Sunday, April 18, 2010

Giving a Massage

When I give a massage I slip into a zone in which I become completely focused on the body I'm working on. I enter a state of mushin, mind no mind, that I was also able to get to when I would practice my Shotokan kata. I guess it's the same as when meditating and you enter the state of just being, becoming one with everything.

A couple of my classmates have commented on this, my zoning out. One called it my "passion" which I interpreted from her as meaning concentration. What I do know is that after I start giving the massage all of what's going on around me fades away and all I know is the body in my hands.

I haven't learned the subtleties yet of sensing their body; when doing Reiki I was able to feel the different temperatures of the body and I was starting to sense its healthy and unhealthy parts. At this point in massage, however, I'm still concerned with the flow, pressure, timing, and remembering to do all the techniques. I can feel the texture of the skin, soft and hard muscles, body fat, and the bone structure underneath. I can also feel the knots, or trigger points; I can find them and feel them dissolve under my fingers and thumbs. Lately, I've been working on getting the intracoastal muscles in the spaces between the ribs.

After having done 56 of the required 200 massages to satisfy the clinical part of the program, I'm getting a feel for it. I massaged a former student, now a practicing massage therapist, this past Saturday and, at the end, asked her how she thought I did.
She said she liked my pressure, thought I worked a little fast, questioned my "scooping" with my thumbs in the laminar trough of the spine, and thought once I became more systematic, I would increase my skill another 15%. Overall, she was very satisfied.

Last week one of the people I massaged was a microbiologist. She wrote down on my feedback card that it "felt like a real therapeutic massage" and, on a scale of 1 - 10, gave me a 10. After the massage, she told me she'd booked me for the next Tuesday. I get mostly 8's, 9's and 10's on the card. I got a 7.5 once from a graduating student. She thought I was a little flustered. I was.

This guy Steve was assigned to me one evening. Steve was an office worker and a weight lifter. He had always asked for a woman to massage him and then complained that their pressure wasn't strong enough. The clinical supervisor gave him to me. He said he liked what I did but thought the pressure wasn't strong enough. He booked me again for the next week.

I thought about what I might do to make my pressure deeper. I decided to use more body weight, more elbows, fists and knuckles instead of fingers and thumbs. When Tuesday came around and he was on the table I leaned into him. At the end of the massage he said he wasn't sure whether to punch me or to tip me. He told the supervisor that I'd worked him over good. I wasn't trying to hurt him but I was trying to get to the pressure he wanted. He gave me a tip.

I start out all of my massages by laying my hands flat on the clients back while they're lying prone on the table in front of me. I invoke a prayer calling for the creative force of the universe to come to me, flow through me and provide me the healing energy that's available to us all. I ask that this energy be used to help heal the entity, that my massage be helpful to them and help them to heal.

In addition, I use the massage as a means of exercise for myself. I stretch and pull and push, trying to use my whole body as I knead, glide, press, and go deep. It would seem, at least from my perspective, that both the client and I benefit from the massage. I've noticed my arms and shoulders have much more definition; in addition, my hands have become much stronger.

I try to make each massage be the best one I can give. I try to forget who I'm giving a massage to; that is, male/female, and concentrate instead on what I'm doing and be as thorough as possible. It is my intent to have the massage make them feel better, take away their tension, give them an hour of peace and relaxation and during that time soothe their mind and body. When I'm done I feel better, too.

One day I gave a woman a massage that really made me feel good. At the end, I said to her that I hoped she'd enjoyed me giving her the massage as much as I did giving it to her. I had just really gotten into it and felt, at it's end, that I'd gotten as much out of it as I'd hoped she had. It was a great feeling to have. She gave me a 10.

I have a lot to learn. I recognize I'm barely scratching the surface of what can be done through massage. So far I believe I'm off to a good start on this journey.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Poking the Sinus to the Root

For about a year I'd been having a chronic sinus infection. On Christmas eve 2 years ago I went to the ENT and started a journey that, four months later, led to my having sinus surgery. During the summer I was still plagued with a sinus infection. While the MRI results had suggested something was up with my sinuses it was not definitive, but enough to warrant the surgery. A CT scan was ordered.

The ENT said that, according to the scan, something was poking up into my sinus cavity. She was sure that was the cause of the chronic sinus infections and suggested I go to the dentist. So six months later, when I was back to work and had a form of dental coverage, I did - with the CD of the CT scan in hand.

The dentist got all excited with my having brought the CD and got the periodontist to look at it with him. They came back, took some x-rays of my upper left teeth, went back to study the CD some more and compared it to the x-rays. They mutually came to the conclusion that something was poking up into my sinus cavity.

The periodontist, about a month later, pulled the remains of a root of a tooth that had been extracted years ago. A bridge had been installed to span the space where the tooth used to be; he was able to go up under (above?) the bridge and pull out a piece of bone that was the size of a piece of orzo. If you don't know what orzo is, it's a pasta that looks like large, fat grains of rice.

