Why you should read this: Receive far greater benefits at your next massage and shift from passive recipient to (somewhat) active participant. I talk about going beyond the surface level benefits of massage: muscle & mental relaxation and how to access deeper benefits like addressing injury and emotions.
Reading time: Less than 3 minutes
I just sat down in my local coffee shop after a wonderful massage at our local pre & post natal health clinic. Having a massage is a regular practice on maternity leave. (Note I didn’t use the words indulgence or treat.) With the word practice comes a kind of sacred space, or commitment. It is a mindful way to acknowledge what we need, and need regularly. I don’t know about you – but I need massage regularly. I book it into my calendar as a standing monthly appointment.
The RMT I keep returning to has this inexplicable energy to her. Her massages are consistently the best I’ve received.
Today I was in a chatty mood (usually I’m semi conscious and drooling) and our conversation got onto her Reiki training and energy work. She’s an intuitive. An energy person. I love these people. They have an extra level of consciousness and awareness to them. Ah hah, I thought. That’s why she’s so good.
We began a deep discussion of her body work and energy training, and how people can truly benefit from massage.
What I learnt today is that you can be an active participant in massage, not just a passive (SUPER passive and drooly I may add!) recipient.
EMOTIONS HAVE THEIR OWN STORAGE BOXES IN OUR BODIES
Yoga instructors and massage therapists both know that the body stores emotions, memories and experiences. Have you ever been in a yoga class where one movement has set the brain off in a chatter? Where a hip opener for some reason wanted to make you cry? It’s because we all have collections of emotions, and each one of them has a storage area in our body.
Think of a closet jam packed with clothes. Lots of little boxes crammed with scarves, handbags, piles of sweaters, etc. Body work allows us to get into that closet, declutter and organize so we can easily access the things that benefit us and not get overwhelmed in the chaos. That closet is our bodies, jam packed with piles of sweaters (perhaps sadness) and belts (perhaps resentment.) What if we took everything out, took a good look at it, decided what to keep and what to toss, and then organized things?
This is exactly what body work can be if you silently participate in it. Massage or Yoga can help you can access areas of your body, get it chattering so that you can assess what is happening, acknowledge what emotions are sitting in that that area of the body, and then make the decision to toss or keep.
A SOMATIC COACHING TECHNIQUE FOR YOU
As an ontological coach I am trained in working with three different domains: The mind, the body, and emotion. In professional coaching we call our work in body domains”Somatics.” I want to incorporate a professional coaching technique here so that next time you get a massage or go to yoga, you can use this technique and become aware of what exactly you are storing in your body – then you can make the decision to let it go (if it is not helping you) or keep it (if it is serving you right now.)
As you get your massage just remain an observer of your thoughts. When the therapist accesses an uncomfortable place, watch what thoughts come up. What are they related to? is there a common pattern?
I’ve been experiencing a lot of headaches lately. As the therapist got into the base of my skull and traps, my brain started chattering as I thought about blog post ideas and what business to-dos I have on my plate.That’s a lot of thoughts around “to dos” and “business.”
Then I thought about what the head traditionally represents. Thought. Thinking. Analyzing. Planning. Yes. I’ve been doing a ton of that lately. When we overuse a part of our body, it fatigues, gets tired and sore. Why wouldn’t I get a headache? Duh
I once had a coaching client who had ridiculously strong legs but was suffering from shin splints and all sorts of injuries which she’d never encountered. What do strong legs symbolize? Strength, being grounded, being stable. It turns out that the events in her life required her to constantly be strong, be grounded, and be stable amidst chaos around her. The domain of the legs. And it showed up in the cells.
Another client. So strong with upper body workouts, crazy strong shoulders. Headaches as well from her traps. What do the shoulders make you think about? What do we use them for? They carry weight. The weight of the world perhaps? This client certainly did. She was carrying a heavy weight of responsibility in her life and those emotions were stored in her shoulders.
Language that comes through the mouth is easy to understand; language that comes through the body is harder to understand, because it is so subtle and in a different language (tension, pain, twitching.) We have to give it space to come through (the hardest thing to do, right?! I’d rather just reach for an advil and call it a day.) We have to sit with the discomfort and then understand its language by connecting it with what is going in our lives.
WHAT TO DO DURING YOUR APPOINTMENT
I will try my damned best to write this without getting too woo-woo on you. It’s not my style, either so bear with me.
As soon as you know you have accessed a place that has a lot of mental chatter, a place that has aches and pains, undertake a visualization exercise.
As the massage therapist was working on my head, and I explained to her that I’d had a lot of thoughts on my mind, she suggested a visualization. As her hands moved up my temples she said to imagine the top of my head opening, like a lid opening on a kettle, and the steam coming out (the steam representing all of those thoughts and all of that mental energy.)
An alternative would be to imagine that there is a dark smudge on your skin where the massage therapist’s hands are. As they move their hands over the sore spot, imagine that smudge being cleared away. The key is to go with a natural image you get in your mind.
I’ve heard of other techniques that involve replacing a glowing red light with a blue or white light. That one didn’t resonate with me because it wasn’t my style.
You are doing this all in silence in the treatment room, or the yoga studio.
At yoga, hip openers kill me, I’ve cried before. Clearly I hold grief in my hips. The people that audibly moan when the teacher announces it’s a hip day – guess what, they totally have a crazy ass closet of jumbled stuff in that hip space. I can tell you that because I’m one of them. Pigeon pose is the worst. I’ve started thinking about all that crappy burning and bad energy and emotions flowing down my leg that is extended out behind me and out through my big toe into the mat.
Yup, it’s going into woo-woo territory. lol.
But let me tell you this, I’m sitting here at my laptop with a clear head, thoughts flowing nicely and a lot of focus. My headache is gone and I’m feeling much less anxious. My massage was only 30 minutes. Usually I can only get to this place after a 60 minute massage or 90 minute yoga practice.
Try this technique out some time.
This is your private little secret, because it all happens in your mind. Nobody has to know.
What have you got to lose?
You, my dear, are officially encouraged to go get a massage. 🙂