Trusting your gut

Trust Cafe

Image credit: Trust Amsterdam

“At times you have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover is yourself.”
– Alan Alda

Bristol born and bred

I’m a Bristol girl, born and bred. I’ve travelled, spent a few months in places here and there, but I’ve never actually lived anywhere else.

There are good reasons for that. I love this city, it holds my heart. My life is rich and filled with inspiring, meaningful connections and opportunities for growth. Friends, family, colleagues, clients – there’s an awful lot to be thankful for. But for years now I have found myself wondering what it would be like to live somewhere else, to walk a different path on streets that have never felt my feet.

Amsterdam calling

A couple of years ago a friend and I went on a city break to Amsterdam. During that trip something deep inside me came alive, like a planted seed slowly but surely moving towards the light. I thought to myself, “I could really be here.” I even said it out loud to my friend. That day wheels were set in motion that have carried me all the way to where I am now, which is moving to Amsterdam in less than three weeks time.

Earlier this week someone asked me what I really wanted out of life. I said that I would like to know, fundamentally, that I don’t need things to be a certain way to be OK. I’d like to feel that everything I could possibly need is within me already.

I now see, more clearly than ever, that this is what moving to Amsterdam is all about. I am removing all certainty, all knowns, taking a leap of faith and trusting my gut. And you know what? I’m not even there yet and the benefits of that trust are already showing themselves in the most wonderful ways. It’s incredible how much power can come from trusting the intuition of your body.

Walking a new path

Every time I visit Amsterdam I’m struck by the power of walking a new path, of stepping towards something that you absolutely can not see or predict but is nonetheless there. Walking down streets that I don’t yet fully know I am somehow fuller and more knowing than I have ever been. There is no other sound than the soft rhythm of my feet falling gently upon my own, chosen path.

This is a bodily feeling. The intuition of the soul, not the logic of the mind. I didn’t think moving to Amsterdam was right, I felt it was. Something in the centre of my body recognised the space and said, “This is where you need to be.” I trusted my gut. Such power lives there.

Body talk

Of course trusting your gut doesn’t have to mean moving your entire life to another city. Our bodies talk to us all the time and can sometimes help us to access where we’re really at more readily than the mind. Not to say that our minds aren’t powerful or important, of course not, but in a society where we’re often encouraged to work things out with our minds alone, to first and foremost “use our heads” and “figure things out”, the innate intelligence of the body can end up taking a back seat.

When that happens it can mean we are not as alive to certain signs as we could be. We may not be able to access how we really feel in a given situation, guided instead by the thoughts in our mind or perhaps things we think we should feel.


One of the best ways we can nurture our connection with our bodies is to begin to notice what’s there. Maybe there’s a flutter in the heart, a movement in the stomach, a pull towards something or even a resistance.

Allowing these sensations room to manoeuvre isn’t always easy. In fact it’s downright uncomfortable at times. But when we do allow these feelings some space, when we acknowledge and sit with them, we can loosen our grip on needing to understand or analyse why things are the way they are and, instead, simply allow them to be as they are in that moment. We can sit with ourselves and our bodily sensations with a sense of peace and acceptance, a feeling that nothing needs to change and everything is as it should be

Stay in touch

I will be back in Bristol from time to time and available for treatments. Please get in touch for more details or to book yourself a massage.

And if you want to come and see me in Amsterdam you’ll find me at Dr Feelgood, where I’ll be further developing my massage practice and starting a new chapter in my career. Or pop in and see me at Trust, an exciting movement and collective that I’ll also be working with.

You won’t hear from me here for a little while. I need some time to find my feet and see where this new path takes me, so this will be my last blog post for the foreseeable future. In the meantime, look after yourselves and your bodies and thank you, as ever, for reading.

With love and trust,
Sophie. X

Staying balanced on your bike


On yer bike!

