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8 Tips to Help You Receive the Most Out of Massage

Let's be real - massage is kind of expensive. I completely understand the reluctance to spend $50-$100 in a single hour, especially in these truly tough times. It's easy to think of other things to spend that money on but in further contemplation, you may realize like I did, that there's no better investment than your physical and mental health.

When I began receiving regular massage about ten years ago, I did so because of how much I worked my body in other activities. It quickly became an easy decision for me to reserve some cash for my massage fund over other expenses. Over the years, I have learned ways to maximize the massage experience through self care. My first blog is in the interest of helping you do the same and maybe even think of these tips as daily, in-between-massage maintenance.

Before your appointment...

1) Drink a lot of water. Before and after your massage. This may seem obvious, though so many of us 'know we should drink more water than we do.' Right?? This is so much more true when receiving massage or any type of bodywork. The over-simplified reason you may have heard is that during massage, toxins are released and the water helps 'flush them out.' This is sort of true but the body works in much more complicated and mysterious ways. The bottom line is, all systems of the body rely on fluids for healthy movement. Hydration both helps good things come in, and bad things go out. Stay hydrated, inside and out!

2) Avoid alcohol. The day before and of your appointment. I made this mistake after my first professional massage. I thought it wouldn't hurt to have just one drink and the next morning I felt like I got hit by a truck! This may be an extreme reaction but that just proves the importance of tip #1. Further, use your massage experience to contemplate the effects of everything you put in your body. If you're sincerely trying to help your body heal itself, what other adjustments can you make to keep a clean, healthy body? (think caffeine, sugar, organic, etc.)

3) Carve out the time. If you can (and you probably can) make your massage day a dedicated your name here day. Schedule your massage after your daily obligations or better yet, on a day you don't have to work, run a bunch of errands, or otherwise stress about things to do. Instead, try pairing your massage with a work-out, date night, or yoga class. The more relaxed and present you are, the more you can revel in the enjoyment of the experience and fully absorb it. Everyone has 24 hours in the day to do with what they choose and your wellness is a worthy choice. Choose to make it a YOU day.

During your appointment...

r awareness. Before beginning your massage, take a moment to assess your body and let your therapist or bodyworker know what's up with you. No need to over-analyze your problems with them (this can be a time waster and a distraction from the task at hand), but consider how they can help you. And consider beyond your muscles, let them know of any other concerns. Are you having trouble sleeping? Have you been gassy lately? Headaches? PMS? Have you been feeling anxious or fatigued? A skilled therapist can approach a session in a number of different ways that can produce different results. Plus, just stating your concerns out loud often has a dissipating and relieving effect.

4) Talking on the table. Some therapists have specific requests/rules about talking during the massage. If they don't - there are a couple things to consider when deciding when and what to say. Most important to know, talking during massage divides the attention. I am less able to be present with your body and energies, and your awareness of the sensation is diminished while thinking and talking about other things.

Non-massage related talking - I fully understand that it's comforting to work with a therapist that you feel you can talk to and have developed trust in over time. Spending a couple minutes sharing a little life update can feel very relaxing and reassuring. However, spending the whole massage talking about unrelated topics can really take both the therapist and client away from the massage. Try to remain present to what's happening in the moment. Use the experience to deepen your subtle awareness and learn your body's nuances. For me, giving massage is a meditation. I am giving you my energy that I hope helps to heal you in whatever way you need.

Massage related talking. On the other hand, gently and relevantly guiding your therapist through your experience can inform their process and greatly enhance the results. I can say from my own experience that it is never in vain when a client verbalizes that they would like more or less pressure, something is intense, feels good, or reflects, 'that's a good spot', etc. If you're concerned that they will over-accomodate your request, you can be more specific with what you would like. For example, if you worry that by mentioning a minor injury they will either spend the whole session there or avoid it all together, let them know, for instance, that you would like it worked on but you will let them know when it's enough or becomes uncomfortable. Then keep them informed as they work on it. Part of developing a healthy and beneficial therapeutic relationship is understanding the two way street. The therapist is in service to the client, and the client is responsibility for expressing their needs. This two way street builds respect and effective bodywork!

5) Comfort. Plain and simple - do what you need to be comfortable. If you need to move or shift, go ahead. If you're cold and want a blanket, ask your therapist. And for goodness sake, if you need to fart, let it out! It's a perfectly natural and healthy response to relaxation and movement of the bodies systems. Don't worry, I've worked on a lot of bodies and trust me, a little (or big) toot does not surprise me or gross me out.

6) Breathe... You may have guessed that this element is important to me based on my business name...Breathe! It's quite profound, yet very simple really - the breath enhances your present awareness thus bringing you right to the very thing that's happening and - the breath nourishes your muscles and organs by oxygenating the blood and creating physical space in the core of the body plus - the breath is a powerful tool in calming the mind and relaxing the nervous system. A deep breath from a client tells me that they're right here, right where I am, in this dance. Therein lies the poetry...

After your appointment...

7) Move! Finally, when you get home from your massage and you're drinking water, take some time to move and stretch, especially if you receive traditional table massage that doesn't include much movement of the body. My suggestions for this practice is to turn on some tunes and having a living room dance party. Celebrate your good feelings! You could also roll around on the floor, or practice yoga poses. Include simple seated stretches for your hips and move your shoulders and neck in a way that feels good and gently opens you up. In my Thai massage practice, it is the movement that integrates the work of the massage and creates the balance that 'puts everything back in it's place.' This is also a great opportunity to assess how your body responds to the bodywork, physically, mentally, and emotionally.

In addition to enhancing the benefits of your massage experience, these tips are good practice any day of the week. Feel free to email me or comment below.

In good health and good fun...

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