For those of you who have received Massage Therapy, you can probably relate to having done one or more of the following things while having your treatment:
1) Dozing off or falling asleep,
2) Making small talk or catching up with your therapist,
3) Thinking about the errands you have to run after your appointment, what you will make for dinner that night, or maybe you are thinking holy sh*t! I didn't realize how tense my muscles are.
As an RMT and a client of Massage Therapy I have definitely experienced all of the above. Usually what happens as the client is you can't remember part of the treatment, or it feels like it happened in 60 seconds rather than 60 minutes. This is likely because your body is in the treatment but your mind is elsewhere. Most of us are rarely experiencing and appreciating the moment for what it is, even if it is something simple and seemingly routine. Learning to acknowledge and appreciate the moment is a large part of experiencing mindfulness.
So what does it mean to be “mindful”? “Mindfulness is the psychological process of bringing one's attention to experiences occurring in the present moment, which can be developed through the practice of meditation and other training”. The definition of meditation varies, but ideally the goal is to practice clearing the mind of all thoughts and turning your attention inward. We all tend to have an internal conversation with ourselves (at least I hope I'm not the only one!); Usually we are worrying, replaying an event that has already happened, or planning something that hasn’t occurred yet . Taking a break from our busy lives is certainly healthy, and meditation and mindfulness can be very helpful in this process. I imagine the most popular argument for not meditating is that there isn't time for it, or we are not willing to make it a priority. My challenge to you is to practice mindfulness during your treatment. You are already there for the hour, so why not get as much as you can from it? There is no right or wrong way to do it, all you have to do is be open and willing to try. Here are some helpful hints to get you started:
1) Bring your attention to your breath, don't try to change it, just observe it. Where do you feel it go? What parts of your body moves when you breath? Are you breathing quick, short breaths or long slow breaths? Is the inhale and exhale even in length or is one shorter or longer than the other? After a while you can try to lengthen and even out your inhales and exhales, you can even count to 5 or 10 in your head and try to match your breath to that.
2) When thoughts do start to creep into your mind, (this will happen and its ok!) it doesn't mean you are not succeeding at being mindful. If you can notice that you have drifted into a thought, then you are becoming more aware, which is essentially being mindful! When they do appear, identify them and let them go. For example, “planning”, “worrying”, “replaying something that happened”.
3) Another trick is to bring yourself back to the moment by connecting with your physical body. You can use the treatment as an anchor to the present moment. Think about how the muscles feel, what it might look like, or picture it releasing as your RMT works, imagery is a powerful tool!
A really wonderful benefit you might find from practicing mindfulness throughout your treatment is your own participation in the treatment. Sometimes we are under the impression that our therapist will “fix” us, especially with passive treatments like Massage Therapy, Fascial Stretch Therapy or Acupuncture. You may not be asked to do an exercise, or physically participate in the treatment. However, you can mentally participate. Because the mind has the power to influence the body, your increased role can lead to a more fulfilling experience by tuning in to parts of your body that need the attention, and being mindful of what your therapist is doing to help you on your journey.
If you give this a try and find that you do benefit from it, you can try to be more mindful in other parts of your daily activities! There is a great reward in appreciating the little things in life that sometimes go unnoticed.
By Allie Bisset, RMT
Definition of Mindfulness, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mindfulness
“Do you know why your dog is happier than you?”, https://www.truthinsideofyou.org/do-you-know-why-your-dog-is-happier-than-you/
I've Written this blog as a Registered Massage Therapist, client of massage therapy, and yoga student with an interest in exploring the benefits of mindfulness and meditation. I am not an expert in this area, I am simple sharing information I have learned through my own experiences, various guided meditation, and mindfulness workshops.