You hear it all too often…”Don’t forget to breathe.” Zen masters and casual meditation practitioners will tell you that the breath is the very core of our being – it’s where we ‘go’ to meditate. Therefore it stands to reason that, when receiving a massage, you will be better off if your body and mind are receiving this massage from the inside out – and you can achieve this through the breath. And a good massage therapist will sense, and hopefully breathe in sympathy. Breathing costs nothing, has immense health benefits for you and allows you to become in a more harmonious – it’s a win-win situation.
Now, of course, everybody breathes – otherwise we’d be dead! – I’m talking about a more conscious breathing on your part while on the massage table. It’s the kind of breathing that takes the mind into just itself and, as a massage therapist, I’m not shy about letting the client know I expect them to concentrate on their breathing. I also add in that they might like to try being aware of where my hands are, following them as they go and keeping track of where they’ve been. Breathing and setting the mind to keep track of where the hands are will create a profound meditation which helps me do my work.
The above applies mostly to relaxation Swedish Massage; although it also applies in sports massage and other types of massage where specific breathing can be used in a very different kind of a way, for example, on exhalation to allow a certain range of motion to be reached. It’s quite simple – just breathe. The beginning of my Swedish relaxation massages usually involves quite a few minutes of ‘over-the-drapes’ work. There are several reasons for this which I will get into in a later blog post. But during this time, after a brief ‘hand-walk’ up the body I’ll stand on one side of the table with my hands on the ‘other’ side of the body, and do some good compressions of the shoulders, rhomboids, erector spinae. Each time I compress I work with the client’s breath to make sure that I’m pushing down on the out-breath (therefore you have to be able to see the body moving with the breath if they’re quiet breathers). This results in a complete expulsion of all air from the lungs – something that the body rarely achieves – and something that my clients tell me feels absolutely wonderful. It’s a sort of ‘assisted breathing’ and you’ve been doing some of the work for them.
After a good spell of this on both sides of the body, I and the client are ready to have the sheets pulled back to expose the back and get some oiled Swedish massage started. The client’s body and mind are more than relaxed and ready to start with the massage that’s to come.
Hamish and Rochelle,
Massage Professionals of Jackson Hole