Maybe you’re surprised to know that the three following statements are common to me (and probably most bodyworkers):
- Thank you! I didn’t realize how much I needed that!
- You can use more pressure if you want.
- My (insert area of concern here) hurts, so please don’t work there.
Perhaps you’ve even said one or more of these statements to your massage therapist. All of these statements have something in common to me as they project a level of detachment from peoples’ minds to their own bodies. After thirteen years as a practicing Licensed Massage Therapist, I witness the fact that we all suffer on a daily basis. Certain types of suffering are easy to identify, while others like stress aren’t.
I’ll bet you can think of people in your world who have failed stress tests, never stop, can’t sit still, complain constantly, or simply do too much. These are the people who frequently say, “I didn’t realize how much I needed that!” These are the people who are so busy that they’ve unknowingly disconnected from their body. Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m guessing that you know many of these people because I surely do. How often do you see people whose bodies are curved by the burdens of their lifestyle? They may complain of frequent headaches, low back pain, or general stiffness/pain. They may not realize that they are clenching their jaws all day while keeping their shoulders jacked up to their ears. There’s actually a term for this: Armoring. It’s what we all instinctively do when we experience trauma or repeated stress. We protect ourselves like a defensive covering. That’s right, our instinct tells us to tighten and protect, and for the most part we don’t even know we are doing it.
Which brings me to the next statement. “You can use more pressure if you want.” Think about that, maybe re-read it. This person is telling me that I can dig deep if I want to. When I’m working deeply on someone and they begin to pull away from my hand, this is a clear message that the pressure may be too much. So what about what they want? Has the disconnection from their body taken over so much that they actually aren’t sure about what they want? In that moment, I wish I could share with my client that I have learned a language over the years – a language that is clear to me but probably very overlooked by them. Know that any massage therapist worth their weight is having a conversation with your body while they’re working on you. We pick up messages like excess heat, trigger points, armoring, releasing, or shifting. We could make an accurate hypothesis on what your physical (and probably emotional) body is asking for, or better yet responds to. Maybe the second statement would serve you better if said this way: “I’d like you to use more pressure. What are you feeling?”
I’m not saying that there isn’t a time and place for “more pain, more gain.” I’m simply suggesting that that time isn’t all of the time. Can you let go enough to tune into what your body actually wants, and maybe even try something different? Let me give you a personal example. A friend gifted me a Raindrop Therapy Massage and she told me all about how great it was. As soon as I was ready to schedule my appointment, I honestly wanted to request just a regular ol’ deep tissue massage since my lower back was bugging me. Something in my intuition though said to just go with it and try something new. Long story short, it was a wonderful session! It really felt like what I actually needed. I didn’t need her to hurt me and dig her elbows into my lower back. What I needed was to just open myself up to a new type of massage therapy and it made all of the difference.
To limit possibility is to cut off your innate inner wisdom. Try something new! Trust in the process and magic of all kinds of massage therapy. Can you let go and open yourself up to trust in the trained hands of your massage therapist? Who knows? You might just reconnect with your own body!
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Kirby Poirier is a Licensed Massage Therapist and Certified Yoga Teacher. She graduated from The Connecticut Center for Massage Therapy in 2005, and Soul Space Wellness & Yoga in 2016. Kirby is also very passionate about Cupping, and is a Certified Massage Cupping Practitioner.
Karma Massage LLC, 37 Greenwoods Road, New Hartford CT 06057