt me and you'll come up with a whole life time of studies to read through.) So why aren't I harnessing their power and using them in my home instead of unblocking my sink with toxic bombs?

If I am to write blogs that are aimed at encouraging you to grow a little organic salad at home, hydrate your body with filtered tap water and ban the plastic bottles and get to know the people who bake your bread, there has to be some joined up thinking in the place I rest my body - My home.

The point about Organic and Bio-Dynamic food production is that when you invest in it you are putting your financial vote behind the ideas, ideals and practiced methods of looking after our home planet, which is the only one we have. Especially with Bio-Dynamic farming, you are voting to say that you are looking after the planet in harmony with not only the seasons, but also accepting that farming can happen along natural rise and fall of the Earth's natural magnetic energy (and that's just for starters!).

So I walked away from the sink and let it gurgle through the carrot filings and got on the phone to my Mum, who along with Dad brought us up so that we could be as aware and as close to the earth as they could with three kids and about five full time jobs. I asked Mum where I was going wrong and as she gently smiled and with a laugh on her lips, she told me to get a lemon!

The power of lemons, tea tree oil spray, bicarbonate of soda and vinegar are stupendous! I have been boring Mum with emails about how shiny my shower is, and there are FaceBook photos of my sparkling oven doors, and there is no mildew around the tiles of my bath. Plus, my water is running perfectly down the plug hole. It took a bit of Google searching, chatting and some embarrassing questions on social media, but after four weeks I think I may just be getting to the point where I can get away without all the bottles and sprays that I used to depend on each week.

The funny thing is this; not only do I feel like I am no longer killing fish down on the south coast of England, but I am liberated even more from the advertising drivel. Plus, I like the fact that I am no longer cleaning with rubber gloves on - I dread to think which landfill they ended up in!

People have asked me a good question; Does it take longer to clean now that you don't have spray bottles?
The answer is not now. It took me three weeks to get it all going including sourcing recipes, (the Tea Tree Shower Spray is fantastic: 2 cups of water to 2 tablespoons of tea tree oil) but now it takes the same time as it ever did.

Today for example I did a liter of vinegar to a liter of water, in a bucket, shoved the shower head in it and left it for three hours. Then just wiped all the crud away from the shower head and it looks like new. Easy!

I am clearly not perfect and there is still a few bottles that I use (washing up liquid, laundry softener etc), but it is less and that it what matters the most - a constant lessening so the planet around us, as well as our bodies, can breath easier.

My next project for spare time over Christmas holidays is making my own beeswax furniture polish!

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Stoned At Home - Part 1

I have been using hot stones for the past eight years at Cornerstone Therapies, and I love my set of 50 basalt stones and 30 marble beauties. They work with me every day and I couldn't be without them! A common question from clients is 'did you name the business after them?'. The answer is no, I didn't, the business started two years before hand, but I am ever grateful for finding LaStone Therapy, Jane Scrivner and latterly The Jing Institute of Advance Massage, all of whom showed me how to use my stones to great effect within my treatment room.

Now I want to pass on my personal knowledge, passion and interest in stone work to all you guys at home!

My clients are wonderful; ever creative, interactive and switched on to their own personal journeys to find great ways to support their own full body wellness. Lately a few have been letting me know that they have picked up their own basalt stones from places they have travelled to; either seeing beautiful stones in rivers or on beaches, that they have taken home to use in-between treatments but once back they don't know where to start. Others have invested in stone kits from the internet and have not been happy with the stones or heaters that they have been sent.

So, this new mini-series is set out to help all you guys at home with your stones. It's time to get you stoned at home!

I am going to endeavor to create a couple of YouTube posts to go along side these so that you can follow along the set up of your stones at home as well, so hopefully these blogs and the videos will give you all the information you need to get cracking. But first we need to know why hot and cool stones are used in massage therapy both at home and in the treatment room so we know why we are looking at them as an important tool.


I use these black beauties - Baslat Stones
for my hot stone massage. 
Classically we use heat to help chronic soft tissue based pain ease. Chronic simply means that there has been pain experienced for more than three months. Heat allows a flow of blood, lymph and nutrients to rush to the site of pain and allows a flush into to the area. This means that the stagnant old scar material that may have collected there can be refreshed and taken away to the lymph nodes or broken down by the blood cells. The garbage collectors can take all the rubbish away. Also, heat is very nurturing and can be a soft analgesic to the muscle, so if you are wanting to ease the joints and tissues, it can feel wonderful and aid in taking the bruising pain down to a manageable level.

In practice -  I have found that heat also helps with fascia release, so I use hot stones on the body as placement tools to allow the fascia to melt and release a little before I actually get my hands in there. There is also a great effect in my massage as the stones create a lot more flow in a short period of time than my hands ever could. This means that I can get a lot more work down in an hour than if I didn't use the heat. You guys come to me for effective and personal measured results, not for me to simply spend ages rubbing some heat into you! I have also developed ways of working with trigger points and stretching with the use of my hot stones and I find they give me space in my client's bodies when I work.

At Home - There are many hot tools that you can use at home, (not least a hot water bottle), but for those who like to incorporate massage into your close knit relationships with family and friends, stones can help bring warmth and nurturing effects by just being placed onto the body. Clients of mine also enjoy just heating their stones up and using them as hand warmers in their pockets on walks, and placing them around their bodies as they watch TV rather than a wheat pillow.


I use cool marble to help not only calm acute injuries,
but also to energize and refresh the mind. 
I often feel sorry for cool work as people tend to shy away from it as they think it only means freezing acute injuries with ice pack. It's true, for an instant treatment to injuries ice is great as it contracts everything and keeps the injury safely in control, reducing pain and decrease the amount of swelling. However after the first five days, people enter the vague and grey area of Sub-Acute, which means that there is still tissue pain, but the scaring needs to be flushed away.

