Massage and EnergyWork
When I first started this journey of becoming a massage therapist, deep tissue massage was all I thought that I would care about. It was all that I wanted to give, all that I wanted to receive. It was the only modality of bodywork that I gave any merit to. I was of the mentality that anything less than deep tissue massage was fluff; an ineffective waste of time worth nothing more than being rubbed with oil and pet while taking a nap. I didn't believe in the power of relaxation. I thought energy work was a complete hoax. Quite a cynic I was! All that has changed now! This was just the start of my journey into the healing arts world and wow have a I come a long way!
I want to start off by saying that if you enjoy deep tissue massage, than that is OK... I do too! If you don't enjoy deep tissue massage that is also OK. But I want to share with you what I found from my experience working with many clients. So here's what I gathered and what I've found out. After my first year working with clients, mainly doing deep tissue massage, I had an epiphany. I realized that many many many of my clients only received deep tissue massage because they thought they were supposed to. They were of the school of thought that in order to fix something that was broken, there would be discomfort/pain and that they'd just grin and bear it. And so they did. I got used to hearing the the sounds of my clients gritting their teeth, holding their breath, and letting out yelps of discomfort. My clients claimed they loved my work and kept coming back, but something felt very off. Every day when I came to the massage table and started my work, I felt like it was another war waged against angry, tight muscles. Another battle to try and pound the taught muscles into submission. My goal was to soften these muscles and get all those "knots" out but try as I might, often times the muscles would end up angrier, more enflamed and tighter than they were before. My clients would be sore for days afterwards before getting the relief they were seeking. Then it hit me! I wanted the muscles to relax but my efforts to do so were often incredibly un-relaxing for my client who was often times were just "grinning and bearing it" for the sake of getting better. I realized that much of what we were doing was self-defeating.
Often times I felt that by issuing deep tissue techniques on clients who didn't crave and enjoy the sensation those techniques bring, I was making things worse, not better. For those clients who only felt pain and discomfort from deep tissue, the work was sending their bodies into a state of fight or flight, NOT relaxation. Deep Tissue can be an incredible relief if you've got the mind body connection that allows you to relax into it and see it as the means for relief. Some of us can do this! Most of us cannot!
So what are our alternatives to the DEEP TISSUE route for those of us who're discovering perhaps we don't like and therefore don't need that style of massage after all. This doesn't mean the massage will be fluff. There's a difference between DEEP TISSUE and firm pressure. A medium/firm pressure Esalen style massage is a great alternative. And to go one step further, adding cupping can be incredibly effective. Please go to my pages on Esalen Massage and Cupping to read more.
Do You LOVE Deep Tissue?
Put yourself in your tight muscles' shoes. What if you were that tired, angry muscle on the top of your shoulders. How would you feel if someone started shoving their elbow into you and wrestling you with their hands? Would that make you take a big sigh of relief and let go? Would that make you want to relax and unwind? My guess is your answer would be NO WAY! In fact, its more likely that you'd get aggravated with all these aggressive attempts to calm you down. You may even huff and puff and push back, engaging in a muscle versus massage therapist game of tug of warm which ends with both parties feeling cranky, sore, and exhausted.
Instead, perhaps, we could work with the psychology of the body in order to try and coax the tired, tense muscles of your body into a state of deep relaxation and letting go. These muscles are often extra tight because they're "on duty", actively contracted in a state of guarding you from any possible dangers. In a constant state of fight or flight, our muscles think they're helping you by remaining contracted, so that at a moments notice they can propel into action to save you from a threat. Being on duty all day and all night can get exhausting, leading to sore, fatigued, chronically tight muscles.
DEEP Tissue & The Psychology of the Body
Alternatives to Deep Tissue
My first question to you is, do you LOVE deep tissue massage? Do you love deep tissue or do you just have the philosophy "No Pain, No Gain"? This answer is a personal one. There is no right or wrong answer. There is no better answer. But it matters! So let's try and find out!
If you LOVE deep tissue massages because you crave the sensation of deep tissue, I will tell you right now that I give an incredible deep tissue massage. That's probably because every massage therapist loves to give the massage they love to receive and for me, the answer is YES, I love deep tissue bodywork. I crave that "hurts so good" sensation and seek that sensation out in every massage I receive. I get quite antsy and agitated on a massage table if the strokes I'm receiving aren't deep and addressing all my trouble spots. So for all of you who answered yes, I'm SO happy to work with you using deep tissue methods. I promise I've got the strength and the know how.
But for those of you who are unsure if you actually like what deep tissue feels like, as opposed to just grinning and bearing it, please read below. You're not alone. In fact I think this is most of you! There are other options for effective, constructive bodywork! There's more than one way to get to feeling better in your body!
The Deep Tissue Wars