There are few things in the world that seem easier than receiving a massage. As massage clients, the job looks simple: lay down and relax! However, there are many things that you can do as a massage client that can enhance your experience – turning an average massage into a good one, and turning a good massage into an amazing one. Here are five things that you can do before, during, or after your next session to get the most out of your massage investment.
1 – Be thorough in disclosing your history
Any reputable massage therapist will ask you to complete a health history form prior to your first session and will encourage you to provide status updates as necessary with each new visit. While it could be easy to breeze through this process without giving it proper attention, it is extremely important to inform your therapist of your health status, any prior injuries or trauma, and any conditions that may affect the massage session. Even injuries that are many years old can have a tendency to affect people long after the initiating episode. By giving your therapist all of the information he or she needs to develop a treatment plan, you'll be doing your part to ensure that the massage you get is unique to your specific needs. As a result you'll have a better chance of increasing the therapeutic effect of each session.
2 – Do not be afraid to communicate during the session
Most therapists will check in from time to time during a massage session about the level of pressure being applied. Others provide a blank statement at the start of the session encouraging the client to request adjustments as necessary. Many times, however, due to the inherent power differential caused in the client / therapist relationship, many clients would prefer to not speak up when a therapist's pressure or approach is not to their liking. Remember that your massage therapist is there to help you and their own focus should be on providing a pleasant, therapeutic experience. A good therapist will be happy to receive your feedback and adjust techniques accordingly without judgment or resentment. Rather than thinking of communication during the session as a “correction” think of it as an opportunity to become an active partner in your own well being. Therapists appreciate the direction and prefer it to wondering whether or not they're doing a good job!
3 – Create a sacred space
Turn off the cell phone. Or better yet, do not even bring it into the treatment room. Giving yourself permission to completely relax while devoting all of your energy to receiving the therapeutic effects of your massage will likely leave you feeling more relaxed, peaceful, and tension-free as you transition back into life in the outside world. You've set this time for yourself. Make it special! Arrive on time (or even a little bit early) so that you can ease into the massage without feeling rushed. Use the extra time to practice a centering breath such as ujjayi pranayama (see below) to help focus your mind and remove thoughts or distractions that could hinder your massage.
4 – Be specific about your expectations
Many massage therapists are adept at various modalities. Your therapist may have the ability to offer a full-body relaxation treatment or intensive bodywork that focuses on a single trouble spot for an hour or more. Do your homework about your therapist's offerings and about which one may be right for you. Then, when making your appointment, be sure to ask about that specific treatment modality and how it could have been applied to your situation. When you clearly state your intention, whether it be relaxation, pain relief, or something else entirely, you'll be surprised at the difference between a customized treatment and an unspecified massage.
5 – Make a follow-up appointment!
We all feel amazing after receiving that perfect massage. If we find the right practitioner to help with our pain patterns it can literally feel like a weight has been lifted off of us when we get up off the massage table. As with most things in life that are good for us, massage's benefits are enhanced when scheduled regularly. A good therapist can provide relief to a painful area of the body in one session. However, when you visit with that therapist multiple times you may start to find relief from less urgent pain patterns as well, or you may find that your episodes of pain or tension are less frequent over time. If possible, it's also a good idea to find one therapist and stick with him or her for several visits. By building this relationship, your therapist will already have a good background knowledge of your particular needs and previous history before each session and will ever be able to provide deeper relief than if you saw several different therapists over the same time period. Many therapists that have a private practice will offer discounted rates to frequent clients and many spas offer loyalty programs. If you find a therapist with what you connect, ask if you may be eligible for discounts when you schedule several visits in advance.
Ujjayi (oo – JAI) pranayama's wavelike sound and inward focus will help center your mind, calm your anxieties, and help you connect more deeply to your inner truth. Here's how to practice this uplifting technique anywhere in three simple steps.
1. Begin in a closed position with legs crossed and eyes closed. If you are in a waiting room where sitting cross-legged would be a challenge, sit in a chair with your spine long and feet firmly planed on the floor.
2. Deepen your breath by allowing your belly to rise with each inhale and fall with each exhale. It may help to bring one hand to your abdomen to bring your awareness to this deepening of the breath. Keep the breath flowing without holding for 5-10 breaths.
3. Begin ujjayi breathing on an exhale by constricting the muscles at the back of your throat. You should hear a gentle “HA” sound on your exhale and an “AH” sound on your inhale. Keeping your mouth closed and letting the breath flow evenly through the nose will prevent drying in the back of your throat. Try to keep the flow of the breath consistent and strong from beginning to end of each inhale and exhale. Be mindful of keeping your inhale and exhale of equal length. Continue for 5-10 breaths.