These days, the idea of getting a massage sounds patently insane. I know we’re all in social distancing mode, but as the saying goes, this too shall pass—and when it does, I know that the first thing I’m going to do is get a massage. I love them. I believe in their power to help reduce anxiety and make you more centered. In fact, I’m such a spa aficionado that it’s hard to believe there was ever a time when the thought of receiving a massage broke me out in a cold sweat.
But back in 2012, that was me: quivering like a jellyfish as a small, stylish woman with kind eyes offered me cucumber water and led me to a small room peppered with candles tucked at the back of an upscale spa.
And now I’m that friend, the one persuades everyone I know to take time out for massages. Hey, you can’t argue with science, and the facts tell us the benefits of massage for mind and body are too numerous to count—as if just spreading the gospel of something I love isn’t enough.
Sticking with science for a minute, let’s have a look at some of these awesome benefits of regular massage. Not only does it help with body pains, but it’s proven to:
- Elevate your mood
- Boost your immunity
- Improve physical fitness
- Help lower stress
Amazing stuff, right? So why are so many of us so anxious about giving it a try?
My first time
My doctor first recommended I try massage therapy. I’d returned home from my travels with an aching lower back (backpacking will do that!), but instead of giving me pain pills, my doc told me to try massage, explaining it’s one of the most successful treatments for back pain. He said after a few sessions my back should be fine.
That first time, though, a million concerns blitzed my brain.
Was this tiny woman going to ask me to take all my clothes off? Was she going to stand there and watch as I did? And did I seriously want some stranger grinding up on me with her elbows?
Before, I’d have let this anxiety topple me like a tidal wave, but this time I thought instead about the beautiful sunrise I’d seen that morning shimmering like molten lava over the ocean.
I thought about how great my back would feel afterward.
I inhaled deeply and took five cleansing breaths.
And, as had been happening a lot recently, I felt a sense of calm and well-being take over.
Whatever happened here, it would be okay.
And you know what? It really was.
Now, at this point in my life, I can honestly say my monthly massages are one of the main reasons why I’m so comfortable in my own body. They’re the reason why my back pain is in the past and why my stress levels are so well in check.
But you have some embarrassing massage questions, right? Well, let me see if I can ease your mind a little, and hopefully, you’ll come to love massage therapy as much as I do!
What to expect from your next massage
The communication thing
Adina put my mind at ease that day, walking me through the process every step of the way. One thing she made immediately clear was the importance of communication. She wanted me to speak up at all times, explaining that this was my session and what happened in it was up to me. This is critical—and so is working with someone who wants you to communicate this way.
Was there a particular area I wanted her to work on? Was I too warm or cold? And let me tell you, keeping that open line of communication helped balance what can feel like a pretty screwy power dynamic! After all, you’re lying either naked or semi-naked in front of a fully-dressed stranger. By voicing your concerns and letting your massage therapist know what kind of touch feels right, you make yourself an active part of the process.
The naked thing
Okay, yes, the thought of a complete stranger seeing all your lumps and bumps is intimidating, but you’ve got to trust the cliche: they’ve seen it all before!
Besides, massage therapists are well versed in draping, the art of covering the parts of the client’s body they’re not working on with a sheet.
At any one time, your body is about 80% covered, and the drape will always cover up where you really need it too. So even if you dress down completely, you’re still covered everywhere that counts.
Also, you only need to remove what you want to remove. My first time, I kept my underwear on and Adina was completely fine, working around me like a champ.
Whatever you decide, you’ll be left alone while you undress with the instruction to lie on the massage table under a sheet once you’re ready. Then it’s time for the magic to begin!
The oily thing
I didn’t expect to get as oily as I did during my first massage, but oil prevents friction and so a lot will be used. It may even get in your hair, so, please, don’t plan on going anywhere fancy afterward!
Besides, plan on feeling pretty wiped out after your massage—given the soothing music, dimmed lights, and hands-on relaxation, if you’re anything like me, you’ll want to go home and crash.
The face-up or face-down thing
Again, this is totally up to you. If you’re only comfortable on your front, stay on your front. Most of my massages start with me on my front, then halfway through Adina will ask me to flip over so she can focus on my neck, shoulders, arms, plus the front of my legs and feet. Bliss!
So when we’re all able to get back to massaging, it’s the first thing I recommend you do—healthy human contact can be amazing stuff, after all.