The text books say that Sub-Acute is three months, but seeing as I have never had a client that resembles anything the text books say, in my experience sub-acute can last for any amount of time. My shoulder is a great case study for this. I injured it years ago and sometimes it's a chronic pain and heat really works, but after a day in the garden it can nag me as is it's a fresh injury; so I grab some heat on chronic days and then cold on others.

The point is that you can use cool stones either on their own or with your hot stones. Only use them for 3 minutes at a time, but do embrace them!
  • You can use them in water with ice in it for the really cool work, 
  • in cold tap water that has been in the fridge, 
  • or just tap water for a not such a big freeze. 
Also, if you are in sub-acute you can mix and match your heat treatments: 
  1. 3mins of heat
  2. 3mins of cool
  3. repeat up to five times and end with heat (because it's nice!). 
Why use stones at all? Why not just use a hot-water bottle and a bag of peas?

Stones are always used when they have been in water and are thus seen as a 'wet' treatment. Whitney Lowe's book 'Orthopedic Massage Theory and Techniques' has a great reason for using heat treatments to stimulate the healing process, which can be read and applied to the concept of stones: 

"Regardless of whether the thermal modality is producing its effects from heat or cold, it is important to understand heat transfer. Heat is a form of electromagnetic energy, and when this form of energy moves from one location to another there is a transfer of energy regardless of whether the end goal is production of heat of cold."
"... Moisture in these heat packs helps improve the conduction of heat from the hot pack to the body". 

To help bridge the gap between the treatment room and home, I hope these two videos help you! 

We are all set up with the theory of Stone Work, so in the next blog we can start looking at great kits to use at home so you don't waste time and energy on investing in products that may not work quite so well. 


Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Welcome To Massage Workshops

I thought it was about time for a small round-up of  all that is going on with Cornerstone Therapies at the moment as there have been quite a few changes behind, and in-front of the screen lately.

The biggest news is that Cathi Wye has joined our tiny team. Now being heralded as the new Creative Director for Cornerstone Therapies, Cathi is helping to develop the ideas that my clients bring to the couch as well as the ones I dream up in the shower!

Cathi is helping to create a whole new part of Cornerstone Therapies. I have been asked by many people over the years if I would show them how to 'do massage' for family and friends. There is a huge need to start a non-accredited workshop that can show how massage at home can help those who need basic massage on a regular basis. The aim is to show you how to offer a safe and effective massage for those with aches and pains in-between their sessions with their Professional Massage Therapist (MT).

Welcome To Massage Workshops

The great news is that we are well on the way to creating a five session workshop series for you! Over the five weeks, or during our weekend retreats,  you will be shown everything from setting up your massage couch and working out how to manage your sheets, to completing a full body massage.

I am really excited with the prospect of handing you the all information I wish I had had before I went to massage school! I am writing the workshops with the specific question: 'What do I wish I was shown before I got started?'.

Cathi has been sourcing some wonderful venues for you to come to and experience the Welcome To Massage Workshops, along with Earth sensitive massage couches, sheets, oils and baskets so that we can be as kind to the environment as we are to our bodies.

We will be hopefully getting to the photographers before Christmas so that the manuals can be
illustrated and then sent to the printers for January.

Cathi and I are working hard so that we can offer places on the first Welcome To Massage Workshops during February 2014 here in Godalming.

Do keep in touch via Twitter, Facebook, as well as the Website for all updates.

I look forward to meeting you on our new Welcome To Massage Workshops in the new year!!

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Depth Charge

It has been a busy time at Cornerstone Therapies over the past few weeks, which I love! I have noticed over the years that clients come and see me with questions that appear to come up in waves in the treatment room, with topics being talked about by a few people rather than just one or two. I have a feeling that this often happens when areas around treatment approaches need to be addressed; and the answers and ideas that flow from that point dear readers, I bring to you on this blog. 

Over the past two weeks I have been asked by many clients; 'How do you know how deep you need to work?', which is closely followed by, 'Why don't you press harder?'.

My views on these subjects are personal to my practice and my journey, but here they are! 

How do you know how deep you need to work? 
For me, my sense of touch has been built up over 14 years of work. My hands are quite sensitive to touch and I 'practice' touch each day. If I am out for a walk I will run my hands lightly over a stone wall and ask myself what I am feeling. Is the stone brittle, soft, pointy, wet, dry, is there moss on it and are there cracks running past my hands? The same goes for iron railings, hedges, you name it! I like this exercise as I have to make quick interpretations and then move forward. I will also use different parts of my hand; finger tips, the sides, palm and 'top' of the hand and see if they pick up different aspects of the same substance. 

Bread making is also great as I can play with the weight I can work with that is directed through the body and I work out which part of my feet, legs, hips, back, neck, head shoulders, arms and hands need to relax and engage for different results in pressure all whilst I knead dough. This is a big reason why I bake so much bread! 

With around 20 clients a week, I also touch a lot of skin! Each person is different every time I see them and for this reason they will need to receive a different type of touch during each session. Indeed, different parts of the body need to be worked with varying touch. What is common to see in the U.K is thin dry skin - This skin may need more oil around the forearms and shins as touch can be quite painful there and the oil allows the nerve endings to dissipate and not jangle and the touch may need to be lighter. However, I maybe able to work with no oil, deep intention and quite a bit of pressure on their back. It's all a matter of moderating. 

