Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Shoulder Well

Every time I press my hands into the shoulders of another person (usually seated behind me while I stand, but I am adaptable) and find those knots of tension in the well between the collarbones and the shoulderblades (and that is, alas, very, very common), I always think of the story of Saint Christopher. If you don't know it, it has to do with a group of people who were walking from one town to another (as people did in the old days, if they couldn't afford a horse) in a group to be safer from bandits. As was usual at the time, they stepped over or splashed through any brook that was too small to be worth bridging, when they came to a stream which was swollen by spring rains to the point that it was a potential hazard. The largest member of the group said cheerfully, "Not to worry: anyone who is unsure about this stream may ride across on my shoulders." He carried several members of the party, the last of them being a small boy. "Whoa! Little boy!" he said with a groan, "I carried your mother. I carried your father. Why are you the hardest one to carry?" The boy said softly, "I carry the weight of the world on my shoulders." And that's how he came to be known as Christopher: the one who carried the Christ. And that is also how he came to be the patron saint of travellers, and of tall people. We are all Christophers at least part of the time, carrying the weight of the world. And we feel it as a weight on our shoulders because just as surely as the pressure points between the shoulderblades are connected with breathing and the pressure points above the eyes are connected with headaches, the pressure points in the shoulder well are connected with stress and anxiety. The good news is that a trained acupressurist can quickly relieve the pain of that burden by pressing into the shoulder wells, especially if one hand pushes into the well while the other presses the distal points down the arm (at the bottom of the deltoid muscle, on the outside of the elbow joint and just above the back of the wrist, between the forearm bones) one at a time. Better still, you can relieve your own shoulder well by curving the fingertips of one hand into a hook, resting them in the space between the clavicle and the scapula on the opposite shoulder, and letting your arm hang freely so the weight of your arm presses your fingertips into the pressure point. One more thing: if you have any sort of injury to your shoulders, neck or upper arms, that can reduce your ability to deal with stress. So if you feel especially harried by everyday issues, you might have a problem in that area. Either way, you'll feel better if you get your shoulders released.

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