I love getting around by bike. It allows me to experience the elements and a greater connection with my body and, if done mindfully, it’s a great way to stay in the here and now.

I’m moving to Amsterdam, another city of cyclists, in June and as I ride around Bristol, more and more I find myself imagining what it will be like to do the same in Holland. It’s like my bike has become a bridge to the future. As I approach the biggest milestone of my life to date, where almost everything is unknown, riding my bike gives me at least one strong, physical sense of what it will actually be like to be there.

Altered alignment

Riding my bike also makes me think about alignment, about what we put our bodies through when we cycle, especially since I had my old bike stolen a few months ago. I was kindly loaned a replacement but I’m used to upright, Dutch-style handlebars (I’m going to fit right in!) and the ones on this temporary bike were much lower.

Cycling it got me all out of whack. I experienced pain in my hips and lower back, I just didn’t feel comfortable at all, which begs the question, how many people are cycling round on bikes that don’t fit them and simply living with the discomfort? Like women in the wrong sized bra, I’m guessing quite a few.

Hints and tips

Body / bike alignment isn’t really my forte, you’ll have to go to experts for that, but I am a Holistic Massage Therapist with expert knowledge of muscles and what they do, so here are a few handy hints to help you cycle more comfortably.

  • Play around with the height and angle of your saddle. How does your lower back feel? Squashed? Could it be more open? Even the slightest tilt forward or back can have a huge impact on your back. It’s worth taking some time to explore.
  • What happens when you peddle? If you don’t extend your legs enough your deep hip flexors will work overtime and become short and tense, which can have a knock on effect on the rest of your body.
  • What is your intention? We have a tendency to focus our intention on the downward motion of cycling, which uses our quadriceps (front thigh muscles). If the muscles at the front of your body are doing all the work it can cause an imbalance and put a strain on your knees and hips. Perhaps you could try bringing more awareness to the upward motion, which gets the hamstrings (back of the thighs) involved. Balance and proportion are always good to aim for.
  • What are your arms doing? Are they locked and holding on tight? Perhaps you could think about introducing a soft bend in the elbow to protect your joints.
  • Why not embrace the opportunity for a quick stretch? When you lock your bike up perhaps you could spend a few minutes stretching your quads – bringing your heel to your bum – and your hamstrings – reaching towards your toes.
  • Are you engaging your core and abdominal muscles or are your legs working overtime?
  • Open your chest. Like driving a car and working at a desk, cycling asks us to bring our arms and shoulders forward and down. Whenever you can, think about doing the opposite, rolling your arms and shoulders back in big wide circles for example. We need to remind our pectoral muscles (front of the chest) that they can be open and long. This can help to alleviate discomfort in the upper back and shoulders.

    Everyone’s different and these are just suggestions. Why not play around and see what works for you?

On the couch

My intention on the couch is to help achieve balance between groups of countering muscles. If one set of muscles is overworked it can put a strain on your entire skeletal structure.

During our massage treatment we can remind short, overworked muscles that they can and be long and those that have clocked off to switch on and get to work when we need them.

We can also develop an after care plan, a series of helpful stretches and exercises tailored to you and the needs of your body.

Book now

I’m doing some extra sessions over the next six weeks to help fit people in before I jet off to Amsterdam. Now is a great time to book.

And I’ll be back every couple of months for teaching weekends at BCMB – there’ll be plenty of opportunities to treat yourself to some you time.

I’ll update my availability on Facebook and over email but feel free to get in touch any time.

And, breathe

Image credit: Chris Stein

Image credit: Chris Stein

The power of the breath

A recent experience with a client got me thinking about the power of the breath. This person has Multiple Sclerosis (MS), a condition which affects the central nervous system, and during a recent relapse had been experiencing cramping (or ‘banding’ as it is known) across her abdomen. This caused severe discomfort for hours, sometimes days, on end.

During our session she explained that although the relapse had subsided she was left with a lingering feeling of disconnection from that part of her body. Emotionally, it had become an area over which she had felt she had no control, no sense of ownership.

