Time and time again in the 8+ years that I've been working as a massage therapist I've been told, “That was the BEST massage I've ever had.”
But what does that mean, exactly? “The best massage.” What makes it any better than other massages. Are not ALL of them equally wonderful? I mean common, we're taking about MASSAGE here people!
Anyone who has ever gotten more than one massage from more than one massage therapist knows that the obvious answer to that question is a big fat NO.
So I'm here to tell you what makes THE BEST MASSAGE, but not until I first tell you what makes a GOOD one.
Picture if you will:
A quiet room. Lights turned low. Soft music breaks the silence and the false scent of lavender fills the air. You're face-down underneath the linen on a massage table that has been heated to just the right temperature, your face cradled carefully in the head rest. You take a deep breath, and as you exhale your body looks to gently sink into the table as you anxiously wait for your massage to begin.
A few moments later, after lightly knocking at the door, the therapist enters the room and checks in with you to make sure that you are comfortable with the temperature and the feel of the table. Any necessary adjustments are made and the therapist implemented.
After carefully folding down the sheet to expose your back, the therapist applies warm oil or lotion to your skin and eases into a graceful technique that is the perfect combination of relaxation and therapeutic pressure – not too light but not too deep-moving with the tempo of the music. The transitions of the strokes are fluid and flawless, as if performing a dance. Conversation is minimal, allowing you to relax as you drift between sleep sleep and wake. Before you know it, the massage is over and the therapist quietly exits the room.
That was a good massage. Really good. But … it was not the best. So what was missing? I'm not talking about a “happy ending” or “full release” either. Save that for the bedroom.
I'm talking about a few key ingredients that in their rarest and purest forms are not something that can be taught, but are God-given and come naturally and without any conscious effort.
These key things are: ComPassion, Intention and Intuition.
Allow me to explain …
First of all, compassion and passion when completely genuine go hand-in-hand. They become one in the same. A fusion, if you will.
noun com · pas · sion / kəmpaSHnn /: a feeling of wanting to help someone who is sick, hungry, in trouble, etc.
The best massage therapists who one day decide, “Hey, I think I want to be a massage therapist,” do not actually decide at all. You know why? Because this is something that has already been decided for them. It has been woven into their cloth of creation. It's already a part of them. Because of what? Compassion. The want to help people in need … the desire to make people feel better … the compelling urge to heal others. These all start with compassion, and compassion is not something that can be taught. This is something that has to be discovered within one's self. And true compression can not be complete without passion.
noun pas · sion / paSHnn /: a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something.
Passion is the glue that bonds all great massage therapists and healers to their craft. Without it, it's just another job that pays the bills. It may be a job that they enjoy for a while, but without that passion, it's just a job none-the-less. But with passion, the position becomes so much more than just a job. Many of us have heard the quote, “When you do something that you love, you'll never have to work a day in your life.” It's true. When someone-anyone-is really passionate about what they do, they do not have to work at it. They just do what they really enjoy doing and they get paid to do it. Sounds pretty great, right? There is no “fake it 'til you make it” here either. You can not force yourself to be passionate about something. That's not how this works. So if you're reading this and you're a massage therapist or thinking about becoming one and you do not have the passion for this position, you're going to burn yourself out before you ever really get started. Statistics show that the average career span for a massage therapist is seven years. SEVEN. YEARS. And you know why? Because the average massage therapist is just that: AVERAGE. Sure, you have the exception of those who had to quit due to illness or injury or that found something else they're even more passionate about, but in most cases, the absence of passion just leaves you with a means to an end.
So next we have Intention.
noun in · ten · tion / inten (t) SH (ə) n /: the thing that you plan to do or achieve: an aim or purpose.
When performing a massage, the best therapist does it with a purpose. They are mindful of what they are doing and remain in the present moment through the duration of the massage. If there are times that their mind does start to wander, they realize it and bring their full attention back to the client. Some therapists have such a strong intention and focus on what they are doing that the process literally becomes meditative. They completely clear their mind and their higher self seems to take over. I've had this happen on many occasions. It's pretty cool.
This brings me to Intuition.
noun in · tu · ition / int (y) o͞oiSH (ə) n /: the power or faculty of gaining direct knowledge or cognition without evident rational thought and inference
So many times I've been told, “You always know how to find the right spots,” or “I did not even know that was bothering me,” or “How did you know to put your hands there?”
Some call it a sixth sense. Others call it a gift. Some people assume it's part of my training or that it's just plain dumb luck. Call it what you will, but a strong intuition will put you way ahead of the game and make the task a whole lot easier and effective.
Everybody has intuition. It's a gut feeling or knowing that you can not really explain. Some people just have a stronger intuition than others. It's like a muscle: the more you exercise it, the stronger it becomes. There are different techniques that can be done to help strengthen it (meditation being one of them). I strongly suggest tapping in to this naturally available resource as soon as you possibly can. You'll thank yourself for it, and so will your clients.
So, there you have it. The key ingredients for the BEST massage. Now go out there and give the best dang massage that you've ever given. Or go and get one! I think I'll go ahead and schedule my next appointment right now.
** Disclaimer: These key things that make the best massage are completely of my own opinion and experience of being on the giving and receiving end of massage therapy for almost ten years. No actual research has been conducted, but I'd like to think that any really great massage therapist (or client of one) will agree.