The other aspect is when clients come to me after living life! I may have a client see me one week who is relaxed after a good lunch with friends who needs work done on her shoulder. She is open to deep work at this time and works with me through dynamic stretching and allows her body to go heavy and relax as her pain areas are treated on a deep level. The next week she sees me and she is fraught after a fight with her husband during the school run, has been late for an appointment and her kids got a bad school report the night before! During her session with me that day a more sensitive touch, with aromatic oils, and a sense of nurturing all need to be combined to allow her adrenalin to calm and her body to receive a treatment. I can't use pure deep intended strength during her treatment after she's been through a morning like that.

So many things come in to play with knowing how deep I can work on with my clients. Touch is important, but it's also vital to listen to how they are feeling emotionally before I design the treatment on the day. 

Why don't you press harder?

I was asked this yesterday afternoon and it was a very difficult question to answer on the spot. I was thinking about it even today as I was eating breakfast and I realized I had to go back to the question that started my deep burrowing into the field of massage seven years ago.

Back then I was a youngster! I had been working for seven years and I had been taught 'Sports' massage at my local college. I hated doing it to the point where I didn't even put my certificate up as I didn't want my clients knowing I had qualified, sticking instead to the classical Swedish form with a lot of oils and a lot of light strokes. The reason I hated Sports Massage was that it hurt me, (mainly my thumbs and back), and it hurt my clients. I remember the lecturer I had at college telling me that I should aim to cause a bruise during a Sports Massage as it meant that I had caused trauma around the area and the body would then rush to that place and heal it. 

I'm sorry - but really?!

When reading through history, looking at Jesus' miracle, signs and wonders, reading about amazing healing in the past and people walking out of temples with new bodies free from pain I didn't find any recorded evidence that Jesus, or any other Healer, invoked pain on the people who needed freedom in movement. It was a gentle touch that helped them. Oh, and often the power of God Almighty! 

Gentle Touch with measurable results as what I began to crave in my practice, with the firm belief that  what I had been taught at college was wrong. That is when I started slowing down my massage, finding techniques to sink down the layers of the body, create space within the tissue so that the body has room to heal itself and then soften the areas that are in pain. Which is the approach I basically apply to every person I treat and I now call it the Triple 'S' Rule: Slowly Sink and Soften.

Many clients do report personal measured results after they have seen me and I am very pleased that I can drop the 'Sports Therapist' title. If I want to pigeon hole my work Advanced Clinical Massage fits the bill much better! 

I personally feel that this is the right approach to Massage Therapy for me and the clients who meet me each day in the treatment room. We work together, often quite slowly, building up the foundation blocks that we can build on over time. The quip 'Fix In Six', which many Sports Therapists bandy around, is not something I personally agree with or understnad how it can work. I may be able to help ease a client's pain pattern in that time, but the core problem will not be sorted out that quickly in my experience. 

So; I hope you enjoyed this ramble through the depths of massage pressure, and I hope it answers two of the big questions that you may have thought about during your treatments. 

Thursday, 10 October 2013

The Anatomy Of Movement

Today we are looking into the Anatomy Of Movement; an over reaching title, but one that sums up
what we have been doing over the past few weeks. This takes us back to where we started last month with Rotating Shoulders when I got stuck writing a blog series about shoulder pain and movement as I couldn't find the words to describe the anatomy in an integrated way. Our forms are too complex to isolate them into singular muscles, and so the past few posts have been exploring a little bit of the history of anatomy and how we see it today. No longer do we have to box the systems up and put them in pigeon holes; now we can see how we move in fluid flow.

The whole reason why I wanted to look at the movement of anatomy was to get away from the rigid terminology that Anatomy has been shrouded in over the past few centuries. I don't believe that we were created to be stuck in a mould that could be described with generalized, isolated movement testing. The clients that I see move! I move!

With 3D scanning and printing giving us such unique ways of looking at (and hopefully treating) the body, it is no longer appropriate to look at ourselves in such caged viewpoints of nerves, blood, lymph, muscle etc. We now see muscles contract and relax, massaging the lymph around the body and giving stimulus for the blood to keep going round. The joint capsules have direct relationships to all aspects of tendon, bone, ligaments, nerves and blood. Viscera, which is ignored by so many massage therapists, cannot be cut out of any equation. The body really does interplay between the sum of all parts.

The best part about the viewing technology is that we can see it all in real time as the clients/patients move and we can view them in all planes of movement. Feet can now be scanned in a 3D scanner whilst wearing heel and then the layers are taken away on the screen revealing the bones and the job they have to do to keep us balanced.

The Greeks, Romans, painters in the Renaissance, nor the Doctors 50 years ago could have dreamt that we could see the body in movement through cameras that can take away layers to see the reality under the skin. This means that we have to start playing catch up in the way we view the relationship between anatomy, language, movement and the treatment room. We simply can't afford to stick with a language that was developed to describe theories that are becoming outdated.

So, we need a way of describing anatomy in movement during massage and body-work and that is where I see Integrated Anatomy really helping us move (!) our work closer to a more realistic conversation between the clients and the therapists.

I also hope that integrated anatomy becomes a bridge builder between the differing types of Holistic Therapy, but also within the Medical world. I long for the day my clients can go to the 'Knee Surgeon', and they will take the whole body posture into account, video the gait movement, talk to the Lymphatic and Vascular specialists and take an over all picture of the background of the patient before simply going and 'tidying up' a bit of ligament or cartilage here and there.

I hope that the YouTube video helps explain this a little better and that you find it helpful. Excuse the scary face - I'm still working out how to use Google Capture! I'm sure there will be a re-take soon.

Friday, 27 September 2013

Integrated Anatomy - Holistic Anatomical Language

I have been excited about writing this blog for a while now as I get a chance to really explain why I personally believe the language of Anatomy needs to be changed. 