There was a sadness around the whole thing, as though a part of her had been taken away. The banding may have gone but the echo of the experience still ricocheted around her muscles and emotional memory.

Reclaiming the body

Together we explored reclaiming her body through the breath, inviting gentle exploration and curiosity by getting her to ‘breathe into’ those areas of disconnection.

Using the breath as a tool we were able to shift things along and create more openness. We were able to continue paving the way towards greater acceptance and allowing all things, past and present, to be as they are.

There was a sense of reclamation to the whole thing. Her body became hers again, something to celebrate and appreciate rather than fear and resent. And it all started with a few simple breaths. Isn’t that amazing?

Noticing the breath

Most of the time we in and exhale without a second thought (we might be in a bit of trouble if we had to remember to do it) but bringing some awareness to the breath can have an incredible impact on your wellbeing.

Noticing your breath can help you to feel more connected with yourself and everything around you. It can allow you to feel more grounded and calmer as you go about your business. It can help to root you in the here and now, to focus on what is happening this very second rather than looking back at the past or ahead to the future.

Focussing on the here and now gives you greater access to that true voice inside, the one which tells you how you really are and what you really want in the moment.

This allows you to make more enlightened choices for yourself, conscious choices informed by an inner calm and peace rather than the unconscious autopilot which governs so much of our lives. And all you have to do to get there is breathe.

Ways to bring more awareness

Have you ever noticed how your breath changes when you’re stressed? Perhaps it becomes shallow. You might even find yourself holding on to it, almost forgetting to breathe.

In situations where we feel worried or unsure of ourselves for whatever reason, our breath tends to take note and follow suit. It’s like a gauge for what’s going on inside, an internal barometer that you can tune in to at any point.

There are lots of ways to bring more awareness to your breath. It’s amazing what can happen when you begin to take notice.


One of the easiest ways to take notice is to do just that, notice. Where do you feel your breath the most? Is it in the rise and fall of your shoulders? The expansion of your chest? Whatever happens when you breathe, allow yourself to pay attention. What do you witness?


Visualisation can be a powerful way to pay attention. Close your eyes and breathe normally. Imagine your breath as a gold light which softens and nourishes the body as you inhale and relaxes and calms the body as you exhale.

Perhaps the light gets bigger and brighter as you breath in and smaller and duller as you breathe out. Perhaps your breath becomes a wave rolling in and out of the shore. Invite yourself to explore and play with whatever feels right for you.


Your entire body is affected by your breath. Place your hands on your abdomen, your chest or even your neck or shoulders and notice what happens as you breathe. Are there any surprises? Anything you didn’t expect? Get curious with your body, find out what happens when you breathe.

Sit or stand tall

The way you hold yourself every day has a significant impact on the way you breathe. Think about a time when you felt low or a bit unsure of yourself. What effect did those feelings have on your posture? How do you think that posture affected your breath?

Be kind to yourself

Remember, these are just suggestions. There are no right or wrong ways to breathe. Your breath belongs to you and you can use it any way you want, any time you want. You always have total control over your own wellbeing.

On the couch

Holistic massage is a great way to explore the breath. As well as providing a safe, nurturing space in which you can simply be as you are and leave everything else at the door, a professional massage can also create space within your body.

Typically when we think of the muscles involved in breathing we think of the more obvious ones like the diaphragm or the intercostal muscles. But the reality is that your entire body is affected by your breath. Your hips, your lower back muscles, the muscles in your neck and shoulders. All the pieces matter, they all have a part to play.

If a client comes to me looking to work with their breath (perhaps they are stressed and feel like they can’t get enough air in their lungs) as well as thinking about the ‘big players’ I might consider working on, for example, their neck.

Massaging some of these less obvious areas, which work just as hard for you when you breathe, can free up tension, lengthen muscle fibres and encourage both the body and the mind to let go of old ways of being.

