Method, Intent and Political Correctness in Practice
Most people know that massage is a therapeutic or healing art that gives benefits of relaxation, improved circulation, the removal of toxins in the body, improved metabolism and greater self-awareness. Feel free to add to this list because even when it comes to serious health concerns, massage or physical touch can alleviate a great many problems.
Unlike modern medicine and surgeries, the client is usually alert and fully aware of the procedure. In practice, many people who come for massage have absolutely no inhibitions in regard to their bodies whereas others have to be extracted from the garments with great difficulty.
Massage is a treatment of the soft tissues of the body and as such when for instance doing a foot massage, the entirety of the foot is treated as well is the region around the ankle, but to do a more thorough and proper job, the massage generally includes all the musculature of the lower leg.
Staying with this idea of the foot massage which may also include or consist entirely of reflexology, 90% of the treatment may be confined to the foot and ankle with the remaining 10% of the time given over to massaging the lower limb.
Now a client may think they only need a foot massage and as such may even keep their trousers on which would make massage the lower limb difficult. But while massage for may be requested because there is some issue related to the foot, the problem the client is experiencing may actually come from the lower limb it self because everything in our body is interconnected.
You might remember that you learned in school about the autonomic nervous system. This keeps our heart pumping and blood flowing, it regulates our breath and a host of other body functions that we could not possibly manage if we had to do it ourselves. But the inner workings of the body are so sophisticated and complex, we completely disregard all these processes.
A more precise perspective is that every individual cell with the entirety of all humans (as well as all life forms) are in constant communication with each other. Another aspect that we are rarely ever aware of is that the food we eat is being converted into new body parts, the cells, tissues and fluids that make up our physical structure. This is the very process of creation happening within us.
Returning to massage, if you look at our physical structure, we have the bony skeleton with all the separate bones are held together by strong and elastic tissue (ligaments) which are also supported by our muscles.
Again if we stay with the idea of the foot and lower limb, the bones of the foot and ankle are held together by strong ligaments with a comparatively small amount of muscle. But tendons attach the muscles of the lower limb to the foot and ankle. Then the muscles of the lower limb diverged into tendons that attach to the thigh bone.
Now let's say that someone has a sore calf muscle. As a therapist, you can simply locate the sore spot and tried to determine the nature of the injury as a doctor would do. Then having decided that there is only a minor degree of stress, give the affected area a brief rub which then alleviates the sense of distress.
But this is not massage, if there is an injury in the calf muscle that is not so severe that it cannot be treated with massage, then the massage must include the entirety of the lower limb plus the foot, ankle and the upper limb. In other words the entirety of the leg should be treated.
Likewise if the injury is to the thigh muscles, even as a quick treatment the entirety of the leg and hip should be treated which is where this notion of political correctness and peoples phobias about their own bodies becomes a problem.
In many sports one of the most common injuries is referred to as groin strain. This is usually a level of distress to the adductor muscles that are responsible for drawing the knees toward each other and these muscles attach into the base of the pelvis. Now many people are quietly terrified of anyone touching the inside of their fires let alone touching into the pelvic area so close to their genitals.
But it's not only clients who are terrified of this perceived intimacy, many therapists also have the attitude that there is no way that they are going to touch anyone there even for persons life depended on them doing so.
This problem arises from the sexualisation of society. Almost everything in public life has some attached sexualisation from the media advertising, the way everyone dresses, social attitudes and even legislation. It is sexualisation that causes young men to gaze lustfully at passing women even when they are covered from head to foot. It is that people are attempting to control their own sexual expression by the way they dress and their willingness or unwillingness to let someone see and touch their body in a way that may be unfamiliar.
Of course there are ways to minimise client distress. In massage, generally the parts of the body that are not being treated are covered with a sheet or towel. When women visit the gynaecologist, they lay back and open their legs so that the practitioner can perform that internal exam in detail, but usually the woman's legs are covered in part to prevent any embarrassing eye contact between her and the gynaecologist as well is to keep her from seeing what is going on.
Years ago a Greek migrant to Australia wrote a book called 'they are a weird mob' because we humans are so weird. The sexualisation of culture has become a political strategy to divide us from ourselves and each other and every sector of society has its own rules and way of presenting itself. Some time ago there were two groups known as the mods in the rockers. In Britain this was a kind of trend warfare which often resulted in some serious fights.
