true Swedish

When I made the decision to enter the field of massage, it was a big leap. I had been working in the field of low-income housing for about 10 years. Facing burn-out and lots of grumpiness, I realized that it would be in everyone’s best interests if I sought something new. I had been married for a year at that point and my husband and I knew that we wanted to try to have a kid or 2. So, I wanted a new career that offered flexibility and control over my schedule. I looked into lots of boring things like medical transcription…and then explored massage. Well, it’s obvious that massage won and aren’t we all glad?

I was excited to be entering this new career and wanted to share the news with a friend of mine who is Swedish. I come from a family with Swedish roots and I have always understood this side of the family to be more reserved, stoic and generally conservative. (I’ve always thought of my mom’s side as the hill-billy side, right mom!?) Anyway, I was a tiny bit hesitant to write to my Swedish friend, projecting my family’s conservatism on her and fearing she would be scandalized by the choice of my new career.

Then I remembered Swedish Massage. Well, they must like massage there if it’s named after the country! I felt like an idiot and wrote to my friend without further delay.

In my massage practice I often pair Swedish Massage with other styles of massage. I feel Swedish has so many uses and compliments other modalities so well. But, if I step back and think about what a true Swedish Massage is, I see the following elements:

  • Effluerage –  these are long, gliding strokes, great for increasing circulation and stretching  muscles. (Oddly, all the names of the strokes in Swedish Massage are French.)
  • Pettrisage – these are kneading strokes, great for warming & loosening muscle and connective tissue, making them more pliable and a lot less cranky. On the shoulders, this is where clients say “I’ll give you an hour to stop doing that!
  • Friction – this is when it gets more specific. My thumbs and fingers press into those knots and encourage them to give up.
  • Calestenics – these are stretches incorporated into the massage session. Stretches are wonderful for stimulating joint nutrition (our joints are healthier when they move), bringing awareness to places that are tight and moving your limbs through a full range of motion.
  • Vibration, jostling and shaking – these elements speak directly to the nervous system – “command central” for how much muscle tension you hold. People often say “I hold all my tension in my shoulders,” but we actually hold it in our brains. Confuse and override the nervous system with some jostling and your muscle tension just might go away.
  • Tapotement – these are percussive strokes applied to the body in a rhythmic fashion. Let “Helga” come to mind thumping  on someone’s back. I’ll have you know that I was dubbed Tapotement Queen in my massage class. It’s my one drumming outlet.

So, there you have the hallmarks of a true Swedish Massage. Feel free to ask for this wonderful treat next time you schedule a session. And, a pack of Swedish Fish to the first person to comment on this post. Go ahead, I hang on your every comment.

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still & quiet

At my old church I was a Sunday school teacher for 3- to 5-year-old kids. I learned many things in that capacity. Most notably: kids are hilarious! One morning we went around the circle saying our names. One boy, without cracking a smile at all, introduced himself as Spider-Man. Next we had Annie…Penelope…Ethan…

But I digress. In the class we did our best to help the children find a quiet place inside themselves. A place where they could quiet their bodies and minds and receive something from God – the day’s story, a blessing, an insight, a feeling of being loved. It was difficult for some to find that quiet place. We would start with sitting comfortably, not touching our neighbors (always key for this age group). We would focus on our breathing in and breathing out. We would listen for our heartbeat and close our eyes. “Still and quiet,” I would repeat softly.

These memories all came flooding back to me this morning as I gave a client a massage. She was demonstrating “still and quiet” very well. I happen to know she has 2 young children, so she may have been simply exhausted. But nevertheless she was really entering into a still and quiet place in her body and hopefully her mind.

When are we ever still and quiet?

I applaud those who have found a rhythm of stillness and quietness, whether or not it’s linked to any religious tradition. Massage offers us a unique opportunity to sink into a stillness that is absent in most other times and places during the day. And if your massage therapist can give you the gift of quietness, so much the better (I hope my clients always feel free to signal me that they would rather not converse).

My hope for you is time and space to be still and quiet on a regular basis. It’s a blessing in our modern world, an oasis amidst the hustle and bustle of our hectic lifestyle. When we quiet our bodies, quiet our minds, sometimes amazing things happen. Perhaps an insight, a release, a blessing comes unexpectedly. Unsought, yet welcome and received.

On a separate note, I’d like to thank all my new subscribers! Welcome! Prize info will be coming soon.