This is ostensibly about abdominal self-massage (it even includes 5 different techniques!), but it’s really about getting back into the therapeutic headspace.
As you might imagine, I made this one for myself. I haven’t started back yet thanks to some resurgence here in the South, but every time I get back to the planning phase I think, “do I even know how to do massage any more? Where would I start?” In my head I try to play back a whole massage all at once, along with all the techniques and draping and communication that requires, and it feels overwhelming.
But then I remember this: It all starts with one touch. If I can do that, then the rest follows. Trying to game out every moment, or imagine everything that could go wrong, those are barriers that we put up to flow. The essence of massage is self-sustaining and self-guiding, with the interplay of hand and body showing you the way. If we simply make that first contact and then get out of the way, the rest can easily follow.
In this video I talk about “floating” a lot. This is something that you’ll need to experience to appreciate. Have a friend or colleague apply some deep static pressure somewhere on your body (I demonstrate this on the low back), and then either swoop out, or take about 10 seconds to gradually decrease their pressure until they’re off the body. I think you’ll find that this second approach feels a lot different, and can leave you with a sense of buoyant freedom. It’s good stuff, and it’s great for creating that sense of finality at the end of a massage.
For the cranial cradle, this is another good one to try with a friend so that you can experiment with different approaches. Try varying degrees of finger curl and upward pressure. Try swooping in from the sides, or just creating strips up the paraspinals. Try supporting with your palms versus mostly leaving the palms out, etc. And once you’ve found your favorite approach, maintain it for at least 30 seconds and see what happens! This is another one that creates a floaty sense of freedom for me, and it’s one of my favorite massage techniques.
Here it is: A distillation of everything I’ve learned about massage since massage school, and how to really nail down that feeling of “flow.”
These tips might seem rather simple, but I invite you to take them, one at a time, into your upcoming sessions and see what changes happen.
These are all really about giving a mindful massage. What message are my hands sending when I place them on the body? When I remove them? How am I allowing my focus to change the quality of my touch in areas that I’m thinking about versus everywhere else?
My favorite tip, and the one that is probably most difficult to implement, is the last one: “Put yourself in your client’s place.” This one is difficult to describe because it feels like being in two places at once. While staying connected with your hand and its actions, what is their shoulder feeling? Can I feel it in my shoulder?
This is one of my favorite things: cradling the arm while working with the shoulder girdle.
From the client’s perspective, it feels floaty and stretchy and satisfying. For me, it means working with the traps, pecs, and rotator cuff from lots of angles with varying degrees of stretch. Once you’re done, the entire region should feel quite a bit warmer and looser, all without having to work too hard.
Some quick tips that I didn’t cover in the video:
- If your client’s arm is “floating” (i.e., if they’re trying to help or just can’t relinquish control), it can be useful to pin their arm to your torso. This might be too far into some people’s personal space, so it’s a good idea to get informed consent first. For me it sounds like this: “Do you mind if I sandwich your arm between my arm and my torso?”
- I demonstrate using a soft fist on the lateral scapula to work with the teres muscles; realize that this and the pec work can easily be done through the drape if your client would otherwise be uncomfortable.
- This is just the beginning! Once you become fluent in this arm rocking business, you can incorporate similar things in side-lying and even prone massage. There are applications to leg and hip work too, but I’ll leave that for another video 🙂
By the way, there’s ANOTHER new video out today, just for the folks kind enough to support me directly on Patreon. It’s about places to pour your pressure on the pelvis, which is stuff I learned from Thai massage and shiatsu. A great way to round out hip work.
Let me know what you think in the comments! I’d especially love some trip reports from people who try this out. Did you have any difficulty working like this? Were the transitions easy enough, or were they awkward? Did you come up with any other cool stuff to do from this position?