The best massage experience I've ever had was not only because the bodywork itself felt good. It stands out, actually it shines, because the therapist I saw truly made the session about my comfort. That included providing nurturing touch with the hands-on manual work, but also creating a sense of safety in the emotional and energetic realms of the massage. Her demeanor was calming, and she provided me with answers to questions I wasn't sure how or when to ask (this was when I was new to receiving massages). She checked in with me throughout the session and because of her care for my whole comfort, the intention behind her hands was so evident. It made for the perfect, soothing massage.
This kind of therapy is quite intimate. There also exists an inherent power dynamic between practitioner and client. I try to be aware of this at all times during time with a client, and this helps bring the focus onto their comfort and safety. While I am present and aware during the actual bodywork, something that I think is valuable is to open the session with space to ask questions, connect, and address anything particular to the client's needs. I often get asked the same questions or find myself giving out key pieces of information with each client on what to expect. With that, I've addressed a few common concerns related to massage therapy to give a sense of ease and help create an excellent, attentive massage session.
When you're preparing to get onto the table, try not to spend a lot of energy worrying about the"right" thing to do or be. When I say "undress to your level of comfort", I like to clarify that the choice is yours on how much clothing to remove. You can wear undergarments, or just a bra, or be fully nude. You could wear jeans on the table and you can keep your socks on if you want. Jewelry, hair, keep it how is comfortable for you. It's fine! I work with it all and adapt according to the boundaries you establish. If I'm unsure about a boundary, I will check in - "Is the length of your shorts your boundary, or would you like to have them rolled up to access your upper thigh?"
Body hair and body odor don't matter one bit. Hello, no judgment zone here. There really isn't too much to say other than I don't think twice about hairy legs, smelly pits, and perspiration. It's all natural and it all happens. To everyone.
Body shapes and sizes are all different and all deserving of therapeutic touch. For those who have a complex relationship with body image, this could actually be a healthy way to practice a more loving connection with your body. Whatever areas you might be self-conscious of, I hold no judgment for, only respect for the skin my hands are on.
What if you try totally letting go of your muscles while we are working together? This one can be challenging for many people. If a therapist is ever cradling your head or arm, moving your hair, or shifting a limb to give a snug drape with the sheets, it's okay to release the weight of your tissues and flesh and let the therapist support you. If you're more comfortable lifting your own leg during draping, that's okay too. But I promise you - you aren't too heavy and you don't need to do the work! It's really cool to feel yourself melt into a place of trust and surrender. If you aren't totally there yet with massage - it's a practice, like most everything in life. I will also do my best to communicate my intention and ask permission with vulnerable areas I might look to move - "Is it okay if I shift your leg out to the side to access your inner thigh?"
I adapt to you. I have no agenda other than to be a warm and comforting presence for you. If something feels uncomfortable, painful, just not right, you're not enjoying a particular move, if the table warmer is too hot, if you need another blanket, if the face cradle needs adjusted, if my pressure is too firm or too light, if you don't prefer the lights dimmed, if you aren't a fan of the bolster - you can 100% say something and I will not be offended or take anything personally. This time is yours and you are the expert on what you want and need. That said, the power differential between client and practitioner is real and it can sometimes create a communication barrier that is hard for clients to describe. I've felt it myself when I am the client with another therapist. I try to check in often enough to catch adjustments I may need to make, and offer choice language to make speaking up a bit more accessible - "Is this pressure too light, too firm, or just right?"
If something feels great and you're just not ready for me to move on, or you're curious about a sensation and want to further explore it, I will linger! Again, it's all about communication. This helps me gauge what makes you feel good so I can continue to tailor the session to you.
Silence, conversation, falling asleep, keeping eyes opened or closing them - it's your choice. I have clients who enjoy chatting during the session and others who come to find deep silence. I like them all and happily go with however you'd like to spend our time together.
I'll let you know about transitions, like when we are ready to have you turn over from prone (face down) to supine (face up). I'll also let you know when the session is over and what will happen after I step out of the room, to help lessen a sense of anticipation and anxiety.
The only thing you could do during a massage is to let yourself be taken care of. Bring your body and a heart that is open to connection. And really, just by coming in for a massage you have shown up for yourself in a special way.
It sounds simple - communicate, advocate for yourself, trust, and let go - yet the world we live in is often hurried and impatient, and we can overlook opportunities to be nourished. I hope this can answer any questions or thoughts out there about massage therapy, and maybe help encourage a sense of ease before a session.