Depending on the style you choose (and a whole bunch of other factors), it can be blissful, painful, transcendent, deeply replenishing for your whole being or – anything and everything in between.
Whatever you choose, it’s important to me that you get the most out of every bodywork experience. I’m a professional, holistic massage therapist / bodyworker and I’ve received many massages in my time. I want to share with you what I’ve learnt, as both a therapist and a receiver, to help you to get the best massage possible out of every session.
1. Stop and get clarity
Are you sure you’re clear on what you’re really needing from your therapeutic massage experience? If you’re stressed out, or could really do with some nurture, don’t go looking for simple muscle work – consider something more holistic that addresses your physical, mental, emotional and energetic needs. Really check in with yourself and do your research on the massage style (and massage therapist) who will best suit your needs.
No – preferably not during your session! (Although it’s ok if it happens.) I mean the night before. Maintaining some level of consciousness on the table is ideal, especially for holistic bodywork. If you’re sleep deprived it can be easy to drift off, so try to hit the hay early the night before.
3. Set an intention
Being clear about what you’re wanting and needing from a session (not always the same thing) can really amp up the effectiveness of the work. You may not realise it, but our intentions are powerful things. They directly affect (consciously or not) our daily decisions and actions.
Think about what you need to welcome in (eg. inner peace, self love/acceptance?) or let go of (stress, control, sadness, anxiety, negative self-talk, that ex). Hold this in the back of your mind throughout the session as something to release or embody.
4. Minimal chit chat
I recommend a meditative approach to almost every session. If meditation is something that sounds like work to you, don’t worry. All I’m saying here is that, aside from brief moments of communication, you’ll get more out of your session if you embrace a mostly silent practice. This allows you to be more present to the experience. The mind-body connection means that every aspect of the session will be more effective if you’re giving it your attention.
5. Drop into your body
Who isn’t guilty of being in their head too much!? This can impact your life more than you may realise. Related to the previous point, if you’re not familiar with the term, “dropping into your body”, it can simply mean bringing your focus into your body. Being aware of, and listening to, what is happening in and on your body – perhaps scanning it, or focusing on the area currently being touched. Doing this can really amplify the effects of your massage.
6. Belly breath focus
Such an important one! Now there are many different schools of thought around breathing techniques and I’m sure they all have their merits. I’m a fan of belly breathing. We often breathe in a way that’s way too shallow.
Belly breathing encourages a fuller use of our lungs, with attention on the expansion of the abdomen first, then the mid-section then the chest. Typically, in through the nose and out through the mouth. The benefits of belly (or diaphragmatic) breathing are many. Learn more here if you’re keen.
7. Be clear on your boundaries
If you have extremely ticklish or emotionally sensitive areas of your body that you really don’t want any pressure/touch, be sure to communicate this at the start of the session. I always get clarity before a session with exactly which areas of the body are being worked on.
If a therapist ever works on an undiscussed area of the body (even if it feels harmless), you should always speak up immediately if you have any misgivings whatsoever.
8. Expressing your needs before and during a session
Before: The worst thing in the world is going in to have something worked on, and having that area barely touched the whole session. Be clear with your therapist exactly what your top 1-3 priorities are, whether they be parts of the body or the outcome you’re seeking from the session.
During: If you find something particularly beneficial, do yourself a favour and tell your therapist straight away. Say “can you do more of that part please?” Let your therapist know how to tailor the session even more for you. As above, if something feels too much or just wrong for some reason, you could simply say “can you skip that part please”. Simple. Remember that it’s your session and your body. Any caring therapist with integrity will appreciate and respect your feedback.
9. Self love
Touched on briefly above, most of us could do with a little (or a lot) more of this!
If you’re having a Hawaiian or blended style with me, holding a degree of self-love during one of our sessions can sometimes be transformative (depending on where you’re at in your journey).
A lack of self-love and self-worth can make us our harshest critic, our own worst enemy. It can negatively impact our personal and work relationships and daily decision making – both in large and small, thereby potentially shaping our life direction. When clients tell me a session has reminded them how to love themselves (and the value of doing so) it totally makes my day! If you hold this intention from the start, it will amplify the effects of a session.
Stop what you’re doing right now and (if circumstances permit) let out a nice long, loud sigh. Go on. Maybe do it again, even louder. Feels good right?
Vocalising our exhalations (sighing) has been proven to support the release of muscle tension. Isn’t that half the point of your massage?! It can also help release stuck energy in the body. The combination of these can bring a whole new dimension of healing to your session.
Sadly, many are too shy to do it… you should hear my fellow body workers and I when we’re receiving. It can sound somewhere between torture and ecstasy, and it feels great! So don’t be shy – next time you’re on the table give it a go, and experience next level results!
11. Time out afterwards
Again, this applies more to the Hawaiian and blended sessions I provide. Try to avoid having anything even remotely stressful or demanding scheduled after your session. If possible, take gentle time out for yourself. As a client once said, even the supermarket can be offensive when you’re in a post-Lomi bliss bubble!
Each of these ideas on their own may not seem significant, however, cumulatively they can make a real difference to the effectiveness, value and overall quality of your experience.
And if you, like many people, are finding massage therapy to be an increasingly valuable part of your self-care routine, don’t settle for average treatments… life’s too short!