I decided not to publish the first draft as it read as quite a dry history lesson, even though the people behind the move towards a holistic understanding of anatomy are dynamic, brilliant and captivating! I would encourage you to follow these links if you want to read about some of the people that have helped me develop my thinking in the past few years. (They are ranked in no order - they are simply the 10 people and their books that I turn to almost every day.)

Ida Rolf, however, heads the pack in order of magnitude! The work that she did was ground breaking in relation to the understanding we have today of integrated anatomy. As a Ph.D in bio-chemistry she had a keen grasp of how the cellular structure within us works. After studying many Body-Therapy techniques, including Osteopathy and yoga, she slowly started work on her own approach to movement and body-work therapy: Structural Integration.
Structural Integration has fondly been called 'Rolfing' after Ida Rolf's legacy. It is the theory that during our lives, outside factors, emotional issues, internal illnesses and gravity take a tole on the body and it becomes misaligned. Ida Rolf was the first person to really embrace the fact that fascia, the connective tissue that holds us all together, could be seen as an organ in itself and that it could be readjusted to allow the body to realign and heal. Once the body is shown where it can soften and release through Structural Integration and Fascia Release, movement is then allowed new freedom within the person who is being treated as there is less restrictions that is hindering flow. 

Ida Rolf's work with Structural Integration, I believe, led the way for fascia to be looked at in a fully scientific way, which has subsequently led to body-work being researched in-depth into the effect that touch has on the connective tissue, overall health, well-being and improved movement. The idea that until 100 years ago we had missed the largest organ in the body - connective tissue - as a major factor in the anatomy 'systems' is amazing to me. 

Do not be fooled when new-papers tell you that massage has no scientific research. It's simply not true. There is a vast community leading peer reviewed research in the field of massage and body-work. To begin with, just visit the Journal Of Bodywork and Movement Thearpies for a taste! 

Fascia is the founding reason why I believe Anatomy needs to me looked at again with clarity of vision, and why a holistic language needs to be formed within the body-work. If we want positive outcome within our sessions we need to think less of isolated muscles and static terms of movement (i.e arm flexion), and look at how whole movement is formulated; restricted at first and released afterwards. 

Connective tissue also breaks down the argument that was formed throughout the classical view of anatomy. As it flows through all layers, encapsulating every cell, forming sheaths, creating webbed scar tissue and allowing us to be suspended in form whilst gravity pushes us down, I think it is about time we start looking at our bodies with new eyes. 

This is why at Cornerstone Therapies I make sure the people that I help understand that there is more to massage than simply moving muscle. We slowly soften and sink into the layers of the body, intending touch to show the body where it's tight and needs to release, where there are areas that need to move and change, as well as relax and sink back. My work is slow; one stroke can take a few minutes, but the intention is deep and thorough as I want to connect with all layers to make sure that not a single stroke is wasted. I am not interested in singular muscle movement as my intention is to move you to a different place! If I were to only treat one muscle in the back (as if I could!) I can't expect the whole of the back to release as I haven't asked it to change state with the isolated part. 

The language that body-work has needs to change with the knowledge that we have and the technology that we embrace. I long for the day when we can securely and safely store video data from the IPad generation of gadgets as we could then record movement in its whole rather than have tick boxes for movement tests such as flexion and extension - we could see how the form is reacting for the feet to the head in one move! 

Finally, I believe fascia, due to its sliding state, encourages us not to look at people in a static position that is often called the 'Anatomical Position'. Rather, it moves us towards a more realistic view of the natural form, which is living motion, instead of a standing pose. 

In the next blog we will look at movement in a bit more depth and see if we can get body-work and movement singing in harmony. 

Thursday, 12 September 2013

A Trip Through Classical Anatomical History

Ancient art can show us a thing or two about the human need to embrace the anatomy that forms us. The Venus Of Willendorf  (pictured left), tells a story of a potter in 24,000BC. Forming this sumptuous, rolling, beautiful statue out of clay with their hands, the potter shows a vast appreciation of the female form, unveiling our eyes to the openness that the body can be admired. With her hands resting on her breasts, in an easy stance, this statue will hopefully be the first step along the way to understanding that the body, the shell that cases our life force, should be softly and easily looked upon. When we look at anatomy, we are looking at ourselves, and so the subject shouldn't be classified simply into the medical field of understanding, or with mental constraint.

We all have a basic right to understand how we function.

If we are going back to 24,000BC to start our search for why anatomy is not just integral to massage therapy, but also for our own understanding of ourselves, I hope you will forgive this less than in-depth blog! But I do believe that art can be a good way of looking at how we understand anatomy in it's Classical Westernized History.

The Greeks followed the Egyptians in the development of medicine. Not only did Hypocrates give us the oath on which Medical Practitioners still swear on today, but Galen performed brain and eye surgery. The Greek's observations of how the body functioned influenced medical thought right up into the middle ages in Europe. But it is the art that we still have around us today that we can gaze on to enhance our understanding of bodies and movement.

Take a look at the Greek and Roman sculptures in any museum and you will see bodies ripple with movement. As they are seen in battle, the worriers are depicted with  tension and anger, whilst the nymphs are refined and gaze into the middle distance. These different poses are great to look at as they tell of muscles, fascia, bones, organs, blood and lymph flowing in harmony to create the human existence. Experience is captured in stone, but the existence of the models who posed for the art is almost palpable. I have never stood looking at these amazing forms and thought about the singular systems that make movement happen; the 10 that are taught to every Massage student in the U.K. All I have ever seen are amazing bodies in flight!

Then we get to the galleries that house the Pre-Renaissance drawing. I love these as they are paintings of exquisite skill, but the hands are often 'wrong'!  If you see sketch books from the famous Painters, they will often be filled with sketches of hands as they are so complicated in the way that they move to express emotion. The truth is that artists didn't know much about what was under the skin, and so they had very little idea about how to draw the mechanics of the hand.

