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Posts Tagged ‘relaxation’

Give the Gift of Massage

In Massage, self care, Uncategorized on December 17, 2016 at 8:56 AM

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

In Massage, Uncategorized on April 8, 2016 at 3:39 PM

#14  A good majority of people still think taking care of themselves is an indulgence.

It’s true. With all the busyness of life, feeling 10 steps behind yourself in the day, taking the time for a health break can often feel like a poor use of time. When some days the time to brush your teeth or your hair feels like a negotiation, how can you justify an hour for a massage? Or even a 10 minute meditation break?

With the cumulative effects of stress on the body, how can you not? Not managing the pressures of your life can decrease your health both mentally & physically. If you’ve ever felt overwhelmed, been moody, had a hard time quieting your mind, felt depressed or are finding yourself isolating from others – you may be experiencing some symptoms of unmanaged stress. I was astonished to learn in massage school that upwards of 75% of all doctor’s visits are stress related. If you are sleeping less, have headaches, muscle aches, high blood pressure, etc. as a result of something that you have the power to reverse naturally, why wouldn’t you?

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A few of the many ways massage can support your health and well-being? It gives you a mental break and helps you remember how to let go. It is calming to the nervous system, increases the flexibility of joints, eases muscle aches and can help you sleep better. It can increase circulation and help boost the immune system and decrease the stress hormone cortisol.  It can also increase serotonin leaving you feeling lighter and more at peace. All of this without taking any medications and with the added bonus that it just plain feels good.

Being “selfish” is actually one of the most selfless things you can do. By taking care of you – body, mind and soul – you’ll have more to offer your loved ones now and in the future.

14 things I’ve learned since leaving massage school : #12

In Massage, Uncategorized on March 31, 2016 at 11:26 AM

(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.)

#12  Massage Music-LESS Mondays

You know the campaign that’s been floating around for years now to get people to add more plant based meals into their diet? Meatless Monday. Well, the studio is closed on Mondays and I’ve taken the pledge to always have “massage music-less Mondays”.

Don’t get me wrong. Massage music is beautiful and soothing and an important tool in helping to create an environment that encourages relaxation. And, every once in a while I hit my limit of hearing ocean waves crashing, or bells ringing and flutes fluting. There was a time period about 4 years into my massage practice when I played anything but massage music for anyone who would let me. We did a lot stuff like Norah Jones and Madeleine Peyroux. Several clients made me ‘mix tapes’ of their favorite music to unwind to and we’d play that during their sessions.

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Help us massage therapists get out of our massage music blues and bring in something you’d like to listen to. We’ll appreciate the variety and you may even let go more easily listening to something you can connect with.

14 things I’ve learned since leaving massage school : #11

In Massage, Uncategorized on March 30, 2016 at 2:58 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.)

#11  Our bodies are always seeking balance.

Our bodies are equipped to heal themselves.  They are always seeking homeostasis. They are amazing!!

The Merriam-Webster definition of homeostasis: a relatively stable state of equilibrium or a tendency toward such a state between the different but interdependent elements or groups of elements of an organism, population, or group

Put more simply via biology4kids.com: All of your body’s systems work together to maintain homeostasis inside of your body. Homeostasis is achieved by making sure the temperature, pH (acidity), and oxygen levels (and many other factors) are set just right for your cells to survive.

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We had a fun hydrotherapy teacher in massage school who encouraged us to experiment and test ways to naturally heal ourselves using water and the bodies quest for homeostasis. One of my favorite techniques was using ice cold water to relieve a headache. There are many different types of headaches and this won’t work for everyone – but it’s worked for me when nothing else has brought relief.

When you feel a headache coming on put your hands in ice cold water for as long as you can. While your hands are in the water you can open and close your fists. The cold narrows dilated blood vessels. When you take your hands out of the water your body is going to naturally rush blood to that area to warm it [striving for homeostasis] and therefor relieve some of the pressure in your head. At least that’s my understanding of it. All I know is my body is wise and it can naturally heal itself when I do things to support it.

14 things I’ve learned since leaving massage school : #10

In Massage, Uncategorized on March 29, 2016 at 5:09 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.)

#10 Every body has a story …

… and we are all seeking love and acceptance.

Please don’t apologize for anything about yourself.

