Updated: May 23, 2022
Receiving a massage seems simple enough. You lay on the massage table and the massage therapist gives you a massage. However, if you have ever had a massage before, you know that massage therapists differ in their techniques and style. This usually depends on their schooling, what kind of place they have given or give massages (spa, massage establishment or chiropractors office), and their philosophy when it comes to giving and receiving a massage.
Regardless of these differences the common denominator is you. This means that it is your time that you have paid for to be with the massage therapist to address your needs. When it comes to getting the most out of your massage it is important that you:
1) Communicate with your therapist
Take the time to communicate to your therapist what you wish for them to work on and how you like the pressure of the massage. The first part is relatively simple. You let them know if you have any specific areas you wish them to address and also mention any areas that you would like them to avoid. For example, if you do not like your feet or head massaged let them know at the start of the session. If the therapist is any good they will have listened to you and will not massage those areas.
Letting them know exactly what you want them to work on helps the massage therapist to deliver an effective massage by planning ahead what they will be doing during the massage before they get started. During the massage your massage therapist ought to check in with you to make sure the pressure is adequate. Typically, pressure is light to medium at first to warm up the tissues and then progressively the therapist will work deeper with more pressure to release the muscles. If at anytime you would appreciate more pressure during your massage session you ought to let the therapist know so that they can adjust early into the session so that you get the most out of your massage.
Sometimes it is difficult to speak up because we feel bad telling the therapist what to do. I often feel the same way but remember its your time and money that your spending with someone who promotes themselves as being professional and qualified. Obviously, if you are in the hands of a good therapist you will not find yourself in this position in the first place.
2) Relax and breathe
As your massage therapist works on you take a nice deep inhalation and exhalation to release stress and tension in the body. To help release tightness, tension and stress in the body it is best to breath this way when they
are working on tender areas that beckon your attention. As the therapist works in deeper on the tender areas the body has a tendency to contract or tighten to protect. The goal with breathing is to send signals to the brain via the nervous system by using your breath to allow yourself to relax thereby overriding the bodies natural tendency. By doing this you teach or coach the body that is okay to let go and release. Most tension and stress that is held in the body is there because we have not taught our bodies how to let it go or release it.
Through proper breathing and different massage methods we can learn to help our body deal effectively with stress and tension. Do not breath like this all the time as you may hyperventilate. It is best to simply breath normally and when you feel tension or the body tightening then implement this breathing method. Another method of using the breath is to take in a deep breath and then hold it gently for a few seconds and then exhale. You might find at first that you control your breath on the way out. However, it is best when you exhale to allow yourself to just let it go without trying to control the breath. Just as it sounds and should feel, you will "let go" of tension and stress held in the body. This breath work is typically utilized during Trigger Point Therapy but can be very useful in any deep tissue session. Your massage therapist ought to hold on or apply pressure to the tender areas as you engage in the breath work allowing you to complete the process.