Whether massage therapy is an occasional vacation treat or a regular weekly habit, there are a number of things you can do to optimize your experience and stretch that hour of bliss to long-lasting effect…
Many day spas have a relaxation lounge where you can unwind before your session. Arrive early and spend some time in the sauna, steam room or shower and quiet your mind in the lounge. Try to schedule your massage when you aren’t rushing straight from work or stuck in heaps of traffic. Nestling your treatment time within a cushion of space will help you prepare your body and mind before the treatment and soak in its benefits afterward.
Drink plenty of fresh water and minimize your intake of caffeine and alcohol on the day of your massage. Bodywork, especially deep tissue treatments, may release toxins stored in the body and create what we call a “healing response.” This is simply the body detoxifying, but it can sometimes manifest in unexpected soreness, minor aches or just plain feeling lousy. By hydrating well, you will speed your recovery time and assist your body in healing itself naturally.
Keep It Light
…in body and in spirit! Avoid eating a heavy meal just before your massage. You will often be laying face down during much of the session, and a full belly won’t be very comfortable. Massage therapy is very effective at quieting the mind and soothing the soul. When we are still, we are more sensitive, so feed your mind “good stuff” in the time surrounding your massage. Trade in nerve-jarring television and news programs in favor of things that promote serenity and calm.
As far as we know – and despite widespread testing – no one yet has reached nirvana via fast food and reality television!
Choose the Best Type of Massage for You
If you are relatively new to massage, the array of choices on a spa menu can be daunting. But, it is possible to narrow down your options by considering the current state of your body and mind.
Are you in a talkative and high-energy state? A bit wound up with muscles in knots? Choose an active, vigorous style of massage such as Thai, sports massage, or Shiatsu.
Feeling more contemplative and over stimulated? Anxious or emotionally off-kilter? Opt for a more soothing, nurturing style of bodywork like Cranio-Sacral, energy therapies, Esalen massage or gentle Swedish.
Take some time to read the spa’s brochure or website to learn more about each type of massage offered. Also, a spa might specialize in a particular type of massage. Trying out the spa’s signature treatment might introduce you to the perfect treatment for you.
All massage is good massage, but matching a modality to the moment can make a good experience great.
Lost in Translation
If you’re outside North America, you may want to expect the unexpected. Different cultures approach massage differently. In many parts of India, for instance, women will always receive their treatment from a female practitioner, and men from a male one. In some countries massage is treated and performed much like physical therapy, whereas in others it is part of a greater spiritual tradition.
Different cultures also view the concept of “draping” somewhat differently. You never know when you may suddenly find yourself on the table without any kind of sheet or covering, or ability to communicate aside from charades! If you’re especially modest, take note (and an extra towel.)
Keep it Comfortable
A great therapist will naturally strive to keep you comfortable at all times, but we never mind when clients speak up. Please let us know if you would like to be a bit warmer or cooler, if the position you’re in feels odd, or if anything we’re doing is causing you pain. Some clients – especially those new to massage – have a tendency to “grin and bear it,” either because they don’t know what is considered normal or they don’t want to offend the therapist. Your comfort is our number one priority, so let us know, even if you have to whisper.
Kayse Gehret has been a bodyworker and Reiki practitioner in the San Francisco Bay Area since 2001. She is also the founder of Soulstice Spa, Inc. a natural bodycare and cosmetics company based in Sausalito, CA and retailing nationwide. Her first book, Body/Work: Careers in Massage Therapy, will be published in late 2009.