So we live in an age where we are divided within ourselves and divided from each other by sets of artificial social political constructs. Like it's okay for men to walk about topless in public whereas in some countries it's actually a criminal offence for women to do the same.
In the field of massage this issue of social nudity and the ability of individuals to be comfortable naked presents many problems. In the American system of massage which has been exported to many countries including New Zealand, the legs stop 5 or 6 cm below the groin and it is completely forbidden to massage and adductor muscle to the point where it attaches in the groin. It is completely forbidden to massage the gluteal muscles although in some circumstances that may be done working through the sheet. In the American system the back begins above the sacrum and any touching of the front of the torso on women is strictly taboo.
This kind of politically correct massage is all about politics, it's about victimisation and has the same place in society as the burqa. Conversely when men go for a massage, is estimated according to some reports that as many as 20% get complete body massage that includes sexual release.
As this knowledge became public, large numbers of women were quite indignant. How come men could have a full body massage and they couldn't? This debate is being aired in public on many levels with women's organisations lobbying for the right to go topless in public as men can, and large numbers of women are also going out of their way to get a complete full body massage.
Sexuality side, the human body is a human body and a good massage will treat the entirety of the body. Every therapist needs to have a good range of techniques to do a complete full body massage and any massage therapist who has phobias about nudity or even sexuality should not be in the business.
Despite all the overt sexuality and reactive prudishness that exists, we actually live in a very free society so if people want a sexual kind of massage they can go and get it. If you happen to be a therapist and that is your bent, you can in New Zealand and many other countries offer that type of service. But while some people seek out erotic stimulation, the majority want to be healed.
A massage done well takes a person on a journey around their bodies, and brings to them and awareness and a different perspective on the structure and nature of the tissues that make up their bodies. Sometimes the journey will take people into a state of arousal and as a therapist you should not have any problem with that though if they start hitting on you for something beyond what you have contracted or are comfortable with, you are the person in authority.
An amorous client can be relaxed by moving to a different part of the body and perhaps using little more pressure, then you can return to complete what you happened to be doing when the problem arose.
When you are bound in the darkest corner of yourself, your massage service will be around giving the client what they think they want and delivering your service in a way that their disposition remains pleasant compromised by your need for payment.
Intent shape your attitude and is is your attitude that determines your altitude as the old saying goes. Therapists must also be educators so that clients can be eased out of their straitjackets to embrace the wholesomeness of their own bodies.
In terms of spa massage, it all about money and public perception. Here massage tends to be mediocre and very politically correct which helps to ensure that after the treatment, the straitjacket still fits.
In terms of the more relaxed therapeutic massage, there is encouragement for the person to relax, to unwind and recognise that there is more to life than what they perceive. Here you are looking for a full body treatment where all the muscles are followed to their points of attachment without heed of political correctness yet still using appropriate draping techniques to keep them comfortable.
The lomi lomi or holistic for body massage is designed to take people further, to open them up and bring an awareness that they are part of life and the massage enhances their awareness so they can perceive the nature of life within and without. This massage in America has been completely sanitised and streamlined within politically correct organisations that gives therapists a degree of flexibility and arrest from using their hands for the entire treatment.
The original lomi massage letters so flexible that it has no formal description is about opening people to the potential of life as well is the entirety of their being. While some people may be asleep within minutes, others are transported to heaven. But for this to happen the client needs to be on a table service that allows for the therapist hands and arms to slide unimpeded under their bodies, and it is almost impossible to avoid some genital contact even though it is not a sexual massage.
Here the therapist also needs to be grounded so that they can maintain their focus and intent, to tune into the nature of the person and their body to loosen the energy, to provide safety and nurturing as all the stresses are eased out of their musculature and their skeleton is defined. As such, the lomi lomi massage may include erotic elements even though sex and sexuality is unrelated to the treatment. When one is completely in touch with life, life is fully erotic, filled with passion, it is an uninhibited freedom and while the nature of life has an inherent sexual component that is essential for life to replicate, it is not the focus of life which is more about the expression of joy.