The Practice of De-Armouring in Ancient Cultures
De-armouring is a healing art which has been practiced under different names in various traditional cultures around the world. At the core of it, many techniques can be used to help rid people of pain and re-align them with feeling healthy and happy. An example of this is the practice of acupressure in traditional Chinese medicine. The practice frees the flow of chi, or life energy, in the body by releasing any pain or emotion that blocks it. It is performed by pressing certain points in the body.
The Work of Wilhelm Reich
The modern term ‘de-armouring’ evolved from the work of the psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich in the 1930s. He noticed that when his patients carried emotions or ideas which had been repressed over time, they formed a ‘character armour.’ This consisted of certain traits which were present to defend themselves from feeling the unwanted emotions. Reich then observed that this character armour corresponded to a somatic (physical body) ‘armour,’ which consisted of the hardening of the body’s soft tissues, such as muscles. Over time, the armour hardened, causing the physical body to become less sensitized and feel less of both pain and pleasure.
Reich found that the armour could be softened by applying certain bodywork techniques. Today, his work overlaps with body-based therapies such as Rolfing, Bowen Technique, Shiatsu, and Craniosacral Therapy.
De-Armouring Practices in Tantric Massage Therapy
Today, de-armouring is used as a way to help the client access, witness, and integrate those parts of themselves which have become hurt. As a result, certain feelings, beliefs, memories, and behaviours may become repressed. Another aspect is the release of any feelings or beliefs which are held in the body, but no longer serve the clients at this point in their life.
In tantric massage therapy sessions, clients are invited to stay fully present and to feel their body. By consciously experiencing and exploring those parts which are hurt, clients may be able to better accept and integrate them, whilst at the same time, letting go of any negative emotions they may be carrying. This can help them get back into feeling more peace, pleasure, and joy in their lives.
For example, one of my clients had some memories come up when I was working on his legs, of being attacked and kicked there. This was accompanied by feelings of fear and anger, which he noticed and chose to express, whilst staying present with his breathing and being fully aware of the sensations he was feeling in his body. Another client remembered details of a difficult birth when I was working on her pelvic area. She experienced some shaking in her body, as the tension that she had been carrying was able to leave.
There are different de-armouring techniques, and it may depend on the therapist which approach is used. In tantric massage, some practitioners opt for ‘hard’ de-armouring, using physical force to apply a lot of pressure to areas in the body that hold tension. Others prefer to work with ‘soft’ de-armouring, or applying much lighter pressure to achieve the same result. Therapists may press and hold certain points in the body as part of a sequence, or they may intuitively feel the body for areas that are holding tension.
Regardless of how it is done, de-armouring helps to get rid of unwanted tensions and beliefs, and integrate unprocessed memories and emotions.
What Is Tantric De-Armouring?
Tantric de-armouring involves working with orgasmic energy and expanding the capacity for pleasure in the body. It includes working with the whole body to remove blocks and opening the body up to the free and unobstructed flow of energy.
Practitioners may also offer the option of genital de-armouring, if and when the client feels ready. The pelvic area often carries a lot of shame from negative messages we may have received about the genitals and sexuality in general throughout our lifetime. It also holds body memory of any traumatic or unpleasant events which may have happened to us, such as rape or unwanted touch. Over time, this can manifest as pain in the area, and contribute to sexual dysfunction, such as anorgasmia or erectile dysfunction, and a loss of sensation.
Genital de-armouring includes yoni massage for women or lingam with prostate massage for men. Prostate massage for men is done through the anus.
When Is De-Armouring Effective in Tantric Massage Therapy?
For de-armouring to be effective, client and practitioners should keep in mind a number of factors:
When the Client Is Ready
The willingness of the client to stay conscious throughout the session, focusing on their breath and on their body, plays a key role in the effectiveness of the process. If the client is not willing or ready to do this, they may ‘check out’ during the session, and not be present with what is happening in their body. This could just mean that they are thinking about something else to avoid feeling emotions, which is likely to happen at times during the session. However, if a client goes into a freeze response and is unable to communicate, which is called ‘disassociation,’ it means that the bodywork has triggered a past trauma which is too much for the client to feel in that moment. Re-traumatization can happen at this point unless the bodywork is stopped immediately and the client returns to full consciousness. This is why it’s important for a client to be ready for tantric de-armoring work, and that the practitioner is skilled and experienced in holding space for trauma responses.
When Client Feels Safe
The degree to which the client can surrender to the experience, and open up largely depends on how safe they feel. It is therefore important the therapist provides a space that is beautiful, private, and quiet, where the session will not be disturbed. The therapist’s demeanour is also key: a relaxed and welcoming posture, tone of voice, kind choice of words, and a non-judgmental attitude can play an important role in giving clients permission to be themselves.
When There Are Clear Boundaries and Consensual Touch
Respecting clients’ boundaries helps to provide them with a safe environment. Regularly checking in with clients is also important to ensure that they are not tolerating more than they are willing to.
When the Client Has a Choice
Giving clients options to choose from during the session helps to create safety. For example, these options may include the way they are touched, or the part of the body they would like touching next.
When the Therapist has Experience of De-armouring
De-armouring is not something which can be learnt simply by learning a sequence of points to press. It is a professional practice involving specialist training to learn how to help de-armour and hold space for clients. This means staying centered and providing a container for the client to feel and express their emotions, without the therapist’s own emotions interfering in the process. It is therefore important that the therapist has done some work on themselves to ensure that they have a deep enough space-holding capacity to meet whatever wants to come up in a session. If a client doesn’t trust the therapist, they are unlikely to want to explore and share their inner worlds.