In alternative medicine, bodywork is any therapeutic or personal development technique that involves working with the human body in a form involving manipulative therapy, breath work, or energy medicine. This techniques also aim to assess or improve posture, promote awareness of the “bodymind connection” rather than the “mind-body connection“, or to manipulate the electromagnetic field alleged to surround the human body and affect health.
Some of the best known forms of non-touch bodywork methods include: reiki, yoga, pranayama, as well as other non-touch methods: breathwork respiration techniques, therapeutic touch, the Bates method for sight training, qigong, and t’ai chi.
The better known forms of manipulative bodywork include the Bowen technique, chiropractic, reflexology, Rolfing, postural integration, shiatsu, and the Trager approach. There are also some methods that use light touch (not tissue work) to retrain movement patterns or shift awareness of the body, including the Alexander technique, the Feldenkrais method, the Hakomi method, integrative body psychotherapy, craniosacral therapy, and somatic experiencing.
The Difference Between Bodywork and Massage
Bodywork and massage therapy are technically one in the same, though more specifically, bodywork is part of a larger holistic umbrella that encompasses massage therapy, much as it does other forms of herbal and even energy therapy. From Reiki to cupping, acupuncture to polarity, Thai massage, Shiatsu and even meditation, the landscape of bodywork is indeed vast, and always evolving. Traditional massage therapy, like Swedish massage, will utilise certain strokes and muscular manipulation to target specific problem areas or to facilitate an overall relaxation.
But bodywork dives deeper than that, and is more about developing a relationship to the client, getting to know their biomechanics and uncovering the root causes behind physical ailments that could date as far back as birth and even have an emotional connection.