Gentle Nudges Newsletter

Stay inspired, stay on track and be well. Get a monthly (or so) Gentle Nudge delivered to your inbox.

“I loved this newsletter. It's great how you break down us readers' resistances to taking care of ourselves, and do it with such a sweet and gentle voice with that touch of humor. Questions like those are excellent tools for re-focusing; getting back on track with what's important and letting go of what's not.”

- Ella Jolly, Social Worker
New York City

How being a Highly Sensitive Person has shaped my approach to Massage and Bodywork

I’ve given and received a lot of Ortho-Bionomy in the last several days and had some interesting conversations with colleagues and clients and it’s gotten me thinking a lot about WHY I do this work and about SENSITIVITY.

Some of you may know that I identify as an ‪#‎HSP‬ (Highly Sensitive Person). I’ve lived in a body with a highly attuned nervous system my whole life. It’s who I am. (If you don’t know what this means, I suggest checking out the work of Dr. Elaine Aron and Ane Axford). Having a highly attuned nervous system means I experience and notice the finest details of environmental and sensory input — from touch to sound to smell to taste — anything you can feel or experience with the senses. These experiences impact me deeply and I know from consciously exploring this trait for a while that not everyone experiences the world in this way. In fact, the research says it’s only 20% of the population who does.

So, how does this relate to my bodywork approach?

It means everything. It’s the reason why Ortho-Bionomy entered my life, changed it completely, and I’ve chosen to study it as much as possible. It’s why I’ve studied the Trager Approach and NeuroKinetic Therapy, two other non-invasive ways of working deeply with the body. It’s why I work slowly and am able to pick up on subtle shifts happening in the body, both physically and energetically, even when I’m doing deeper work. It’s why I’m able to work gently and with depth.

What I’ve found for myself and other HSPs I’ve spoken with or worked with is that the HSP body doesn’t need as much when it comes to hands-on therapy. Is deeper work sometimes ok and sometimes needed? Absolutely. But for myself and other sensitives, it seems a WORLD of possibilities opens when you receive that first truly GENTLE touch. I know it did for me. I think most of us have experienced or been exposed to more of the opposite, or picked up the sense that we need or should need deep, invasive work to heal our body and release pain. That maybe the work itself should hurt in order to be effective.

For anyone, I think the opposite can be true. But I believe that especially for HSPs, giving yourself the chance to experience touch that meets you where you are, that meets your gorgeous sensitivity with more of the same, can be a truly remarkable, life-changing experience. It is the experience of being SEEN and FELT. And I feel so amazingly fortunate to have been shown more of me through work that is gentle and through gentle practitioners.

And I feel so freakin amazingly fortunate to now be able to share that work, this approach, my sensitivity, with other sensitive bodies. We are such beautiful mirrors for each other.


Spread the love:
Pin It


  • Yvette
    August 27, 2016 at 5:37 pm | Reply

    I am so relieved to see this! I am a sensitive person and also a massage therapist. I also believe in the healing power of gentle, loving touch. So I truly appreciate what is said here. I am however, looking to learn more about how to take care of my sensitive self after doing massage for others whose energy may be negative due to stress and illness. Would love to hear what you have to say on this.

    Many thanks.

    • Helena
      August 28, 2016 at 1:40 am | Reply

      Thanks for your comment, Yvette! You are definitely not alone in this. Not at all. There are so many ways to care for our sensitives selves. I’ve just sent you an email with some ideas for how to approach this : )

  • Llandry
    January 3, 2017 at 6:43 am | Reply

    I have been A massage therapist for 25 years and still.
    Very blessed in this life’s work but still trying to identify with my sensitive nature and doing my best to keep in check especially my balance in self and relations. fSMT graduate and seeming to still be figuring out this issue. HSp is a label and new stuff for me. Is this a defect? I don’t think so just didn’t realize anyone else had or chose to… suffer.. if they chose this. Never knew what this HSP was about, but I think I have had this since birth and felt way too much. I have always been made fun of for this sensitivity, and not really known how to deal with this. with much effort, and exhausted. L

    • Helena
      January 4, 2017 at 9:57 pm | Reply

      Thanks for your comment, L., and congratulations on 25yrs as an MT! Amazing. Being an HSP is not a defect. It is simply a genetic trait and includes having a more highly tuned nervous system. According to Dr. Elaine Aron, the research psychologist who coined the term HSP, roughly 20% of the population is an HSP. Many HSPs report being made fun of for their sensitivity, or told they’re “too much.” You are not alone, and I believe — through personal experience and observation — that there are many ways to slowly strengthen our sensitivity and lead with it to create a rich, meaningful life that supports, inspires and nourishes us. If you haven’t checked out Dr. Aron’s book yet, it’s a great place to start. “The Highly Sensitive Person.” Please feel free to reach out with any other questions. You might also like this post that I wrote:
      Yours in sensitivity,

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *