A day in the life of a massage therapist

I’ve been doing massage since June, but I haven’t posted very much about it on this blog. I’ve been getting my bearings, gaining hands-on experience. I also maintain the confidentiality of my clients.

I’d like to write about my work, as long as my clients remain anonymous. I would have liked to read about what it’s like to work as a massage therapist, so maybe me posting about it will serve that need for someone else.

I massaged a woman who had recently had jaw surgery. She was going to physical therapy, and the PT said her neck muscles were so tight, a massage was in order.

At her request, I just worked on her back, shoulders, and neck, and I persuaded her to let me spend some time working on her feet.

It is incredibly relaxing to have foot reflexology and/or foot massage. I gave her both. There are zones on the feet that correspond to the rest of the body, so working the feet softens tense areas before I even get to them.

If you ever just want to relax and don’t have time for a full body massage, foot massage and reflexology are wonderful.

I allowed plenty of time in our session to work on her neck both when she was face down and after she turned over. I did a combination of Swedish massage and deep massage (Lauterstein method) to work on her circulatory and lymphatic systems and her structure and energy.

She told me she was having difficulty sleeping. She said she had always slept on her stomach with no pillow. Post-surgery, she was having to sleep on her back, propped up on pillows. She found it awkward and uncomfortable.

I shared with her what had helped me after I had had some major chiropractic work on my neck and was told to sleep on my back: hugging a pillow against my body. The weight of it feels comforting to a stomach sleeper.

Afterwards, she said she felt much better.

That’s one of the things I love most about being a massage therapist. What I do makes a tangible difference in people’s quality of life.

I worked on another woman who had been on her feet all weekend at an outdoor music festival. She wanted a lot of attention to her feet and legs as part of her full body massage. She booked a 90 minute massage, which is twice as relaxing as a 60 minute massage!

Truthfully, I don’t know how to quantify how relaxing a massage is. That’s a subjective measure. I just know that when I give a 60 minute massage, if the person is larger than average or has an area that needs extra attention and still wants a full body Swedish massage, the massage feels rushed, to me.

I don’t know if it feels rushed to them. Maybe that’s all they’ve ever known, and they have no idea how much more relaxed they could feel if they had a longer session. It’s their choice — and I’m not beyond suggesting that a client book a longer session next time!

I did Swedish/deep massage and reflexology/foot massage on her and was able to work at a more relaxed and relaxing pace. IMO, she did herself a huge favor by booking 90 minutes. She relaxed very deeply and looked happy when I met with her after the session.

I like using aromatherapy. It adds a nice dimension to a massage both to the client and to me.

I often put the essential oil blend Valor (from Young Living) on the client’s feet before massaging them. The way I see it, everyone needs more valor to face life, and here’s a way to get some!

When clients turn over from being face down, their breathing is often congested. When that’s the case, I like to take a drop of Eucalyptus radiata oil, rub it between my hands, and then place my hands near the client’s nose. Their eyes are covered, so they don’t see it coming. They simply smell the eucalyptus, a pleasant surprise, and it clears their breathing passages.

At the end of a massage, especially when the client has gone into a deep trance or fallen asleep, I like to rub a drop of peppermint or rosemary oil between my palms and allow the scent to help wake the client up in a refreshing way.

Helping a healer heal with sound, Reiki, and presence

I had a most remarkable experience last night. I was planning to go to the Saxon Pub to listen to The Resentments play on the last night of SXSW after teaching my restorative yoga class, and on the way, I took a detour to check out a nearby mobile home park. (Yes, I’m still looking, but just today discovered an online directory of MH parks in Texas with phone numbers! My next home is getting closer and closer.)

Just as I was leaving, my iPhone rang. It was my friend B. We’ve had a couple of bodywork/unblocking sessions, and I’ve enjoyed getting to know him. He’s a teacher for me, someone who knows a lot about healing.

B asked me to breathe with him, which we’ve done together before, in rebirthing. Curious but game, I did.

I discerned that he was in pain from his occasional moans and sobs, and I could tell the pain was pretty intense. I pulled the car over and breathed with him for a while, not knowing what had happened, unsure if it was physical or emotional pain, not that it really matters.

All he could tell me was “I was out riding bikes with my son and something happened.” Didn’t know if he was bleeding or if something happened to or with his son… I watched my mind try to make up a story and give up.

