Have you ever received a massage where the person left you with bruises because they were too rough, or it was so soft you feel like you haven’t had a massage at all? Being massaged where you want with the correct pressure and speed is the key to a good massage. This is where we come to the Art of Listening and to do this we need to use our senses:
TOUCH: When giving a massage imagine that you have little eyes in your fingers. You are looking around the body, checking out the texture of the muscles. Are they soft or tense? Do they feel like guitar strings or do you discover little lumps within the muscle? Sometimes there is just one big lump. Let your hands become explorers, curious to know about the body.
SOUND: Take note of how the recipient is breathing. If they are holding their breath you are probably using too much pressure and speed – they may be in pain or are afraid. If they are shallow breathing
they might be stressed – encourage them to breathe slowly and deeply into their belly: this helps them to relax. If they sigh or breathe deeply, it is likely that they are enjoying the massage.
SPEECH: Asking questions is helpful.
• How is the pressure? Would you like more or less? Experiment with the recipient until you get it just right.
• How is the speed? Generally if you are using firm pressure you also use slow strokes. If you just want to stimulate blood flow and the pressure is medium, go fast. If you want to relax a person,
find out the pressure that is relaxing for them and slow down.
• If you feel a lump or knot under your hand, find out what pressure they need. Too much pressure causes pain, redness, inflammation and bruising. Take care, even if they ask for lots of pressure.
• Check that they are comfortable. When you find a sore spot talk to them about it.
Keep conversation to what is going on for the recipient rather than what happened to you today. If you are massaging a person after an accident, or because their neck is tense due to a busy day at work, it is helpful for the recipient to talk about it – it’s a type of decompression. Focus on their feelings and acknowledge them. This is a constructive way to help someone unload their tension or transform their stress.
If you are giving a person a massage for relaxation or intimate connection, keep the conversation focused on what they experience in their body. I tell my clients they are having an “an appointment with themselves”. It’s a time to go inwards. It is not a time to be outside of themself discussing what is on the menu for dinner or how to dress for a party.
SIGHT: Look at the colour of the skin. As you massage you may notice certain areas going pink. This is a good sign as blood is getting into tight areas. However do not stay there too long as this could cause bruising. Observe the recipient’s behaviour, if they are fidgeting a lot they may be uncomfortable, in pain or wanting the massage to stop. People change facial expressions if you touch
FEELING: Listen with your whole body. To do this we need to be fully present and relaxed in ourselves.
Sometimes we just get a “knowing” about what is needed – trust it but do ask the recipient first. Respect brings trust! Sometimes my hands just wonder to a sore area. Or I just know that I need
to stop and hold a certain part of the body. Or I get a sense to say something. People ask me how I know this – it’s just a feeling inside of me which I listen to and follow.
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Elayne Lane is an instructor of the Universal Healing Tao. She has been teaching and doing bodywork in excess of 20 years.