We’ve all had twists and turns in our lives. We’ve given birth; broken a leg skiing; danced at a wedding. We’ve comforted someone with a hug; ran a marathon; tripped while walking off a curb. We’ve gained weight and lost weight. Dyed our greys and tried to minimize wrinkles. We’ve survived the loss of loved ones.

Our amazing, miraculous bodies have carried us through every step of the journey.

People express a lot of their fears before getting on the table. Reasons they believe they do not deserve a massage. They worry they are too overweight; too tense; too sensitive. They forget to shave their legs and feel embarrassed. They apologize for scars and tension and varicose veins.

We, as massage therapists, are not judging you. We are applauding you for being brave enough to take care of yourself.

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One client spent a good 15 minutes before & then during their massage session telling me all the things they believed were unacceptable about their body. They were concerned about being overweight, worried about some holding patterns in their body that they hadn’t been able to release for years, ashamed of some visible scars, uncomfortable with some damage in their feet, etc.

As we continued to do bodywork my intention was to witness them, hoping to create a safe, accepting space for them to be in.  They shared some of their story with me. They had suffered and been abused greatly in their childhood. I don’t want to share details even anonymously as it is not my story to tell. What I do want to share is how much immense respect and compassion I felt for this person. I was awed and stunned to hear about what they had gone through and to know them in the present as a kind, big hearted person. They were angry at their body for being ‘deformed’ and in pain. As I heard the stories of what happened I knew their body had done everything it could to protect them and help them survive.  They seemed to look at themselves as being all used up and of no value. I saw them as a walking miracle. A person deserving all the kindness, love and compassion the world has to offer.

My hope is that one day they will see how amazing they are. And that they will stop being angry with their body and start lavishing it/themselves with kindness. Every body has a story and they all deserve to be honored.

14 things I’ve learned since leaving massage school : #9

In Massage, Uncategorized on March 26, 2016 at 1:40 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.)

#9  Underwear. On or off?

A journalist wrote about her experience going to a new spa. As she described it, her ‘handler’ escorted her down a few halls and into a treatment room and said “Get ready. Your therapist will be with you shortly.” Then they left her.

Despite having had massage in the past, she panicked. She felt unsure about what the etiquette of the spa was. Should she be nude under the sheet or leave her underwear on? She didn’t want to offend the therapist by removing everything or feel like a prude [her word] if she didn’t.

The answer?  It is always up to you.

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Whatever makes you feel safe and comfortable is the right thing to do. I tell people to undress to their level of comfort. In general I am referring to leaving underwear on or off, but I have come back into the room to find folks with bras on still. Even socks sometimes. One time the person was completely dressed.

Will that alter the way I can do your massage? Yes. If you have a bra on I will work around it but I won’t be able to do any long, gliding strokes down your back. If you’re wearing underwear and tell me your gluts hurt I’m going to work on them through the sheet. I will not push your underwear aside to access those muscles.

There are lots of reasons people choose to leave underwear on. For women the most obvious is when Aunt Flo has come to visit and those granny panties just need to stay put. We are taught a lot about having healthy boundaries in massage school. If you do choose to go commando we will never expose you. Only the part of the body that’s being worked on is undraped. We are very careful to make sure your modesty is protected at all times.

The etiquette is – it is always your choice – and we are always cool with it.

14 things I’ve learned since leaving massage school : #7

In Massage, self care, Uncategorized on March 24, 2016 at 2:14 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.)

#7  Pressure is subjective

A common question I’ll ask a new client is “What kind of pressure do you like?” Then I’ll remind them that pressure is subjective and ask them to communicate with me throughout their session if anything is too deep or too light.

I have an idea of what a light amount of pressure feels like from my perspective as the giver [about 4 pound of pressure] and let my clients preference guide me in regards to how much deeper to go. The challenge is, we all live in our bodies differently. Some of us are sensitive and others have high pain tolerance levels. Some of us think we need pain in order to heal and other people think gentle prodding works better. Occasionally people are so checked out from their bodies that they don’t feel much of anything at all.

