R5 The inner Thoughts of a Massage Therapist

Why did you decide to go into this field? I had been a zookeeper at the Bronx Zoo for twelve years and felt I needed a change. My mother has been a massage therapist for thirty-five years and thought I had what it took. So I went to the Swedish Institute in New York City for training and certification.

What do your friends think of your career? They think it’s great, that it means they can get freebies all the time. At the end of the day, I don’t really want to take my job home with me—but I will do their shoulders for them.

Is it easier to massage a thin or a heavier-set person? You never can tell. Some of these tiny women who work out all the time are very tight and it’s hard to work on them and they may want an intense deep-tissue massage. And the bigger, more muscular types can’t always take deep tissue—they just want something light.

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Do you prefer to work on men or women? I have no preference: everyone needs to be healed.

Is it a workout for you to do a massage? Yes. Many people think of just the hands, but massage is all about body mechanics. We use our arms and elbows and our body weight to apply pressure. I have to be mindful of my hands; if they are starting to hurt, I may use my elbows instead of my thumbs to work out a kink.

Do you have a signature-style massage that is the same for everyone, or is each massage different? I always ask my clients to share with me any problems they may be experiencing. Then I start out with an outline of what I’m going to do, but it always ends up different for each client. I try to find what the body is calling for, and concentrate on parts that need help. They may complain of a sore shoulder or stiff neck, but as I proceed, I’ll find there are tense muscles elsewhere that are leading to the pain.

What are you thinking about during the massage: your technique or what you’re going to make for dinner that night? I’m not really thinking—I go into a kind of a zone and just flow with it. From the start, when I touch the body over the blanket, I get a sense of what is going on, feeling for “hot and cold” spots, for the energy the body is emitting. Then I just go with it, see where the muscles lead me.

Has your occupation changed the way you look at people? Oh yes! I’m fascinated with musculature and how different everyone is. Now I can’t just look at a guy and say: “He’s cute.” Now I say: “Wow—check out his upper traps!” Even walking down the street, I’ll look at someone and think his lower back must hurt from the way he is holding his hip, or that woman is working out way too much.

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Have any of your male clients gotten aroused during a treatment? It’s a natural physical reaction that can’t be controlled. You’re relaxed, someone is rubbing your leg; it’s a natural response. This is more common with younger men, but I’ve never had a man get aroused during a massage.

Are there any body types or con­ditions you don’t like working on? I’m pretty laid back. If a man has a hairy back, I just use more oil and make sure that I don’t pull on the hair as I’m working his back. People are what they are and, if they are comfortable enough to come in and get a massage, they are comfortable with their own body. And that’s a good thing.

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