How to Enhance Your Bodywork Experience
At first glance, receiving massage seems pretty straightforward. I mean, you just lay there, right? Well that’s one approach. But there are ways you can get even more from your sessions. Turns out, how you receive can radically enhance your experience of massage. The secret lies in how you prepare your nervous system.
The nervous system organizes what goes on in your body. It tells the body when to wake, eat, or rest. It helps your body get ready for action or settle and relax. It sets the stage for engaging with life. This is important to massage for one reason: your massage therapist could be the best across the seven seas, but if you can’t relax, the session will be okay at best.
So then how do you relax? The key to relaxing is to prepare your nervous system. A prepared nervous system is ready to relax. So how do you do that? You use your attention to help shift your body. Shifting your body can open you to deep states of relaxation. These states are what take a great massage and make it into life-altering bodywork.
3 Simple Ways to Prepare your Nervous System
1) Breathing Into Your Belly
Nothing helps the body relax like breathing into your belly. As the belly expands it begins to massage the organs. The muscles soften and tell your body you are safe. The organs fill with blood and digestion increases. Warmth comes into the hands and feet. The body begins to rest and digest.
To practice this, place your hands on your belly. Softly breathe into your hands. Feel them rise as your belly expands. Feel them fall as you breathe out. Just ten minutes of belly breathing sends the body into a deep relaxing state. Your massage will not only feel better, your body will release tension faster and with less pain. The work will be deeper, more effective, and longer lasting.
2) Softening the Jaw and Tongue
The jaw can be a place of great tension. When under stress, it is very common to clench and grind the jaw. The jaw reflects the state of the muscles body. When we soften the jaw we soften the whole body.
As the jaw reflects tension in the body, the tongue reflects tension in the mind. Through our ability to speak, the tongue is closely wired to the mind. Even when we are thinking, the tongue subtly moves anticipating our speech. By softening the tongue, we soften the mind. Thinking slows. The whole nervous system gears down.
To practice this, gently part your lips and teeth. Imagine your lips softening and lengthening. Find the most comfortable position where your jaw is not engaged. This often means letting your mouth hang slightly open. Breathe through your mouth. Feel the jaw soften. Feel space opening in the hinge near the ears. Let the tongue rest back in the mouth. Feel the tongue widen and release. Imagine the base of the tongue settling down into the throat. Feel the throat open and release. Feel the tongue and jaw as warm and heavy. Stay with this sensation, deepening and slowing your breath.
This practice opens the body to deep states. It is a window into being. It helps us exit habitual, constant thought. We stop thinking and enter the present moment. This is the place where the experience of the massage is pure and direct. We feel the contours of each stroke, the depth and expanse of the pressure. We feel the goodness of the contact and the relief. Sensation increases and we can feel our bones and connective tissue. We feel the pulsing of our lymph and our heart. We feel the fullness of human being.
3) Breathing Into the Point of Contact
When we have softened the breath, body, and mind, we can heal our tissues. To heal our tissues we breathe our presence into them. Wherever our massage therapist is touching us there is a point of contact. We breathe into this point of contact, expanding our tissues beneath the therapist’s hands. We imagine the cells breathing and opening. We accept the energy the therapist is putting into us. We visualize any bundled coils of tension unwinding. As we exhale we invite the freed energy back into us, to circulate in the inner ocean. We welcome ourselves back into ourselves.
We go on a journey with the therapist. Where he touches is an opportunity for us to feel our body. Our breathing into the point of contact becomes the key for transformation. Vulnerability opens as we experience ourselves. The therapist’s pressure becomes a mirror to our cells. Our breath is the willingness to look in that mirror. We travel down into the feet when the therapist goes there. We travel up into the hip when the therapist goes there. We travel into our hands when the therapist stops there. We breathe into the movement and become part of the dance.
A good therapist relishes in this. To the therapist it feels like you have joined the quest. Dancing together you explore the body and the spaces within. The therapist works with your breathing, lightening when you breathe in and diving down when you breathe out. He looks for the places where your breath does not go and coaxes you into the shores of your own awareness. He beckons you into uncharted lands, the wilds of the self. Each breath expands your self sense. You visit new landscapes and together move mountains. This is where the work becomes transformational and life-altering.
Make the Most of Your Massage
These simple techniques can help you get even more from your sessions. When you use them you set the stage to be deeply impacted by what the therapist has to offer. To a master therapist, you become a living canvas. The change that comes in these deep states is lasting. You get to experience healing, which is different than massage.
Explore these tools in your next session. Schedule Now.
I’m so happy that you started this blog! Reading this made me wish my appointment was today. These are all good things for me to think about daily to help reduce tension. I really loved number three as a great reminder to get the most from our sessions and also helpful between visits. Thank you!
I love this post! I can provide personal testimony that there is indeed a distinct difference between lying on the massage table and being touched, and being aware of your body while you’re being touched.
Working with Jonathan has helped me to deepen so many aspects of my healing. Being a recipient who participates has only furthered our work together.
This is my favorite sentence from this post, “He looks for the places where your breath does not go and coaxes you into the shores of your own awareness.”. Beautiful!
Jonathan, thank you for writing such a great post on how we as recipients can deepen our work if we choose to!
Thanks Kate! It’s such a joy to work with you. Yes, there’s such a difference when using awareness during massage – leaning into the expansion of self-knowing! May your discovery and your gifts of self-connection ever deepen.
Before reading your blog I had no idea that what I do as a client during a massage session can make a difference! I wish I had known this years ago! Thank you for sharing tips that can help all of us have a deeper, more effective massage experience.
Thanks Kelly! So glad these tips helped enrich your massage experience.