Learn how to give a massage
There were three aspects about giving massages that intrigued me
1. Hands over brain
In my day-to-day work I have to think a lot and I neglect my body. I like playing the guitar or basketball, and I felt that massaging could be another good way to empty one's head and rather make use of the hands.
When giving a massage you have to feel what kind of touch the receiver actually needs. I thought it must be a good exercise to focus on understanding others, rather than putting my own needs and interests first.
Giving is one of NEF's Five Ways To Well-Being. I thought I was doing quite well with the other four ways (which are Keep Learning, Be Active, Take Notice, Connect), and could improve on the giving part. In retrospect I think learning to massage totally touches all five ways, which is quite extraordinary.
There is a well-known healing center in Bonn called Artemisa. They offer a course Massage Basics, which spans 3 weekends over 2 months, all in all about 42 hours. I thought the duration was perfect for an experiment with a higher level of commitment.
Artemisa also seemed to be following a holistic approach, rather than teaching the technique only, something I found quite appealing.
While the art of massaging is actually very old (if not the oldest form of curing), the popular massage types we know today are a quite recent invention, the classical massage dating back to the 19th century.
There are various kinds of touches
- Effleurage: long, sweeping strokes
- Petrissage: muscle kneading and rolling
- Friction: deep pressure in a single spot
They differ in the degree of pressure that is applied to the receiver's body. While Effleurage is more about massaging the skin, Petrissage is massaging the underlying muscles, with Friction being the most intense touch, where the pressure is supposed to soften tense muscle tissue.
It was interesting to learn that enduring some degree of pain is useful on behalf of the receiver. Only by applying intense pressure tense muscle tissue can be softened. This sort of tension is usually built up over decades by bad posture.
Types of massage
The oldest standardized form is classical massage, its rhythm is fast, more like a massage for sports. But there are countless variations, like the California massage by Downing, which is slower and more about relaxation.
During the course we learned about various types of massages
- Back (Classical and California style)
- Neck (Classical)
- Head (California)
To me this already feels like a wide repertoire of massages, but still manageable to learn.
Learning how to massage
With each of the above types, we proceeded in the following steps
- Anatomy (bones first, then muscles)
- Palpation (practical anatomy by identifying bones and muscles in an actual human body)
- Demonstration of a massage technique
- Actually giving the massage
I liked that I was given a theoretical introduction, which slowly built into actually doing the massage. I always felt confident to apply the technique I was learning about.
Giving a massage
First of all, it's totally different from what I usually do. I felt that instead of memorizing and fully applying the technique it was better to let go, get into a rhythm, and focus on the well-being of the receiver of the massage.
It's very interesting to use your hands as a primary source of sensory input. It's a great experience to find out what kinds of information you can get from a touch, things that are not observable with the eyes.
Sight stops at skin level, but with touching you can also "see" what's going on below. Palpation is a great exercise for learning this, I wonder why this isn't the standard way to learn anatomy in schools.
But - while all this felt good to me, it was also draining. I cannot imaging massaging for more than an hour or two per day. Not only is it physically demanding, it also is emotionally.
Still I was surprised that I never really felt mentally tired after the massage weekends. It felt like a good counterpart to my day-to-day work.
And I liked how easily I could give others pleasure by giving a massage.
I was lucky to have a great massage teacher, Jürgen Bodhi Kendziora. He is not only extremely knowledgable and experienced, but also one of the most gentle and disarmingly funny people I have met.
Here's a picture of us after finishing the course
It was a joy to learn from him, and I wish him well!
The course gave me enough material to work with, for now I don't need a wider skill set, I just need to practice what I have learned so far.
Luckily, Ms. Sustainable Pace joined me during the course, so we can learn from each other and always have an opportunity to give ourselves massages.
However, if you live around Bonn and are in need of a massage, I would be glad to give out free massages - I think this is for mutual benefit!