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.


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