Massage Therapy: More than Muscle Manipulation

By: Erica Beebe Certified Massage Therapist and owner of @beebewell Massage.

Throughout this article, I will be sharing my thoughts about massage therapy from the perspective of a practitioner. I will name the benefits of massage and explain how body work practice has an incredible way of improving your life! Even though we are currently limited in the ways we are able to go about our day, it doesn’t mean that we can’t receive the benefits of massage! That being said, this article will explain some self-acupressure techniques, so you can still give attention to your current aches and pains.

So, before you read any further, I want you to place one hand over your heart and the other hand over your belly. When you’re ready, take a deep breath in….through the nose…. feel the air fill your abdomen…and now exhale out through your mouth until the air is gone. The sensation that you feel upon exhale is what I’d like you to pay the most attention to.

The most scientifically proven benefit of massage is the impact that it has on relaxation. Holding space for my clients to feel safe and relaxed is one of the best parts of my job. Simply taking time lay on the table does so much good for the body. To begin the session, I ask my clients to take a deep breath in, hold it, and release a long deep breath out—just as I had you do a moment ago. The act of the exhale stimulates our parasympathetic nervous system (Rest and Digest), sending a signal from our brain to our body that we are safe. In contrast, our sympathetic nervous system (Fight, Flight, Freeze) is able to ease up on the production of hormones that would normally make us feel alert and awake, which is something that is counterproductive when laying on massage table.

Consciously acknowledging our breath helps bring peace to our busy minds and our restless bodies. The longer and deeper the breath, the more our heart rate slows, and the more our blood flow increases. By beginning each session with deep concentrated breathing, it allows me to get a sense of each client’s current state - both energetically and physically. Connecting with my client at the start of the session through breath work sets a calming and peaceful environment for the duration of our time together. Since I am not physically able to work on clients at this time, sharing breathing techniques is a way to enable them to hold space for themselves from afar. This is the first step in the self-acupressure sequence that I mentioned before.

The beautiful thing about massage is that there’s truly a therapist and a modality for everybody and every body! Most of us are familiar with traditional Swedish or Sports Massage, or maybe even Shiatsu or Thai. All of them bring a unique element to body work and feel amazing in their own right. My own sessions include components of Swedish, Thai, Deep Tissue and Shiatsu techniques. By incorporating techniques from each practice, I am able to craft a sessions geared towards the client’s needs. I combine relaxing strokes with deep tissue and energy holds that include acupressure points. The goal of my massage is to bring relaxation, inner peace and comfort to whoever is on my table. With so many different variations of massage, figuring out what type of body work you enjoy and what your body responds well too is quite a unique process for everyone. Something to keep in mind is that there is a technique out there for everyone, as well as a therapist for everyone. Finding the right combination is the key to success. So, if the therapist you worked with didn’t quite fulfill the vision you had for your session, don’t be discouraged! It’s possible that it simply wasn’t a match. Don’t be afraid to explore different modalities and to take note of what you do prefer when it comes to massage and your body. Personally speaking, communication, comfortability and safety are always my top priorities, and I encourage as much feedback as possible in order to ensure the highest quality of relaxation for my clients.