“Always say “yes” to the present moment. Surrender to what is. Say “yes” to life — and see how life suddenly starts working for you rather than against you.”
― Eckhart Tolle
A quality massage is a wonder to experience. A massage patient can feel lighter, uplifted, and more energetic for days after a great session (not to mention the many long-term health benefits of Asian bodywork). But did you know that the patient has a role in his or her own massage experience? As a massage therapist, share these tips with your patients and discover how their experiences differ when these ideas are implemented.
What can a patient do to get the most out of his or her massage?
Be Present. A massage can provide instant relaxation that is hard to find elsewhere. Massage is a healthy outlet for stress that has long-term benefits. As a patient, make sure you’re present for it. It might feel tempting to fall asleep or drift off, but if you can stay present and alert in your body, that’s where the healing happens.
Notice any shifts in tension—does one part of your body tense up as another muscle relaxes? Make a conscious effort to let that muscle relax. Do any emotions or images come to mind as you experience the massage? Our muscles hold our physical tension as well as our emotional tension, and a massage can be a wonderful opportunity to release feelings you might not have known you were holding onto—but to do that, you’ll need to be present.
Hydrate. As a massage therapist, you’re probably used to advising patients to drink plenty of water after a massage. But you might want to consider giving this tip ahead of time, before the patient comes to your appointment. Without enough water before a treatment, a patient’s blood flow may be somewhat stagnated and sluggish to process the lactic acid and any toxins that emerge from the muscles during the massage. It’s true that patients should drink plenty of water after a massage to flush out these toxins, but if they enter the appointment readily hydrated, they’ll experience less aches the following day.
Breathe. It’s common for massage therapists to guide patients to take deep breathes during particularly rigorous parts of a massage. As deep tissues are worked on, breathing will help the patient focus on relaxing the muscles and help the therapist release each muscle’s tension. But there is another important aspect to breathing during a massage that is often overlooked. Yogis are familiar with this concept: breathing is our link to the present.
Focusing on breathing puts the patient consciously in the current moment, and enables them to become an active participant in their own massage. This doesn’t mean they have to practice deep breathing for the duration of the appointment. The focus and intent on the breath is more important than the form it takes. A patient’s conscious breathing will help bring awareness to each area of the body that is being worked, and lead to a fulfilling healing experience.
Communicate Effectively. As a massage therapist, we know you value your patient’s comfort. Everyone has different ways of communicating. An important aspect of an excellent massage experience is that the communication opportunity is always there.
As a patient, don’t be bashful. If something is really working, let your massage therapist know. If a technique feels like too much pressure, let your practitioner know that as well. Like any healthy exchange, communication is key for a memorable massage. As a practitioner, you can facilitate this smoothly by letting the patient know at the start of the massage that you are happy to receive any feedback and want to know how they’re feeling throughout the experience, should they feel like sharing. Some patients will prefer to not speak, and that’s OK too. But if you have any doubts how they’re feeling, ask how the pressure is when you switch techniques.
Savor. When a massage is complete, let your patient know it’s okay not to rush. Before you depart the room, encourage patients to take note of how they feel after a massage. Do they feel lighter? Happier? Sleepy? Energized? Let them know that whatever they feel is a sign of the release they just went through, and is normal.
Encouraging each patient to savor and stay in that post-massage “space”, or sensation, will help them to access that feeling even after they return to their daily routine. So much of our stress is caused by patterns of thought and action we have created for ourselves in our daily lives: from work to home to relationships. A good massage can help break those stressful patterns. Encourage your patients to notice and stay aware of any positive changes after their massage.
Massage therapists are powerful health facilitators. A good massage therapist opens doors for a patient’s self-healing. Letting your patients know what they can do to fully experience the benefits of your massage techniques will allow them to be in the driver’s seat of their own relaxation. And with these tips, the positive impact of a great massage can last long after they leave your table.