May 17, 2012


Three massages today – my limit – and I look forward to all of them. I still always look forward to my massages, in fact. At worst, when I'm tired, I have a mixed response of “how lovely this will be!” and “oh, I'm going to have to watch my body mechanics tonight!” I'm not a big alignment buff: not one of those people who thinks it matters all that much that your head be balanced on your spine and your shoulders over your hips, not so long as everything's moving and fluid and easy. But when you find yourself straining you know you're doing something wrong. There's always an easier way: a way to let gravity and bones do the work, to make a solid supported structure with your wrists, thumbs, and fingers, and load it with the weight of your body, or the weight of your client's.

There's a move I particularly love – with my client face up, I take hold of their nearest wrist and pull their arm straight up toward the ceiling with one hand, while with the other I reach under to the spineward edge of their shoulder blade. It opens up the whole shoulder assembly, so that I can work everything in that rich lode in between the spine and the shoulder blade. Once I've got the shoulder up, I can let their arm fall over across their chest (as if they had half-rolled away from me while saying the pledge of allegiance). The whole weight of their upper body is now resting on the hand I've got under the shoulder blade – plenty of force for anything I might want to do.

But if I tried to do this move while standing beside the table, carrying their weight with my back, I'd kill myself. The mechanics are all wrong. Instead I put a knee up on the table, rest my forearm on my thigh, and hold most of the weight with my wrist, which settles nicely into the hollow of their shoulder blade. After I've let their arm fall across the chest, I can then take their shoulder with my free hand and move it around wherever I want it. The weight-bearing forearm is exerting practically no force now: it's just rocking across my thigh. It's a lever, and my own considerable upper body is its counterweight. I can dig in with my fingers when I like, and relax them when I like. Once I got the knack of it, I found I could do this indefinitely and effortlessly. And clients love it. Pressure that comes up, I've found, feels much different from pressure coming down. It's unexpected, and it feels less, well, overbearing. I do a fair amount of wedging my hands under the body, one way or another.