May 26, 2017

Massage: More than Skin Deep.

I worked as a massage therapist for 10 years.

After seeing hundreds of clients and hearing their stories, I decided it was time to move on. In those years as a practitioner, I discovered the power of vulnerability. We all have so much in common. Beneath the skin, we are the same.

I had a massage 12 years ago in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I was awoken from a deep sleep by the sound of my loud snoring.

That’s the power of massage.

There you are, relaxed in the hands of a complete stranger and, up until a few minutes before your appointment, you may have been feeling stressed, distracted, overwhelmed, or tired.

After your treatment you emerge rejuvenated, almost a brand new version of yourself—or rather who you are supposed to be—the real you. There’s something special about letting go completely, and it is remarkable that we trust a complete stranger to take care of us in this way.

I always found being on the receiving end of a massage to be enlightening, although I was too analytical and observed what types of techniques my colleagues would use. Taking care of myself made me a better practitioner, a more empathetic one for sure.

What you learn by both giving and receiving massage is that you get in touch with your true essence. Layers, such as social status, dissipate—and you are just a body and energy.

When you meet and give treatments to hundreds of people over the course of many years, you learn their stories. I wouldn’t say you develop friendships, because you need to keep professional boundaries; however, the conversations with regular clients become more interesting and in-depth each time.

What I discovered was, no matter what background or job people had, they all had one thing in common—they were their true selves on the massage table.

From high-flying stressed out executives to exhausted mothers, when they were receiving a massage they could just be. They didn’t have to justify their actions or decisions. Conversations with people simply being themselves, not trying to impress you with their job or social connections, are on a whole new level.

We often talked about aspirations, dreams that needed fulfilling, regrets. I received so many book recommendations from clients and, I am afraid to say, I couldn’t follow up on many of them. You see, if you don’t have a good memory, and you are not able to stop a treatment to write down book titles with oil-covered hands, it’s difficult.

Sometimes I wondered what might have happened had I recorded those beautiful conversations. Of course, I would have requested written permission first. I guess most recordings would have been 99 percent silence. However, during some, my clients would talk with me for almost the entire duration of the appointment.

I remember one client recounting his experience of attending a movie premiere. It was exciting to hear about the buzz around it. Sometimes I had lifestyle envy. If I felt comfortable enough to express admiration or envy, I would get fairly similar replies: all that glitters ain’t gold.

You might think someone’s life is better than yours but, unless you learn about the struggle behind his or her achievements, you will never get a true picture and appreciate how he or she got there. Sure, some people are born into wealth and life may seem to be easier for them; however, no one is immune to pain—physical or emotional.

Pain is a great leveller. We automatically want to numb or erase pain, either through medication or distraction. Acknowledging and managing pain, learning about what it means, and what actions we need to take requires awareness. Many people suffer from either chronic or occasional pain, either because of illness or injury, and that’s why they book a massage treatment.

I hope that during my career I helped people become more aware of how their bodies work and the effect that stress has on sleep, energy levels, and overall health.

The weight of listening to people’s problems and the struggle of keeping my massage business afloat—massage is still considered to be a luxury and not a necessity—made me decide to close my massage practice.

I have no regrets and I don’t miss working as a massage practitioner, and I am grateful for the life lessons.

Author: Paola Bassanese
Image: ePi.Longo/Flickr
Editor: Lieselle Davidson

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