person receiving massage


Life gives us constant opportunities for growth. Like when a topic keeps coming up so that you can’t help but take notice. Well, this month, my awareness has been directed (not for the first time) towards assisting clients in being more connected to their bodies during the massage.

Actually, the pivotal moment came when I was receiving a massage last week (never trust a therapist, not in therapy). We were talking about the ongoing issue of massage vocabulary, specifically “Deep Tissue.” While I was focused on the clinical definitions, Wendy observes how some people insist on deeper invasive pressure, way beyond what the tissue indicates. I immediately understand what she is getting at and, like an excited student, exclaim, "What they are really seeking is a deeper connection with their body"; Lucky for me, Wendy Sullivan is not only a great therapist but also very good at the self-discovery facilitation thing.

Believe it or not, my first experiences with this topic came as a Massage Program Director. I would walk into the lab and notice students creating all kinds of distractions during their exchanges to not truly present. So I am revisiting some of the strategies I integrated for the program that I think will translate well into my treatment room. For example:

Communication: Ensure that the client’s goals for the session are clearly understood at the beginning of the session. Have the client declare them verbally, thus communicating them with the therapist and to their own body. Revisit these goals at the end of the session and discuss any change in how the body feels.

Positional Awareness: Begin each session with a chance for clients to perform a body scan and communicate what they are feeling; while you observe their adapted neutral. Then place them in true anatomical neutral and note throughout the session when you see them drifting back to their old patterns, correcting the neutral as often as needed. This brings awareness and provides a lifelong tool.

Connecting Strokes: Consider beginning each session with a 3 – 5 minute body brushing- long strokes towards the heart with a rhythm slower than a heartbeat. End each session with rocking followed by full-body nerve strokes to reconnect the whole.

Breathwork: Instead of constantly reminding (nagging) clients to “breathe,”: Catch their attention, look them straight in the eyes and guide them into the breathwork by example. This can help return focus. You can utilize aromatherapy also to engage the senses. I love using Polar Lotion that I’ve added a drop of Orange essential oil too. It’s refreshing, comforting, and yes, I retail it. You can also use a Breath or Focus EO blend.

Shake it up: If there is a stalemate where tissue just cannot let go, break up the holding pattern with active participation like Facilitated Stretching or perform a contraction/relaxation sequence on the area. I like to mix in a sensory treatment such as a localized scrub/polish. Sometimes I will use “chasing” – alternating the application of hot and cold stones. These will all bring a new awareness to the area.

My goals for re-prioritizing these strategies in my treatment room are to have the client leave each session with enhanced awareness and notably more comfortable in their body. I’m expecting good things.

Be well, do good work, and share your strategies for mind/body connection.

Massage therapy