Did you know that as an airplane takes off and lands the weight of the plane either leaves or connects with the ground gradually? The plane does not take off or land all at once, but instead glides on and off the earth. Pilots practice an extensive number of hours to learn to master this technique. They pride themselves on gently taking off and landing a plane regardless of weather or runway conditions. It is the pilot’s ability to read those conditions and adjust accordingly that ultimately determines the passenger’s experience – and whether or not the crowd gives a round of cheers at the end of a long flight!
My first massage instructor, Phil Cutrell, at Irene’s Myomassology Institute taught us to use this concept of “Airplane contact” when providing massage. By gliding our hands on and off of a client’s body we allow them to process the transition from being touched to not being touched. This transition ensures that the therapists doesn’t startle the client with sudden contact or leave them feeling abandoned at the end of a movement. It may seem obvious or like a little detail, but I promise you, profound changes in perspective can occur by having this concept firmly and consciously rooted in your mind as you perform a massage.
The awareness of how every massage stroke is begun and concluded brings a deeper intention to the work you are providing. It can create smoother transitions, more complete strokes and more awareness to the degree and intensity of applied pressure. It also effects how you use products as products can either increase or decrease the speed and depth of your glide. For me, it has expended my awareness of where the massage stroke begins and ends. In essence I am starting the movement before I touch the client and ending it after my hand is no longer in physical contact with their skin.
As with many thoughts/concepts, the utility of “Airplane Contact” extends beyond the practice of massage. A gentle takeoff and landing can be helpful when communicating with others. I find this to be especially true in written communication. This isn’t new as we were all taught to have and introduction, body and conclusion in that High School English class! Yet, with the rapid increase in use of electronic communication, many people skip these basics. Today, you may be lucky to even get a “Hi” or “Bye” in many of the emails you send or receive.
Applying the concept of “Airplane Contact” to your everyday life takes no time at all! It is just a simple choice to be aware of coming in and going out of any situation – massage stroke, conversation, email, environment – with the intent of creating as little turbulence as possible. I challenge you to bring the concept of “Airplane Contact” into your everyday awareness. You may be surprised at what you find!