Sunday, August 26, 2012

How to receive massage

People laugh at me when I say there's a learning curve involved in receiving massage. I mean really, how hard can it be?

In my society, particularly in this city where we are crazy, overworked, and constantly stressed out, relaxation is an alien concept. Letting go, sinking into physical sensation, relinquishing the idea of being productive is damn hard for many, and yet this is what's required in order to benefit from a therapeutic massage.

Even clients who wish very much for an hour of peace find it difficult to become quiet and serene. I have clients who talk throughout their sessions, something I find so puzzling. It's their hour, so they should do as they please, but - are they trying to entertain me? Distract themselves from the process so they don't actually have to relax completely? You tell me. I don't get it.

Many clients are proactive; they turn over before I've had a chance to adjust the face rest or move the pillow from beneath their knees. They lift their arms when they know I'm about to reach underneath to scoop their shoulder blades with my fingertips, or present their fingers to me, one after the other, as I work on their hands. These people suffer from chronic anxiety, I guess, or are overwhelmed by a need to control every situation. It makes me sad.

I'm not talking about everyone by the way. I do have clients who are excellent receivers of massage. Inevitably these people are not beginners. They have learned, over time, how to dial their nervous systems down a notch or two. They get their money's worth from their sessions.

If you are among those who have trouble sinking into the table and letting the massage unfold, here's what I would suggest:

1. Give yourself time both before and after the massage. On your way to the appointment, slow down, take some deep breaths, let go of your concerns and plans. You can get back into hyper productive mode later. On your way to a massage, do not make business calls or try to cram a bunch of errands into your schedule. Try not to race down the street. Stroll, gaze at the sky, stop to smell the roses. In this way you can prepare to relax.

2. On the table, don't talk. Listen to the music or nature sounds and let your attention wander. Daydream or notice what's going on for you physically. If your massage therapist is talking, ask her to please stop. Try not to anticipate what's going to happen next. Let the therapist guide you. Breathe. Let go. If your therapist does anything that makes you uncomfortable, speak up. Massage is not supposed to hurt. A "perfect" massage (no such thing) entails the receiver surfing the hedonic edge, experiencing lots of sensation, flow and release, but not pain.

3. Afterwards, take your time. Take your time getting dressed, take your time walking away from your appointment. Take a half hour after your massage to continue the process of relaxation. Drink water, refuse to be in a hurry. Plunging directly back into work will detract from the benefits of your session, I promise you. Try not to be in a hurry. Just try, please?

There are many varieties of bodywork. What I'm talking about in this post is therapeutic massage. Situations like "mall massage" - an oxymoron if I ever heard one - is a very different thing. You can go into a mall massage completely stressed out and rushed, and walk away from it in the same condition. The technician who works on you can possibly get some blood flowing through your neck and shoulders during the 10 minutes she works on you, but this is NOT a therapeutic massage.

There are massage therapists who believe that pain is an inevitable part of every session. These people make it possible for their clients to hang on for dear life to their beloved tension by using too much pressure. The client remains tense while the therapist pushes harder and harder. It's like a battle between therapist and client. Hence the massage hurts. There will be soreness afterwards, even bruising sometimes. There are massage therapists who will purposely hurt you. It's a very weird, macho approach that makes no sense to me.

If you're willing to breathe, take your time, and truly settle into the table, you can, over time, teach yourself how to relax. That skill is great in many circumstances, such as when you can't sleep, or when you're trying to have fun but you're so preoccupied with your stress that you can't let down. Learning how to get quiet and relax will help you become a better listener which is a great (and unusual) skill. In a state of relaxation the body can engage in a number of minor repairs that are not possible when we are in a state of agitation or even if we do nothing more than thinking ahead to what's next. In that state, energy goes to the muscles in anticipation of movement, not for repairs.

Only while relaxed can we digest. Indigestion and reflux are often the result of living life in the fast lane. There are so many benefits to relaxation. So many!

Learning to receive massage will not only benefit you during your session, but throughout the rest of your day. Over time the benefits will stretch out over a period of days. It is well worth the effort to learn how to relax. Believe me.

May all beings be peaceful, may it be so. Shalom.


Deborah said...

I have always talked because I am nervous. Until this last one when I could relax and trust.

Reya Mellicker said...

That makes sense.

So glad you can at last trust!

Reya Mellicker said...

I was wondering if there's any way I can get people to tell me when they're nervous. Instead of chatting, could they say, "I'm really nervous. What do you suggest to help me settle down?"


Moonroot said...

As one who has been both masseuse and/or client at one time or another, I can say only 'Yep'! You really hit the nail on the head.