Poetics of Touch Concept Number 10


My husband is looking for Olga.
Olga does Swedish Massage very deeply and never gets tired.
Are you Olga? -- Woman calling for massage

The depth of massage—its physicality and spirituality, its emotions and environments, its results and significance—is your palette of colors. Receptivity to depth is cyclical; gentleness ushers in firmness. After an area is warmed up with lighter work, many clients are ready for you to go deeper.

In an attempt to work more deeply, beginners often use a rigid strength that includes noticeable overexertion. Their hands tremble with effort and they intermittently hold their breath. Instead of straining, use a gentle strength that might seem paradoxical because less is more.

Using the leverage of your body weight and its correct alignment, relax and apply a less tense yet firm physical pressure with your hands so they feel strong, but not forceful or mechanical. To add intention, focus your mind. Imagine an effortless descent of healing energy through the layers of the client's body. Allow your steady well-modulated strength to communicate, I have strength to give to you. Note that the deeper you go the slower you go.

Your use of depth and pace also forms an important part of your reputation. New clients anticipate the depth that was described to them and clients who return for more sessions may become very loyal due to your interpretation of depth and pacig.

Because depth is variable and subjective, it is necessary to establish a consistent frame of reference that accounts for body conditions and goals as well as compatibility of style, philosophy, and communication.

Get cues for depth and pace from the senses. See, feel, hear:

  • Note facial expressions and breath.
  • Notice how muscles and tissues look and feel.
  • Listen for words and sounds such as sighing or snoring.

How much pressure are you using? Press on a bathroom scale to measure:

Press on a scale with your thumbs, palms, elbows. My pressure is: Light 0-5 pounds. Medium 6-15 pounds. Deep 16-30 pounds.

Pressure assessed by verbal feedback:

  • General: "In general, do you like light, medium, or deep?"
  • Evaluate localized areas: "Is this spot tender?"
  • Active listening: "You said, sore, should I press more gently?"
  • Open-ended questions: "How is the pressure?" "Does this help?"
  • Percentages: Clients can say, "Increase the pressure by 20%."
  • Imaginary scale of 0-10: zero is no pressure, ten is too much. Say, "I call this a 5. What depth does it feel like to you?"
  • Review the choices: "Do you want me to continue at this depth, or modify the pressure to be lighter or deeper?

To avoid hurting clients:

  • Apply pressure gradually enough for clients to request modifications in a timely way if necessary. Until you trust clients to say how they feel, ask rather than guess. When there is soreness, clients may want lighter or deeper work.

Goals for massage within the client's range of comfort are:

  • for pain to be released rather than inflicted.
  • short-term and long-term favorable results.

Pain Thresholds:

Receptors of the nervous system send fast and slow pain signals to the brain enabling us to respond instantly to severe pain and not overreact to minor pain. Each of us has a pain threshold where we begin to notice pain. Adjust depth and pace knowing that activities, stress, injuries, and medications may affect the client's norm.

Copyright Cinda Mefferd