Poetics of Touch Concept Number 1


She was a dancer:
sometimes drumming like Russian dance,
sometimes toe dancing over a spot. -- Judy Dykstra-Brown

Poetics of Touch accents are points of emphasis and rhythm that shape and refine massage. As in music and dance where notes and gestures are developed intentionally, massage accents are a careful study of clarity and expression. Similar to accents of the spoken voice, they offer some of the most personal, memorable, and emotionally rich cadences of massage.

Subtle or bold, accents are elements of style that coordinate massage, making your work more focused and advanced. Massage strokes or combinations of strokes that are accented in pleasing ways feel purposeful rather than haphazard.

With practice, massage accents become as natural as actions in daily life. For example, the next time you wash a tabletop, observe how your hands glide and scrub as you vary the pressure, speed, and direction of your movements to create efficiency and avoid boredom. These variations are accents.

When massage strokes include predictable accents such as repeatedly pressing harder at the top of circular strokes, these recurring intervals punctuate massage like the beat of music. Accented beats and their resulting rhythms soothe or enliven.

Massage accents can also be single gestures: a dynamic sweep that just happens to follow a piece of music into silence as it ends, or a gentle tap similar to a reassuring pat.

Accent the massage with:

  • Pauses interspersed with rocking.
  • Long glides or short kneading strokes
  • Touch coordinated with breathing.
  • Various types of strokes and their specific locations on the body.

Accent individual strokes or combinations of strokes with:

  • Direction and duration of movement.
  • Easy to identify patterns -- accented circles, the ebb and flow of waves.
  • Various tool surfaces such as your thumbs, elbows, or palms.

Circular strokes:

  1. Half of a circle is formed by pushing away from you.
  2. Half of a circle is formed by pulling toward you.

Accenting one-half of your circular strokes at a time provides predictable patterning:

It calls attention to the push or the pull individuall. It gives a moment of rest and absorption between accents and it seems rhythmic because of the push rest, push rest pattern.

Some accents depend on the amount of oil you use:

  • To accent the smoothness of sweeping strokes use more oil.
  • To accent deep point work use less oil.

Occasionally do "ripple" accents on the client's upper arms:

With the client lying face-up, start near the client's shoulder. Enclose the outside of the client's arm with your hand. Slide down toward the client's elbow. Create "ripples" by adding a few small squeezes in succession. Imagine wind rippling the surface of water.

The room's decor may have accents that appeal to the senses:

Pleasant colors, fragrances, flowers, beautiful pictures, soft lighting, and other decorative touches are noticed and appreciated.

Accents make your work seem more focused and advanced:

Clients won't have the massage vocabulary to say, "Great accents." They will say, "You really know what you are doing."

Copyright Cinda Mefferd