It can be hard to work with a massage client’s limbs if they’re trying to help you move them, or if they’re unconsciously holding them in place. Here are a few strategies for dealing with this phenomenon:
I think that communication is key, which brings me to an important point: The word “relax.” This is something that I’ve been commanded to do on more than one occasion as a massage client, and… there’s nothing relaxing about it. It can actually make me feel a little indignant, because I thought I was relaxed!
Instead, I like to focus on the body part, and acknowledge that tension is often unconscious. “See if you can let this shoulder be loose. You might not even know that your muscles here are contracting, and that’s normal.” If it’s impeding your massage, you can try having them consciously contract those muscles before releasing them, allowing your hands to sink in as they do. “Did you feel those muscles let go?” Over time, you can help your clients become more aware of their own chronic contraction.