Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Massage: Pleasure & Pain

I took a real interest in massage when
I was about 12. My mom and I would
trade massages every evening. It was
a good deal that continued through
high school. When I graduated, my
seven-year old sister gave me a gift
certificate drawn in crayon, good for
one head rub.

In college, a girl in the dorms showed
me how to massage a hand. She said,
"doesn't that feel good when I work
all your fingers ?" She was right. So
began my exploration. I learned about
craniosacral massage from the radio;
a DJ talked about how effective it
is to gently massage the head using
only the weight of a nickel. Of course,
like all the techniques I list here, it
takes real training and know-how.

A couple years after college, I received
my first professional massage. I shocked
my masseuse when she walked in and
found me laying face down, naked, but
not under the sheet. I thought that's what
she told me to do. Oops. She later told me,
"your globes were smiling at me."

I started getting massage on a regular
basis. I recall my first Russian trigger
point massage. It's effective but just too
painful for me. I go to relax.

In Kansas City, a Chinese woman gave
me shiatsu with a towel. I loved it,
except she worked vigorously on my
stomach, which made me sick. When she
later omitted the visceral work, it was one
of the best I've ever had.

Not long after that, I was in Vegas for
my sister's wedding. I played three dollars
in a slot machine and won three hundred.
At the mall, I paid for a "water massage."
I laid down in something that looked like
a tanning bed, and received high-pressure
streams of water behind a rubber sheet.
It was so good that when I go to indoor
pools, I like to lay under the kiddie water
fall and let it pound on my back.

In 2002, I went to Thailand for almost a
month. On the second day, I learned that
a two-hour massage was a mere seven
dollars. I decided that was something I would
do every day. On the third day, my masseuse
asked if I wanted Thai massage. I gave it
a try. Turns out, it's like chiropractic
"cracking" for your whole body. She even
cracked my knees ! Although it's kind of
scary the first time, it does make you feel
really good--
except the time a little Thai girl bruised
my sternum. Okay, that's my warning.

I learned about Rolfing, but could never
bring myself to get it. Rolfing utilizes
strong manipulation to re-structure joints
and "properly" align the skeleton for
more efficient movement. Everyone I've
talked to said it's awesome, but awesomely
painful. Hmm. Not for me.

My mom became a Reiki Master, and gave
me a treatment or two. It's amazing how
well it works, considering she didn't even
touch me.

My favorite masseuse is named Mary and
she lives in Utah. Mary not only reads me
to know that I'm relaxed (because if it
hurts, you're not relaxed... Harriet--); but
Mary does lymph drainage therapy. Man
that's cool stuff. Mary can drain the lymph
nodes around my ankle, which takes down
any swelling and makes if feel awesome.

I had another massage in Northern Michigan
where the masseuse asked me if I wanted
biofeedback. I said, "sure, I'll try it." She
moved one finger around until it hit a tender
spot, let's say on my shoulder blade; when
I alerted her to it, she'd hold that spot and
start moving another finger around, let's say
my hip. When she hit another tender spot, she
would hold both, have me breath in deeply
and breath out. When she removed both
fingers, neither spot was tender. I thought
that was pretty cool too.

Which brings me to Tui Na. Chinese
Tui Na massage involves a whole range
of techniques such as reflexology of the
ears, hands and feet; all the way to the
chiropractic-like manipulation of Thai
massage. This blog was supposed to be
about Tui Na as the fourth branch of
Traditional Chinese Medicine--
but I felt it would be better to share all
that I've learned about the amazing
massage arts.



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