Shame & Bodywork: A Persistent Problem

Dan Cayer
9 min readSep 13, 2021

How to Be a Normal Person Who Practices Bodywork.

In the early days of my training and teaching, there was nothing like getting together with a group of Alexander Technique teachers to make my neck hurt like hell. Just being around other colleagues would produce this needling, pestering narrative: my posture was crappy and needed correcting. While politely pretending to be interested in others, I was filled with anxiety, shame, and the Sisyphean responsibility of having to yet again nudge my errant body parts back into line.

In this essay, which I wrote several years ago but never published, I explore some of the traps of being a ‘bodyworker.’ From friendships and acquaintances, I began to get a sense of how pervasive shame was among workers in the wellness field. I found this troubling (and a bit of a relief since it was definitely my experience also). Shouldn’t shame be part of what well-being purports to address?

The Perception of a Thriving Bodywork Practice

A number of factors make bodywork an uncertain livelihood, to say the least. While the hourly wages may seem high, it’s hard to fill one’s schedule consistently. Income is fickle; when clients are sick or on vacation, we don’t make money. There’s little job security; studios open and fold, class schedules change. While there are many benefits to being a bodyworker (nourishing your well-being daily, wearing tights at work), there are few “benefits” in the traditional sense.

As body workers, we have so much riding on the perception of our success and flourishing. To show that you are struggling in your business, whether it be to potential clients or even your acquaintances and family, might imply you are not that good at what you do. After all, the marketplace assigns value accordingly, right? Once my calendar accidentally flipped open in front of a student and I was mortified that she could see how many blank appointments I had.

It’s not hard to start a business (thank you, SquareSpace), but it is hard to make one succeed. There are tons of body workers out there.

So how do we differentiate ourselves? For better or for worse, we often sell our practice with our own well-being. We are the success story. It’s a version of the diner scene in When Harry Met Sally. Does the prospective client want what we’re having?

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Dan Cayer

Meditation + Alexander Technique teacher. Author of “Don’t Get Better,” forthcoming guide to sanity, humor, and wisdom during illness. dancayer.co