massage therapist | photographer

14 things I’ve learned since leaving massage school : #3

In Manchester, Massage, self care, Uncategorized on March 18, 2016 at 5:13 PM

(March 15th marked 14 years since my first day of massage school out in Port Townsend, WA. I spent a little time reflecting on what I’ve learned from having my hands on countless bodies of all different shapes, sizes, and levels of health over the years.  In random order here are some of my observations and things I wish my clients knew.)

#3  Sometimes being gentle is actually the deeper work

Many people tell me they want/need deep work. Their belief is that if it doesn’t hurt, it’s not doing anything. They ask me to use deep pressure and dig in with my elbows or any means necessary to make sure their body is beat into submission.

What I think they are really asking for is a therapeutic massage. Rather than something that is just pleasurable and relaxing, a therapeutic massage will consider addressing areas of the body with long term holding patterns and seek ways to encourage release in order to help create new movement patterns.

All kinds of massage are beneficial to the mind and body, and none require pain to create change.

The majority of the time, when someone tells me they need incredibly deep pressure to ‘fix’ their aches and pains, their body tells me something different.

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I start every area of the body I’m working on with lighter pressure while applying lotion and assessing the area, then go in deeper as the muscles begin to soften and open up. When approaching an area of tension, per the client’s request, with deeper pressure, what often happens is a tightening of that muscle group, along with others, as the clients clenches their body to protect them from the pain the deeper pressure is causing. Now we are being counterproductive and degrading a relationship of trust which I think is crucial to allowing deeper healing.

One client told me they’d had pain in a particular area for years and just couldn’t figure out how to get relief from it. They asked me for deep tissue work as described above. When I laid my hands on the area and began using a little more pressure I felt their body tense and the muscle tissue sort of ‘push my hands back out’. After a few moments of this I choose to listen to their body and back off completely. I laid my hands on that area and offered up the intention of simply being a witness to whatever was going on, and silently asked permission to continue working. This time I used only gentle, mindful massage strokes and quickly felt the body let go.

When the client came out of the massage room they were in tears. They shared a deep emotional trauma that had occurred, which they had never really dealt with or let go. It was connected to that area of their body and had been trapped into the cell memory all this time. The next time I saw them they were no longer experiencing discomfort in that area and we’ve never had to dig deep since.

There is nothing wrong with deeper pressure … and … experience has taught me that our bodies are wise. If we’d quiet our minds now and then and  tune in, we’d know exactly what we need for true transformational healing.

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