This article is part of a series on how to maximize the benefits of massage therapy. Read the rest of the series here.
In my last article, I summarized my journey of discovering the benefits of both massage and bodywork. Now, here are a few ways that I use self-massage to prepare for my professional massages:
1) Roll out before your treatment
Using Yoga Tune Up® Therapy Balls to loosen up before a massage is a good way to make your time on the professional’s massage table more impactful.
I’ve had massage therapists explain how they sometimes need to spend most (e.g. over half) of the appointment just preparing the patient’s body for the “real work”, which can only be done when the body is relaxed and non-defensive.
By gently massaging the body (I prefer the Coregeous or an ALPHA), you can help to turn off your natural “bracing” mechanism that massage therapists have to overcome in order to access the deeper levels of your tissues.
Self-massage relaxes your nervous system and makes your muscles and connective tissue less likely to “clench up” when touched, which allows your practitioner to do what they do best – what I call the “detail work”, which allows them to use their expertise to address specific and deeper parts of the body.
So, short term, this can be used to prepare for each massage you pay for. Long term, you’re training yourself to relax more efficiently, so that when you’re on the table, your body is more ready to yield to helping hands.
The take-away: Take care of relaxing yourself at home (low-hanging fruit) so your massage therapist can focus on the techniques that are harder for you to do yourself (the harder to reach fruit).
Side note: You can also prepare for a massage by A) doing some gentle aerobic exercise (e.g. walking, biking, yoga within few hours or immediately before your treatment to warm up your body and its tissues) and/or B) ‘voodoo flossing’ (See more about VooDoo Flossing here)
If you’re new to self-massage with YTU Therapy Balls, check out fellow YTU Teacher Corey Wright’s recent blog post on how to get started.
For more information on the physiological factors behind this phenomenon, check out The Roll Model® Method: The Science of Rolling trainings and upcoming trainings near you
2) Awaken your “Inner eye-BALLS”
In addition to relaxing the body, YTU Therapy Balls are excellent for simply ‘probing’ around to locate and awaken your body’s blind spots.
One of the most significant advantages of multi-sized, squishy balls like YTU Balls is in their ability to gently stimulate the body’s proprioceptive nerves, which kind of serve as your body’s internal kinesthetic GPS (knowing where it is and where it’s going). They’re especially good at stimulating small, hard to reach areas that are, in the words of Jill Miller “over used, underused, misused, abused and/or confused.”
Conversely, a more dense and unforgiving object like a lacrosse ball is not as effective as a squishy one for stimulating proprioception (and can actually be counterproductive if used too aggressively) and an obtuse object like a foam roller can’t fit into your body’s nooks and crannies, which will prevent it from awakening all the smaller proprioceptive nerves that help create the body awareness you’re seeking to achieve.
Doing this work to “embody your body” will make your professional massage appointments much more effective. Short term, this means rolling out the day-of or the week-of your treatment to identify certain spots that (A) hurt (B) feel uncomfortable or (C) feel overly “tight” or “stiff” when you attempt to relax them. Long term, this means getting to know your body on a much deeper level.
An improved proprioceptive sense will allow you to show up to your massage appointments saying something like, “I think I have a tight spot in my quadratus lumborum that’s restricting pelvic depression on my left side,” instead of simply “my back hurts.”
If you’re interested in digging deeper into the world of embodied anatomy, take a look at Yoga Tune Up®’s Integrated Embodied Anatomy Training and check if there are any trainings coming up in your area!
The relationship between massage and self-massage doesn’t stop there. It’s a two-way road, really – you can use self-massage to loosen up and find spots for your massage therapist to target and you can also work with your massage therapist to learn about your body in ways that will enhance your self-massage practice.
Tune back in for Part 3 and my suggestions for improving the synergy between your self-care practice and your massage therapist.
Awesome article, I was always wondering if it was okay to roll before a massage… A great way to get more value out of the professional work! Thanks
Wow, this is so cool! I regularly roll out on the balls and periodically receive professional massages, but never thought to combine the two! This makes total sense and is such a brilliant idea to increase the benefits when paying for a massage. Thanks for this great idea!
What a great idea. Thank you for the insight. I am going to share with my clients and try it my self.
I think this is one of the most effective ways to use tune up balls. Great idea, Max. Thank you.
I will try this for sure next time I get a massage. It does take me a while for my body to relax and let the massage therapist into the areas she wants to get at.
Thanks for the information
I am discovering the importance of self-massage to find your body’s blind spots. It’s empowering when you can direct your own healing and ameliorate pain or discomfort. The idea of having an embodied experience and knowing through exploring your body, in this case through therapy balls, appears to be straightforward, but its impact needs to reach more people. I appreciate how you mentioned that you might still need to see a massage therapist so he/she can help further treat your blind spots and access the areas that you can’t access yourself.
I hadn’t realized the importance of being warmed up and relaxed to prepare for a massage. It makes so much sense.
