Friday, September 21, 2012

How to get the BEST possible massage.

Have you ever slowing gotten up out of bed, and noticed every muscle seems to be screaming at you? Have you ever felt the stress level in your life get so high that it feels like you have to walk on your tip toes just to keep your head above it? Perhaps you are experiencing a serious lack of nurturing touch in your life? I can just imagine that you might have thought to yourself, "I really need a good massage?" However, if you do not already have a great massage therapist on speed dial, the challenge is often finding the right fit for you and your needs. There are so many choices available. Many people "claim" to be the ONE you want to see, but how can you really tell what your experience will be like with a new therapist, and if this will be a good fit? Is it all just a matter of luck? Sometimes you may just want to give someone new a try. Their advertisement may look very inviting... but is it all hype, or the real deal?

Perhaps you have done your "homework" so to speak, and researched the prospective therapist and still cannot be sure. You have taken the time to read the advertisement or advertisements carefully, clicked on the link to the therapist's website and read every detail. You have even found and read reviews of other people's experiences with this particular therapist. You notice that most of them are very positive reviews, however, maybe there are one or two really negative reviews that seem to tell a different story. Perhaps it makes you wonder... Is it just a matter of taste? Different strokes for different folks? Or is something else going on here?

I have had several clients and fellow massage therapists share their massage stories with me; some quite humorous and some horrific "massage gone wrong" experiences where the client's expectations were not in the same ballpark of what happened. Over the years I have learned a thing or two about what goes into a truly satisfying massage experience, beyond what they teach in massage school, and have had several rather odd yet enlightening experiences to learn from. The good news is that you can benefit from the mistakes of others! I am ready to let you in on some wonderful secrets on how to change your luck for the better. You really can dramatically increase your odds of getting a great massage by following a few simple guidelines and suggestions. I know it may sound to simple to be true, but I have broken it down for you to the four Cs; Clarity, Communication, Courtesy and Cleanliness.
1. Clarity. First, before you even make that call to schedule an appointment, be clear what you are seeking in your own mind. Different therapists or providers have different specialties. You are going to want to pick a therapist who has the right set of skills to match what you need. I don't mean you need to be an expert in massage to get what you need. What I do mean is know what you want and need. Don't assume that precisely what you want and are seeking is exactly the same as everyone else. My experience is that massage can meet a wide variety of needs, preferences and expectation. Recognize that you are a unique individual. To get a truly wonderful massage, the intention of the therapist needs to be in line with your needs and expectations. I can't tell you how many times someone has said something that leads me to believe they assume everyone (or at least most people) are more or less like themselves and wants pretty much what they want. However, I have learned that this is not really the case.

My first recommendation is to check in with your body. Get some clarity about what your body really needs. What do you feel? Are you in any pain? Do you have sore, tight or achy muscles? Notice where you tend to carry your stress? Perhaps you are not feeling any physical pain, but are seeking emotional balance. You may have some mental stress you would like to release and really need some help to get out of your head. Perhaps you are feeling overwhelmed and your mind is racing. Perhaps what you really want and need is to be pampered. Make mental note of what you are feeling and what you would really like to experience. Massage means very different things to different people. Let me share with you two examples of clients, whose needs are completely different.
Example number one is a 42 year old man who is athletic. He has been pushing himself extra hard lately, working out at the gym and recently joined a community baseball team. Even though he is in pretty good physical shape, he is not as young as he used to be. It has been a long time since he played baseball. Perhaps he did not warm up enough or stretch enough or the activity was just outside his usual realm. Now his body is in pain, feeling the stress and strain of this activity. What he is seeking is a deeply therapeutic massage by a well trained massage therapist; someone who has not only been to massage school, but perhaps has had some advanced training, ideally someone who specializes in something like Deep Tissue Massage or Sports Massage. This client's highest priority is finding someone who has an excellent understanding of anatomy and physiology, knows how to recognize and tune into his body's therapeutic needs and will deliver an awesome restorative massage. His overall goal from the massage is to put his body back on the road to recovery so he can feel better and get back out there and play some more baseball.
Example number two is a 54 year old business man who is very touch deprived and stressed out from his demanding job. He does not currently have anyone in his life that fills his basic human need for touch, and perhaps is feeling a little lonely. The idea of a nice sensual massage sounds wonderful. He is not in any physical pain, but he is craving a relaxing and sensual touch experience. He would like to be touched, pampered, and cared for by a woman who is perhaps visually pleasing, warm, friendly, very attentive and eager to please. He may not be very concerned about her formal massage training, but does want to find someone who has a good intuitive understanding of the human body and knows what type of touch feels good. He knows that it is important to feel safe and well cared for. He would like to find someone who can connect with him and make him feel special. His overall goal is to find a massage provider that he is comfortable with, who is kind and seems to really enjoy giving sensual massage.

