My Best Massage & Worst Massage
Updated: Mar 24
Do you have certain criteria for what constitutes the best massage? Or do you have a specific way you prefer to be touched? Have ever thought about it? We all have our standards when it comes to touch, even if we've never journaled about it. Sometimes people enter your bubble with caution and sometimes they just thrust their energy upon you. It can be an uncomfortable feeling, and oftentimes we are unsure of what to make of that, so we tend to place judgment onto the person that enters our space without introspection.
The worst massage I ever received was my first professional massage at a massage school in Houston. I had toured the school in search of where I would get my massage education and was given a coupon for a free student massage for my inquiry. I was so excited, at 22, because I had always wanted a professional massage. I didn't have any expectations except that perhaps the session would be better than the massages I received from my grandmother growing up. Total fail!
She was clearly nervous to start with. Her hands were freezing. And her touch was as gentle as a feather. Overall, timid touch, no sense of authority. That's pretty much it. I don't have much else to say regarding that session.
Now on to better things and fifteen years later. In the summer of 2017 I received the best massage ever! Since age 22, I've been navigating the chronic disorder known as, trigeminal neuralgia. It causes excruciating pain to the face and there is no one cure all. Like other chronic pain sufferers, those with trigeminal neuralgia are in search of their own personal cure. It's not a journey for the faint of heart, but I have successfully been managing the pain for the last several years by sheer will and self-care. In mid 2017, I began to experience a few shocks to my face after two years of being pain free. This pain was topped by the trepidation I felt knowing how much worse this was going to get if I did not find a way curb it soon. I was swamped in my life at the time and was not getting regular massages. So I scheduled one at the spa I worked at with my colleague, Kim.
Kim was hands down the best massage therapist at the spa. She understands anatomy and physiology like no other. She was a former massage instructor at Vista College's massage therapy program in Beaumont, when it was open. She was my friend, and she actually valued my knowledge base. I'm pretty open when it comes to my story, my trials, my triumphs, and how I handle things. So most of my colleagues know my story. She knew I homeschooled my children and often inquired about it until the day came when she was ready to do it herself. I opened my home to her and allowed her to see what we do, our curriculum, and invited her to continue asking questions. I sent her away with a box of books I no longer needed. After that, life got busy, and we didn't talk much.
She just knows her stuff! It's not easy to explain what exactly constitutes a great massage, because everyone is different. Every client's idea of touch is different, and every bodyworker's idea of touch is different. But I walked away rejuvenated and pain free! Trigeminal neuralgia wasn't bullying me anymore, it just went away, just like that, with Kim's knowledge, touch, and a little magic.
However between my worst (first massage) and my best massage ever, I can tell you what I've learned about magic and how to truly experience the gift of touch.
When I was a single homeschooling mom, with three jobs, going to college full time, and battling the worse years of my trigeminal neuralgia episodes, my whole body was always in pain, as you might imagine. I was shouldering way too much, so yes, my shoulders took the greatest damage! Sometimes at night after work and before I hit my laptop to write a paper, my mom would sit next to me and rub my shoulders with a 'mother's special touch.' Except for me, this was not special at all. It sucked! Her touch was as light as a feather, just like the student who gave me my first massage. And she would vigorously rub my shoulders with this light touch. It felt like a tease. Someone says they're going to massage you, and then they touch you lightly, and it's clear they don't know what they are doing. There is no tension release, just added tension in your mind.
And then the introspection.
I felt guilty for my internal reaction, so I began to observe it. And what I recognized is my own refusal to receive love. I had expectations, and my mother wasn't equipped to meet them. I denied the love given to me and naturally felt no relief because of what I denied. I talk about and use the word flow often. Flow is about giving and receiving. So I chewed on that for a bit and made the choice to receive her loving touch if she ever wanted to give it again. And she did! It was tough laying my expectation aside, but when I accepted in the moment, her vigorous feathering of my shoulders, something magical happened. I actually was able to release some tension. Not all of it went away in one feathering session, but over time, as I became conscious of how I give and receive love and also how I deny the giving and receiving, a lot of my mental stress and physical pain just went away. People like to dismiss placebos, but the mind is so powerful!
I'm not making this up. My will to really break this wall of resistance to love has transformed how I give touch and how I receive it. The student who gave me my first massage was too much in her head to give something therapeutic, and I was too in my head to receive anything other than what I expected. With Kim's massage, there was a mutual exchange of respect, knowledge, and love. That's what makes an effective therapist.
So whenever you are in search of the right massage therapist for you, check their credentials. What are they certified to do? Don't expect a miracle, especially if you've been putting off getting a massage. It took a while for the stress or pain to accumulate; therefore, it will take a bit for it to dissipate, and that all depends on where you're head is. Don't be afraid to ask the therapist questions. And when you find that gem of a therapist, make sure you have a back-up one or two, because if they are that good, you'll most likely find scheduling an appointment with them a whole other challenge! Subscribe to my site for blog updates and specials. My next few posts will be about what to look for in a massage therapist. Much love!