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The Blissful Sensuality Of Massage

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I am a professional Thai Massage therapist, and I enjoy receiving massage as much as I like giving it.

Why? Because it makes me feel great!

However I can’t help but notice a trend towards establishing the benefits of massage in increasingly scientific terms. While this is certainly important and useful knowledge, I want to emphasize another aspect.

Massage should not be a scientific experience

microscopeI want to propose that the benefits of massage are not just about scientific data and double blind studies and physical reactions that can be measured and proven and tested and put under a microscope and evaluated in a test tube and approved by scientists who might have never had a massage in their entire life.

The true experience of a good massage cannot be measured scientifically.

Why do people really get a massage?

Massage by its very nature is a sensual experience! What do you think how many people go to a massage therapist to get their neuropeptides adjusted or their dopamine levels elevated? Care to take a survey?

People get massage because:

  • They want to feel good
  • They know that it helps them with their aches and pains

You don’t need scientific facts to understand that. You can feel it. Granted, is is good to have the scientific facts as a backup.

No-pain-no-gain? Thanks-but-no-thanks!

There is a branch of massage aficionados who subscribe to the theory of no-pain-no-gain. The harder the therapist presses, the more therapeutic it must be, even if it is very painful. If that works for you, good for you. But massage can do a lot more than loosen hard muscles. It works on an emotional or mental level too. It releases stress.

Let’s take a look at what kinds of experiences help to release stress in life.

Sensual experiences release stress

A heartfelt hug releases stress, because it is a wonderfully sensual experience. We are naturally inclined to give a totally stressed out and desperate person a hug.

We intuitively know that it helps!

The trouble is that often we wait until we encounter such a desperate person before we allow ourselves the healing benefits of a genuine hug.

catSex releases stress too, because it is highly sensual. It is very difficult to think about the pressures back at the office while you are in the middle of a wonderful sexual encounter.

Cuddling your purring cat releases stress too because it is a sensual experience.

If you don’t believe that, ask your cat. She knows and makes no attempt to hide it.

Why should massage be an exception?

Massage releases stress too, because it is a totally sensual experience (not sexual). We see the common thread here. Sensual experiences are good for you. They release stress.

If stress is released, energy is freed up in the body and mind which in turn enables your body to do what it knows how to do and is designed to do very well: to heal itself on many levels.

Your body has an absolutely amazing ability to heal and restore itself  if you don’t sabotage it too badly by ingesting junk food, drugs, alcohol, nicotin, and depriving it of enough water or sleep and yes, sensual feelings.

Sensual feelings  do not only release stress, they make you feel more balanced, happier, enthusiastic, confident and on purpose. Puritans are not fun to be with. They deprive themselves and others of the sensual feelings that every baby and every cat and every dog knows is great for them.

Our pets might have more common sense than we do

We have some confusing standards. If you rub your dog’s belly and he rolls over and stretches all four legs, we all think that this is cute. If a human appreciates sensual touch, it is immoral and indicative of a questionable character. If you hug and kiss a baby, it is adorable, if you hug and kiss an adult, you are promiscuous.

If you stroke your purring cat, it is lovely, but if  massage therapists dare to admit that massage is a sensual experience, they run the risk of being accused of unprofessional conduct and their clients might become highly suspicious of their motives.

Yes I know – there are child molesters and sex maniacs out there. But I am talking about reasonably normal people here, which is the vast majority of us. And yes, although very rare, things can go wrong between a massage therapist and client.

Anyway, if you want a guarantee that you will never be mistreated by any human being, you have to go and live in a cave in the Himalayas. But then the tigers and cobras might get you.

Sensual is not the same as sleazy

Let’s get one thing straight: sensual and sexual are not identical. They can go together very well, of course, but they can also be easily separated, like in the case of a professional massage session. There is no reason to be afraid of the word ‘sensual’. It is not a four letter word, and it is not indicative of sleazy establishments.

It is a natural, essential and necessary feeling that contributes enormously to your physical, emotional and mental health, and your professional massage therapist can help you experience it. Of course in the process he or she can also elevate your dopamine levels, if you must know.

The problem is that in our western culture, sensuality is often associated with sexuality. But the fact is that sexuality is a subset of sensuality, or an optional component, you could say. Sensuality is just a pleasurable experience through our senses.

Even the dictionaries can’t agree

I did a test and checked on dictionary definitions of sensuality. The result shows the cause of the confusion. Here is what Encarta World English Dictionary has to say:

  1. being sensual: the capacity for enjoying the pleasures of the senses
  2. being pleasing to senses: the quality of being pleasing to the senses

And here is what Webster’s has to say about sensuality:

  1.  lasciviousness
  2. lewdness

The first definition sticks to the natural meaning of the word, whereas Webster’s attaches a strong negative slant.

Touch spies on duty – a revealing experiment

This reminds me of a study where researchers went around the world to observe touching habits in different cultures. They just sat down in cafes and counted how many times people touched each other. In Italy and Brazil it was dozens of times per hour, in America two times, and in England zero.

In Italy sensuality won’t have that negative charge attached to it that it sometimes has in North America. The meaning of words depends on the cultural context.

Let your pet teach you the meaning of massage

Those of us in the professional massage business who are honest enough and have enough common sense, we understand that massage is a wonderful sensual experience (which has nothing to do with ‘sexual’ in this context).

