Yesterday, I wrote a note to people who have a hard time relaxing. Sometimes the transition from mile-a-minute NYC life to lying still for an hour or more can be a little bumpy. Massage tends to smooth it out on its own; daily stresses melt away over the course of an hour or so. As a massage therapist, it is my job to ease you into a state of relaxation. It’s the best job in the world. But there are some things you can do to facilitate your own de-stressing session and make the most of your massage.
Culled from years of experience getting massages (hard work, but someone’s got to do it), I give you this handy guide to getting a great massage.
Give Yourself Time
Running late is stressful. Rushing gets your heart rate up. You can set the stage for a more relaxing massage by giving yourself lots of time to get to your appointment. One of the greatest gifts of massage is the opportunity to slow down. If you’re able, budget a little extra travel time into your day to kickstart that process. If this isn’t possible — if “train traffic ahead” holds you hostage for a few extra minutes underground or if something else goes awry — call me. Being on time is ideal, but you can still get a great massage if you’re running 5 minutes behind.
Many of us have precious few opportunities in life to simply lie down, fully supported and aligned. When you get on the massage table, make the most of that opportunity! If you’re not totally comfortable with the way pillows are set up or with the angle of the face cradle, please let me know so we can troubleshoot and get you cushy comfy. Setting yourself up to feel physically supported sets the mind at ease so you can get to relaxing!
Have you had times when you feel like you can’t turn off your brain? Or maybe you’ve experienced that moment in a massage where the massage therapist is moving your arm and tells you that you’re helping and to let it go, and you find that you don’t really know how? I’ve seen it a hundred times. I’ve also done it. It can be challenging to let go of your thoughts, your day, or the weight of your arm. Most of the time, we’re not allowed to — we have to be alert, respond to emails, hold our heads up — and sometimes it’s hard to believe that there’s a time and a place where the exact opposite is expected of us. This is your time to do nothing.
Relaxation is an art, and perfecting it takes practice. Taking a page from meditation’s book and focusing on breath can be a great way to shift your focus inward. Just as you would with a yoga class, taking a moment to focus on breath and set an intention before getting a massage can set a positive tone. I recommend something simple and relaxing — to breathe, to let go, to rest, to be easy.
Next time you find yourself shifting abruptly from a whirlwind day of craziness to a candlelit room where you have a set amount of time to relax, try the following when you get on the table, before your massage therapist even enters the room:
- Take a few deep breaths. If you are lying on your back, let your belly and ribs expand. If you are face-down, think about the back of your ribs expanding up and outward. I have been known to practice a little Ujjayi breathing when I first get on the table. It slows me down right away.
- Notice your positioning. If you’re in a cool room with a table warmer on, focus on the places where the warmth radiates and meets your skin. Think about dropping your weight into the table, what it feels like to be fully supported there. If anything falls short of comfort, mention it when your massage therapist comes back so he or she can help make an adjustment
- Notice the places in your body that do not feel relaxed, and visualize those places becoming soft and dropping into the table, also fully supported.
- Set a simple intention. If you’re one of those people who finds yourself “helping” during massages, it can be useful to remind yourself in those moments that you are there to breathe. No more, no less.
There are many ways to get a great massage, of course. This simple routine is what helps me unwind right away. If you find relaxation challenging, I encourage you to try it for yourself when you come in for your next massage.