Cheating at Massage
My mother has been ill all my life. One of her symptoms is constant and severe muscular soreness. Imagine if every day was the day after leg day, except you made it whole body day for some reason, everything hurts, and you can hardly move now. So as a kid, sometimes I tried helping with massage. I was terrible at it, and I knew it. I would do things too hard, and it would hurt. People always said to feel how the muscle and skin feels, feel the tension, feel for knots, and all that stuff. I couldn’t make heads or tails out of any of that advise. However, I discovered that if I followed the sensations in my hands, I was great at massage, at least for a little while. I’d always slip up eventually. I had no idea what I was doing, but I was following the direct information from my body in my hands. It was telling me how to massage, even though I had no idea how to do it and had never learned or really practiced massage. There was a built-in system for directing massage, and mini-me had found it without even realizing it.
It took me around a year after discovering body communication to realize that those sensations that I used as a kid to direct my massages were from the same system as the muscle contraction that I discovered in my abdomen. That is how I discovered that the abdominal response wasn’t the only response that I could use to query my body. I could use my hands too, and now, I can use any part of me. But the best part is that I now knew I was getting information on how to massage from my body.
After using it as a kid, I had mostly forgotten about my little massage trick, only occasionally remembering it while giving someone a massage, between totally sucking at the massage itself. I began practicing with it on anyone interested. As a masseuse, I am not to the level of an expert. I have, however, been compared to professionals, with subtle differences.
- Professionals have better technique.
- I never dwell in an area for too long. They apparently often do.
- If the person I’m massaging feels a strong need for me to move to a particular area, I often cause shock by moving to that completely new area automatically before they have time to say anything about it.
It’s not magic. It is a useful skill though, and it can be improved in both how it works and how you use it.
Lesson 1: A Test Run
- Place a pillow in front of you.
- Picture the pillow as someone that you are close to and know well.
- Hold your hand out in front of you, paying close attention to it for a query.
- Intend to massage the person you are picturing the pillow as. This is a query.
- Pay attention to the subtle sensations directing you to move your hand towards the pillow.
- Move your hand over the pillow, picturing different parts of the person’s body. Move your hand over their neck, their shoulder, down their back. In what directions do you feel your hand pulling you?
- Move your hand in ways that follow the sensations. Make sure every motion is an attempt to move in the direction of the sensations.
After you’re used to this, see if anyone will let you practice with them.
Direct Massage Information
Direct information for massage provides indications in that body part as to how to move that body part. A general massage intention towards an area of the body tends to be better for massage than more specific intentions. It’s better to intend to massage in general than to intend to rub someone’s shoulders in a particular way or intend to brush your fingers over their skin. It’s better to get that specific information from indirect queries. There are limitations to this direct information:
- The sensations lack enough detail to provide indications for more than gross motor control, so you’re going to find it difficult getting your body to direct you this way in the exact specifics of how to massage. With practice, you can learn to do this more easily, but you will probably find it difficult starting out
- The sensations can be too localized to provide direct indications for more than a single body part. With practice, you can learn to do this more easily too, but it may be difficult to get full body directions when you’re just starting out.
- You may experience a problem with someone telling you how they want to be massaged while you are massaging them. Verbal massage instructions can interfere with the process of your body working out a massage plan for their body. This can trigger a rebuild, which you may experience as sensory overload. The massage sense system does listen to what you are hearing from the person you are massaging. It can get frustrated by an inability to quickly develop a new massage plan based on a combination of the information it already has and the verbal information provided by the person you are massaging.
Indirect Massage Information
Both direct and indirect information are useful for massage. While the direct information tells you where to go, how fast to move, and how much pressure to apply, the indirect information is useful for asking how your hand should be shaped, what points should be in contact with their body, how you two should be positioned in relation to each other, and how your other hand should be involved in the massage process. You get indirect information by attending to a single body part of your own (e.g. your feet) while intending to change an aspect of your massage that does not involve the body part that you are attending to. This is used to supplement direct information.
While your intentions can be general or specific, it’s better to run specific queries, since specific intentions are more able to find ideal information. However, since the sensations are only able to provide positive and negative responses of varying strengths, they are more limited and can’t give you specifics that you don’t think of and ask your body about.
Lesson 2: Putting it All Together
- Find someone to massage and have them sit or lay down in front of you.
- Hold your hand out over them, paying close attention to it for a query.
- Intend to massage them, but do not touch them yet. This is a query.
- Pay attention to the subtle sensations directing you to move your hand. Is it moving towards their skin? Is it moving up, down, or over to another area?
- The direction you’re being pulled in is the easiest to notice, but don’t forget about pressure and speed. Keep attending to them too. You will also need to iterate through different aspects of indirect information, to know what specifically to do with your hands and what to do with the rest of your body.
It can be difficult, when focusing on massage, to keep all these aspects in your head. To help with that, keep Table 5.1 handy during a massage.