Mindfulness is a popular trend in the worlds of business, sports and self-improvement—and massage. Mindfulness can help you be more productive, less stressed and more effective as a therapist. Mindful massage is easy to do and can increase your client’s enjoyment of the massage experience, and yours as well.
While no research studies have been done on the effects of therapist mindfulness on the outcome of massage, a 2005 study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, “A Pilot Study Evaluating Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and Massage for the Management of Chronic Pain,” does offer support for the therapeutic value of both mindfulness and massage.
Mindfulness meditation is usually done in a seated position; however, you probably stand to give massage. This is not an impediment, nor should it in any way detract from the benefits you and your client might receive.
It is said that the Buddha taught 83,000 meditation techniques. One technique I write and teach about seems especially appropriate to massage; I call it “Combination Plate.” It is a variant of a technique taught to me by my teacher, Shinzen Young.
An overview of mindful massage
- A phenomenon—a thought, body sensation or visual image—arises in your mind.
- You allow it, observe it and label it one of these three things: talk; body sensation (body, for short); or image
- Another phenomenon arises. You do the same thing: Allow, observe and label.
- If more than one phenomenon arises at the same time, label them both. For example, you might be observing your breath when a visual image of you driving your car arises. Your labeling might then be: Body; body; image; image and body; image and body.
Don’t become upset if you find yourself unable to keep up with fast-moving phenomena. It happens to everyone—and it’s not important. What is important is the quality of attention you bring to observing whatever comes up. If you find yourself left behind by thoughts arising, think of it as though you’ve just missed a bus. Another will be along shortly, and all you need to do you is relax, wait for it to pull up and hop on.
How to use mindful massage in your practice
Your client is stretched out on your table. Ground yourself on the Earth, which energizes you. Take a deep inhale and sigh it out. Repeat. Now begin your work:
- As you commence the massage, notice the first phenomenon arising inside you. Label it as talk, body or image. Observe the rise and fall of this phenomenon.
- Notice as another phenomenon arises. Just as you just did before, label this new one as talk, body or image. If more than one phenomenon arises at the same time, note them both as best you can.
- If you fall behind with your labeling, you need not try to catch up. Just stop where you are, take a deep breath and wait for the next phenomenon to present itself. (It will get easier to keep up with labeling as you gain practice.)
- Don’t feel frustrated if you cannot follow everything perfectly. Just neutrally observe and label: talk, body or image. Singly, in tandem or all at once. Allow everything to rise and fade away like clouds in an open sky.
- Continue in this way for as long as you like, or until you complete the massage.
I believe the more mindful you are, the better you function—in your massage practice and in your entire life. These benefits can include increased energy, less stressful thinking, lower performance anxiety and a more receptive approach to your clients’ needs. Try it and see for yourself.
About the Author
Victor Davich is a recognized authority on meditation. His www.amazon.com best-seller, 8 Minute Meditation (www.8minutes.org), which TIME magazine called “the most American form of meditation yet,” has empowered more than 100,000 readers to change their lives.
Neither the author/s nor MASSAGE Magazine assumes responsibility for the application of any technique. Readers must ensure they have completed the training necessary to safely and effectively perform any technique mentioned on www.massagemag.com.