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Ten Ways To Make Massage More Therapeutic

Politically incorrect massage

Here is another one of my irreverent massage therapy master pieces, along with my warning message: If you don’t have a sense of humor, stop reading right here! For my part, I’d rather be controversial than boring.

There is no one point at which massage turns into massage therapy. It’s a matter of degrees. It is quite difficult for any massage NOT to be therapeutic at least to some degree.

How does a non-therapeutic massage feel like?

painful massageLet’s start close to the zero percentile. I can remember some massages that I would classify as having next to no therapeutic effect.

Here’s one I clearly remember. Once I went to the Gellert Spa in Budapest, Hungary.

This is a very famous spa with natural hot springs baths and lots of massage therapy.

Unfortunately I ended up with a big hulk of a therapist who treated my body like it was a slab of meat.

He pushed and pressed and squeezed all over, but I was just enduring the session and waiting for it to end.

I also had a few really sub-standard Thai Massage sessions here in Thailand where I felt like getting up and walking out. The only reason why I did not is because I figured the therapist just didn’t know any better and I did not want her to lose face in front of her colleagues (a big issue in Thailand).

Those are examples of sessions that have close to zero therapeutic value, when you feel that all you did is waste some money and time.

Somewhat therapeutic massages

Moving up the ladder, there are sessions that are technically correct, but there is no heart and soul in them, no connection, no feeling.

There is nothing offensive about them, but they feel like they affect you only in a superficial way. There is some therapeutic value, but it is quite limited since the effect does not reach your deeper energetic levels.

Massage heaven

massage heaven

Way over at the other end of the spectrum there are sessions where you go into a trance, you feel blissed out, in massage heaven. You feel light, clear, peaceful, content, balanced, like walking on clouds.

You know that your energy has shifted in a major way, and this effect stays with you for quite some time. There is not even a question about the therapeutic value of the session.

A road map to massage heaven and good therapy

massage therapy sign

So how do you get there as a massage therapist? Should you spend a few thousand dollars for some fancy massage therapy training program in Costa Rica or Timbuktu, or should you learn 150 new techniques?

Or maybe you should study three new modalities, or join a few more associations that pepper you with advice on clinical, medical, scientific data on how the neutrons, protons, croutons, neuro-popsicals, or the body’s built in natural heroin lab do-hickie transmitter watchamecallthem affect your clients when you work on them?

Or you might need to brush up on who got kidnapped in the abduction of the femur away from the median plane.

Or what are the flight details of the transverse plane (also known as an axial plane) which divides the body into cranial and caudal portions.

If that does not help enough, you could study the relationship between the intercondylar fossa between the condyles at the distal end of the femur and the intercondylar eminence on the tibial plateau, specifically where the anterior and posterior intercondylar fossa is entangled with the sites of the anterior cruciate and posterior cruciate ligament attachment. So now you know it!

An easier and simpler way which will definitely work

massage as a healing art

If all that is not your cup of tea, then allow me to present a much simpler way – well, several ways  – to make massage more therapeutic. They are all totally free. Their only cost is an open mind, and the willingness to possibly unlearn some habits that stand in the way of better therapeutic work.

  • 1. Forget about your full body routine, your sequence of massage techniques, and focus on what your client really wants you to work on instead of doing what you think you should do or what you habitually do.

    Many times the difference between a less therapeutic and a more therapeutic massage is simply that you stay on a particular area much longer and keep working it until there is real improvement.

  • 2. Let your intuition guide your hands instead of your brain and your anatomical knowledge. Close your eyes and focus on feeling what is happening under your hands instead of focusing on what you are doing with your hands.
  • 3. Use your hands as listening tools. Instead of doing something to someone, allow information from the body of your client to flow back to you through your hands while you are massaging. This is just a shift in thinking.
  • 4. Shift from being a massage mechanic to becoming a massage artist. Think of yourself as moving energy instead of moving body parts.

    Grow beyond the concept that massage therapy is just a way of manipulating someone’s anatomy and embrace the idea that you are working with someone’s total energy field (including but not limited to their anatomical parts).

  • 5. Use your hands to consciously transmit healing, soothing, loving energy. Mentally focus on sending this energy and verbalize this energy transmission in your mind.
  • 6. Learn some kind of energy work process to develop more sensitivity in your hands (lots of free material online). I personally use simple Qigong techniques.
  • 7. Instead of focusing on your hands while you are massaging, put your attention on your center of energy, the hara. This is the area right behind the naval, your main energy reservoir.

    Feel that your energy originates from there and not from your hands. This will engage your entire energy field in the massage instead of mostly your hands.

