6 Tips for Giving a Better Massage

6 Tips for Giving a Better Massage

– Hi, everyone, I’m Ian
Harvey, massage therapist. Today, I’d like to talk to you about how to give a better massage, how to improve the quality of touch during your massage sessions. This is stuff that I’ve
developed over my 13 years as a massage therapist, but this video is mostly about what I like when I’m receiving a massage. When I’m receiving a massage, if these six components are all there, then I’m having a wonderful time. If not, the massage can come across as a little bit scattered,
maybe a little bit frantic or too sharp. If you’d like to skip
ahead to any of the tips or any of the demonstrations
that I’m going to do, click on the time codes
down in the description. By the way, I’m also releasing a new video just for my Patreon supporters today. If you’d like to check that out, just click on the link
down in the description. So the first thing that I wanna talk about and really the reason
I’m making this video, it’s just that important, is to remember the beginning and the end
of all of your techniques. It can be easy to get hyper focused on just one part of the body, on the area of client complaint, or on an area where there’s
pain or just interesting stuff to work with. And it can be easy to kind of discard the beginning of the move
and the end of the move, leaving the massage
feeling kind of disjointed. So I’ve got Heather here with me today. – [Heather] Hello. – So for example, if I’m
doing a stroke down the back, it can be tempting to just think about the fun stuff, to just think about the
client’s area of complaint and to neglect the beginning
and the end of this stroke. That can make this move seem choppy. It can make it feel like
it’s cutting up the body. Instead, if I’m going to
do this nice long stroke, I’m going to think about
where I place my hands at the beginning. I wanna come as far up as possible, scoop this tissue and tell a
story about the entire back. By the same token, as I approach the lumbosacral junction, I don’t wanna give up on this too soon. I don’t wanna just pull away because my attention is elsewhere. Instead I wanna make the end of that move and the way that I remove
my hands just as meaningful as any other part of this technique. So basically, if you’re
going to do a long move, do a long move. Think beyond origin and insertion. If you’re going to do a
short move, do a short move. Just do so mindfully. Don’t let the spotlight of your attention change the way that you work at the end or at the beginning. Related to that is something
that my massage school calls the airplane landing
and airplane take-off. When you’re making contact with the body, do so slowly and gradually. When you’re removing
your touch from the body, do so slowly and gradually. This can feel much more
soothing than anything that is sudden or drastic. So the airplane landing
and the airplane take-off looks like this. If I apply my hands to the body, I do so gradually. And when I remove my hand, I do so slowly. So gradual onset, gradual exit. So I talked about not throwing away the beginning or the end, and my third tip is to apply
that to everything you do. Don’t do any throw-away moves. So let’s say that I’ve
done a stroke that goes all the way down the back
and I’d like to get back up to the rhomboids or to the scapula. It can be tempting to kind
of do some throw-away moves to get myself back up
to where I want to be. I can either just kind of
squeeze, squeeze, squeeze my way up, or I can just
move from here back to here. But that can feel a little jumpy. It can feel a little discontinuous. And if I’m going to be doing
little moves on the way to get me back up, I might
as well make them meaningful. So I get all the way down here. I can do some nice fascial spreading. I can squeeze, squeeze, squeeze, but I can make it meaningful. I can take my time. So if you’re going to
be doing moves anyway, you might as well invest
them with your attention and with meaning. The fourth tip is to
layer your techniques. Make it difficult to tell
where one technique ends and the next technique begins. And you can do this just
by conscientious movement of your hands. So if I’m doing a nice long
stroke down to the hips and the next move that I want to do is a spreading of the low back, just realize that I can
begin that next move while this move is still going on just by changing the placement of one of my hands. So instead of this being
two different moves, one technique down into the hips and one technique of lumbar spreading, I make them continuous. If I’m doing this lumbar spreading move and then I want to move into a two-fisted lumbar steamroller, I can do an airplane
take-off with this hand, airplane landing with one of my fists, and then change my other hand placement. So everything that I do feels continuous. There are very few points
where I simply take my hands off the body. Instead, all of my techniques
are being continually layered on top of each other with each move beginning
before the last move ends. Just realize that at first, this technique layering is going
to seem kind of complicated and that gets easier over time. Just set your intention to
create this continuous flow, and as your techniques
become more automatic, less effortful, and require
less of your attention, you’ll be able to take
more of your attention and devote it to what each hand is doing. My fifth tip is to make
your client’s body move. If you can get their body rocking with all of your techniques, if you can see movement in
the feet while you’re working up in the back, then
that’s going to be felt much more deeply. It’s going to feel like a
much more holistic experience than something that just
moves that local muscle. So when I apply any technique, I want to change the
shape of my client’s body. I wanna pour my body weight into my work. I wanna create big shifts. I wanna create rocking. The more movement you
create during the massage, the more profound it will feel, the more it will feel holistic and like you’re not just
working with something local. Instead, you’re kind
of telling them a story about their entire body and
how those parts connect. So if I’m working in her
back and I see her feet shift a little bit as I do
so, then I’m doing it right. And my sixth tip is to put
yourself in your client’s place. Feel what your client feels. As you’re delivering
any sort of technique, see if you can mentally put
yourself in their place, and see what they’re going through. See what, if you were in their place, might feel good for your body. What angles, what pressure, what contact might feel good to you if you
were under your own hands? This can be a little bit difficult kind of putting yourself
in two places at once, maintaining your contact
with your own hands, and mentally projecting
yourself onto the table, but it’s kind of a mindfulness exercise. It’s something that gets
easier as you practice it. And I find that it helps
me to really be in contact with my hands. It helps me to be more aware
of how I’m applying pressure. So as I’m performing any technique, I just try to project my sense of touch into my client’s skin. I try to imagine what they’re feeling. I might be wrong. I’m not psychic. There’s no way that I can know for sure. But just by expending that effort, by doing this mindfulness technique of trying to feel what they’re feeling, it’s at the very least
a great way of attuning your attention to your
client’s experience. For me, that prompts me to experiment. It prompts me to use my hands in new ways, to be less rigidly locked into a routine. And those playful experimental sessions can be very profound. They can be very meaningful
for you and for your client. And you can always ask. If you’re ever not sure what
your client’s going through, if you’re ever not sure if
they would appreciate play or experimentation,
just ask them about it. And most clients, in fact,
every client I’ve ever asked has been enthusiastic to
be part of that experiment. So those are my six techniques for improving quality of
touch, giving a better massage. Let me know what you think
down in the comments. Is there anything that you disagree with? Is there anything that
you would’ve liked to see in this video that you recommend for newer massage therapists? Let me know in the comments. Thanks for watching. Consider subscribing, and
I’ll see you next time. (upbeat music)

