Massage Anxiety is normal. Each of us have physical imperfections that make us self-conscious, even in the best of situations. But then, when asked to lie on a table naked for a stranger, well that will really cause the anxiety to come out!
It wasn’t until I became a Massage Therapist that I learned the proper way to receive a massage, in order to get the full value. As I look back on my behavior on the table as a customer, I realize all of the mistakes I had made. It didn’t ruin the experience, but I had made things harder for my therapist to achieve the goal of the massage. My need to be in control of the moment kept me from reaching a deeply relaxed state.
Here are my tips for getting the most out of your massage:
- Wear what makes YOU comfortable! In most massage practices in the U.S., you will be covered by a sheet or a large towel. The less clothing you’re wearing, the easier it is for the therapist to work; as they will have more options for techniques to use. But, a good therapist can give a quality massage to a fully clothed person. Most people wear their underwear or nothing. For your first massage you should be focusing on learning how to let yourself relax to the therapist’s touch. So, with that in mind, wear what will make you feel the most at ease.
- Relax!!!! It’s harder said than done, at first. Focus on your breathing and try to “let go”. The optimal state of your body during a massage is what I call “rag doll”. You’re not a person that can move around and be “helpful”. You’re a rag doll! You’re floppy. If I pick your arm up, I want it to be heavy and loose. If I shake your leg, I want to see it jiggle. If I am holding your wrist, I want your fingers to have a natural relaxed curl. This can be a hard physical state for your mind to let you get to, as most people are concerned with being polite and helpful. But it is totally unnecessary, and even gets in the way of your therapist, if you try to “help”.
- Let go of your body anxieties. Your therapist is a trained professional and has seen ALL types of bodies. A couple of basic courtesies: shower the day of the massage, and if you have an active skin infection, rash, or fungal infection, wait until it has been cleared by a doctor to receive massage. That’s really it!
- Protecting your “Privates”! Your private parts are just that, Private. Your therapist will not expose or touch your genitals or breasts. Now, let’s clarify a bit. Your glutes (butt/hip muscles) are a very typical area of tension that is worked during your massage. A trained therapist will work this area by draping the upper leg and tucking the sheet so that only the muscle groups being worked on are exposed, without exposing your genitalia/gluteal crease. However, if there is any part of your body you are uncomfortable with someone touching, just tell your therapist.
- Injuries/sensitivities/medications. Before you begin your massage, let your therapist know if you have had any surgeries, injuries, medications or sensitivities like allergies, or even ticklishness! For instance, knowing that my client has had spinal surgery affects the amount of pressure that I will give to them in that area. If my client has a nut allergy, then I need to use a special lotion for their massage. If my client has an injured shoulder, I will not be stretching that shoulder as far. And if my client has very ticklish feet, then I probably won’t even touch their feet so that they can remain relaxed.
- Communication. This is your massage! If you are not enjoying a technique or the pressure that is used, then it is your job as the client to let your therapist know. Mind-reading is a skill that most of us don’t have, so please use your voice and let your therapist know if something doesn’t feel right. There are modalities of massage that are more intense and use a deeper pressure, but your massage should never be painful.
To sum it all up: undress to your comfort level, breathe deeply and let go, don’t worry about how you look and don’t worry that your therapist will see anything they shouldn’t. Let your therapist in on your medical history and remember to communicate.
Now get out there and get a massage!