More is NOT More: The Case For Less Pressure in Massage

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My hands have been sifting through the tissues of clients for the past 6 years of my life. I’ve worked on toddlers, seniors, pre-pubescent teens, teens, and adults of all genders, races, and levels of activity. No matter who they are, or what they are coming to see me for, one fact that remains identical in all cases: they want to feel safe.

They are paying someone (me) money so that they can lay down on a table, naked, and have that someone put hands on them and help them in some way.

Think about this for a second. Think about the level of vulnerability I am asking of these clients. They do not know me. If they’re not regular clients, then it’s their very first interaction with me EVER and I am asking them to trust me enough to take off their clothes and get on a table.

Typically, people come to see me because they’re in pain; a new or old injury, a chronic condition – something is wrong. It’s not working the way it should and it is affecting the client’s level of comfort and ability to perform daily activities. One could expect that they are already apprehensive (at best) about having someone touch the area of pain and then manipulate it in some way.

Then, it is my job to put my hands on this client and help them find relief. And that is exactly my intention every single time.

However, old school teachings and old school habits in bodywork have long propagated that “deep tissue” rather than being a technique that affects subcutaneous tissue (or any tissue deeper than the skin) is a pressure preference, i.e. really fucking hard. Many therapists mistakenly believe that the way to create more change in a client’s body is to apply more pressure and to basically force the body to give up.

Let me offer this gem: NO ONE responds well to pressure. No one. No one likes to be forced/coerced/beaten in ANY way.

In like kind, the tissue – the body – doesn’t like that either. How do you know this? Because we have a reflex to tense up the MOMENT we experience discomfort/pain. This is a protection reflex. It exists to protect us from harm. And the moment this reflex is activated in the human body, the brain has now switched from relaxation (parasympathetic nervous system) to preservation (sympathetic nervous system) and it has become vigilant to protect itself.

If I am working on someone and they SLIGHTLY tense away from my touch – I stop immediately and change my pressure/technique. Because in that moment, healing has stopped and protection has started and I cannot facilitate change any longer.

The body is a brilliant self healer. It knows EXACTLY how to heal. It doesn’t need to be forced to do SHIT. It just needs space held for it. It needs a little guidance, a little pressure taken OFF, and to feel SAFE.

More pressure can lead to pain, which leads to potentially triggering PTSD in a client, and really being a traumatic experience. Leaving a client bruised should be considered assault unless you are practicing an Eastern bodywork technique in which the  purpose is to draw blood to the surface.

If the body is resisting  – IT’S NOT WORKING.

If the body is tensing up – IT IS NOT RECEIVING.

If the body is stiff – IT DOESN’T FEEL SAFE.

My most recent client left my space in complete disbelief of how loose she felt and how relaxed she felt without ever feeling pressure or pain. She literally could not believe it and was so grateful. It was really heart warming to experience and also really made me cringe inside imagining all the sessions she had before.

We must learn to trust the wisdom of the body. We must learn that less can be so much more. We must aim to create spaces where we are encouraged to do less, relax more, and allow the energy of life to do it’s thing.

Oh and PS. If you are having to force anything in you’re life – it’s not working.

Sincerely,

Shakti

If you are in the Atlanta, GA area and are living with chronic pain, I would love to treat you. Feel free to contact me here:

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