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A regular client I had asked for moderate to light pressure.  As we worked together I quickly learned that what I thought of as extremely light pressure felt very deep to them. They came to see me every two weeks. Each time I backed off the pressure more, trying to find their sweet spot. They joked around that they felt like my Goldilocks client. During one session I had backed off so much that I felt like I wasn’t massaging them at all.  I didn’t believe it would be possible to use less pressure. As I gently used my thumb to work on the upper part of the Trapezius they burst out laughing and said, “Oh great … here comes that thumb again. It feels like you’re trying to reach down from the top of my shoulder to the bottom of my scapula and just wrestle a knot right out of me …”

We both laughed for the next 5 minutes of the session. I actually believe that the laughter was a release of a holding pattern for them because afterwards the same amount of pressure didn’t cause as much discomfort.

Please know that it’s your body, your massage session and your right [and responsibility] to let us know what’s going on for you. We do our best to honor what you’ve asked for, and every once in a while you may have to bust out a ‘back off sister’ or ‘I could use more pressure there’ because we don’t know what it’s like to live in your body.

14 things I’ve learned since leaving massage school : #6

In CT, Manchester, Massage, self care, Uncategorized on March 23, 2016 at 12:05 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.)

#6  I am not a masseuse.

OK well technically, semantically, I am.

Dictionary.com defines masseuse as: “A woman who provides massage as a profession or occupation.”

What some people think masseuse means is better defined by UrbanDictionary.com:

“Generally considered to be a woman who practices massage therapy, however this is a misnomer. A masseuse is a woman who practices massage and has none of the western medical training and is not licensed and may be associated with prostitution. In most states this is illegal.”

Even though I know that it’s likely that most people mean no harm when using the term, I cringe whenever I hear it. I’m not sure if other licensed massage therapists feel this way or if it’s just one of those things I’m sensitive to. Unfortunately, over the course of my career, I’ve had one too many people ask me if a “happy ending massage” was an option, for me to let a word slide by that may be encouraging that kind of mentality. I’ve received repeated offensive phone calls. A few times it’s been necessary to “fire” my clients when their behavior has crossed a line that has made me feel unsafe.

This could be you...

It has been disheartening over the years to have to wonder if that potential new client on the phone is really understanding what a professional therapeutic massage is. My massage school was 17 months long. It included 650 hours of in class instruction and a tremendous amount of out of class time spent not only studying but giving massage to friends / family members in turn for their critique / review which was handed in and reviewed by the school. I had to pass an exam in the state of WA, where I went to school, and in CT so that I could become nationally certified as a Licensed Massage Therapist. In order to maintain my license and insurance I am required to continue my schooling every year, taking continuing education classes on different massage modalities.

I may be a bit sensitive to the way the word masseuse can be used to imply services that are illegal. It may be just because I’ve had some uncomfortable experiences with people. I’m curious to know what you think. Have you ever heard someone mention a masseuse with a wink and a smile? Did you laugh? Feel uncomfortable? Maybe I need to rethink this word that makes me cringe … or maybe it’s cool that I ask you to refer to me as your Massage Therapist.

14 things I’ve learned since leaving massage school : #5

In CT, Indulge, Manchester, Massage, self care, Uncategorized on March 22, 2016 at 5:44 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.)

#5  It’s an honor to work with you.

Back when I started my first practice in CT, over 12 years ago now, I had a client come to me to receive massage while she went through her treatment for cancer. I felt unqualified and a little bit nervous to lay my hands on this beautiful soul. At the time I was still fairly fresh out of school and I hadn’t done any long term work with anyone battling that disease. For various reasons, at that time there was still some lingering debate going on about whether or not it was even OK to do certain types of bodywork while a patient was receiving treatment.  [The landscape has changed a lot since then.]

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Needless to say we proceeded mindfully and with approval from her doctor. We were intentional about communication, not doing work that was too deep for her to be able to process, etc.  As the months went by we were doing less physical bodywork and more laying on of hands and energy work because that was all she could handle. My client was losing her battle with cancer and continued to come see me week after week because she needed a safe place to be. She needed to be witnessed. She needed a place to fall apart before she went back to her husband and children at home.  The simple, but powerful art of therapeutic touch gave her comfort and helped fill her spirit just enough to get through a few more hours.

I was heartbroken when I heard she lost her battle with cancer. All these years later I am still awed that she choose me and trusted me to share those sacred moments with her. I consider myself lucky to have spent that time with her and I still feel that way today any time a new client chooses to trust me with their well-being for an hour or so. It is an honor to work with you. ♥

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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