Magic hands masseuse Ali Zaidi
Artist and masseur Ali Zaidi gets hands- on about healing the body, mind and spirit. Ignore the picture, though, he doesn’t practise rake- i…
Let me begin by saying that I was not always comfortable with my body the way I accept, respect and love it now. Love is an important word and one that I repeatedly return to through my work as a self- confessed connector.
I don’t typically tend to my garden in the nude, either, by the way — handling all those tools would just be an accident waiting to happen!
So, a bit of background. Growing up in Pakistan, being the younger to a very sporty older brother, the comparisons were rife and affected me no end. Making things, dra wing, gardening with my mother and secretly dancing with my shadow was much more my idea of fun than pumping iron.
But one day, wanting to fit in with the other young men, I ended up with a bruised, swollen hand as a result of my failed attempts at breaking tiles. I fondly remember my father taking my hands in his and telling me, “These are your tools of expression, son, look after them always.” And he was right.
I was very aware of my many differences as a youngster, but I found a real sense of belonging when I enrolled at the National College of Arts, in Lahore. From there, I immersed myself in the worlds of hatha yoga and transcendental meditation, which brought me closer to a deeper understanding of self, and the connection of the breath to the body, the mind and the spirit. Suddenly everything else in the world started to make sense — which leads nicely to what I do now as a connector. Yes, it’s a thing.
In a nutshell, I seek commonalities from within differences while also celebrating the uniqueness each of us have, regardless of age, gender and sexuality. I connect wherever or however I can: through art, cooking, gardening, or massage/ healing. It starts with
the eyes, a smile, a hug and finally the touch. I can’t put my finger on ex actly when I started massaging, but it dawned on me early on that I had a gift of t ouch, through holding people’s hands, or in giving unhurried hugs. It was as if the person’s body told me what they could not actually say.
I started respecting my intuition and, when in a state of calmness, I could feel the vibrancy of what was being communicated with great clarity.
Touch guided by one’s heart produces a sublime exchange of energies, and over the years I have experienced many forms of healing, from gong baths to vocal therapy, and massages, including ayurvedic, shiatsu and tantra. I incorporate the last of those into my healing process and it’s informed by my own experiences of the practice, learning from the texts and meetings with a diverse range of practitioners.
The joy of tantra is that it plays with the polarities of masculine and feminine, producing a third space that is one and many at the same time, stay with me — a space of authenticity where one can just be, in pure love and acceptance, free of prejudice, a space where you are invited to leave behind what doesn’t serve a purpose, a space to renew yourself by letting go. No, I haven’t been watching Disney’s Frozen lately.
When I receive a request from a new client, we have a conversation about how they feel, and what in particular prompted them to book a session. We move on to doing synchronised breath hugs, followed by a short exercise that involves tensing and releasing the muscles from head to toe, then we start the massage. It is purposely slow- paced, a tender reaffirmation to the person’s body that it is in a safe and non- judgmental place. Every part is touched with equal amounts of care because most of us hold deep issues of guilt and shame, so it is important to touch with intention. It’s in this state that the healing begins to take place. Repeated sessions are required, though.
On a regular basis I also make time for self- love — which, before you get carried away, is different to masturbation. The focus is the whole body, not one particular region. I also treat myself to massage exchanges and immersive therapies that allow my mind, body and spirit to dance together.
I’ve certainly come a long way from dancing with my own shadow.
“Touch, guided by one’s heart, produces a sublime
exchange of energies”
NOVEMBER 2018Photography Francisco Gomez de Villaboa