“Don’t You Get Bored?”


“Don’t you get bored?”  “Doesn’t your mind wander when you’re doing massage?”  Every therapist gets these kinds of questions.  I’m kind of surprised that so many people think massage is such a mentally passive activity.  Doing bodywork is not just going through a set routine!  Even if the techniques or progression is similar each massage and every person is unique.  To be a good therapist and serve your clients well you have to constantly focus and adjust your work.  There’s plenty going on for me to pay attention to: 

*My hands (or fingers, knuckles, elbow, whatever is contacting the client).  I’m feeling the muscles and connective tissues in the body, their hardness or softness, where they need attention, how the technique I’m using is affecting them or isn’t.  I am constantly adjusting my speed and depth, or changing techniques depending on what I feel the body needs.

*The person on the table.  Tension, relaxation, rate of breathing, verbal cues, subtle movements or holding, unconscious protecting of an area.  What the client is both verbally and non-verbally expressing directs my work.  I have to pay attention to know how my work feels to them, not just how it feels to me.

*My own body.  To work well I have to use my body effectively.  I’m frequently checking in with myself to see if I’m in the right position to use a technique without over taxing my own body.  Good body mechanics are the key to good work and a long career.  My own tension or relaxation determines the effectiveness of a stroke and can often be sensed by the person on the table.

*The Plan:  When someone comes to my office I interview them to determine their needs, wants, and expectations.  I assess, question, and form a plan for the treatment.  Sometimes, after I get my hands on the tissues I have to change in mid-massage to try to accomplish what I set out to do.  Afterwards, if the client has a particular problem we’re working on I have to be able to articulate a continuing plan that will help them reach their goals.

Does my mind wander?  Absolutely, but like any creative process I have to be aware of when it has meandered to the groceries, what I’m teaching in class, or where I can kayak this weekend and bring my focus back to my work and the person on the table.  Do I get bored?  Rarely.  One of the things I love best about bodywork is that there is so much to learn, so many techniques and approaches to massage, so much new research to work with.  Even skills I’ve used for almost 13 years now change and become more focused the more I practice them.

Massage requires mindfulness.  When you’re on my table I’m with you, my mind is on my work and your needs.