Guest Post: How I Became a Massage Therapist
While it's been a while since she wrote this guest post for me, the owner of Written on the Body put together this great piece about her journey that I thought was worth an encore presentation...
I didn’t find massage – it found me. Not having grown up with a desire to become a massage therapist, I received my first professional massage when I was 24 when a friend became licensed and I wanted to support her new venture. Before that, I always thought of massage as something only wealthy people got. For me, it seemed out of reach, that I might not fit in at a spa, and the list went on.
Having that first treatment was eye opening. I didn’t realize at the time how little awareness of my own body I actually had and how tightly I was holding my muscles. Yet even then, I didn’t consider massage as profession.
The Islands + The Midwest: A Two Part Story
Living in the Caribbean, a friend who had learned massage techniques trained me, and we began offering tourists hand and foot massages on the sunny beaches of St. Thomas. I enjoyed it immensely, and slowly felt my sensitivity for muscle tension grow and my skill level increase.
Learning my father had pancreatic cancer, I made the decision to head back to the Midwest to be with him in his final days. He was in a lot of pain and enjoyed relief through massage, so it was a blessing to be able to comfort him with my new found skills. Through the hospice team, I learned that massage therapists often volunteer to help patients and families through the stressful journey of death and dying. I was enthralled by the thought of being capable of offering such an amazing gift, and decided right then that this was my path to help those in need.
In massage school, we worked with the public early on. I was so nervous the first day of clinic – I remember my hands shaking during the face massage! Luckily, I had a very kind client who sweetly endured my first day jitters. In the beginning, it was so difficult for me to relax that I was unable to really connect with what was happening with my client’s body and how they were affected by the treatment. As I progressed, I was emboldened to try out new techniques for different types of injuries, aches, pains and stress areas. I learned (very) slowly that each person is unique and that, as the therapist, you must be fully present to find the appropriate pace and rhythm for the massage.
Continuing to Grow+ Learn
Upon graduation, I first worked at a large chain, then a busy chiropractic office. Through these experiences, I learned so much about my own techniques, as well as the effects of massage on the mind and body. In addition to the flow of massage, I found I also had to feel and listen to the body on my table to really learn what was needed in each particular treatment.
Sometimes even when a client is saying one thing, their body is asking for something different. The magic is to find the compromise in order to create a place where the body and mind are working together toward optimal health and well-being in harmony. This requires intention by both the therapist and client and a calm space for the tales of the body and mind to truly become told.
Effects of Massage on the Mind + Body
During my career, I have seen massage and other forms of body work make a huge difference in my own life, helping me to maintain balance while opening and running my own business. I have also been part of great transformations in my clients’ lives, witnessing how stressful situations manifest in their bodies, how massage helps keep them calm through these scenarios, and seeing the amazing difference in their bodies after the tough times have passed. I have treated clients for everything from stress, due to extenuating circumstances or high intensity jobs, as well as severe injuries. Even clients who don’t seem to have any particular issues going on in their bodies find that regular massage treatments greatly improve their overall mood long after the massage.
Massage is a very personalized therapy, this is why there are so many techniques, therapists and atmospheres to choose from. A person may need one type of massage or experience at a certain point in their life (i.e., after a traumatic event), and a different type of massage for other times in their lives (i.e., chronic physical issues such as tendinitis).
What is constant, and why anyone who finds touch to be therapeutic, should get regular body work is that the treatment offers a place for your body to find peace and balance. We as therapists help create a space where your systems, mind and body, can work in unison to unlock unhealthy patterns and become more at ease and efficient. In turn, this helps to ward off pain and stress and can be an important part of preventing future issues.
What Kind of Massage is Right for Me?
There are many factors that can affect how often, what duration and type of massage you should get. Discuss with your massage therapist your current stress and pain levels, the length of time you have had any issues or injuries, other therapies you receive, your lifestyle, etc. They will be able to give recommendations customized to your unique needs.
Here are a few of the ways I like to use massage to address specific health care needs:
Swedish Massage This is the most common type and uses five styles of long, flowing strokes to reduce stress and pain in the body. Swedish massage is great for nearly everything, including stress and pain relief, injury recovery, prevention and so much more!
Hot Stone Massage Hot stones are a great addition to any massage as long as you don’t have any conditions that can be exacerbated by heat and don’t have heat sensitivities. Hot stones really help relax clients more quickly as well as the superficial layers of tissue, making it much easier to work more deeply without the client feeling pain or becoming sore after the massage.
Deep Tissue Massage Deep tissue massage is a focus on the deeper layers of muscle as well as the connective tissue and is typically slow, deliberate and focused work. Deep tissue massage can be great for treating injuries, chronic pain, range of motion restrictions and many other issues.
I know, I know – I may be biased, but I’ve seen the great effects of massage, and encourage you to try out regular body work (safely during the pandemic) and find out for yourself! Whatever you do in these new and crazy times, take care of yourself and make time for yourself – you are important!