It is now over 25 years since I qualified as a Massage therapist. I have often wondered what I would say to myself if I met myself today, just as I was starting out on this wonderful career of Massage?
The number of Massage treatments that I have actually given crossed the 20,000 threshold several years ago. All those hours spent working away in the whirr of the heater! So what have I actually learned about Massage in all these years? What can I share with you that is valuable?
I have found out something so simple that it is often overlooked in the training manuals. I have learned this: if I can simply give my client the right touch for this moment in their life, then they will take whatever they need from the treatment.
Whatever techniques are taught on Massage courses around the country, I find that the ‘technique’ of achieving this Right Touch is the most important single aspect of achieving a successful practice. Having another human being invite us to touch them is one of the greatest privileges on this planet. Therefore, it is our responsibility to do everything in our power to try and get the actual touch right. This is a lot harder than it sounds…
Learning how to deliver this right touch is been more akin to learning meditation and dance than anything I was ever taught on a Massage course. So what I will share with you is this; seven guidelines that will actually empower your touch.
The only way to learn what touch can really do is by having regular Massage over several years. Then you really know.
My own view is that anything less than paying for your own regular treatments, is not taking my career seriously. Nor do treatments received on courses count, either! Most therapists I meet don’t give themselves four paid treatments in a year, let alone a month. Like in the Greek myth of Tantalus, many Massage therapists live in a pond surrounded by sumptuous food, yet seem unable to give themselves permission to actually taste any of it for themselves!
Every student I have taught who actually followed this simple piece of advice, to have regular paid Massage year on year, has achieved a successful practice. Every single one.
As a result of receiving so much touch from other therapists over so many years, I learned that…
- IA WYDIT WTYDI
No, this isn’t some arcane Egyptian Massage formula! It stands for the words of the Bananarama song: ‘It Ain’t What You Do, It’s The Way That You Do It’. No matter how expert we are in our knowledge of the body or of Massage techniques, the only thing that really matters is how we touch this person in this treatment right now.
The speed, the depth and the softness of our touch is how we actually communicate with our clients. This is what really dictates the outcome of each treatment. Learning how to move smoothly and gently throughout the whole treatment is what really matters, here. No breaks, no stops, no interruptions, no fussing with towels, no talking. Just pure flowing touch.
All of which means I need a bucket load of…
During each Massage treatment, the most important thing I do is to take charge of myself. This means that I MUST control what I think. This means focusing my thoughts only on three things: how I breathe, what type of contact I am giving my client and how I move my body. With so much to focus on, I have no space in my head for any other considerations.
Length of muscle, structural diagnosis, client psychology – these all go out the window. Such technical ruminations only distract me from the quality of the touch I am giving right now – something that requires 100% concentration to get right.
How I really serve my clients best is by taking charge of what I am in control of: my breath, my contact and my movements.
This led me to the realisation that…
- THE CLIENT DOES THE HEALING, NOT ME
Have you noticed how some clients struggle with letting touch into their body and minds whilst others just drink it in, as if they have been parched in a dry land. Some are ready for powerful life transformation, whilst others approach Massage in rather the same way that I approach a game of tiddlywinks! Either way, I just deliver the best touch that I can.
It is actually down to the client what they take from a session. This is why some clients will take a largely structural outcome, whilst others a purely emotional one. Some clients will take a simple mental clarity from a treatment whilst others will take an energetic or even spiritual outcome. Others will simply walk away wondering why I didn’t give them any pain!
I am still delivering the same simple touch, so it must be the client that is doing the really important work, here. So what I realised was this: I had to actually…
- TEACH CLIENTS HOW TO RECEIVE MASSAGE
Discovering why some clients took a powerful treatment and why others took a merely mediocre experience has been more important to me than anything I ever learned on a Massage course.
By asking my clients what they focused on during each Massage and noticing what produced the best outcomes, I learned that if my clients also focus on just three simple things throughout each Massage they invariably have a powerful experience: Their breath; The sensations in their body; The words “Let go”.
