Principles of Longevity for Massage Therapists
It’s not a mystery that if you want to have a long and prosperous career, you have to invest in the health and longevity of your body. You’ve heard this before. However, this article isn’t about self-care with exercise, diet, and self-massage – although all those things are important.
January 18, 2010 By Patrick Lee Ingrassia LMT and Tina L.I. Dietz MS NCC
It’s not a mystery that if you want to have a long and prosperous career, you have to invest in the health and longevity of your body. You’ve heard this before. However, this article isn’t about self-care with exercise, diet, and self-massage – although all those things are important. In this article, we want to show you how your massage practice can become PART of your self-care by simply shifting some of the ways that you deliver massage to your clients. In nearly 20 years of teaching and mentoring Massage Therapists, the concerns we’ve heard are pretty much the same — injury to joints (especially low back, wrists, and thumbs), fatigue, and the emotional stress that goes along with worrying if you’re going to be able to keep up with your clients, your bills, and the market. The good news is there are reliable, effective ways to bolster your body, your energy, and your career without having to take more time out of your day to do it. The great news is taking care of your body in ways that support your career also supports your health and vitality in all the areas of your life! It’s a no brainer.
In working to develop the Nayada Method of Massage, we’ve compiled “Principles of Longevity” for Massage Therapists. These principles specifically address the issues of wear and tear on your body, working effectively on your clients, and keeping your body and mind in balance. Here are 5 of the Principles for your consideration.
Please Be Seated
Performing massage while seated is an extremely effective way to take the strain off of your lower body joints, including hips, low back, knees, and sacroiliac. The support of using a seat such as the BodySaver Bench creates stability and the height needed to deliver effective pressure during a massage session. The positioning of being seated eliminates the “hinging” that happens in the low back (especially L4/L5) when you are bending over your client as they lay on the table. You can use your WHOLE body to deliver massage when you are seated – it’s like having an extra set of hands!
Floor Your Clients
Consider this…How many push ups can you do vs. how far can you walk? Most people have more strength in their lower body than in their upper body, but we deliver massage mostly with our upper body – it’s like trying to walk on your hands! The Principle of Longevity here is to work with your client on the floor without YOU being on the floor. This creates effortless use of your legs and feet, where you can take advantage of gravity and body weight as well as the unique tools of your foot – gravity becomes your ally in delivering effective technique and protecting your body. Pressure can be directed more effectively when you are centered and balanced over your client. You can work on your clients while they are in any position on the floor – prone, side-lying, supine, seated, and even Child’s Pose.
Rock Your Body
Rocking is sedating, it creates a biological relaxation response for both you and your client via your parasympathetic nervous system. For your client, rocking movements allow them to release the physical patterns of stress that keep them locked. For the Massage Therapist, rocking creates economy of motion and energy because momentum/gravity/body weight is being utilized instead of muscular strength. None of your joints get locked into place and no muscle gets contracted for any period of time. Less energy is expended, but it increases the effectiveness of your massage. Rocking facilitates range of motion technique as well as pressure delivery technique. The stretch reflex is avoided, allowing you and your client to stretch and extend into the movement. When a rocking motion is utilized with proper ergonomics and postural alignment, the pressure is taken off the therapist and delivered to the client – where it should be.
Supersize Your Table
We all know what it’s like to have a client’s arm extended in supine position, having to hold onto their arm with one hand and then only have one hand available to massage. Being a one-handed Massage Therapist is very limiting in terms of effectiveness because any pressure you generate has to be counter-forced by the opposite hand. This takes a lot of strength and the body is in a position of static support. Having a “table extension” where your client can rest their arm or leg not only frees up both hands to work, but allows you to reposition yourself at different angles to access your client’s body. The extension must be at the same height as the table, and padded for comfort.
Love the One You’re With
A long time ago, one of my teachers told me, “the massage is for you.” If I’m getting a lot out of the massage, my client will automatically be getting a great experience. Many, if not all, spiritual traditions speak of loving yourself. How this translates into massage is an attitude that you bring that says, “I’m not going to hurt myself because I love myself.” By loving yourself and nurturing yourself through your work — that energy is present for both you and your client. If the methods that you employ in your massage are fluid, free, and stress-less, then you will create that experience for your clients. It’s a matter of being responsible and listening for what you’re committed to. Are you committed to healing people for a lifetime? Can you be joyful, complete, and satisfied in your work? Bring loving kindness to yourself and your clients receive that also. Then, they can go out healed into the world and fulfill their dreams.
Regardless of how old you are now, if you continue to practice massage the way you are practicing now – what will your future look like? Will you have to manage injuries or give up other things you love because of pain, loss of income, energy, or time? Or will you put in structures and practices for your career that support your growth and development for the long term? We would like to see that you can give your newborn great-grandchild a massage someday – how about you?
Patrick Ingrassia, LMT, is the founder of the Nayada Institute of Massage and inventor of the Nayada Method and the BodySaver Bench. Patrick has been teaching massage in the US, Canada, Costa Rica, and Mexico for nearly 20 years. Patrick developed the Nayada Method to address the issues with injury and burnout that stop Massage Therapists from reaching their potential. He is a New York State Licensed Massage Therapist, Thai Massage Therapist & Instructor, Kripalu Certified Bodyworker, Certified Personal Trainer, and Yoga Teacher. Tina L.I. Dietz MS, NCC, is a Nationally Certified Counselor and the Business Manager of the Nayada Institute. Tina specializes in bringing entrepreneurial ventures into reality, providing coaching and consulting for individuals and businesses looking to have freedom, fulfillment, and balance present in their lives. To contact Patrick or Tina, or for more information about training, courses, or products from the Nayada Institute of Massage, please call (716) 833-8031 or go online at www.nayadausa.com. You may also email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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