March 22, 2014

Why I Stopped the Massage. ~ Keri Mangis

Nick Webb, Flickr CC

I didn’t think I’d ever do something like this.

Imagine going for a massage. I’d been looking forward to it all day. I go into the room, get undressed and climb under the covers of the warm massage table.

I take a few deep breaths to relax, the massage begins and then I bring the session to a screeching halt.

My experience with massage has ranged from mediocre to pretty good to life altering. I’ve learned that there is (often, but not always) a direct relationship between what you pay and the quality of the massage.

More importantly, thanks to the many skilled and loving healers I’ve been lucky enough to work with, I’ve learned something even more valuable: how to listen to, honor and love my body unconditionally through my actions, my words and my thoughts.

When I first started receiving massage in my early 20s’, I didn’t love my body all that much. In addition to being generally nervous and self-conscious, I allowed my worries about disrupting the flow, disturbing the quiet, or being labeled  “high-maintenance” to override any messages coming from my body. I would grit my teeth if the pressure was too deep or quietly yearn for a little more time on this or that area.

It was always “just fine”.

But after years of experience receiving massage (and being a body-worker myself), I know that not only are therapists quite able to adapt from person to person, they are trained to do so and they want to do so. As healers, they aspire to do their best and they want us to let them know how it’s going. That’s why they ask!

I no longer need to “try” to honor my body and ask for adjustments on its’ behalf. It’s natural and automatic. I know how to listen to my body and ask for what I need. More pressure, less pressure? No problem. Focus on this area? You got it! More heat on the table? Sounds good! It’s a wonderful, caring partnership. One built on trust, communication, and above all, an honoring of my body and its unique needs at any given moment. I make my requests politely and with respect. He or she obliges lovingly. I tip well.

It always works.

Until yesterday.

Paying just $45 for a 55-minute massage, I knew I was most likely not going to have a highly-experienced therapist, or a bells-ringing experience—but no worries; a good-old-fashioned rub down to some gentle flowing music sounded wonderful to address the pain in my neck and shoulder.

When the new massage therapist came to get me there was something I immediately didn’t take to about her energy. I couldn’t put my finger on it, it was just a feeling in my gut.

I told myself, “it doesn’t matter, I’m not going to have dinner with her. In two minutes I’ll be feeling warm and cozy on the massage table.”

She asked me if I had any areas of concern. Why yes! I proceeded to tell her about the tightness in the left side of my neck and back and suggested that perhaps we could focus on that. She told me with a clipped shortness, “if we just do the left-side you are going to be lopsided.” Right, well—I really wasn’t suggesting that, but I was glad we cleared that up.

She left. I climbed onto the table. I tried to relax. I waited. And waited. And waited.

Several minutes later she came back in. She threw down the covers to begin working on my back. The way she did it felt—strange and uncomfortable. Not gentle. Not comforting. The best word I can think of?


Then she began. I knew at the very first stroke down my back that she was going to give too much pressure, especially right away, for my achy, tight body.

I told her immediately that I would prefer less pressure, to which she replied condescendingly, “well maybe next time you should choose a different therapist.”

That was it. The alarm bells went off loud and clear. Next time? How about this time?

“Okay, we’re done here, I’m not comfortable with this at all,”I said.

There was no way I was going to allow this woman to work on my body! No way I would subject my body to her negativity. No way I would grit my teeth like I used to and walk out in more pain than I came in. I would not allow someone who did not listen, did not care and who would not adapt to be anywhere near my body.

Her true colors continued to show as she simply said, “Okay,” and then asked me if I’d like a bottle of water. Um, no thanks.

No apology. No remorse. Seemingly no emotion.

She took her sweet time leaving the room, acting as if we had just completed a lovely massage. This layered a sense of helplessness onto my discomfort since, unless I was going to get off the table naked, I had to wait for her to leave before I could.

Next, I had to try and explain this to the receptionist, who responded with genuine surprise and concern for me, but my mouth wouldn’t form words. My jaw just hung open as I grappled with how to express the lack of respect, care and basic human consideration that I had just experienced. I left shaking and upset.

But after that settled, I realized something profound: I felt truly powerful! And my body felt heard. We both smiled.

I realized what a long way I have come in listening and respecting my body. And that I haven’t just been doing lip service to it, but in fact, I will go to lengths to act upon it.

For the lesson and awareness, I am grateful. For the massage, my body and I will be going elsewhere.

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Editorial Assistant: Bronwyn Petry/Editor: Renee Picard

Photo: Nick Webb, Flickr Creative Commons

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