Teaching each client to do this every time I give a Massage treatment transformed my practice literally overnight. I believe this worked so well, because my clients were helped to let the touch in. This meant that I was teaching them HOW to experience what is, after all…
The real medicine in Massage simply comes from the touch. Whatever question the client asks, the answer is almost always “have more touch”. Whatever reason they give for coming for a treatment, their real reason is actually “I want more touch”. Whatever we think we are doing, all we actually give is “more touch”.
In order to understand this, you only need to stop yourself halfway through a Massage and see how the client is purring and smiling as he or she drinks in the magical healing properties of this, the oldest medicine. This means that it is my job to simply…
- POUR TOUCH UPON MY CLIENTS
Pouring this powerful medicine of touch into our client’s body and mind is all we actually need to do. Touch can transform a life. Touch can heal the scars and wounds of a lifetime’s trauma. Touch can soothe a troubled mind. Touch can put us in touch with our highest self with God, even. Touch teaches us to let go. Touch shows us how to forgive. Touch can bring us home to this amazing body we live in. Touch can rebalance all meridians and restructure all bones. Touch harmonises the chakras and balances chi at the deepest level. Touch stabilises the body and brings homeostasis to all the organs and systems of the body. Touch that is righteous can actually change the way we walk through life. Forever.
By accepting my clients ‘just how they are’ and working with the mind set of acceptance and gratitude, I know that touch can give my clients whatever they seek at whatever level. The most beautiful thing of it all is this:
Because I am focusing so simply on my breath and my movements and my contact with the client through each microscopic shift of pressure in the soles of my feet…
Because I see myself as simply a beaker that pours touch onto my clients…
Glug, glug, glug…
By the end of the session, it is not only the client who is healed. It is a synergy of healing and who knows where that goes?
It has taken me 25 years and over 20,000 treatments to realise this one simple thing! I think that probably qualifies me as a VERY slow learner…
What was particularly shocking was to come across a poem by one of my clients from only my second year of practice (in 1985). This client is now a well respected poet/author. When he wrote this poem he had achieved no recognition of his literary talent. Yet after a year of weekly treatments, he wrote a poem about his experiences on the table. If you ever needed proof that we only really learn by being a client, then this is it. It is quite clear from his poem that he knew far more about touch in 1985, than I did.
THE THERAPEUTIC MASSEUR
It is the oldest medicine:
they use their feet in the Punjab, here
his palms clap and pummel
the knotty thongs
Some come craving to be touched,
others with the simple
urge to clarify, to assuage
the fury of a body,
a lifetime’s tryst with disappointment.
Dancers, poets, priests,
monks whose sex springs up
at the first touch,
pensioners who giggle
and the lonely wives
he smooths into solitude, the knowledge
that this is the sum of their flesh,
and they must love it.
His thumb delves into bleak biographies
the pages of the body
flutter open to the terrible chapter
that bent the spine
and gave her headaches; the patient
screams to be read.
And day after day
each spreads naked with the blinds drawn down
in the whirr of the heater
committed to this
outrageous planer of flesh,
hear through the dark
whole shelves collapse
rotten with worm, floor after floor
float down slowly
or snow in some high mountain,
or gulls lifting
and falling over great seas.
(from Mornings in the Baltic by Adam Thorpe – Secker and Warburg 1988)
This poem, along with four others, meant that Adam was promptly awarded a famous ‘young poets’ Prize (The Eric Gregory Award). When he published his first complete book of poetry in 1988, he included this poem and this collection was immediately short listed for the Whitbread Poetry Award – an amazing feat for a young poet.
More importantly, I have yet to read anything that says more about the simple power that emerges when we learn to simply Trust The Touch.
Written by NO HANDS Founder, Gerry Pyves (MA Oxon, PGCE, Dip TM, Dip TA (ITA), MNHMA) – this article also appeared in a number of trade publications including Massage World, Aromatherapy Times and Vitality