  • 8. Be very aware of not working with muscle power more than absolutely necessary. Try to use your body weight as much as possible. Develop the feeling of leaning instead of pressing. This will result in a much better feeling for you and your client.
  • 9. Mentally talk to your client’s body. If you work on someone’s shoulder, silently communicate with the shoulder and ask it to relax, to heal, to let go.
  • 10. Visualize relaxation and healing occurring in your client’s body. See the intended outcome of the massage session in your mind. Picture your client as whole, healthy and radiant.

Naturally it is essential to have an extensive arsenal of good massage techniques and an understanding of anatomy and physiology. If you read this article, I am assuming that you have those already. Just don’t stop there.

If you use these 10 suggestions, the quality and therapeutic value of your massage therapy work will increase dramatically, as will your feeling of self esteem and your client’s satisfaction.

All these methods are free. However if you want to learn massage in a more profound way, see actual examples, learn specific massage energy techniques, watch it all in action, and learn many more additional ways to improve the quality of your therapy skills, you can find it all in the MAGIC TOUCH SECRETS FOR MASSAGE online training course.

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The author, Shama Kern, founder and director of Thai Healing Massage AcademyThe author, Shama Kern, is the founder and director of Thai Healing Massage Academy and the creator of 20 Thai Massage online training courses. He has been practicing and teaching Thai Massage for 18 years.

12 thoughts on “Ten Ways To Make Massage More Therapeutic”

  1. Shama, this is probably THE BEST of your massage articles I have read so far!!! …an yes, it makes me laughing :-))))
    Thats very much my experience too!
    As I heard once from Chance Kanfush, long term Pichest student:
    “If you wake up in the morning and you feel no pain in your body, call your clients and cancel all appointments, because you gonna have a great day! But otherwise, be grateful to your clients because thanks to them you will heal yourself!”
    Another example, everybody who experienced small children casual touch or step, knows how enormously healing and yet spontaneous, innocent and not intentional it is. They have no idea of healing, they are just playing… can our work, our technique be like that of children play? If we want too much, if we focus too much on “fixing” the client, and doing him “the right massage technique”, we may end up with our own back pain, shoulder inflammation or frustration and exhaustion.
    Similarly, author of “Myofascial Approach to Thai Massage” Howard Evans stated: “In craniosacral work the aim is to establish a relationship with Breath of Life, expressed as the health at the core of our patients system rather then with their disease
    processes.”
    Many blessings!
    🙂

    • Thanks for your elaborate comment Alex. Yes, Pichest keeps telling his students that they need to pay attention to ‘feeling’ and not just ‘doing’. And you are right, young children have a touch that has not been conditioned yet by cultural or religious rules, ego influence or hormonal drive – good example.

  2. Hi Shama,

    I very much appreciate the simplicity by which you write. Your ten tips bring greater clarity and joy to my Thai Yoga Massage practice.

    Carmen

  3. Great post, Shama! I will certainly share it. I’m always trying to bring across to my Thai Massage students that even though I am the “King of Techniques” and I love to teach all kinds of cool moves, the most important thing is understanding that the underlying purpose of the whole exercise is to “move energy and help your client to feel better” no matter how technical your knowledge or elaborate your moves may be. Love your analogy about being more like a “massage artist” and less like a “massage mechanic”.
    Be Well,
    Deon

    • Thanks so much Deon for your facebook post and your endorsement of my courses. I am honored to have the “King’s” approval:)
      I totally agree, having lots of techniques is not only useful, but essential for good Thai Massage. But without “moving energy” they won’t be as effective as they could be. I wrote this post because sometimes I have students who are just pushing for more and more techniques, but they don’t take the energy part seriously. They don’t know what they are missing!

  4. Shama perfect article!:-)) I was laughing (and thinking too) so much… I have had the same way through many, many, many “scientific or holistic or medicinal or…” books and videos and courses and… And after 20 years of some practise (I am not professional) I have now in my sixty the very same opinien as yours 10 suggestions (and it is due seeing your courses and read your advices and articles). Many, many thanks Shama!
    jan

    PS
    Holy words :-)): If that does not help enough, you could study the relationship between the intercondylar fossa between the condyles at the distal end of the femur and the intercondylar eminence on the tibial plateau, specifically where the anterior and posterior intercondylar fossa …………
    My massage library has now about 150 books and may be 80% of them is on the same level as you wrote 🙂

    • Thanks Jan, I am happy that you can relate to my writing style. I had a lot of fun writing this article, and mixing in a little humor helps me not to take myself and life too seriously. I love to focus in on what to me is the essence of massage. It’s the one part we often don’t hear so much about.

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