Poetics of Touch Concept Number 8


Your hands like eyes wander purposefully, artfully over the landscapes of my form. -- Joyce Anue

Using logical order, careful freedom, and strong connection you can blend massage strokes into a heartfelt whole, a concert of mastery and talent to be deeply savored.

"Strong connection" means that your hands make contact in ways that seem really thereand caring. An analogy is making eye contact and then intensifying your gaze to communicate a message. The focused intensity makes the contact more significant.

Carefully study the intersections of technique and self-expression as you develop fluency with massage. Similar to language, where simple words are learned first and remain essential, simple massage strokes offer clients easy comprehension. Complexity follows as an astute progression of basic strokes plus skill moves.

One skill move is the dynamic introduction. Occasionally, if a client is accustomed to massage, at ease, and free of injuries, I begin my sequence of neck-strokes with an up tempo lift of the client's head. Like a figure skater that begins a performance with a difficult jump, an initial bold lift telegraphs confidence if successful. Mostly though, I start slowly, being direct yet undemanding.

As in other art forms, composition for massage centers on how basic strokes are developed into design elements that produce effective results and meaningful experiences, and how individuals preceive and interpret massage. I teach the fine points of composition using demonstrations, analogies, and the lists below.

The satisfying wholeness of good composition is like a tree's roots, trunk, branches, and leaves. It is grounded, stately, expansive, and repetitively varied. It is both familiar and enduring.

Building blocks and themes of composition:

  • Circles and lines are the most basic shapes of strokes.
  • Kneading strokes slide and gather using grip-and-slide motions.
  • Your hands can move simultaneously or alternate right-and-left.
  • A sense of returning to is created by contact, absense, contact.
  • Different surfaces and qualities of your hands provide interest.
  • Full strokes and partial strokes create variations and contrasts.
  • Elements of timing include rhythm patterns, accelerations, and rests.
  • Sweeping and brushing symbolizes clearing and cleaning.
  • Stretching and reaching gently elongate and open.
  • Rocking and tapping are reassuring, awakening.
  • Opposite direction strokes are the push-pull of ocean waves.
  • Two-part coordinated strokes place one hand here, the other there.
  • Extended repetition repeats the same stroke longer than expected.
  • To recap and review, return briefly and highlight a few strokes.

Twin Strokes

Do a stroke in one area and then immediately repeat that stroke in another area to create a two-step pattern. For example: circle knee, slide to ankle, circle ankle.

Savoring moments and creative moments of hesitation:

These are brief pauses throughout the massage. Savoring a stroke lets it be fully appreciated. Creative hesitation is improvisational, similar to the pauses in dance or speech that let content and meaning evolve expressively.

Progression of work -- preview and develop, then vary:

Your hands briefly announce their arrival in a new area,
Hi, haven't been here before.

Return again briefly to the same area,
Have been here before, but didn't stay long.

Return again and stay, ready to be thorough,
I'm here again, let's get to work.

Return again and incorporate new strokes and variations,
Been here before, but arrive like this.
Been here before, but didn't do these strokes.

Copyright Cinda Mefferd