Leonardo Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man 
It was only until we hit the Renaissance that we see art catching up, (and the hands improving!) with anatomy as we know it today. Dissection work was limited to the Medics, and it took a lot for Leonardo DaVinci to get a place within the dissection rooms so that he could make a comprehensive study of the human form. His ideas of anatomy lay in the Greek/Roman ideas that all mammals were the same, just in different proportions. So, when Da Vinci found that he had the Tibia and Fibula (lower leg) of a man but no foot, he got a foot of a bear and drew it underneath the human leg. After 25 years he realized that human anatomy is unique, but due to the lack of human forms that he could draw from he drew a fully formed baby and then surrounded it with the uterus of a cow!

However, Da Vinic demonstrated that the Biceps not only flex the arm, but also supernate the arm, allowing your hand turn down toward the floor. This wasn't recognized for nearly 300 years after his work was put away into private collections.

Leonardo Da Vinci's work is also recognized for looking at the separate systems that we are so fond of today. The skeletal, vascular and muscular systems are all well documented. And I wonder if this is why we still see them in such singular entities today? Was it that his work was so ground breaking, and the work of the medics around him were so ahead of their field that the beauty of anatomy that they did find wasn't questioned until relatively recently?

Connective tissue, the Fascia that is so fashionable today, was the goop that was forgotten about, ignored and thrown away. Only now are we fully realizing that superficial fat is incased in connective tissue that is so important.

Western anatomy, in its classical form is sectioned into systems that we can understand. This is a fantastic building block to see how we move. It's also brilliant for physicians to grapple with as they can become expert in one part of the body. But as Body Workers it's vital to see the body as a whole, a sum of all the parts. I also think that the Medical World would benefit from looking at the body in a more holistic way - embracing how their expertise on one aspect has knock on effects to the rest of the body.

When you see the body depicted in art, start to ask yourself what the body is showing you. Can you see
Michelangelo's David
See where his body is shifted,
tilted and rotated!
where there maybe tension? A shortening in the musculature, a contraction within the stance. Are there parts that are overly long, causing weakness? Now see if there is a connection between them - can you spot that one side is long and weak and the other short and tight? Try and get your eye into seeing how this may change the posture in the statue or painting that you are looking at.

There are many ways to look at anatomy through time. If you are interested, I would recommend getting a bottle of wine and relaxing with and internet rampage for an evening or two! Start looking at a part you are interested in; historically or anatomically based, and go from there. One aspect you could look into is the Arabic texts; ancient manuscripts with intricate drawings of the eyes. Or check out the Greeks and the humors to find out how phlegm and bile were supposed to effect the body.

For me the unanswerable question is at what time, and why, did we start systemizing the body to such a degree that we stopped looking at it as a whole?

If you have the answer, do let me know! I look forward to chatting it over with you via Twitter, or through the Cornerstone Therapies' website.

Until next time, enjoy your own journey into Classical Anatomy  and enjoy the museums!

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

The Anatomical Exploration Begins!

Thank you for taking the time out to read this posting today. This is the beginning of a journey into the basics of anatomy - an exploration into the subject that all holistic therapists and their clients can stand firm on. Anatomy is our link and our method of communication, which means we should make sure we are talking the same dialect throughout these blog postings.

Why do we need to know about Anatomy? Because we need to move our bodies! 

The journey that we are about to take together will be filled with questions, opinions and beliefs, that all make a rich tapestry in our relationship as we get to know this vast subject. This being the case please do comment on each posting and start a conversation. This is all done to empower you as the client and the receiver of Body-Work so that you can understand the process that your therapist is taking you through. Don't be shy - get in touch!

I work in the U.K and so my view of anatomical learning is very much based on the experiences we have here in England. It would be great to hear from people who have trained in Anatomy across the globe so we can compare and expand that knowledge.

In the U.K Body-Workers are often trained through small private institutes or vocational colleges. Over the past five or so years there have been moves to take Body-Work training into Universities, but at the moment the vast majority of therapists will have studied in a college style environment. This is a fantastic place for people who are not classic academics, (which I am not!), and they are safe places for students to learn rudimentary human anatomy. When therapists leave their basic massage training, they walk into the treatment room knowing the basics of the human body and the systems of:

  • Endocrine (Hormones)
  • Vascular (Heart and Blood)
  • Lymphatic (Immune System)
  • Respiratory (Breathing)
  • Skin
  • Muscular
  • Skeletal
  • Nervous 
  • Reproductive
  • The Brain
The way that the systems are taught are in isolation, thus the modules in the class room are broken down into easy sections with little cross linking. The merging of ideas may happen with muscle and skeletal as they are seen as connecting tissue, but many therapists I have spoken to literally had the isolated systems explained. 

Notice that fascia, the connective tissue that I have been very excited about on this blog for the past few years, is not taught at all to new Body-Workers and that is saved for advanced teaching. Further concepts and the art of looking deeper into the systems of the body are taken up by a few Body-Workers here in the U.K who want to further their knowledge.  

I spent a year looking at the muscles and bones in the body, and got very good at Latin in the process, and I do believe that they are great part of the body to study and perfect as at the moment we are in a place where the 'Classical Anatomy', (of which we will look at in the next blog), still rules the roost. Also, clients are happy talking about muscles, their functions, the stretch and contraction. It's a great first step along the journey. 

However, I think we become too comfortable with this simplistic look at the body and there is a need to start looking at our amazing bodies with a wider lens. 