Having a real sense of clarity about your needs will help determine how you approach the next step, which involves asking the right questions, the ones that will help you determine if this provider is a good fit for your needs.
2. Communication. First of all, before you even call up the therapist, I highly recommend paying close attention to the wording of the advertisement. How the therapist describes the service she or he is offering can be very revealing. If this therapist has a website available, I recommend checking that out as well. What you are looking for are indications that this person is knowledgeable and skilled at providing the service you are seeking. You will likely still need to ask a few basic questions that will help you to narrow down if this person is offering the specific service you are seeking. All though there are many types of massage and bodywork available out there, most of them fit in one of two main categories; therapeutic or sensual massage. First you need to make sure you are talking to someone who offers the category of massage you are most interested in. The primary intention of each type is different.
A Therapeutic Massage is designed primarily as a treatment to bring about a therapeutic benefit or change. It may or may not feel good while it is happening. Although often times a therapeutic massage is pleasurable, its primary focus is to address physical issues such as releasing pain, correcting postural imbalances, or improving your physical state of well being in some way. A good therapeutic massage will help you to feel and function well when the massage is done or perhaps a few days later. Sometimes people may feel a bit sore after an intense Deep Tissue Massage or Structural Integration Session for a couple of days, but once the soreness wears off, they often feel much better. They should notice some type of physical improvement, particularly with regular sessions. However, a therapeutic type of massage does not necessarily need to be painful or even particularly intense. A Circulatory Massage is very soothing and relaxing. It involves a rhythmic medium pressure touch, and like the name implies, it is intended to improve the functioning of your Circulatory System. A Lymphatic Drainage Massage is a very gentle therapeutic massage designed to “unblocking” or speeding up the normal functioning of the Lymphatic System. A therapeutic massage may also go a long way to relieve stress, tension and help with emotional balance. But don't worry; you do not need to know the specific name for all the various types of therapeutic massages or individual techniques to get the result you want. You can leave all the specifics in the therapist’s hands. However, for the best results, you should be able to specify to the therapist what you hope to get out of your massage experience. For example, if you want to relieve stress, reduce pain, or want to know if this therapist can get the knots out from between your shoulder blades, just ask if this is something he or she can help you with. You may also want to ask them what their specialty or favorite type of massage is.
A Sensual Massage is intended primarily to provide the recipient with a deliciously pleasurable sensory experience. There are often many therapeutic benefits to receiving a sensual massage, particularly to our emotional and spiritual state of being, but the main focus is on sensation. A good sensual masseuse is a master of the senses and understands the art of touch. Often times a sensual massage functions to transport the recipient to a blissful, meditative, nearly trance like state of consciousness. The primary "sense" involved is the sense of touch. However, other senses may be incorporated as well, such as the sense of smell when essential oils are added. The true sensual masseuse also pays close attention to the music selected and the visual environment to create an overall positive sensory experience for the client.
Please be aware, the word "sensual" is very often miss used when it comes to massage. Now I am not placing any judgment here, either condemning or condoning the alternative use, but I am just trying to clarify what you might run into out there in reality, if you request a sensual massage. To be quite honest, many people, both providers and recipients, have come to use the word "Sensual" Massage, more or less, as a euphemism for an "Erotic" Massage, or a massage with some type of sexual release involved or "happy ending". In fact this alternative meaning has been so widely used, that the original meaning is often obscured or lost. Just for clarity, if you want to request a sensual massage that is non-erotic, I highly advised that you ask specifically if this provider offers a non-erotic sensual massage, or you might want to use different words to ask for what you are seeking, such as a blissful relaxation massage or perhaps a massage designed to awaken the senses.