Yours for the taking

The best thing about the breath is that it’s yours to do whatever you want with. You have total control over when, how and if you choose to use it. It’s like an in-built, wellbeing tool kit you can access wherever, whenever you want to. Pretty cool huh?

But if you want to take things a step further and allow yourself a space in which you can feel supported in your exploration then I’m always here. A holistic massage with me is a partnership, something we do together. I would love to hear your story and work with you on a treatment plan. Feel free to get in touch for more information.

Let’s get curious

We could all take a leaf out of this curious beaver's book. Image credit: Leopold Kanzler

We could all take a leaf out of this curious beaver’s book. Image credit: Leopold Kanzler

Tuning in

When you see the word ‘pain’ what springs to mind? Bad memories? Negative associations? Something you’d rather be rid of straight away?

What if we turned that response on its head and instead greeted pain with gratitude and curiosity? What might that bring?

Changing our perspective and relationship with pain can allow us to be happier, healthier and more comfortable in our bodies and minds.

Pain is an in-inbuilt protection system, our body’s way of letting us know that something’s not quite right. When we become aware of pain, or more able to tune into it, it presents us with an opportunity to listen, learn, adapt and change.

Adaptation and change can be as simple as taking a fresh look at your work station. Do you need to change your desk around? Are you looking straight ahead or slouching? Perhaps you could invest in a physio ball to keep your core moving and support your lower back while you work?

Pushing pain away

Our busy lives and minds often override this ability to tune in. Things like deadlines, entrenched habits or even workplace cultures can result in us ignoring our pain, maybe by taking painkillers or otherwise pushing it away into the background of our lives.

We can become so accustomed to pain that we carry it for years and stop listening to what it’s trying to tell us. This is a missed opportunity.

When we bring an awareness to bodily discomfort and allow ourselves to experience and understand rather than block and push away those sensations, we empower ourselves to take more control over our minds, our bodies and therefore our lives. This in turn makes it easier to let challenging things come and go without stress.

The same can be said of emotional pain, which is just as difficult to deal with and just as important to acknowledge.

In fact, emotional can pain can be even more difficult to manage than physical pain because of the distinction our society makes between the two (although things have improved, taking six weeks off work with a broken leg is still more socially acceptable than taking a month off for depression).

By practising being with physical pain we strengthen our ability to be with emotional pain, and that can only be a good thing.

On the couch

Pain also signposts areas of the body which are asking for attention. As a Holistic Massage Therapist I’m trained to take note of these signposts. Knots – caused by the waste products of our hard-working muscles – are probably the most common example.

Knots build up in muscle fibres and clog the communication channels which run between the body and the brain via the nervous system. They can lead to feelings of numbness and general disconnection.

Working on these areas can be painful but if the body welcomes it it’s more of a ‘good pain’, a sensation of release. ‘Bad pain’ makes the muscles tense up and says, Please don’t go there.

‘Good pain’ can be a sign that an area is crying out for nurturing touch. By working slowly and always checking in with my clients, I can make that distinction and they can have total control over which pains to investigate and which to avoid.

The power of acceptance

There is also an emotional freedom which comes from paying closer attention to pain.

When we fear or resent pain we run the risk of creating a space inside us which is bigger than the pain itself. These negative feelings can make us hold on to and feel victim to our pain.

On the other hand, practising things like mindfulness can help us to become more aware of the pain in our bodies, to witness it, acknowledge it and ultimately let it pass.

When we do this we see that pain, like all bodily sensations, moves, shifts and ultimately drifts away with time, like clouds rolling across an ever-changing sky.

Let’s get curious

Approaching pain with curiosity and compassion can reap significant rewards. When you wake up in the morning ask yourself, What does my body want today? Regardless of my normal routine, what’s the best thing for me right now, in this moment? You may be surprised by the result.

