What is massage about

So here’s the thing…what is massage about?

And by that, I don’t mean what are the benefits to the body and the purpose of having them regularly, as that’s already well documented (it relieves muscle tension, provides greater joint flexibility, strengthens the immune system, reduces blood pressure etc etc etc, by the way).

 I mean how should we feel when we have a massage?

The reason I’ve been thinking about it is NOT because I’m often asked what the difference is between different types of massages (holistic, deep tissue, sports)…which I am asked a lot.  But because I’m currently sitting on the terrace of my hotel on the beautiful Sorrento coastline overlooking mount Vesuvius…feeling a little stressed!!!  I have just gone for a massage somewhere because I have been working hard all morning and I’d booked it as something to reward myself and I’ve come away sorely (excuse the pun) disappointed.

Clearly, feeling stressed after a ‘bad’ massage is a slightly first world problem, considering all the awful things that really are meaningful in this world, none of which I’m remotely comparing this experience to.  But it just got me thinking about the balance between the mental and the physical.

There is no doubt, that my body feels better for having been pummelled for 45minutes.  It was a deep tissue massage so pretty full on but exactly what I needed on a physical level.  My limbs feel stretched, my calves feel looser (although i actually didn’t realise they were tight until she dug her elbow in), and I generally feel a little bit oiled up and ‘lighter’.

But massage has to be more than that surely.  It HAS to be the connection between the mental and the physical.  The fact that she left me in the room for 10minutes whilst I whipped off shorts and a vest top (taking approximately 20 seconds) and then I lay there feeling like I’d been forgotten, didn’t start well.  But during the whole thing I felt no connection between her and me.

And thats my point.  The therapist and client relationship is a two way thing.  It’s SO important!!!!! If you don’t like the pressure I’m using, you have to say.  If you want to just lie there and not speak…thats fine with me.  If you want to talk for England, you go for it…but thats your choice, not mine.  Massage is an intimate profession…it takes time to trust and feel relaxed with your therapist…thats normal.  But always remember…its YOUR time.  Its not often people get an hour out of their day to be passive…to have someone do something to us that we can’t do ourselves. To let thoughts come into our head and float out…its like a meditation.  Ok, so it may hurt like hell at times, especially if you’ve been training hard but it SHOULD be a reward for that training…to make you feel better, stronger and more capable to cope with what everyday life (and your training schedule) throws at you.

I don’t believe that deep tissue massage is better than holistic, or sports massage is more beneficial than thai yoga massage…its what you as the client need THAT day that matters, and that’ll change week to week…even hour to hour.  So if you go to see a sports massage therapist normally but you’re really not feeling it that day…tell them and maybe have more of a stretch style massage so it allows you to get out of it what you need.

Today has made me realise that, even if I’m not the best massage therapist in the world (there is always someone better in everything we do), I try my hardest to put depth and great intention into my treatments…each and every one.  I’m sure I get it wrong at times…clients have started to learn NOT to tell me what hurts as I spend longer on it :-) but the key is to always give feedback…we won’t get insulted.  Massage is your time to deal with you, your body, your mind so use it wisely.


Ele King