Sometimes you may notice that the advertisement is very suggestive, and strongly hints at the real service being offered. If the masseuse is nude, provocatively posed or very suggestively dressed in the photo, than it might be pretty safe to assume that the erotic type of massage is what is being offered. Sometimes it seems that the more blatantly provocative the photos, the less real massage skills the masseuse has. However, if it is really not clear which type of massage is being offered, I would suggest very simply and directly asking if they offer the type massage you are seeking, and really listen to the answer. But keep it very simple and avoid getting graphic. If you are requesting an erotic massage session, I do NOT recommend that you ask if she or he will provide any specific sexual acts, or get into a discussion about how much extra they would charge you. If you try to engage them in any overt sexual talk, particularly in conjunction with money, this will very likely result in the masseuse hanging up on you, blocking you, stopping all communication. Please be aware that this type of talk puts the masseuse into a compromising legal situation. Even engaging in a conversation that involves any specific sexual act for a specific price may put them in jeopardy of being arrested. They may suspect that you are law enforcement trying to trick them.
You may like the picture that accompanies the advertisement, but this may not be enough to determine that this is the therapist for you. Although I personally think it is not ethical to misrepresent yourself, there are providers who use pictures that are not even of themselves, or maybe very old outdated photos from 20 years ago. If physical appearance or beauty is very important to you, be aware that pictures are sometimes very deceiving. The picture you see may or may not be a good representation of who you will be meeting with. If this is important to you, then I suggest that you ask if the picture on the advertisement is an actual up to date picture of the therapist you will be meeting with. If you get a bad vibe at any point while talking to a therapist, that they are not being honest with you, or don't seem to be a comfortable fit, then pay attention to that feeling and move on to someone else.
3. Courtesy. How you treat and interact with your provider makes a huge difference in the quality of the massage you will receive. Whenever I see a negative review of a massage therapist who I know normally gets glowing reviews, I suspect that the client may have actually behaved in such a way that they negatively affected the massage. Yes, they may have actually gotten a bad massage from a therapist that normally gives wonderful massages, because they (the client) did not behaved themselves well. As much as I try my best to give all my clients a fantastic massage, I recognize that I am only human. If a client is rude, insulting, demanding and grabby, or if they cross any of my boundaries, then I will be forced into a defensive mode. I simply cannot give a fantastic massage when I feel vulnerable or guarded. Please be respectful and polite at all time, and I assure that you will get a much better massage. If you are not certain about what the expectations are; what is allowed or not allowed, then ask politely before you do anything questionable, and then respect his or her wishes.
I have encountered some so called "hobbyists" who actually make a sport out of trying to get a purely therapeutic massage therapist, who has clearly stated that she does not offer any erotic services, to touch them erotically. This so called hobbyist generally does not bring up their true interest until after the massage has already started. They may try to steer the massage down a sexual path in a subtle or sometimes not so subtle way. This behavior is disastrous on several levels. I could go in to depth about how potentially damaging this is to therapist, who may be constantly bombarded with sexually demeaning overtures on a daily basis. I could tell you about many potentially gifted therapists who have been discouraged and given up massage therapy as a profession all together over this issue. I could tell you about others who gave into to the pressure, but resented it and became bitter and cold. But more to the point, it is just not a good strategy for you to engage in if you want a top quality massage. You will most likely experience one of three less than optimal possible outcomes:
1. She may refuse to continue the massage altogether and send you packing on the spot (possibly without your money).
2. She may try to continue with a purely therapeutic massage, but the quality will suffer because she will be very guarded.
3. She may give in to the pressure. Even if you achieve some type of victory by wearing her down, if her heart is not in it, I can assure you the quality will not be good. Do you think a touch given begrudgingly, is really worth all the effort?

Another behavior that can diminish the quality of your massage is trying to haggle over the price. You may be able to politely ask if she or he is offering any specials, or ask if she or he offers a discount perhaps to military or senior citizens if this applies to you. But if the answer is no, you need to let it go. If you cannot afford the price asked, then I suggest moving right on to a different therapist who is already in your price range. If you continue to try to wear her or him down, this will not work in your favor. This is very insulting. It is extremely hard to give a good massage to someone who has just insulted you. I strongly suggest either pay the price asked or pick a different therapist.
4. Cleanliness. You might think this one would be common sense, but I can tell you from personal experience that more often than I would like to recall, I have had a client lie down on my massage table who was not hygienically savvy. Remember that in order for your therapist to do a good job, they are in very close proximity with you for generally an hour or more, with their nose all right up in your business. If you have bad breath, body odder, or dirty stinky feet, they cannot escape it. Please put extra care into your hygiene before getting a massage. It will pay off. It is extremely hard to do your best work on someone who is not clean or smells bad. If you take the time to brush your teeth, take a shower, use a little soap and deodorant, believe me, you will get a much better massage than if you do not. If you are unable to do these things before your massage because you are coming straight from a hot sweaty job, then please ask the therapist if there is a shower facility available to use on site. If the answer is yes, then bring your toiletries with you, use the shower before you get on the massage table and don't forget to brush your teeth.

Cleanliness also applies, in the broader sense of the word, to being drug and alcohol free. If you arrive intoxicated or under the influence of a mind altering drug, this is not acceptable. This puts both you and the therapist at risk. You are not only more likely to behave badly, but you actually are more likely to experience an injury when intoxicated. You are likely to be dehydrated and physically compromised in a variety of ways. You will have less sensory awareness and your perception will be altered affecting your ability to communicate your needs and physical limitations. This will adversely affect your judgment and your overall massage experience. If the therapist notices your altered state, she or he may ask you to leave.
To sum it all up; if you want to get the best possible massage, be aware that your behavior matters a great deal. First, do your homework. There are vastly different types of massages out there. You need to know what you really want. Don't just look at the pictures; take the time to read the words in the advertisement or website if one is available. Notice if what the therapist claims to offer seems to be in line with what you are seeking. Call and ask directly but politely if this provider offers the service you really want. If you get a bad vibe, or are suspicious that this therapist is not being honest, pay attention to your gut feelings and don’t go. Always be a gentleman. By all means, please do not arrive to your appointment smelly or intoxicated.

If you would like to schedule a massage with me, please take a look at my website, and then contact me for an appointment.