My friend Reya blogs that she doesn’t get it–why people don’t get massages on a more regular basis. Assuming one has enough money for the basic necessities of food and shelter, as Reya points out, I don’t get it either. When I tell people that I have been getting massages at least twice a month for the last decade, I get all sorts of reactions, lack of money and time being high on the list. I have had people, including those who claim to otherwise like touching and being touched, tell me that they don’t like getting massages.
What’s not to like about getting a massage from a qualified professional? I think it can be for any number of reasons. Sometimes it is about a deep-seated discomfort with pleasure (and especially the pleasure associated with touch), which is unfortunately all too common in this society (despite the preoccupation with sex). Discomfort with the idea of massage also can be about control.
On the surface, getting a massage is all about being passive, about surrendering physically–albeit in a very benign way. Allowing oneself to be in the role of pure recipient, though, is different than being passive or surrendering control. The person receiving the massage, though not actually doing the touching, is the person in charge (So too, in yoga. The person being assisted in a yoga pose or receiving a therapeutic adjustment is in charge, not the person assisting or making the adjustment; it takes knowing how to be a recipient, though, to know how to offer the assist or adjustment).
Even the most sensitive and compatible of massage therapists will need to be advised how you are doing on any particular day, whether any areas are feeling particularly sensitive, whether you feel the need for healing or energetic shifting in a particular area of your body. It takes a deep sensitivity and listening to the body and the energy field to know not just whether a massage feels good, but what could make it better. For example, because I tend to bruise easily, deep tissue massage generally is not the right type of massage for me. There are times, however, that something really deep needs to be rearranged and deep tissue, or even myofascial release, is the only thing that is going to be able to get at what is knotted or tangled or needs to be released. Sometimes, just about any touch would feel invasive, and then I seek out reiki or other treatment that is more in the energetic than the physical field.
I firmly believe that getting regular massages has truly enhanced my understanding of the physical and energetic body and has made me a far better yoga teacher–especially for students seeking therapeutic guidance from yoga. As well as being a pleasure, receiving a massage is an opportunity to get to know the anatomy and connections of the body at the most sensitive of levels–if one is willing to and does pay attention. And without deeply knowing one’s own body and its relationship to the outside world, including touch, how could one really be sensitive to what might be going on in another’s body?