Meridians and the Eastern anatomy and philosophies are not touched upon at college, (or on this blog); it is left to the therapist to decide which path they want to take. Either they take the Clinical and Sports, or the Eastern Medicine route. Personally, I truly believe that it is best to stick to the one that is chosen for a good few years. If it took Leonardo Di-Vinci a lifetime to get to grips with the Classical Anatomy, I am personally not going to try to master both road maps!

On the next part of this Anatomical Journey we are going to talk about the Classical Anatomy, which we work with everyday in the Body-Workers Treatment Room. We will take a quick glimpse at the history of Anatomy and what that knowledge has brought us.

Take good care until next time!

Friday, 30 August 2013

An Anatomical Interlude

Hello, and thank you for waiting for the next episode in the series on the Shoulder Cuff. I have had a
week to ponder on how to present movement for you and describe the relevant anatomy and hit across a stumbling block; Integrated Anatomy needs an introduction!

I am finding that I am often describing movement, trigger point pain and pathologies in terms of muscle and bone, which is great Classical Anatomy fare. However, I no longer believe it is the right was to talk about the way our bodies roam across the planet. We need a more holistic language.

The result has been to create five new videos for you to watch over a cup of coffee and enjoy. They will be posted, along side written blogs, over the next two weeks. The subjects will be:

  • An Introduction To The Anatomy Series
  • An Introduction To Massage Anatomy In The U.K
  • Classical Anatomy - Our History
  • Integrated Anatomy - Holistic Anatomical Language
  • Movement
If you would like to get in touch, please do! Your ideas and comments are always the inspiration behind the work that I do. Twitter, Google+, Cornerstone Therapies, and the YouTube comments box are all great places to put your ideas forward. 

I look forward to this topical interlude and hope we can work together to rustle some great ideas and move our thinking together along this journey. 

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Rotating Shoulders - The Anatomy Blog.

A photo of an illustration depicting
the back muscles. 

There have been a couple of occasions over the past week that have allowed me to revisit a part of the shoulder that can cause a bit of confusions, pain and general bother; The Rotator Cuff.

This part of the shoulder held me in amazed wonder when I worked on a project with two fellow therapists in St Andrews University at the Integral Anatomy week I attended with Gil Hedley in July. During that week a Physiotherapist student also shared his work on the shoulder with me, clearly showing the muscle and fascia relationship within the joint. Over the past weekend I had a great time looking at the text book theory of Painful Arch Syndrome when a colleague asked a couple of questions that I wanted read up on. So this blog comes from quite an intense look at the shoulder area in general!

Clients will often come and visit me with grumpy shoulders and there is a general sense that the shoulder isn't working so well. The range at which they can move their arms can be sticky, pain can be felt when the arm is moved in different directions, or when I ask them to resist pressure on movement. Also, clients can feel as if they are suffering from pain around the wrist, elbow and deep into the upper arm or across the shoulder blade, and after looking their symptoms up on the internet often self prescribe problems such as 'Frozen Shoulder' or 'Carpel Tunnel Syndrome'. In this blog I want to really break the pain that can be felt by the four muscles that make up the Rotator Cuff and see what we do to help lift some of the confusion that it has.

So let's get going! 

The Rotator Cuff is made up of four muscles; Supraspinatus, Infraspinatus, Subscapularis and Teres Minor. All hook into your shoulder blade (Scapula) and into the upper portion of your arm (Humerus). They are all deep muscles, sitting under the topical deltoid and trapezius. 

Supraspinatus gives the head of the Humerus bone stability and also gives you movement of the arm. When you take your arm out to the side, it helps to initiate the movement and then raise it above your head after your deltoid muscle has got you to about 90 degrees. You can find Supraspinatus lying deep in the top of the shoulder blade in it's own little groove called the Supraspinatus Fossa, flowing under a bridge of bone called the Acromium to then attach to the arm. 
Trigger points can often be felt if Supraspinatus gets grumpy and the pain is commonly at the back of the arm near the top (Posterior Deltoid) and then it goes across the shoulder blade (Scapula). It can also go down the back of the arm and can then skip the elbow reappearing in the wrist. 

An example in External Rotation
Infraspinatus lies deep in the dell of the shoulder blade called the Infraspinatus Fossa. It's thin and wide and the main job it has is to externally rotate the arm, as well as stabilize the shoulder joint (Glenohumeral Joint). Because of it's shape, if you are to place your hands over a shoulder blade you are guaranteed to be on it, but your intention has to be deep to the superficial muscles. 
This time the Trigger Points will be felt going down the outside of the upper arm along the humerus and you may also notice them right at the edge of the shoulder blade near the spine (the spine of scapula). Many people report that the pain is worse when they are sleeping on the other side when this muscle gets grumpy as well as pain rearing it's ugly head down the thumb side (radial aspect) of the hand. 

Teres Minor is small and often forgotten about, lying as it does on the side of the shoulder blade, jammed in between it's bigger neighbors. However, it may be little but it is powerful working right along side Infraspinatus when you externally rotate your arm. 
The Trigger Point pathway for Teres Minor is very localized and sits just into the back of the arm and can be a very deep ache. It will often be worse if there are trigger points in the Infraspinatus, so the two not only work together but should also be treated together to enable you to regain ease of movement. 

An example if Internal Rotation 
Subscapularis is one of my favorite muscles! It's tucked away, only peeking out when the arm is moved in certain ways and in massage I find it a very satisfying area to treat. It sits in the front of your shoulder blade and this anterior aspect means that it is sandwiched between  the ribs and the shoulder blade. It's the opposing force to Teres Minor and Infraspinatus, enabling your arm to internally rotate whilst still maintaining the integrity of the shoulder joint. It's not often looked at or treated, so don't be surprised if your Body-Work Therapist takes their time over a few sessions to release it all out for you. 
The Trigger Points spring up around the back of the shoulder blade and the back of the wrist and you may be having problems in taking your arm away from the body (Abduction) as well as external rotation. Unfortunately trigger points can cause such a problem that some clients can experience a subluxation when the head of the humerus comes away from the shoulder joint (Glenohumeral joint). 

