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  • Hannah Hempenstall

The One Thing I Wish Every Massage Client Knew…

I've been a qualified massage therapist since 2005.


I became a professional masseuse because I have a love of natural healing. Prior to attaining my Diploma in Remedial Massage I was working as a writer and had been offering Reflexology, which I loved, as a side hustle. But reflexology, it seemed, wasn't enough. In order to build a business I had to train as a masseuse.


I figured more people know what massage is but many aren't familiar with reflexology.


Once I received my massage diploma my business grew reasonably quickly. There's a general understanding that you get a massage when your muscles feel sore or tired, or if you're experiencing any of the associated symptoms that come with a tight neck and shoulders. Headaches, tension etc. Massage is popular and I had a steady stream of regular clients in no time.


During that time, I massaged professional AFL players and was part of a team of regular therapists who massaged the Adelaide Thunderbirds. I did a stint at Sportsmed where people from the world of athletics, sports and dance would come for treatment. I was well-versed in remedial techniques, as well as Thai massage and therapeutic/relaxation massage and I liked what I did.


Some of the biggest men I ever worked on had muscles so tight they could barely bend at the knees. As a massage therapist, it becomes your job to get that body supple enough to work into the fascia that surrounds the muscle fibres.


Despite having worked on larger-than-life footie players, every so often I'd be working on someone (not an athlete) who'd say; "You can go harder if you like." For years I would acquiesce. I'd position my entire weight on their back so I could petrissage their neck and shoulders with as much vigour as they seemed to need. It never felt right but I'd do it anyway.


Recently, after a 10-year break from massaging I've returned to the industry. More comfortable in my own skin than I was a decade ago I'm ready to embrace my style and offer what I do best. So when a new client recently spoke the well-worn "You can go harder …" I winced.


Because what I now understand is that when a person is unable to receive a firm massage and feels that it's not deep enough or hard enough, it might be that they have forgotten how to feel.


Because many of us have.


We do power yoga and HIIT classes, we consistently strain and strive to be stronger, faster, better. But at what price?


Yes, there will be cases when a therapist has a feather light touch and that's another matter. And there is the fact of different pain and pressure thresholds. But in my experience, it is the clients who have backs that are rock hard from years of ignored tension that make this request.


And I want to invite those of you for whom this resonates to take a journey inward.


Once upon a time you would have tingled at the touch of a feather or the gentle stroke of a loving parent. So let's ask ourselves, what has got in the way of us feeling the tender effleurage of the massage therapist's hands? When did we cease to be able to feel our muscles being plied and come to believe it's someone else's job to make all our tightness dissolve so we can feel free again.


What has happened in our many years on this earth that has created crooked backs that feel like they might shatter into a million tiny pieces if we make a sudden 'wrong' move?


What's happened is that we've unlearned how to feel.


We've become so disconnected from our bodies that when we eventually seek relief, we've forgotten what it's like to feel loved and caressed. Our bodies have been craving a loving touch for so long and we've neglected it, instead choosing a hard life that tells us we can do it all ourselves.


So what might become available if we were to turn the focus inward just for a minute. What morsel of pain might we be able to dissolve simply by paying it some well-overdue attention?


What if we learned how to love our bodies once again? To become supple and free in a way that feels better. To bring life and warmth to our joints through spending loving moments tending to our worn out knees and shoulders. Simply by noticing when they need some TLC. Like, at the end of every day. Imagine the sensation of a loose neck and shoulders that drip down your back like melting candle wax because we spent time each day stretching and taking care.


Just imagine…


What I believe would happen is that we'd become more present once again to how magnificent our bodies are. We'd begin to reach beyond our mentally induced pain and reconnect with the loving nature of our muscles; our blood would warm up and pump a little more love through our veins. And before long, we might begin to notice the sparkle has returned to our eyes. Maybe not from the outside, but most definitely from within.


From that place, we can resurrect our love for ourself and for others. We might become more gentle and kind. Not just to others, but to ourselves – that most important person in our life.


So please, make 2021 the year you attend and befriend that beautiful body of yours. It deserves your love and I guarantee those knots will partially melt away simply by spending time with yourself. Focus on your good points. Worry less about what others think. Step away from at least one moment of self-righteousness and turn towards your own light.


And maybe, just maybe, you'll find that the next time you seek some extra relief, you'll truly feel the loving caress of your massage therapist as their hands weave an essay of love across your tired muscles. Muscles that have lived and worked, but that can feel.


And as you melt into the moment, you might even reach a deeper peace that was within you all along.


Love Big x



Healing massage

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