Even in terms of sensitivity, I find that I am very sensitive and tend to brace more when I first roll on and are, then it will be less sensitive and more receptive the next time I roll.
Thank you for their information!
you are writing like I feel! If you are able to know your body from the inside out, than you are able to understand yourself. I never thought of rolling befor I go to a massage appointment. Thanks for that very helful tip.
Enjoy rolling. Tatjana
Brilliant advice! I plan to share this with my clients. I am always looking for ways to engage them in self care and exploration so they can better tune in to their own bodies.
I’ve been a massage therapist for 13 years and never thought to help clients prep for their massage but as I get ready to start teaching YTU in my practice I will definitely be doing some preemptive homework assignments for my clients.
Never thought about prepping the body for a massage and how it would actually enhance the massage. It makes sense that softening and relaxing the tissues beforehand, would make it possible for the therapist to do a more effective and deeper job.
This is brilliant. It makes so much sense. I have always been frustrated that I never seem be able to get to the relaxation / deep work phase when I go for a massage but am always told that I’m super tense. In the past I have also been disappointed in the exercises they have given me to help ‘relax’. Now that I roll on a regular basis, it will be interesting to see the difference. I’m definitely going to try rolling before my next massage!
So simple, so true. I never thought about the relation between rolling my body before I go see my massotherapist. My thinking was; the massage I’m receiving is relaxing me at the moment. I will definely try this before my next traitement, but I have to take/keep the time just before for me to relax, breathe and roll. Thanks a lot for sharing this !
I need to send this post to every client I see!! RMTs spend a significant portion of the treatment on reducing fascial adhesions and muscle guarding to reach a level where we can effect a change in the tissues. If that prep-work was completed ahead of time, just imagine all the wonderful things we might find 😉 I hope to integrate more of the YTU work into my treatments to educate my clients and bring awareness to their role in the treatment process.
I have never thought before about how much the massage therapist might have to ‘prep’ the body before doing any actual work. I will definitely take that into consideration before I have my next massage!
What a great idea! I’ve never rolled before a massage. But I’m going to try that now to see how it changes the experience and to see what my massage therapist notices. Also…the term “Inner eye-BALL” is absolutely brilliant! The increased proprioception I’m gaining from using the therapy balls is helping me to balance the strength in my core by waking up my back muscles so they’re not so much weaker than my abdominal muscles.
I totally agree on the team work aspect. Communicating your intentions from the very first visit is key to a successful relationship. As a therapist I love it when clients are actively involved and have a goal. This makes it much easier to accomplish an amazing treatment plan together. Coming to an appointment prepared is a therapist dream. Hope my next clients are as Intune as you. Therapy balls are an amazing way to enhance any massage before and after.
Thank you for the great suggestions. I wouldn’t have thought to use YTU balls to warm up my body prior to my massage treatment. Definitely plan to follow your suggestions.
Thank you for your blog and great tip. I never thought of warming myself up using the Yoga Tune Up balls before a massage to prepare for the treatment.
I’ll definitely roll before my next massage, I had never thought about it. Thank you!
Je n’avais pas pensé à utiliser les balles et échauffer mon corps avant un massage avec un professionel, mais à partir de maintenant, je le ferai. C’est très bien pensé et expliqué. Merci pour ces idées.
Très intéressant! Je garderai ces conseils en tête lors de mon prochain rendez-vous chez le massothérapeute. L’intégration de l’auto massage dans ma vie pourra m’aider à développer une conscience plus profonde et attentive de mon corps.
L’auto massage est nouveau pour moi et cela m’aidera à développer une écoute plus profonde et attentive de mon corps. Ces trucs sont très intéressants pour optimiser nos rencontres chez le massothérapeute.
Maintenant que j’ai découvert les balles YTU je pourrai mieux localiser les régions à détendre dans mon corps.
What a great idea! I look forward to my next massage and will definitely roll out prior!
Thank you for your insights!
As a massage therapist, I was only using the Yoga Tune Up Balls for my clients to learn self-Care techniques, in between massage sessions. I never thought about using them as a pre-massage tool. I am so glad I read your article as I have a new perspective on how my clients can get the most benefit from their massage session by preparing their body prior to treatment. I am going to do this myself prior to the next massage I get as it makes a lot of sense! Thanks for sharing this Max.
As a somatic therapist and movement educator who uses massage during my client sessions, I completely concur with the use of YTU balls prior to bodywork. I can attest that it helps the therapist. I can spend less time working the “concrete” and more time eloquently moving the tissues to facilitate even better the work that has already been done. This gives me even more time to work the body using Pilates apparatus, exercises, and yoga asanas to reinforce proper biomechanics. Thank you for bringing this topic to the forefront. As massage therapists, we shouldn’t be intimidated by self-care. Touch is still a very important aspect of healing. The YTU balls enhance the work we do!