If you’ve never had a massage before, you might be worried about how your body will respond and appear to the therapist. Kate Bartolotta’s advice is to relax.
Massage therapy has become pretty mainstream in the U.S., but there are still many people who are nervous about it. Will I feel weird being naked? What will the therapist do? What if I fall asleep and drool? Will it hurt?
If fear of the unknown has kept you from getting a massage, here are a few things you should know:
If you want to get the most out of your massage, plan on being completely naked. We are professionals; everything that needs to stay covered is going to stay covered. If your lower back or hips are stiff, do yourself a favor and skip the boxers so we can really address those areas. We will move the sheet around to access the areas that need work—we’re not going to move your underpants. Most good therapists will treat that as a boundary and leave areas that you choose to keep covered alone.
On the flip side, you are welcome to keep as much on as is necessary for you to feel comfortable. Most people go through that scary inner dialogue at their first massage: Should I take everything off? Do I seem like a perv if I take everything off? Do I seem like a prude if I keep something on? The answer to both is “no.” The massage is about you and helping facilitate your healing and relaxation. If you are going to be a nervous wreck in the nude, keep your underwear on.
Bodily functions happen. If things are going well in the massage and you are fully relaxing, guess what? It improves your digestion. Your stomach might get noisy and you might fart. It’s a good thing. Don’t worry about it. It’s a sign that the massage is doing what it’s supposed to do. Same goes for falling asleep. To me, that’s a pretty big compliment if someone feels relaxed and safe enough to doze off on my table.
It’s pretty rare that you would get and sustain an erection during a massage, unless you are contributing to that situation. It happens, but it doesn’t happen often and if you aren’t trying to sexualize the massage, it’s not a deal breaker. When you are getting a professional massage, one of the goals is to help you relax—not get aroused–so it’s unlikely 99 percent of the time. If that one percent of the time happens to be you, don’t sweat it. Take a deep breath and relax.
But on a related note, if you ask for a happy ending—even as a joke—we won’t be rebooking you. You don’t walk up to a pharmacist and ask for cocaine. We are professional health care providers. Act accordingly.
A shower before your massage is a good idea. It’s going to warm up your muscles a bit, begin your relaxation process, and it’s much nicer to work on clean feet. Sports massage is an exception here, and we expect to work on sweaty or even muddy bodies at sporting events. But if you have the option, shower first.
There is no right or wrong amount of body hair. We aren’t shocked by it. We aren’t grossed out by it. It really is all good, regardless of how you’ve decided to groom it (or not).
This is YOUR massage. If you don’t like how something feels, speak up. If your therapist asks if you need more or less pressure—be honest. We won’t be insulted or offended. We want this to be the best experience possible for you, and honest communication will help ensure that.
Be honest on your health history. We aren’t asking out of curiosity. A therapeutic massage is not like a back rub from a friend. There are some conditions where we’ll have to modify how we work—or possibly postpone treatment.
Your body is amazing. No, really. We are so much in our heads and online and just busy being busy, that we forget to be connected to what’s going on in our bodies. We forget to listen to what our bodies are telling us. We keep all of our stresses, our hurts, our joy, our sadness with us in our bodies. Getting a massage is a way to stop and listen to what’s going on in your body, and your heart. It is an honor and a privilege to be a part of that time with you.
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Image credit: Noodles and Beef/Flickr