The Tree of Life on the cover of this book is bearing mandala fruits, each representing a chapter in the book. Mandala is a Sanskrit word for circle or wheel, or a beginning with end. The systems of our bodies move in circles; the digestive, respiratory, blood, lymphatic and nervous systems share pathways with energy moving throughout the body. Focusing on the mandala's midpoint while viewing or creating it can bring you to a state of physical and emotional equilibrium. You may achieve a similar result by following the self-care techniques described in this book, such as conscious breathing, exercise, and giving and receiving healing touch. From the center of our being, we can extend to include the larger spheres of family and community. In my practice, the most common complaints are headaches, arthritis, jaw (TMJ) pain, irritable bowel syndrome, fatigue, and insomnia. Other ailments include back, neck, and foot problems. A vast number of clients come to me because they endure chronic pain or are stressed and need to relax. Many are women who are facing the challenges of hormonal shifts and life changes, clients dealing with everyday stresses, who choose massage over a pill. One special area of my practice has been working with people who are disabled or challenged in unusually difficult ways. As a consultant for the mentally and emotionally challenged, I have come to kw and work personally with people who suffer from depression (mild and severe), panic disorder, post-traumatic stress syndrome, agoraphobia, obsessive compulsive disorder, alcoholism and other addictions. Some clients have had schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, severe mental retardation, Down's syndrome, and autism. Bodywork, a term which refers to massage and other forms of hands-on healing such as polarity therapy, acupressure and yoga restores the natural energetic pathways that lead the body, and the whole human, back into equilibrium. Even when a person is disabled, chronically sick, or terminally ill, they can find balance and harmony within themselves through the gift of healing touch and the restorative poses of yoga. I believe healing touch is an overlooked modality for many people with these diseases. All those facing physical, mental and emotional challenges, and their caregivers, are the inspiration for this book. The vulnerability of these special clients, with their courage, warmth, wisdom and magnanimous spirit continues to inspire me. Those who are new to the field of bodywork will learn about the variety of paths they can follow. By using the techniques and reading the case histories and personal stories in this book, seasoned bodyworkers and movement instructors can expand their area of practice and discover the unexpected joy of working with these populations. This book can help all care givers, including psychotherapists, hospice workers, home health care workers, physicians, rescue workers, nurses, teachers and others to discover new ways to use touch and movement to help their clients as well as themselves. Now, perhaps more than ever before, we need simple ways to help each other in this troubled and increasingly complex world.
Gwen Wendy Hammarstrom has been practicing and teaching massage and yoga for over thirty five years. She received a BFA in Dance from Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and soon after began teaching and directing at Innerworks Center for Bodyworkers and Healthcare Professionals in Philadelphia. At the same time she was artistic director of Agape Dancers, a modern dance company that reached out to non-mainstream audiences using choreography that combined yoga, martial arts, and images from nature. She moved to California in 1992 with her husband, who was taking the role of hospital administrator for a facility in Southern California, along with their seven month old daughter, two dogs and three cats. Gwen's first clients and students in Long Beach were infants and parents. She has come full circle with in-home massages for the ill, the elderly, the physically and developmentally challenged as well as their caregivers. Gwen was a co-founder of the Inland Holistic Health Association in Southwest Riverside County, California. She has written a column on health and wellness for the Californian newspaper for two years, as well as a bodywork column for Awareness Magazine and freelance writing for High Country Journal in southern California, The Murrieta Chronicle and Neighbor's Newspaper. She continues to create mandalas, teach yoga and see bodywork clients in North San Diego County and the Inland Valley. Additionally, as throughout much of her life she cares for and massages an interesting variety of animals.