by John F. Barnes, P.T., L.M.T., N.C.T.M.B.

Therapeutic Insight: The Myofascial Release Perspective—Frantically Swimming Upstream, MASSAGE MagazineDo you feel stressed? Is there too much chaos in your life? Do you feel that no matter how hard you try, nothing changes or you feel like you are slipping backward?

I have found that most people seem to be frantically swimming upstream, bucking the actual flow of life. Many people and therapists I encounter in my myofascial release seminars are pretty much locked into pain and dysfunction, only focused on the intellectual side. They struggle with performance anxiety because they just go through the motions and do not remain grounded.

I have heard that with the downturn of the economy, many massage therapists and bodyworkers are not doing well financially because people are not making that a priority right now. However, I hear most therapists who I have trained in myofascial release are flourishing and doing quite well. There are many good reasons for their continual success that deserves your serious consideration.

First, I would like to share an experience I had years ago that may help to illuminate why it is important for us to learn, through myofascial release, to live in an open focus, flowing in the present moment.

Channel 5 is our intellectual, linear and logical side; however, I have found that for therapists to achieve greatness and reach ultimate results with their clients, they have to move into what I call “channel 3” when using myofascial release. “Channel 3” is our intuitive and instinctive side; this is the “healing zone.” It is also the mode of consciousness in which our creativity, emotions and wisdom reside. You are all amazing geniuses; the problem is our schooling focused on memorization and was basically mass hypnosis. It did not teach us how to think; it taught us what to think. Our education diminished the most valuable assets we have.

An important moment in my life that taught me to flow with life’s ups and downs occurred years ago when I took part in a Grand Canyon rafting trip. If you have ever seen the Grand Canyon from the top it is absolutely wonderful, but seeing it from the river looking up a mile high, the beauty and antiquity is truly astonishing. Air temperature was higher than 100 degrees. The water temperature, on the other hand, was about 40 degrees, as a result of snow run off from the Colorado mountains. We began gently floating along the river, which was placid and beautiful. Then we heard the roaring rapids approach. Once we hit the rapids, we heard the real rapids! This was classified as a Class IV river; Class V you die. The waves were 20 or 30 feet high, the size of an average home. We tightly held on to the rafts straps while traveling down the river. The rapids whipped us around like a flag on a blustery day.

During the peaceful periods, we would have time to lounge on the beach, hike into the canyons or swim in the Colorado River; an amazing experience with such power. What I noticed was most people just stood on the sidelines and watched as observers and did not participate. Others tried to swim upstream, which was futile and exhausting, getting them nowhere (channel 5). And when I tried to swim upstream, I had the same experience—but then I found that if I just let go of all control, the flow of the river would sweep me along, thrusting me between massive boulders. All I needed to do was trust and just gently put my hands out and sweep through the boulders to keep myself safe and fully enjoy the experience (channel 3).

I see that as a metaphor for life. Most people do not really participate or engage in life or they swim upstream frantically, getting nowhere, exhausting themselves and losing ground. With myofascial release, we learn to center ourselves; we learn to go with the flow of life. Teach your client to do the same. Applying myofascial release principles along with an attitude of success and positivity, coupled with the experience of being centered, is truly healing, life changing and fulfilling.

Something for us all to consider is that even with light massage techniques, we are forcing a system that cannot be forced. The fascial system is too powerful. Unfortunately, either too much or too little effort or force is used or done too quickly with other techniques. There are myofascial release principles that need to be applied so the system truly releases—and so we do not experience the frustration of temporary results of other techniques.

In a recent statistical study found in MASSAGE Magazine, it was determined that 47,000 massage therapists and bodyworkers leave the profession every year. That number is shocking.

This supports my contention that other massage and bodywork techniques attempt to force a system that cannot be forced. The principles we learned in massage and bodywork to release the fascial system were antiquated, incomplete and simply did not work, producing temporary results for only a couple of hours. Even with light massage, it physically wears the therapist down. I believe most therapists leave because of the frustration of temporary results and because of the wear and tear on their bodies.

Myofascial release is taught with an entirely different outlook, principles and techniques as compared to traditional massage and bodywork. Instead of tearing the therapist apart, myofascial release actually strengthens you, the client loves it and it gives you the type of results that last, taking you and your client to a whole different level. Do not become one of those statistics. Make your New Year’s resolution to embrace myofascial release.



John Barnes, MASSAGE MagazineJohn F. Barnes, P.T., L.M.T., N.C.T.M.B., is an international lecturer, author and acknowledged expert in the area of myofascial release. He has instructed more than 50,000 therapists worldwide in his Myofascial Release approach, and he is the author of Myofascial Release: the Search for Excellence (Rehabilitation Services Inc., 1990) and Healing Ancient Wounds: the Renegade’s Wisdom (Myofascial Release Treatment Centers & Seminars, 2000). He is on the counsel of Advisors of the American Back Society; he is also on MASSAGE Magazine’s editorial advisory board and is a member of the American Physical Therapy Association. For more information, visit

For more information about myofascial release, you can now access two separate excerpts from the Fireside Chat with John F. Barnes, PT DVD on YouTube. Just click on the following links:

Part 1

Part 2

To find John F. Barnes on Facebook, click on the following link: