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Two Things You Should Do to Give a Great Massage (and One Thing You Shouldn't)

You're new to the massage business, and you're headed into a session. Suddenly, all of the techniques you learned in school have flown from your mind, and you feel a trickle of sweat behind your ears.

Image: Classroom with a dozen empty massage tables and stools. Teacher's desk in the foreground.


1: Breathe.

Really. Before you walk in, take at least two deep breaths. Feel your heart beat. You know that your intent is good, and you're well trained. Calm yourself and realize that you'll be fine. Then, during the session, remind yourself (and your client!) to relax by taking deep breaths. No need to say "Ok, now take a niiiiice deeeeeep breath...." Just breathe yourself, and you'll be surprised by how often your client will do the same, a moment later.

2: Slow Down

The single most common phrase I say to my students (besides "remember your body mechanics") is "Slow DOWN." Whatever tempo you're taking as you effleurage down the back or across the forehead, go half as fast. Then slow down by 50% again. Seriously, you're not getting paid by the stroke. To keep yourself from feeling like you're simply acting, use each stroke as a breathing exercise. Breathe in as you move down the back, breathe out as you return to the shoulders. If you go too fast, you'll hyperventilate. Don't do that.

You can break it up with slightly faster strokes, but for a relaxing session, keep it SLOW.



So many of my clients sigh happily when I tell them, "So you know, I don't chat during the massage. I'll check in with you about pressure and so on, but I'm not going to be able to keep up a conversation."

I had a colleague a long time ago who was a known chatter. I worked in the next room, and I'd hear the burbling of conversation and laughter all day long, every day. Finally, I asked her why she talks so much during sessions. "Because otherwise I get bored!" she laughed.

Before you say or ask anything, run it through this filter: "Is this going to benefit them or me?" If I'm asking about pressure preference, or alerting them to a bruise, or asking if the goosebumps I saw mean they are chilly, that's all to improve their session or their health. If I ask them about their tattoo, comment about what my dog did earlier in the day, or question them about their recent vacation, that's about me. It's curiosity, which is perfectly fine in a friendship, but not in a therapeutic setting.

But most clients need some dang QUIET.

Give it to them.

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