Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Notes From a Massage Therapist

If you like massages you've been there. Slipping into what should be the most relaxing hour of your day and suddenly worrying.... Are my legs hairy? Do I stink?  Do I look fat today?

Well....let me share a few little secrets with you from the mind of a massage therapist.
I have been massaging for over 12 years now (and discussing massage that long with fellow therapists) and I can give you a pretty good idea of how our brains work.
Usually- and ideally, they don't work at all.  Let me explain.

Every therapist has a rhythm, or a flow to their work.  Their brain shuts off, they tune into your energy, and they instinctively find what you need and work it out, within their realm of practice.  I swear, I have never, I repeat never started working on a leg or calf and thought to myself ,"wow, she needs to shave." NEVER.  I am thinking "here is a tight spot, this feels fine, I need to watch the clock so I can work extra on the neck...." etc. I have oil, I work on men. A few little whiskers aren't even noticeable. (I have clients that wax and grow their hair out- same story. No big deal.) So relax.

Also- you DO NOT look fat.  The lighting is low, you are laying comfortably (no gravity working against your legs or back) your body is stretched perfectly.  Forget about it.  There is no cellulite to see or dimples to notice. Get over yourself and RELAX.

A normal day will not leave you stinky enough to even notice any body odors going on.  If your therapist uses essential oils (I do on every client) the air really is freshened and scented and you are fine.  Only ONCE in my many years of working did somebody smell bad....he had done a long run (over 10 miles) and his massage was the last stop. His 'moisture wicking' clothing smelled, and he smelled.  I simply doused him with oils and all was fine......but thank goodness that has only happened once.  A lot of people shower before they come.  It's a nice gesture, but unless you just ran a half marathon probably unnecessary.  If you have been working all day a swipe of deodorant is probably all you need before your appointment.

Now that we got that out of the way here are a few more tips.

A lot of people end up talking during their massage.  Afterwards they might say. "Oh, I guess I should have been quiet!"  Well.....not always.  Sometimes the very things you end up yapping about while I am elbowing the back of your shoulder blade is the very thing causing your shoulder blade to hurt.  So take heed to the things you share....they may be the things your subconscious is carrying and ready to work through, thus letting the stress go from your body.  Some people are completely quiet, and that is fine too.  Everyone relaxes differently.

One thing I find hard to deal with is critical talking- or critiquing- as I am working on someone.  Occasionally a client might ask, "can you tell I am tight right there?" or "wait! did you feel that knot?"...etc.... it almost feels like they are waiting for me to miss something, they are not enjoying the massage, or think I am not doing my job.  Now, let me say this very delicately.....it totally brings down the energy level and quality of the massage.  I once had a woman explain very detailed what she wanted me to as I was working on her back.  It was things her other therapist had done, or things her chiropractor had done, etc...but it was so detailed and so demanding I seriously (hopefully professionally) told her maybe I wasn't the right therapist for her.  I have a style- as does any massage therapist- and that is how I work. Just like you wouldn't tell your dentist to drill your tooth differently, or you stylist to blow dry your hair differently the same goes here.  I LOVE it when people let me know at the beginning what they are hoping  for or need a little more of. (Extra on my shoulders today- or just skip my feet and do my arms more- etc) But overall the demands during the session (can you do my hand again? It feels like you didn't get it good enough...) bring down my energy, confidence, and interrupt the zone.  Unless you are DYING over something that needs attention try to be very positive in your comments.

There's also more- most therapists, in spite of what you request, do their own thing anyway.  I had one therapist who was training me at a spa tell me, "Even if they say they want it deeper, I pretty much do the same thing anyway, because that's how I massage." This spa charged extra for their 'deep tissue' massages, but it was the same massage as the regular one. I was sort of shocked. Bottom line- ask at the beginning for what you want, and hope for the best.  If you are just finding a new therapist after leaving one you loved, give it a couple of sessions.  Sometimes I can't go deeper on a new client- they aren't relaxed enough for me to 'get in' to the muscles.  When they return and we aren't in the introductory phase, a lot of times they relax quickly and deeply and I can really work better. If you have given your therapist a couple of sessions with kind requests at the beginning of your appointment, and you still don't like what you are getting done, move on to a new therapist.  Not everybody will love the same session.

On the flip side, positive words add trust and energy to the session.  Often clients will say "Oh wow, that was so sore, I can tell it's feeling better already..."  or something like ""I can't believe you found that spot! I didn't even know I was tight there..."  etc.... Guess what- I am their best friend from there on out, because my energy believes I am helping them. Often times I may even go over on the clock with those clients.... just because I think they might need an extra few minutes.   Just a little something to keep in mind.

On top of the instructing of your own therapist, remember they don't need help moving your body, either.  When you are getting a massage you will get many more benefits if you are RELAXED.  Don't try to lift your head when they move your neck, don't try to rotate your arms if they are stretching and working, and don't flex your fingers when they are working on your hands. It's hard for some people, but trust me, you will feel better afterwards if you just let your body be dead weight and let them adjust it as needed. Some of us may tell you, "try to relax here..." and some will just readjust, or shake a little, the body part until you stop resisting (this is my preferred method, because pointing out to someone they are tense usually makes them more tense). If you find your therapist telling you to relax or shaking out your limbs or neck a lot, you may check yourself to see if you are trying to 'help' by tensing your muscles. Don't do it.

And a pointer in leaving the session.  Drink water. Try to stretch later in the day.  The body truly does take time to rebalance and it can be in a state of homeostasis for 24-48 hrs, so some knots may not fully release for a day or two.  If you get sore be patient- drink drink drink and soak in a tub with a 1/2 cup mineral bath salts or Epsom salts. It helps.

Finally- if you like your therapist and you like getting on their schedule,  tip them.  Now I charge enough to make it worth my time, but most of my clients still tip me. Many tip a little, like a few extra bucks.  Some tip me quite nicely - up to $10 or $15 dollars.  I definitely notice this and always keep it mind when people are looking for a spot to come in-   there are some clients I will work in when I swore my schedule was full the day before. Those are the clients I give an extra 5 or 10 minutes to.  The ones I really strive to go above and beyond.  They seem to go above and beyond to be a valued and generous customer.  It is all about energy and value, and I feel it when I am with those clients. (Does that sound superficial? I don't mean it to.  I apologize if it does, but I am trying to give full disclosure here!)

 If your therapist booked you a month out when you needed a massage yesterday, consider these things and see how you might rate as a client (but remember, most good therapists may be hard to get into. Consider prescheduling your next appointment before leaving your last one).  I say these things only with honesty and because I have people ask me this all the time.  What I am thinking?

Now you know.
And if you are a 'good' client I am probably thinking..... I wish all my clients were like that.