When you get a massage, one of the biggest factors to having a successful and effective treatment is your skill at receiving massage. Although this can seem counterintuitive, it really is the truth. When you work in combination with your practitioner, you will have a completely different experience on the massage table. So what are the factors to consider when you begin to look at receiving massage as a skill?
The first thing to consider is your ability to relax and let go. In my humble opinion, this is the most important factor. The ability to relax all the muscles in your body is essential to allowing your practitioner to get deep into your muscle tissue. This will prevent your practitioner from over-exerting themselves and they will work more deeply into the muscle with far less pain. In order to let go, however, you need to trust the person who is working on you. How can you do that, you may ask? Well first, read about the practitioner before you book a massage. Make sure they are well-reviewed and that they are going to perform the type of massage you are looking for. For example, if you want a deep tissue massage don’t go to a spa. Next, clearly explain what you want out of your massage before it begins. This way you know they will hit all your areas of concern. Finally, if you like how the first massage went, go back to the same practitioner. As you continue to gain rapport it will become easier and easier to let go and relax.
Next, have realistic expectations of how the massage is going to go. By this, I mean that you shouldn’t expect the massage to start out with extreme pressure. Have patience and trust that the practitioner is going to warm up your tissue first. Again, the idea is to lull the body into a sense of security. Once the muscular and nervous systems have calmed down, your practitioner can deeply engage the musculature without causing injury, harm, or unnecessary tension in your body. Not only that, but as mentioned above, the depth will be effortless and your body will welcome it, rather than push against it. This is the real skill. The ability to accept the massage without tensing or pushing against it.
So what do you do if it becomes painful? Tell your practitioner to back off. Seriously. Sometimes it really is that simple. Communication is the second most important aspect that makes a massage both enjoyable and beneficial. At Sama, I tend to work with deeper and with more consistent pressure. The chances are high that you are not getting a relaxation massage from me. This changes the game a little bit. I don’t want you drifting off mentally during the session. Yes, I want you to let your body relax, but simultaneously, I want you engaged with what you are feeling and sensing throughout your body. This way you can notice the subtleties that occur during the session. For example, you may notice your breathing starts to pick up and deepen as the pressure gets a little more intense. Use this breath to keep the body soft. If this is followed by any tension in your muscles, however, tell me to back off. We want complete and utter ease in the muscle tissue. Tension breeds more tension, so please don’t be a hero. Learn to listen to your body and adjust the session and pressure as needed.
Lastly, let’s talk about patience. This is another key factor when receiving a massage. When you have pain in your low back, for example, chances are the pain is coming from elsewhere. Think hips, glutes, hamstrings, etc. So when your practitioner doesn’t start where your pain is, relax. It is rarely effective to begin a treatment where the pain is. When I begin a treatment, my goal is to think about all the musculature around the pain. How can I get that to relax? By the time I get to your area of concern, it will be much easier to release the tight muscles, or they may have released on their own already! Also, don’t expect your massage session to be a one-hit-wonder. Consistency is the key to achieving a body that is pain-free over the long term. Have patience that with a little dedication over the long term, you can get the pain to release for good.