Integrating massage, thoughts on pay-what-you-wish payment policy

This afternoon at massage school, we got to integrate all the styles and special techniques we’ve learned so far — Swedish massage, range-of-motion and stretching, body mobilization techniques, sports massage, and deep massage. (Later we’ll add some Shiatsu to that, and I plan to add a little cranio-sacral work as well.)

We asked our partners (fellow students) where their bodies were needing special attention. My partner had some tightness in his upper back (a 1 on a 1-10 scale), between his shoulder blades. I did the techniques that came to mind (raking the rhomboids, circular effleurage around the scapulae) and even made up some strokes.

Afterward, he said it felt good. That’s what counts.

I loved it. I am not a by-the-book person. This is where it gets really interesting to me. This is where we get to improvise, being in the moment and deciding how to proceed.

The basic skills are building blocks. There’s nothing wrong with pure Swedish. It’s pretty awesome — relaxing and therapeutic.┬áIt’s just that when someone has an issue, it’s great to have several resources to use to learn what works best on this person.

I want to learn a routine consisting solely of body mobilization techniques (BMTs), which are ways to jostle, swing, shake, rock, roll, and generally loosen up the body in a pleasant, rhythmic manner while the client is passively experiencing their body differently. BMTs can be done in 15, 20, or 30 minutes with the client fully clothed, so it can substitute for a chair massage. (It’s also great to integrate into longer massages.)

It will be nice to have something short and sweet to offer clients who don’t have the time for a full massage or who have never had a massage and would enjoy a fun little introduction.

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Today I heard about a massage therapist who operates on a donate-what-you-wish basis. It’s wonderful to hear about someone making a “good enough” living doing that. So many people have irregular incomes (artists and musicians, for example), and paying less when broke/more when flush works for them, and they really appreciate people who can work with the rhythm of their income.

Yoga studios have been successful operating this way (though usually with a $10 minimum). I know an acupuncturist who works successfully on that basis, and she is the free-est, happiest person I know and very good at what she does. She handpicks her clients.

I like that the massage therapist doesn’t have to think about how much to charge and wonder if the client can afford it. It removes some potential awkwardness and allows the focus to be on the bodywork and the relationship.

Wouldn’t it be awesome if all health care was like that? I imagine that in times past, when someone was a healer for their village or tribe, they never turned anyone away because they were poor. They took food, crafts, chickens, pay-it-forward, or whatever in barter. Healing was just what they did, in good times and bad. They rolled with their village.

What’s also attractive about pay-what-you-wish is that the massage therapists can hand-pick who they want to work with, and their clients become regular, long-term clients they can know well.

That sounds more fulfilling to me than “body in, body out” work with a lot of turnover in clients.

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