Originally published at PulpNature.com
Pretty much everyone loves a good rub down, whether done by a friend, lover, or a professional. If you do go the professional route, it can get spendy. Here’s some tips for getting the most massage therapy benefits per moment regardless of your budget.
Massage sessions generally last between 30 and 90 minutes, and prices vary accordingly. If at all possible, go for the gold – a 90 minute massage deeply relaxes the body and stimulates the parasympathetic “rest and digest” side of the nervous system, flushing stress hormones and easing digestive issues. It also allows the therapist to get around your whole body and spend more time working those tough and tender spots and using special techniques.
Longer sessions allow for your massage to be fantastically relaxing, but also medically therapeutic (especially when done regularly) for a surprising range of health concerns: arthritis and sciatica to fibromyalgia, depression, digestive issues, and neurological conditions including multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s. 60 minutes is standard for a good relaxation massage, but if you’re coming in with an especially tight area or any health conditions, definitely opt for 90. It can take the first 30 minutes of a treatment to simply allow persistent muscles and a stressed nervous system to move into a more pliable and relaxed state, before the real work even begins!
Can’t afford a 90 minute massage? Or regular massages? Don’t let that stop you. Do an online search and call up the nearest massage therapy school to book a discounted student massage. You might not receive the highest quality of hands or the most private atmosphere, but your session will be professional, effective, and less than half of what you’d pay at a spa. Again, what’s most important is that you have hands on you for at least an hour or more and your body will automatically relax. This way, you won’t regret (as much) the fact that you fell asleep for that tintillating foot work at the end.
Also look out for Groupons, Yelp deals and specials on massage especially around holidays or find a Massage Envy spa near you for their monthly massage “membership.” Since many therapists work independently, you can get to know them and ask if they might offer you a deal in exchange for writing a testimonial of their work or referring new clients.
Before studying massage therapy, I’d walk in for my very, very occasional massage like a giddy child, blank-faced and excited just to have someone touch me at all. I let the therapist go to work without a word of direction. Now as a therapist-in-training, I know better! Most therapists have a general routine to follow, but should be open to your needs and willing to develop a personalized plan for you that might just include 80% of the session devoted to your stiff shoulders or lower back.
Be confident enough to explain your goals for the session and work with your therapist to create a plan that feels right, even if its just for relaxation and relaxing your mind (for which a long face, neck, and scalp massage would be appropriate). They may suggest types of massage you’ve never tried, such as on the glutes, abdomen or shaking and rocking the body. Be open to their suggestions, and if you’re curious, ask them to explain why and how the technique fits with your goals for the session.
Once the magic begins, don’t be too shy to speak up if you’re not absolutely, totally comfortable – you have the right to a propping pillows, different music or lighting, and just the right amount of pressure. Take the first few minutes to ask your therapist kindly for minor adjustments, so that you can fully settle in without any lingering worries or thoughts.
Then, settle in! Mentally take any concerns you walked in with and put them away, down, in a locked drawer, throw them out the window and watch them dissolve into the air like dispersing smoke! You can pick them up after (hopefully) 90 minutes. Remind yourself that you deserve this. Thank yourself and your body.. Take a deep breath. And melt away…
Ihotu Jennifer Ali, MPH, CD(DONA) – Ihotu is a Certified Doula, Yoga Instructor, and Student Massage Therapist. Ihotu is also a proud autoimmune ally.