Recently I have noticed that relaxing into the massage process seems to be effortless for some of my clients, and much more challenging for others. Why is this? Of course personal variability is huge between clients, and each client brings different stressors and circumstances to the massage table, as well as different techniques to facilitate letting go during a massage. What promotes relaxation for one client may be alarming to another. For example, some clients find audible and sometimes even loud exhalations and verbal expressions of release (“AHHHHH…”) very helpful , yet such tactics would only serve to work another client into a state of embarrassed frenzy if they tried to relax in this way! To some degree, relaxing on the table is a personal matter, and one into which a regular massage client usually evolves over time. But if you are new to the massage world, or have a hard time relaxing as fully as you would like during massage, or simply desire to further enhance your massage experience, read on.
I have found in my years as a massage therapist that certain strategies predictably help clients effectively relax into a massage and consequently get the most out of their time with me. This post will detail my take on relaxation facilitation, and two subsequent posts will feature what my clients have to say about what helps them to relax most, both before they come in for massage and once they settle onto the table.
Six Strategies to Increase RELAXATION and Enhance your Massage
1. Begin preparing for your massage before you arrive. Imagine relaxing into the massage table and letting go of any fears, worries, or stored up tensions in your body before you even get to your scheduled massage. Leave your house or work early enough that you don’t have to rush to be on time. Anticipate relaxing and letting go of the stressors of the day, week, or month. Anticipate the warmth of the massage table, the relaxing music, and the time you have carved out for yourself. You deserve this time, and it is yours to fully embrace.
2. Ask for what you want and address any questions you may have before the massage begins. This includes any updates on your health, desired focus of massage, musical requests, questions and concerns. It is always good to get the preliminaries out of the way before the massage starts. That way, if you don’t feel like talking, you don’t have to say anything during the massage. Of course it always fine and often helpful to give feedback or ask questions during massage, but don’t feel like you have to. For many clients, zoning out completely is one of the most beneficial ways to relax. For others, talking during massage is a useful or even necessary as part of the letting go process. There is no right or wrong answer here…but getting the pressing things out of the way beforehand (or certainly if something comes up during massage) helps to keep you from dwelling on unnecessary concerns during the massage.
3. Once you are on the table, settle in and take some deep, cleansing breaths. The importance of breathing during massage cannot be overstated. As the massage begins and progresses, focus on letting go with each out breath. Given half the chance, your body wants to relax. To the degree that you can, don’t fight that by trying to stay in tight control or remaining overly guarded. Sometimes that is easier said than done, especially in areas where you may be exceptionally tight, have an injury, or have experienced long-standing trauma. Just do your best, and remember to breathe right into the area that is tight or constricted. Feel what it feels like to bring breath into that stuck place, and then visualize release as you let your breath out. Sometimes this takes conscious practice, but it is well worth the effort and WILL enhance the effectiveness of your massage, I promise.
4. Take a cue from my breathing. If you find yourself forgetting to breathe into difficult areas, or holding your breath, pay attention to MY breathing as a reminder. I will say it right now, I am not good at reminding people to breathe on the massage table. What I AM good at is using my breathing to help facilitate yours. You will notice that I do deep, relaxing, cleansing breathing while giving massage, especially at times when I want you to do the same. You do not have to sync with my breathing or anything fancy like that, that is not my intention. Breathing deeply serves the dual purpose for me of staying focused and tuned in to your body, as well as giving you a gentle reminder to focus on your breathing as well.
5. Visualize Butter! Visualization is your powerful ally during massage. I encourage my clients to imagine a softening of their tight muscles into something soft and fluid — like butter, putty, or some other medium that is pliable and malleable. Optimally, our muscles have a good resting tone, which is actually not like butter at all! But the process of softening and releasing and letting go can be very metaphoric. Imagine blood flowing into areas where it has been previously hampered, and feeling light and free as if you were floating. Experiment with images that work best for you to promote feelings of lightness and relaxation during your massage.
6. Give yourself permission to let go. Allow yourself to relax and enjoy the massage process. There is no mission to accomplish, no agenda to complete, no dinner to make, not a soul demanding your attention when you are on the table. Let it be a time just for you. Sometimes this takes focus and a reminder to yourself to consciously let it all go. My promise to you as your massage therapist is that I will do my best to provide an environment in which you can take a break from the stressors of life for the duration of our time together. My intention for you is to provide something to take away, a feeling of relaxation and relief that will ease the tensions as you move forward in life. Let me know if I can do anything to facilitate this…and together we can make this goal a reality.