No more sinus infection.

I was able to go through Care Credit to get an interest free loan spread out over 6 monthly payments to pay for it. What's a few hundred and a half a month for half a year?

Last week I went back to the dentist because, ever since the old root was taken out I'd been having a toothache in one of my lower left teeth. The dentist did his -"does it hurt here? How about here? routines with a utensil until he hit the mark. Upon further examination he determined the crown I'd had for many years was loose. So he grabbed the appropriate tool and whacked at the crown until it lifted off. Hmmn.

"While I have the crown off," he said, "I might as well do a root canal." I felt an ouch all the way from my tooth down to my wallet. The price of neglecting tooth care when I was younger was once again coming back to bite me. Yesterday, in exchange for a check for a little more than a grand I had a temporary crown put on. In about a month I'll get the final crown.

Then he said to me - "you know the tooth next to it is cracked and will need at least a crown. How about in January we get that done?" He was being considerate, given the expense involved, in lieu of the expediency of getting it done immediately. When I got home my significant other said to me - "you know you might as well just get a root canal."

It's at this point that I start to rail about how dental work is not considered medical, just like vision isn't. They're both, the dentists and the optometrists, an un-regulated industry. We can thank Ronald Reagan for that. Oh yeah, and we can also thank President Reagan for de-regulating the health insurance industry.

Health reform? I believe that dental and vision are medically related and should be covered under medical insurance. I'm glad I have health insurance. However, I believe that - don't get me started: I believe in universal health care.

Unfortunately, at this point all I can do is reach for my wallet. But, I vote and I plan on doing so until my children and their children and everyone else in America has health coverage - that includes dental and vision.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Massage School

Last night I completed my 42nd massage. I have 158 more to do to satisfy the clinical hours portion of the 800 hour program. Fortunately, I don't have to scare up the 200 clients; they come to us. We're scheduled to work the clinic 3 days a week and to do a maximum of 3 massages per day, no more than nine a week. In order to get credit for the massage, it has to be done at the clinic and to a paying member of the public. No shows don't count. Tips are accepted.

I've found that doing three one hour massages in an evening, with 15 minutes between each is about the maximum I can do. My hands hurt by the end of the night, my forearms are sore and I'm tired. It's a good feeling though, the tiredness. It's a kind of tiredness that comes from exercise that feels good to do. I guess it's a strange thing to say but giving a massage is just about as good a feeling as getting one.

I started attending The Massage School, Acton, MA campus this past January and expect to graduate in April 2011. Our class is the first one under the new Massachusetts law regulating massage therapy. There are eleven of us in the program, ranging in ages from in the 20's to in the 60's. I'm pretty sure there's at least one person in each 10 year age range.

The program is set up very nicely. Over the first two months we learned the massage routine by learning a part at a time and practicing it on each other. Each week we'd learn a new segment that we'd practice until we'd learned how to massage the entire body. We first learned the upper back, broken into five parts, then the lower back. We learned how to do the legs, then the arms, and then the neck and head. Each Sunday we had a quiz on the order of the parts of each segment. We also learned how to do the chest (on men only), the stomach and the head and scalp.

So, between having it shown to us, practicing on each other and memorizing for the quiz, we were able to learn the entire routine. As we went along we incidentally learned the names of the related muscles and bone structure. When we move into taking anatomy & physiology, I believe, it won't be so intimidating as we'll already be somewhat familiar with various names and locations.

I have to give credit to Alexi, the proprietor: learning by doing first and then introducing the academics later is a very good, and adult, way to learn. His other stroke of genius was to start the clinic.

The clinic is open to the public. For $25 any adult over 18 of sound body can get a one hour full body massage. The clinic is open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. We, the students, work a three hour shift. It really is a win win situation for everyone.

The public gets a good, affordable massage, the students get to practice and not have to hustle for clients and Alexi makes enough money to keep the school afloat. With our tuition included, he gets to have a paid instructional staff at each of the three locations (the other campuses and their clinics are located in Medway and in Easthampton).

Before I started at The Massage School, I checked out several other schools. None of them had this structure and all of them were very traditionally educationally oriented and much more expensive. The other thing I didn't like about the other schools was that with each of them you had to find your own clients. Oh yeah, and the other schools seemed geared toward eighteen year olds.

Our instructors, Alexi, Valerie and Teeka, are all practicing massage therapists themselves. They talk the talk and walk the walk - and do it very well. Each of them has their own style and their own way of doing things. At first we were kind of confused and wondering which one to listen to but as they deferred to Alexi we came to realize that there's more than one way to give a massage; but, while you had to learn the basic techniques of effleurage, petrissage, tapotement, and at least six others, and had to utilize proper body mechanics, you also have to develop your own style. And that comes with practice. In our case, 200 hours of practice; that is, 200 massages to pretty much as many different body types as can walk in to the clinic. I'm pretty sure that after doing that many I'll have a pretty good understanding of how to give a decent massage to almost anyone.