Real Issues: The please-yourself cure

That's seiki soho, a form of massage that has the likes of Anjelica Huston clamouring for treatment. HESTER LACEY investigates

Seiki soho is not at all like traditional massage. You don't have to take your clothes off and there isn't much actual rubbing involved (though there is patting, prodding, pressing and a certain amount of joggling). As well as simply relaxing the muscles it is also supposed to detox the brain and flush out the mind, and rebalance physical and mental energy levels; it has been referred to as "therapy without the talk". Famous devotees of this inside-and-out spring clean include Anna Chancellor, Jack Nicholson, John Malkovich, Anjelica Huston and Ruby Wax.

If seiki soho is an unconventional treatment, Margot Gordon is an unconventional practitioner. No pale herbal tinctures were evident in her west London flat; in fact, in the kitchen were a bottle of wine with a mere inch left in the bottom and assorted packets of fags, and she was brewing up strong coffee when I arrived.

"Drinking and smoking are encouraged," she cheerfully informed me. "Seiki soho is about finding your desires again, about commitment to yourself." And, miraculously, with this regime there are no more tedious gym visits. "I'm anti-exercise," said Margot firmly. "It's simply doing something someone has told you to." Hooray! This may well be enough in itself to cause a mass rally to the seiki soho banner.

There is, however, rather more involved than pleasing yourself. I laid down on the floor and closed my eyes. At first nothing much seemed to be going on apart from a few random taps at bits of me. Then initial light touches culminated in firmer pressure. Margot pressed and prodded various tender parts, pulled at my head and neck, and finished up with some really quite firm pinches in the region of the shin.

All this was very pleasant, but what was it all about? "I very lightly touch points like the ankles, soles of the feet and the knees, just to feel the flow of energy," she explained. What does energy flow feel like? "At some points I can feel a resonance, a vibration, like a buzzing. When I detect resonance, it's a sign of the body trying to correct itself. I rock my hand in harmony with the vibrations and the body feels encouraged to open up." This eliminates the bad vibes from the body and cleanses the system of unwanted energies. The effects are mental as well as physical; it is, said Margot, like a "dry cleaning of the brain".

During an hour of massage, Margot found that my solar plexus was horribly congested, stuffed with all kinds of stored emotion. But it seems I am not alone in being bunged up. "Lots of women have a great capacity for storing toxins," said Margot comfortingly. "When we think of toxins we think of alcohol and fat, but stored emotions are just as bad."

Meanwhile, because of this Blackwall Tunnel-style internal backup, other bits of me are suffering further down. "Your lower abdomen and back want to be nourished," warned Margot. "All the blood and oxygen are cutting off in mid-abdomen. It's linked to ambition and frustration," she added, rather alarmingly. "They go hand in hand for you. You want to work hard but you aren't getting the right opportunities." Hmm. This may not be so wide of the mark; but how did she find it out? "You told me," she explained. "Your body shows me as much as it wants to. I don't ask it for more."

Following my impulses will help to clear the blockage, but in the meantime, apparently a little adversity will do me no harm. "Difficulty is good for us," said Margot bracingly. "It's very healthy for self-development; it makes you learn about yourself and stand up for yourself."

Margot initially recommends a unit of five treatments, carried out close together (pounds 250 - though she operates a sliding scale for people who can't afford the full fee). A course of seiki soho, she says, is like a journey of self-discovery. "You rediscover your spontaneity and autonomy by being able to listen again to your impulses and desires. It's about becoming truly alive, though it does take a while."

She moved on to practising seiki soho from a background in shiatsu massage and Chinese medicine. "I found myself getting very tired," she recalled. "It just wasn't an exciting experience any more, just diagnosing people and curing them. Then I met a shiatsu master called Kishi. He had had the same experience in the early Eighties - he was helping people, but he wasn't growing himself."

Kishi, who was born in Japan, went on to devise seiki soho, which literally means "life energy guidance". He has described the effects of the treatment as being akin to dispersing clouds to reveal the sun shining in a clear sky. Kishi believes that discomfort, whether mental or physical, stems from the body's attempts to rebalance its own equilibrium, and should be worked with rather than fought; also that clients have to do the work for themselves, rather than relying on a teacher or guru.

Seiki soho is as much for the benefit of the practitioner as it is for the patient. "It makes people look at themselves and work on themselves, but at the same time the practitioners look at themselves too," explained Margot. "I respond to you and you respond to me. It's an equal relationship between the client and the practitioner, a blending of the two people. My work affects me too: it has made me more sensitive to other people, more tolerant and more open. It's quite heavenly - a fantastic job."

Margot's particular specialities are working with children and with the creative professions. "Seiki soho is particularly effective for artistic block. Because of the elimination part of it, it gets the artistic function going again. And it's ideal for working with children and teenagers, because there's no speaking involved. They are also very quick to work on, because they eliminate very quickly if given the chance - because they're young, their bodies aren't so congested by years of living."

She believes that seiki soho can help with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children, which is currently often treated with the controversial drug Ritalin - unnecessary, according to Margot. "This work really helps them to settle in themselves, so they aren't so distracted."

The actress Anna Chancellor first met Margot a decade ago, when she had badly hurt her back. "I couldn't move, I was really desperate," she said. "Margot came and put me back on my feet. I've known her for ages, so I was interested in the different stages in her work and wanted to see what seiki soho was like." She found that the treatment helped her through a particularly stressful period at work.

"I went off to work in Japan, so I saw Margot before I went. Then I came back very tired and drained but I had to carry on working, and I was experiencing these waves of exhaustion. Margot restored my energy, it's been really good for me." Margot is also working with Anna's 12-year-old daughter Poppy. "Poppy can be really tense, and when I took her for an ordinary massage, she didn't like it because it hurt. She can relax with seiki because it's not painful, she loved it. Children respond well to seiki so I'm really looking forward to seeing how that develops."

So, does it work? Just one session is probably too little to say. Whatever other toxins may or may not be swashing round my system, seiki soho certainly made short work of a lingering hangover, which in itself is a minor miracle. And the underlying seiki soho philosophy I can certainly recommend. "Follow your impulses," said the ebullient Margot, waving goodbye from the doorstep. So I did. Rather than going back to the office, I went shopping. It was great.

Margot Gordon (tel: 0171 625 6156).

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