After about 10 minutes, he asked me if I could come to where he was. I said sure, thinking he was at home. No. He gave me directions to a little woods behind a grocery store several miles away. We stayed connected on the phone as I drove.

He asked if I had any blankets in the car. Yes, B, as a matter of fact, I happen to have a dozen or so yoga blankets in my car. Good thing, because he was wearing a sleeveless t-shirt, and it was dark and starting to get chilly.

As I drove, he asked me if I had any Reiki training. Technically I’m a third-level Reiki master, but I have only done Reiki on myself and distance healing on others. He told me:

You’re about to get initiated.

He asked me if I was ready. At first I said yes, and then I said no, I couldn’t know that. All I could know was that I was willing and open to it. He was satisfied with that.

From my car, I could barely see him, back in the woods. I parked and brought some blankets over to where he was. I covered his upper body, and we began to work together.

From there on, the sequence of events gets fuzzy. We spent a couple of hours together in that little woods behind a suburban grocery store, out of sight of the hustle and bustle, healing his foot. 

He’d dropped a board on top of his foot that morning, and he worked on it then, and it seemed fine, and then he and his son went on a late afternoon bike ride. When he got off his bike, he couldn’t bear weight on that foot. The pain was excruciating. The motion of pedalling had apparently further dislocated a bone that had been impacted by the earlier injury and not quite gone back into place. Anyway, that seems to be the likeliest story.

This man works on his feet, but he was uninterested in going to any kind of medical establishment. He could have called 911 at any time from his cell phone, or asked numerous people to take him home and give him painkillers. Instead, he sent his son home on his bike. His wife, D, was working and he couldn’t get hold of her.

So he called me. Not sure why; maybe I was the only person who picked up. But we have a good strong connection, and I was able and willing to help. I helped him text his wife so she would call when she got off work.

I mentally reviewed my preparations for giving Reiki to myself. At his direction, I wrapped my hands around his foot just so, and he occasionally directed me verbally and nonverbally where to apply pressure, where to ease off, how to elongate his foot.

After a little while, my hands felt really good. I had a really good, positive, loving energetic connection with his injured foot. I could feel the pulse in it, feel the life force. I felt plugged in and connected to the Source.

We breathed together. Fast, slow, loud, soft. Mostly he led and I paced him.

We moaned, toned, sang together. Some of the toning we did was amazingly powerful. I could hear the resonance between two notes becoming so much more than those two notes. They amplified the energetic connection, almost as if we were supported and held in place by sound.

I noticed that when I could be in a position where my body was symmetrical, my energy flowed better. My crown chakra opened wide, and I felt very present, engaged, and relaxed.

B was a marvel to me. Here was someone in pain who fully faced it. Now that’s a different approach. He was totally present with it. Sometimes it was overwhelming, and he just had to lie down. Sometimes he sobbed from the pain. He was so open to his experience, even though it was intensely painful.

Pain is just sensation without the story.

He reviewed the sequence of events and admitted he had made a mistake getting on the bike, but I never heard any self-castigation. He accepted that he had made a mistake, but it didn’t mean anything, as in “therefore, I am a failure.” Just facing what is, that he had made a mistake. End-of-story. I never heard any cursing — in fact, he chided me for using strong language at one point.

He was very clear what he wanted to use his attention and energy for. He said let’s not talk about that, or let’s talk about that later.

Over time, the pain abated somewhat, he said from about 8.5 or 9 to a 7 on a 1-10 scale. That’s still pretty intense.

Then D called, and she came, and all of us held his foot and toned together. D had some Young Living Essential Oils in her purse, and he slathered them on his foot and  put some on his head. He used a whole bottle of Pan-Away on his foot. That’s what it’s for. (And by the way, I’m selling this stuff now.)

After maybe 30 minutes, D said she was ready to go home. She took his bike with her. B crawled from the woods to my car, and I drove him home. It was 10 pm, and I’m currently a gal with a job.

Today B called twice and thanked me. It was actually an incredible honor to be called upon to help, and to witness this method of healing, and to let Reiki flow through me in the service of alleviating suffering.

This afternoon when B called, he said he could now bear weight on his foot. He had continued with someone else giving him Reiki, and D had applied comfrey leaves to his foot, but he gave me a lot of credit. Really, I just met his presence.

As amazed as I am at this way of healing an extremely painful injury, I am even more amazed at his valor, presence, and most of all to his commitment to and faith in the healing power that lies within each of us, that when combined with others, can work what seems like miracles.