Thoughts on Massage

Receiving bodywork requires trust, and trust requires context. This introduction intends to reveal some of the context informing my particular body of (body)work, particularly hands-on, classical massage work. These ideas apply to all my modalities, but traditional massage is often the starting point of my therapeutic relationships, so it serves as a good starting point to learn about me. I aim to provide insight about who I am as a practitioner and person, in order to cultivate a sense of safety and open communication.

Most have strong opinions about what is “right” bodywork - there is nothing wrong with that! For my part, I believe that the “right” bodywork is highly individual. As long as a therapist’s work does no harm and feels effective to you, it’s good therapy.

That being said, after time in this field, I feel it’s important to make a distinction between effective work and sensation-heavy work. In America, we have a collective cultural myth of “no pain, no gain.” (It’s an interesting phenomenon, and well worth investigating as a larger discussion.) We sometimes assume if we don't "feel" it, "it" isn't working. This creates an immediate and sometimes damning impediment to healing.

Punching you in slow motion is not going to help your body in the long run. In fact, aggressive bodywork promotes the flight-or-fight adrenal response you’re likely trying to relieve. Think about it this way: if you encounter an inconsolably freaked out child, you’re not going you’re not going to yell at them, push them around, and tell them to figure their shit out right now, or else! You’re going to coax them. You’re going to show them how to break down their problem into little pieces. You’re going to help them, gently. (Or hopefully you will...) Your body is that little kid, please be kind to it.

To honor the body’s process, in my sessions I focus on precision rather than force to provide touch that feels like healing. I have also found in my years of work that slower techniques, more geared toward gradual release are much more effective in the long run than hard and fast solutions. Compare this to weight loss: we all have learned from the-Science-that-Be that changing eating habits slowly is more effective and has longer lasting results than extreme dieting. Your body’s holding patterns did not develop overnight. It’s possible that we won’t be able to heal them in one, two or even five sessions. The body is a deeply complicated, interconnected system.

There’s good news, however! The more you receive bodywork, the more sensitive to it you become. Your subjective experience of touch will become deeper as you perceive more of your body. If you have a bodywork history of feeling like you’re never getting enough pressure or healing, it probably means you need more sessions altogether, rather than a higher intensity.

Touch is an integral part of the innately social experience of humanity. And we’re more touch starved than ever in this early era of integrated-digital living. Which is one of many, many reasons that bodywork is a practice worthy of financial and temporal investment. Numerous studies have shown that massage therapy and other bodywork reduces stress, anxiety, depression and effectively diminishes many kinds of physical pain, precluding more extreme medical intervention. One session a month is enough to distinctly change the way you experience your days and community: ask anyone who receives regular bodywork! It really is profound.

Honestly, most of us don’t need a study to know that bodywork is worth it, that we are worthy of bodywork: we know it’s true innately. It’s all about giving ourselves permission to self-care, and I get it, that can be challenging. But our bodies encourage us toward healthy living, and when we take care of ourselves, we’re better able to cope with the inevitable ups and downs of life. It’s just a fact of experience! The more we care for ourselves, the better we live. It’s as simple as that.

I look forward to seeing you on the table soon!

laura