We know that this is what feels good, and in the final analysis, this is what most clients are coming for. They want to feel better after the treatment than before it, and they want to enjoy their session. If you are not sure what enjoyable means, watch your cat or puppy and they will gladly show you.

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The authorThe author, Shama Kern, is the founder and director of Thai Healing Massage Academy and the creator of 20 Thai Massage online video training courses. He can be reached at shama@thaihealingmassage.com

Related articles:
Can A Sensual Massage Be Professional?
Thai Massage, Sensuality And Sexuality

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19 thoughts on “The Blissful Sensuality Of Massage

  1. Shama,
    perfect article, you wrote it absolutely perfect and I absolutely agree with your opinien and theory of sensualy massage 🙂
    Your Jan

  2. I often find people have a problem differentiating the words sensual and sexual. A sensual experience is when any of our senses are affected usually in a pleasurable manner, sometimes stirring strong emotions, sometimes triggering peace and relaxation. For me, a sensual experience can be a gentle breeze on my face, the warmth of the sun blanketing my body at the beach, hearing a beautiful song, breathing in the scent of balsam pine on a hike in the mountains, or when receiving a nurturing massage. For me human touch–caring, sensitive touch–is as important as the air we breathe and the food we eat. Touch is a necessity, not a luxury. I love to be the recipient of a wonderful massage, but I enjoy giving a massage almost as much.

  3. It’s a touchy subject because it can be so personal and the experiences vastly differs from person to person, from culture to culture. I hear what you say and agree with you. Sensuality, the feeling of pleasure, is one of the perks of massage. And in everyday life too, the more you have it the happier you probably are, if it’s done right. I am sure there are wonderfully normal people like many of us here, that are capable of incorporating the sensuality in something healthy, within boundaries.

    But the message has to come from the right source, with the right context, or it can be so easily abused and cause tragic results. And I’m sure there are examples abound.

    I don’t think we need to be shy about the benefits of sensual massages. We just need to make it VERY clear of what our intention is and what we mean. Or, us female massage therapists might just get calls from clients we don’t need.

    • The problem is that many men can’t easily distinguish between sensual and sexual. We can help them to learn by giving them non-sexual massages until they understand.

  4. Sometimes it’s just a matter of using certain words or not using them. I would not tell my clients that my massage feels sensual, especially if I were female. What I am trying to point out is that if we are afraid to transmit a wonderfully sensual and blissful touch in our professional sessions, then our massage will feel more clinical, mechanical, it will be lacking its soul, its beautiful spirit. As soon as we mix elements of fear, apprehension, cautiousness, or distance with our work, our hands and our energy will lose the “magical touch” which makes massage blissful.

    Of course we have to use common sense. We should not hang out a shingle and advertise our sensual touch. This is more of an adjustment in our own minds than a different way of communicating with our clients.

    My approach during my massage career has always been that I never allow thoughts of fear or separation or gender issues to affect the quality of my massage.

    And yes, despite our best intentions and best practices and best understanding and best attitude, there will be the occasional client who doesn’t get it, has a different idea, misinterprets things. That’s just life. It happens in all areas, not just in massage therapy. There is no such thing as a guarantee for other people’s attitudes. That’s just something all of us have to live with.

    • Thank you, your article spoke my mind, I have to do the scientific research module in order to get my qualification. I found those double-blind, data collection to justify the benefits of natural healing methods are miss-leading, but if I don’t follow the instruction, rebel against the establishment, I can’t qualify to practice the profession I love, so frustrating.

      • I totally understand you Fred. We have to follow the rules and live within the establishment, but once we have the qualifications, we can practice massage how it feels right for us.

  5. Hi Shama,

    Just read the article, and found both fascinating and very true. Stroke an animal and you are friendly, stroke a another person with the same intentions (friendly) you are either perverted or after sex. I find giving a massage is very relaxing for the client and also very invigorating at the same time, and after the session is complete I feel exactly the same, because I both give and receive energy. Thanks for all your hard work, makes very good reading and encouragement.
    Regards
    Terry

    • So true Terry, without this energy exchange massage would be just rubbing of skin and squeezing of tissue – not a very exciting scenario. And thanks for your appreciative comment!

  6. When you break the word down…sens-u-al…al means “relating to.” So sensual is “relating to the senses”. So very simple. I loved your article, thank you so much for sharing! I agree with Renee Gerber, “…human touch–caring, sensitive touch–is as important as the air we breathe and the food we eat. Touch is a necessity, not a luxury.”

  7. You are so right…..sensual is superb healing….through our senses and through touch in thai massage….Nice article indeed

  8. Shama,

    Love this article! It maddening sometimes when Therapists here in the US are so bent up on research etc. so that they can be accepted by the modern medical establishment. Our Art and medicine stands on it’s own and with others and has been around for thousands of years. Thx

  9. This is the best article I have read in a long time. I thank you for being able to place the right words and descriptive definitions to the difference between what is sexual and sensual. I fully agree that most people do not know the difference and its quite exhausting trying to educate the difference without people turning their noses down or the fear of someone compiling the wrong message. I don’t think I would have thought of using the cats as inspiration. Thanks.

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