You’ve decided to try a massage for your back pain, neck pain, jaw pain, shoulder pain, hip pain, or leg pain – you’ve heard it may help with your anxiety, or help you clear your head. You feel like you need a little escape, a little me-time, like you need to care for your body or recoup from an injury or surgery.
Maybe you’ve tried massage before or maybe this is something new to you, but you go out on a limb and book your 40-minute, 60-minute or 90-minute session for a relaxing, rehabilitative, sports or pre/post-natal massage.
You chat with your therapist about your health history, about your goals for the session, about your pain. You discuss actions that are difficult for you or that you would like to see improved. You feel listened to, and appreciate how your therapist engages with you in order to understand and address any concerns before you begin.
Your therapist steps out of the room for a moment to give you privacy to undress to your comfort level and get onto the massage table (heated for the cold winter months) and under the sheets.
You are not really sure what to expect, you may feel a little nervous as you wait for her knock on the door to re-enter.
She makes sure you are comfortable on the table, as many bolsters, pillows and face cradle adjustments can be made. She encourages you to keep her informed throughout the session, and let her know if you would like more or less pressure at any time.
She then quiets, and you feel the first contact. It is sure, kind, listening.
You feel your breath in your body as your therapist feels it.
You hear the calming music twinkling out of the stereo as the other noises of the office fade into the background. There is a trickle of a fountain outside, muted voices in the hall, a car pass below on the street, and your own breath in your body.
The therapist uses what you’ve talked to her about, the way she sees your body resting on the table, and the way your tissue feels, to guide her hands to the places that need attention.
She sinks into the facial tissue, listening, sensing, feeling it’s direction, it’s urgency, it’s availability (or reluctance) to change.
She influences the muscles, increasing blood flow, sometimes lifting them away from their counterparts, sometimes supporting their compressions.
Your muscles release, your breath deepens, your body directs her to the next place.
This place supports the last and the next.
This place is one access point to the whole – the whole body, functioning with a nervous system, which she addresses through the entirety of the session.
You begin to float away. You trust her hands, listening, informed by your body. You settle into the non-verbal conversation between her nervous system and your own. You feel confident that any questions or concerns you have will be adequately, substantiated in a kind, and clear manner. You know that she is always learning, always open to hearing what you have to say.
Time drifts away.
You begin to feel a freedom from conflict within your body. There are no oppressive thoughts in the room, but rather a sense of open respect. Agreement and harmony begin to emerge in the body, nothing forcing it to change but feeling how your therapists hands move your body, your muscles, your fascia, your structure, to support its restrictions and introduce resolve to its conflicts. The body feels safe, and order begins to emerge. Why do your muscles need to hold you tightly in your position on the table when you are completely supported, nothing contradicting your organization… Your muscles begin to release. Your muscles begin to release.
Your mind wanders: you plan, you remember, you feel and consider, you fall in and out of consciousness. Maybe you use this as a meditation, maybe you use it as an opportunity to catch up on some much needed sleep, maybe you feel unaddressed emotions bubble up. You know this is a safe space and you are free to experience yourself in whatever state you are.
This is incredibly freeing, you do not have the pressure to share, to be one thing or another, to present yourself. You can be curious without judgement, observing the connections your mind makes as your body relaxes. Observing your thoughts, feelings and sensations, knowing you are free of negative judgement and full of potential.
Your session comes to an end.
Your therapist excuses herself and tells you to take your time as you come up from the table and out to rejoin the world.
You may not be able to explain how you feel or exactly what has changed but you feel secure in your body, like it is working together.
You embrace the beautiful reality that you are your body.
Slowly the sense of you against your body slips away. You embrace the beautiful reality that you are your body. Learning that pains you feel, physical, social or emotional, are not in and of themselves doing a disservice to the body, but are in fact working in its preservation. Learning that pain is communicating that the peace has been disrupted and requires a little attention to restore.
Knowing that war with your body, (forcing it to do that which it does not do easily) does not bring peace, will serve you for the rest of your life — because you do not want to defeat your body, you want it to thrive. Experience the peace and it will be easier to find.