(Pardon the references to the Christmas holiday. I started to draft this in December, forgot about it and just decided to pick up where I left off. Enjoy!)
One of the best things about getting massage is discovering or noticing something new with each session and my session yesterday did not disappoint. I had planned for my massage to be as the winter holiday season was winding down on purpose. (For some, it is over, but my family won’t see what Santa left under our tree for our 7 year old until Tuesday the 29th. At roughly midnight. Because, as parents, we should excel at planning. But don’t. It is what it is.) The hustle and bustle and some unexpected bumps along the way made my decision for a day after Christmas massage a no-brainer.
And what new and wondrous things did I notice this time around? It wasn’t so much an actual thing as it was the lack of a thing…the emptiness, the solitude, the space.
It can be really hard to calm one’s mind any time of year, but especially at holiday time. I had a really hard time settling into a calm state yesterday. Even as I was settling into the warm coziness of the table, I discovered my heart was racing. There was still so much to do! So much to think about! To plan! (Even though it was the day after Christmas. Ugh.)
But on the massage table? No. Nothing was going to get done there. (Well…not nothing. In a way, everything was going to get done.)
My brain had been full for weeks and that was exactly why my To Do List was still a mile long. Just like when one’s belly is so full after a ginormous meal, it can be hard to function and plow forward if one’s brain has been a glutton. I needed some light and air to make its way in and free up all that grey and white matter tangle.
Making that space can be hard and different techniques work for different folks. When I schedule a relaxation massage (versus a regional or injury rehab type of session), I try to really just let go. The best way for me to describe it is analogous to when you are looking at a visually crowded picture and you allow your vision to get all blurry and unfocused. That’s what I allow my thoughts to do until there is nothing individually recognizable in and of itself. Thought mush. Then space fills in the full. I’m able to hear the music. Feel the soft. Experience the warm. Let my limbs go. Put my nervous system on calm.
And this mental massage drunk doesn’t make me useless. Far from. I’ll awake clear headed and (usually) able to think in an organized way without overwhelm. Mental breaks of all different kinds have shown over and over again to improve mental clarity and productivity/efficiency. (Little bits on that here and here and here.)
But before I dive right into Task Master Extraordinaire, I enjoy the yummy feeling of my new found brain space.
Between the comforting pressure of muscle softening and melting, sometimes a massage therapist will provide some controlled, slow pulling of my neck, my arm, my legs. Traction. Such a harsh sounding word for what can be such a lovely sensation. After weeks of feeling tight and compacted from stress and days of raw, damp cold, I felt shorter and kinked up.
But man you add some traction after the muscles and nervous system have been given permission to be all lackadaisical and smooshy? Ahhhh…
Done correctly and with care – not rushed, not sudden – traction can open up just the teeniest tiniest bits of space in the wrists, knuckles, shoulder, elbow, hip, all along the vertebrae, ankles and even toes.
And the result? I feel longer. Taller. Even more graceful as the joints don’t feel sticky and sluggish anymore. (Well…as graceful as I am capable of feeling. I’ll take what I can get.) No, inches weren’t added, but sometimes all that’s needed is a micron here and there of anatomical space back where it got crowded out.
Personal Space (My personal fave…)
Sometimes this concept of space begins way before you even touch the table. Arriving at a massage appointment, we can be so anxious to throw off our clothes with such speed and hit the table as soon as we can that sometimes we risk personal injury. (You think I am kidding, but I can hear you whisper yell “OW!” when you stub your toes on the table leg.)
Some of y’all are SO eager, you start undressing even before I leave the room. Whoa there, Nelly. Go ahead and take your shoes off if you like. (I usually take that as the hint to hurry along so the session can start.) But some of you have barely left the waiting room and sleeves are coming off. Maybe I find this so odd because as the mom of a young child, I find being able to dress and undress completely alone positively glorious. (Seriously.) We are so rushed to feel the touch that we forget to feel the space.
But I noticed it yesterday for my massage the second the therapist left the room, closed the door behind her and I was alone. I love visiting with family and going to holiday gatherings and feeling the warmth and bustle of those I love around me.
But I also love their absence.
The space of just me and the emptiness that surrounds me. The me and just me. I absolutely love being embraced with space sometimes. And I can tell that some of you appreciate this quiet alone moment as well. (And that these cherished moments of solitude may be few and far between…)
Sure, there are also those folks that don’t need their personal space to be empty. “You can stay in here while I get changed…I’ll just be a minute.” That’s all well and good for you and I can appreciate your comfort level, but can I tell you something? You may not need the space, but I do. Yup, the therapist. I need some space and boundary before (and after) our session. Don’t worry, provided you arrived in a timely fashion, my leaving the room for you to change won’t affect the time of your session. But I need to do that to respect your privacy/personal space and mine.
All Three Work Together
It’s wonderful when all three of these come together to allow the other in or encourage the appreciation. Personal space opening the door for brain space. Brain space permitting anatomical space to be found. And back ’round to personal space to enjoy them all before the world creeps in again.
And it will.
But first, take the time to feel that space, that positive and personal impact of empty.
That space is yours alone and helps make you, you.