Some people get a massage in order to relax, others to address specific physical discomfort. Maybe your lower back aches or the tension in your neck and shoulders is causing you headaches. Massage can also be an effective choice for a much-needed mental respite and reboot. In fact, after a massage, you may find your spirits have been lifted, that your perspective has changed, or that you just have an overall feeling of quiet. The calming impact of a session can bring you the clarity that is essential for problem solving, creativity, and essentially, not getting lost in the weeds.
Your massage session should offer you a safe space away from your stressors and should help you become aware of how afflictions of your physical body are impacting your mind and vice versa. Nobody wants a physical ache or mental distraction to hamper their performance, whether it be in a chess tournament, an important meeting, or a soccer match. So, how do you get what your body and mind need from a massage session? As a massage therapist, here are my top three recommendations for clients:
Talk to your therapist.
Before you even begin your session, communicating your goals, whether it be relief from pain, seeking improved sleep, recovery, or relaxation, is extremely important. During the session, don’t be afraid to tell your therapist at any point if you are in any way uncomfortable or something just doesn’t feel right. A massage should not be something you have to endure; it should be something you enjoy. A good therapist will gladly adjust their work style or the environment for your benefit. Here are some questions to consider: Do you prefer to leave an article of clothing on? Is the pressure they are using causing you pain? Do you want them to avoid an area? Are you feeling cold or hot? Congested? Ticklish? Hate the music? Speak up!
Trust and Breathe.
It takes a fair amount of trust to relax, ease our muscles, and let a massage therapist work on our body. But just by trusting, you will find discomfort diminish and your thoughts settle. During your massage, try to take deep and even breaths. Your massage therapist may sometimes ask you to “breath into an area” so they can access a certain muscle or pressure point. Being an active participant in your massage isn’t something most people acknowledge but can help you bring awareness to each part of the body as it is being worked on and promote healing. Our bodies are constantly communicating with us, it’s important to take the time to pay attention. A massage therapist is there to aid the process; if you trust them, they will facilitate your own ability to heal.
Have a regular routine.
It’s better to commit to a monthly massage rather than viewing massage as an occasional treat. Like playing in regular tournaments, regular massage will help you check-in with where you are at and stay at the top of your game. While a single massage will benefit you for a few days, each subsequent massage offers cumulative benefits. Speak with your therapist about when it is best to come in depending on your needs. Perhaps it is the day before a tournament to help with a good night’s sleep and put you in a positive and focused state of mind. Perhaps it is after a tournament to relieve the hours of sitting and concentration. In fact, sitting frequently for long periods of time has been linked to anxiety, high blood pressure, back pain, and postural imbalances, all of which may be lessened with regular massage therapy sessions.
In conclusion, think of your massage therapy session like you would a private chess lesson: consider your goals, build trust with your teacher, have a dialogue with them, let them help you learn about yourself, engage frequently enough that you don’t need to start from the beginning each time, and enjoy the process.
“When we give ourselves the chance to let go of all our tension, the body’s natural capacity to heal itself can begin to work.” — Nhat Hanh
By Sara Loren Scovronick, LMT
Sara is a New York State and New Jersey State licensed massage therapist, and a professional member of both the American Massage Therapy Association and the New York State Society of Medical Massage Therapists.