Barely tall enough to see above the table, my interest in massage began in the boudoir of my grandmother’s summer house on Long Island. A place where the grown-ups entertained each other endlessly with things like outdoor sports and cocktails, us young’uns often had to find ways to entertain ourselves.
Rachel, whose smell was as exotic as her accent, came once a week to massage my grandmother. That hour was always my favorite part of every week. I remember dissolving into the trance of Rachel’s moving meditation. From my very first session, I could not only sense what Rachel was feeling with her hands, but I had a visceral experience of what my grandmother was feeling as well.
My grandmother just died at 101. She was witty, nimble, lean and glowing right to the end. Was it all that “pampering” or was there something else going on?
Dance Between Body and Mind
Cut to 40 years later; I am now a professional body worker. I can attest to the deeper merits of weekly massage. Frequent palpation of the tissue, pulsing lymph and oxygen-rich blood through the webs of fascia which surround every muscle cell delivers vital nourishment to the body, signaling restoration and healing to the nervous system.
The impact of hand/body contact goes way beyond just manual manipulation of the tissue. It actually orchestrates a dance between the organism and its owner, the ego. The therapist’s touch sends a cue to the client’s body (the organism), which sends a cue to the client’s mind (the ego) to relax itself. This “dance” teaches the system how to down regulate and reorganize itself so it can do the same thing, on its own, off the table. It’s a gift that keeps giving.
Not a One Size Fits All
There are many types of massage, of course. Are they all therapeutic — even the ones that hurt? The answer can be, yes. But, getting the right type of massage depends on one’s ability to identify their individual needs. Is it gentle relaxation you need or is it deep structural integration work? Is there trauma or restriction in the tissue or do you just want to be contorted, Thai style?
All modalities have their place. In searching out the perfect long-term therapist for you, I suggest finding a holistic, integrative, trauma-informed therapist like myself with a wide array of skills ranging all extremes. Select someone very experienced who comes highly recommended who may even “charge too much.”
This therapist will likely know how to apply the appropriate technique for you based on your body and nervous system. A highly-skilled, highly-trained, highly-intuitive therapist will not only provide exactly what you need in the moment, but will iterate a long-term therapeutic plan with you.
A good therapist can help you “undo” years of misuse and abuse in your body, will educate you in self-care techniques and give you homework — adding delicious, nutritious, quality years to your life.
Read Mary’s AGEIST profile here.