39 thoughts on “6 Tips for Giving a Better Massage

  1. Ian, I LOVE your intentional work. Makes me feel good just watching your massage techniques. Thanks for sharing!!

  2. Very good video! Mindfullness is so important. I also like to start each session with a gentle reminder to the client that they have permission to tell me if they need more or less pressure. I always tell them you won't hurt my feeling, feel free to tell me what you need.

  3. Thanks Ian, I appreciate your sharing. Was that "shimmy" with your legs intentional at around 07:26? I sometimes do it a bit slower and more exaggerated while "pouring" into the client. Thanks again.

  4. Thank you. I am going to practice these on my very next client in 30 minutes! I like the airplane analogy. I think I get a little turbulent sometimes! ✈

  5. You should do a video explaining body mechanics and table height. I noticed in this video that you have the table quite low and you keep yourself in a wide and low stance which is much different than what I’m being taught in school. I find it very interesting and would love to hear about your preferences and how they differ based on the client and type of massage.

  6. Superb intentional work, what we are thinking during the session spills over onto the client. My client's bodies move often. 💜

  7. Great important techniques. Thank you.
    You look so healthy!
    Also, nice to see a more realistic client model; rare in massage videos IMHO.

  8. I don’t know any therapist who does massage like this except myself.
    Is this ”sloth”-style common in Florida? What is the style called?
    Have you tried revolving or rolfing? That’s what have inspired my personal approach.
    Thoroughly enjoy your videos, Ian! Thanks for the quality content.🙏

  9. Making the body move. Yes! I like to think that it reminds the body of when it was rocked as a baby. Incredibly soothing and helps those clients who are stiff limbed and find it a challenge to relax.

  10. Hi Ian, I watch your videos since 2017. I am a big fan of you, can I buy a Massage Sloth Tshirt in Switzerland? or in europe? Thanks for your super videos.

  11. I graduate from massage school and take MBLEx next month. Because my Swedish instructor was so horrible, I felt so overwhelmed at first (she has since been fired). And then I found your channel. My client feedback sheets for clinic have consistently started to read things like “one of the top 3 massages I have ever had.” So thank you. From “lazy” body mechanics to how to approach a client’s body. Deep tissue to all the other tips and tricks. You have helped me so much over the last several months and I am so thankful for your videos.

  12. Yes to the take-off and landing! I really try to be conscious of this. I haven't thought about the movement piece, but I will try this with clients today 🙂 Thanks for another great video!

  13. Thank you Massage Sloth! You make a good video. I am working full time in my first year as a RMT. Ive watched this video and the forearm stretch video from a little while ago.( you look way different in the two videos) and they helped me a lot. Keep it up. I am subscribed and notifications are turned on.

  14. Awesome videos, keep up the great work! I am just coming out of massage therapy school and you have definitely been a big help for me. Thank you!

  15. I love the tip on making your moves blend together. I love the technique you used and I think I’m going to replace my Petrissage of the back with that technique. It seems like it flows better! (And I struggle with Petrissage of the back

  16. I’m a sports therapist student. And we are told to only go up the back. As it’s the way lymphatic goes. How come most people don’t follow that? And is it okay to go down the back. Kind regards Jordan

  17. This is a great list! I have been focusing lately on making all touch intentional and effective, so I really appreciate your distillation to "no throw-away moves". In 50 to 80 minutes there's no time for filler!

  18. This is exactly what I needed to hear today as if you had read my mind. Your tips are on the mark. Btw, I miss your dressy pants and shirt!

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