If you’d like to explore your aches and pains through holistic massage then please feel free to get in touch. Let’s get curious together and see what we can find.

Let’s hear it for our hard-working hands

Image credit: Alex Hockett

Image credit: Alex Hockett

Let’s hear it for the hands

If you have full use of your hands then chances are they work pretty hard for you.

They caress and comfort your loved ones, they facilitate your vocation and help to pay your bills, they prepare your food and drive it towards your mouth, they do your talking for you.

They are one of the most complex and expressive tools at our disposal and yet we generally take them for granted.

Caring at Christmas

Just after Christmas I spent an afternoon giving free massage to homeless people as part of Caring in Bristol‘s Caring at Christmas project.

We were working in a busy room with lots of people coming and going so all massage was given over clothes. Because of this I was often drawn to the hands, and I discovered that working in this way, from my hands to theirs, was incredibly intimate.

Despite all the noise and the hectic surroundings, once I started massaging hands it was like everything went quiet. These limbs, so used to asking for help of one kind or another, were now receiving something other than a few coins dropped from a distance. The results were powerful.

I felt like I was cutting through layers of front and getting to the core of something real, much more so than when massaging a back, neck or shoulder.

Hand to hand

Perhaps because our hands express so many thoughts and feelings (think of a passionate public speaker or a nervous interviewee) they’re more directly linked to what’s going on inside.

It’s hard to say for sure but whatever the reason, the power that comes from nurturing them is significant, as anyone who’s ever held the hands of a loved one will know.

Whatever your vocation, your hands do an awful lot on your behalf. And when you’re going about your business, immersed in the ins and outs of every day life, they work away without you even realising it.

So why not take five and give your hands a bit of TLC to say thank you for all that they do?

Here are a few tips to help keep your hard-working hands happy and healthy.

Stay warm

Muscles work better when they’re warm. Use a hot water bottle or heat pack to warm up your hands before you settle down to work. This will improve circulation and blood flow and encourage your muscles to work more effectively.

Why not combine your hand warm up with a mind warm up and set an intention before you start work?

When it’s all over at the end of the day, treat your muscles to a nice hot bath.


Movement helps to keep your joints lubricated and mobile. Before you start work why not try some gentle circling?

Start by rotating your wrists in small circles and then moving on to your fingers and thumbs, moving each digit individually and according to its own ability.

Listen to your body and see what feels most comfortable. If your joints are happy with small circles think about making them a bit bigger.


Short, tight muscles limit motion and increase the chance of injury. Stretching is a fantastic way to make them longer and looser.

Before you start work, make a fist and then spread your fingers as wide as you can for a few seconds. Repeat this five times.

When stretching ask yourself, How do I use my hands all day? What direction do they go in? Then stretch them the opposite way.

For example, if you spend a lot of time typing at a keyboard your wrists will be bent forward and your fingers tapping down.

To bring length into those hard-working muscles bend your wrist and fingers back in the opposite direction either on their own or by using the opposite hand to achieve a fuller stretch.

Give your hands and arms a shake in between to flush the joints with nutrients.

Remember to listen to your body. Never, ever force a stretch, ignore pain or rush into a position.

Go into the stretch gradually, come out gradually and gently hold the position for 20 or so seconds, as long as it’s comfortable to do so.


Nurturing touch is what massage is all about. Why not treat your hands to some?

Explore the bony structures in your hands and bring in some squeezing, circling and holding.

Remember not to go digging or searching for any discomfort. Act with curiosity and be gentle with yourself. This is chance for you to give your hands some TLC.

Add cream or oil for an extra layer of luxury.

Book a professional massage

Holistic massage is a fantastic treatment for your mind, body and spirit developed in partnership between therapist and client.

If you’re a regular client then why not think about adding some hand massage to your treatment plan?

If you’ve never received nurturing touch before and are curious to try it, then why not get in touch?

I’d love to hear from you and work with those hard-working hands of yours!