There is your anatomy and I hope you have enjoyed it and it's clear for you to understand! I'm sorry that I could get any photos of the muscles, but I am going to work on getting that together for next time so you can see it all in context. 

Next time I'll take you on a tour of movement and I hope that will start to really fit all the dots together for you so that we can start working out how you can work on the area safely at home and what you can expect from your Massage Therapist during your treatments. 

As always with the blogs that I put together for anatomy and massage the information is aimed for clients to understand, not therapists! I want to make it clear that these posting are in no way a diagnostic tool and should not be used as such. If you are in pain and need help, always consult your general medical practitioner. I would also direct you to the blog posting Pain Patterns Explained as it will tell you how I approach soft tissue and the theory of muscle based pain pathways.
No part of these blogs can be used or quoted without written permission from the author.

Reference book used for this blog: 

Trigger Point Therapy for Myofascial Pain; The Practice of Informed Touch. By Finando, Finando. Published by Healing Arts Press, 2005

Monday, 5 August 2013

My Massage And Anatomy

Sardinian beach, my feet and books.
Many of my clients have had a common grumble - I've been away a lot lately.

In June David and I went to Italy for a month of sun with revision and last week I got back after a trip to bonny Scotland at St Andrew's for Gil Hedley's Six Day Intensive Human Anatomy course.

At the weekend I was asked by a client "What is the point of going away to learn more anatomy?". It was a fair question, especially after they have put up with me going off on training courses for the past six years!

I think a lot of people still believe that massage is just a case of rubbing skin with oil or treating muscle tissue with a hit-or-miss effect. In truth the basic massage training is rudimentary when it comes to the atlas of the human body. There is part of me that would argue that a lot of the anatomy that is taught is following principles that have been unchanged for the past 400 years, even though science has shown us that the maps that we rely on need to be revisited and redrawn.

My passion for looking into new parts of our  'inner space' is something that drives me to further my knowledge so that I can bring new delicacies to the treatment room for you. However I am not an Academic, (something that became very clear to me as I was going through my B-Tec Level 6), I am a clinician. On my Twitter Feed last month there was a conversation about the one thing that made a difference to the treatments that therapists offer. My answer was anatomy and there were a few people who said that I was wrong saying, among other things, that it's the therapist's hands, a bit of luck, good teaching and excellent professionalism are the marks of a good therapists. All their answers were correct as well and I would strive to attain them in almost equal measure.

For me, the continued search and application of living anatomy makes me tick and is the thing that I see change my treatment approach time and again. The more I see, the more I realize that I don't know, the more I try to answer the questions that confront me, the more I search. It is an unending relationship that I have between my love for the mystifyingly beautiful, alive and heart led people that I treat on a daily basis and the anatomy of the human form.

Without the Academics and Scientist's passion for research we would still be stumbling around in the dark suffering deaths from Small Pox. Instead we are able to live through so much illness thanks to to the forward march of medicinal information and come out the other side of sickness ready to enjoy and embrace new days, fresh with the feeling that we can go forth and change.

I don't think research should stop with the search to find new medication and I am continually thankful to the research grants and funding that is given to the people who are searching to answer questions about how we are formed.

Massage has always been shrouded in mystery with many people asking 'Does it work?'. The simple answer is 'Let's find out!'.

As for studying Anatomy, I think you should expect nothing less than your massage therapist to know
how to navigate around your body! I will continually seek to develop my understanding of it in all manner of ways, purely because I think the text books can give us a basic layout, but you can't beat learning from the true form.

'Each drawing in an anatomy book is based on an average version of the structure. The sum of these images is a "totally averaged"collection of parts representing no one, no body. Release the need to be, or make someone, that 'no body'. The someone that you are is far beyond average - totally unique. Revel in that! 
The average in principle is unattainable, but you can definitely accomplish being you.'
Gil Hedley

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Holidays At Home - One Week To Go

You have planned your holiday at home; tickets are booked, days at home have been planned and lunches with friends are in the diary. You are all set to go! But there are a few finishing touches that you may want to spend some time thinking about and putting into action so that you are all set for your home-based-vacation.

This is a good time to say that from the very beginning that this series has been created for adults on their own, or with partners. I feel children's holidays have a lot of air time and I hope in this series to give the adults some TLC!

Dress To Impress
Your wardrobe is normally set up so that your most used clothes are nearest to you when you open your door. Take an hour to sort out the work and pleasure clothes - popping the work based outfits to the far side of the wardrobe and the bottom draw so that you don't see them through out the holiday. You don't need the visual stimulus and reminders of normal life. You wouldn't see them if you were going away, so why see them when you are on your Holiday at Home? Sort out day and evening outfits so that you can just reach in, grab what you want to wear and enjoy some colour! With your workout guide in the diary you can also place your gym and swim gear into bags so you are all set to go without a fuss. You could also sort out your accessories so that your work based ones get a break and you get to enjoy the others for a bit.

Feed Your Body
Why not put your body on a bit of a holiday? With all your treatments planned, your Personal Trainer booked, your time in the pool organized or the DVD's ordered, why not look after yourself fully by clearing out all the toxic rubbish from the house and filling the cupboards with food that will help you replenish your inner self? This holiday is all about you - getting you to a better place rather than just staying in a rut at home. With a week before your time off, you have a great opportunity to write out a fantastic meal plan, list all the ingredients and order them on line or get them from the store. The extra nice bits can be picked up at the Farmers Markets. It will probably take you a gentle evening to plan this part, but it is well worth it so that you know you are making the most of your vacation for your total body wellness.

