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”
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.