Finishing Touches
With just a couple of days to go, make sure the house is in order. You have taken a month to go through it, making sure it is all sorted out so that you don't have to spend your time off doing mundane house-work, so now is the time to really enjoy it! A few ideas are:

  • Wash towels and make them fluffy 
  • Put fresh candles around the house
  • Make sure you have all the nail varnishes, bubble baths etc in the house so you can enjoy them
  • Stock up on a couple of new books and fresh magazines
  • Make sure the laundry is all done, ironed and put away
  • Put all work based stuff in a box and put it neatly under the study table so you don't have to look at it. 
And Enjoy ...

You have worked really hard to get yourself and your home organized so that you can have a real vacation. It takes more time to organize a Holiday At Home than it does to book a pre-packaged deal on the net, so be proud of yourself for doing such a great job! In the week before your time off, enjoy the haircuts, waxing, pedicures and manicures with a spring in your step knowing full well that you are about to enjoy one of the best holidays! It will be one to remember and I can assure you that all the preplanning, excitement and anticipation will all be well worth it. 

I hope that you have enjoyed this blog series and that it has given you some helpful tips and hints about how to make time on your own or with your partner fun whilst you are based in the place you love the most - Your Home. 

Over the next couple of weeks the blog will be offering up some new ideas on anatomy and treatments, so keep a close eye on the up coming posts!

Monday, 15 July 2013

Holidays at Home - The Two Week Marker.

Welcome back to the Holiday at Home series! If you are using this blog series to help you plan your vacation, then I hope that by now you are really looking forward to some rest and recuperation based in the comfort of your own home.  

This is a good time to say that from the very beginning that this series has been created for adults on their own, or with partners. I feel children's holidays have a lot of air time and I hope in this series to give the adults some TLC!

I hope that after the last blog post you have been able to make all the bookings that you need to with your holistic therapists, personal trainers and hairdressers and have been able to craft out a plan to make you feel special and relaxed, as well as restored and energized. 

As promised, this blog we are going to look at the two week marker.

With two weeks to go before our Holiday at Home I would advise that you sit down with a glass of something nice and take an evening to surf the web. Personally I find web-surfing time consuming, so I will dedicate an evening to it if I am planning something big, (there is no point kidding myself that it will only take a second!). With two weeks to go there is a lot to think about as far as time off. Look at your diary and see what kind of time you are about to enjoy and plan your days around the theme. Here are a few ideas to get your mind and body well looked after during your vacation. 

Many museums will run special exhibitions that you may be interested in seeing. If you have found yourself on the train gazing at posters during your commute, then make a list of the ones that are near you and that you want to see. Then you can look them up two weeks before your vacation and see if they are still open. I often find that if I take the time to pre-book my tickets at the museums in London I can get great deals on the prices. Also, I can plan to go either in the mid-morning lull when it is a bit quieter, or I will plan to go with a friend. I never like seeing more than one thing a day simply as I find it too tiring to take in loads of new information and fresh scenes, and I would advise that if you are planing things like art trips, make sure you stick to one a day! 

Be A Tourist
Find out if there is a walking tour that you can take around your local town or city. With a couple of weeks to go you will be able to join ones that are already planned, or you can get in touch with the people who run them and they can maybe organize one for you based on your interests. These are often a great way to see places that are often missed, meet up with new people, or have a private view at art collections. Most tour groups now offer great walks for people in wheelchairs, so all can enjoy what the cities have to offer. 

Feed Your Soul
Have a surf around and see where your local Farmer's Markets are and when they will be on. They often publish lists of producers that will be attending, entertainment and if there will be street food to enjoy. It's great to meet all the people that produce the food that you are about to enjoy and get a sense of connection with the guys who make your milk, as well as their cows! It's great to have a wonder around and try new flavors and ask the stall holders how best to use their wares. 

I love going to small art and craft shows. These are often advertised on the web, but also look out for them in the back of craft magazines and the local newspapers. Also, take time out to spend a day with a local crafts person who is willing to show you new skills! Workshops are a great way to relax, get inspired and try new techniques. If you are into dressmaking, gardening, flower arranging, book binding, knitting, bread making ... just about anything really ... take time for a few laughs and spend a day enjoying yourself. 

Gigs, movies and concerts. 
No Holiday at Home is planned without a trip to the movies for me! I love seeing the trailers on-line and getting excited about the next releases. Get a list of local gigs, concerts and cinema viewing times so you can plan evenings out, or enjoy the newest DVD releases at home. 

Friends and Family
As you surf the net, don't forget to ask yourself if you want to share your time with people or if you need to recharge alone. Email those you want to be with and send them links to what you have found that may interest them and get booking in the diary. It's o.k to recharge your batteries alone! I often mix and match days during my vacation with lunches and shows with friends and family and then a day pottering away in the garden on my own, enjoying the flowers and getting back to an equilibrium. 

Back to the diary! 
Now you have your diary pretty much well planned. Each day will be fresh and new, you may be out enjoying yourself with energetic people in the city or relaxing in the garden or local park recharging the inner batteries. Either way, let your diary or wall planner guide you. Without this planning your Holiday at Home will just end up being a long list of housework duties and you will not be blessing yourself or your home

With two weeks to go you should be really excited about all that you have planned! With treatments and classes already penciled in, tickets booked, journeys planned and gardens to enjoy, you will be getting ready for the final blog post; The One Week Marker! 

Next time we will be looking at the one week to go stage: Getting your vacation wardrobe together, putting work away, and the finishing touches to your plans. 

I hope you are enjoying the posts as you plan how to rebalance your body and your soul through your Holiday at Home. 

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