East Bay Massage: Naked, or How to Sit in a Chair

My boyfriend was making us dinner and asked me to grab the wine bottle opener from the drawer. I pulled out what I assumed was the right thing, but it was all complicated looking, not like the one I have at my house. It was all straight, with two leveled hooks and I couldn’t figure out how to use it.Then he was like, just peel the foil off, and flicked out this toothed blade and I got all overwhelmed. I felt really dumb– we needed wine, and in college, I once opened a bottle of wine with nothing more than a chopstick and a rubber glove! But this weird tool was freaking me out. I never take the foil off! Take the foil off? With this weird pokey thing?

And I felt like asking for help opening wine was like asking someone how to open a door, drink out of a cup, or sit in a chair. It should be pretty self-evident. Eventually I pleaded inadequacy and handed the bottle and his weird straight hooky thing back to him.

Months later, this whole event circled back into conversation. We were talking on the phone as he was opening a bottle of wine, and make a joke about how he was using the opener that I hated. You know what the problem is, I admitted, the problem is that I don’t know how to use one of those and what I need is for you to stand next to me and show me how to do it. I hate looking stupid– I need you to totally stand next to me, and be supportive. Like, hippie supportive. Like, close-talker, you’re-totally-groovy- just-the-way-you-are-even-if-you-don’t-know-how-to-sit-in-a-chair supportive. Here, go like this, bend your knees with me… and… sit! Awesome.

Maybe it’s because I grew up with older brothers who seemed able to do cool stuff long before I could walk properly– bike riding, tree climbing, woods exploring, tadpole and cricket catching, space travel, junior high… I guess I developed a complex about looking foolish and a fear of being either secretly or overtly dumb.

Rewind about four years to me, standing in my old kitchen with a friend who is a massage therapist. I was in a bad place in a lot of ways– dysfunctional marriage, post traumatic miscarriage, and overwhelmed by running a small child care business out of my 1000 square foot flat. But I had been doing research on somatic psychology and found out about Esalen massage. Then, in what I assume was a sign from the universe, a massage school I had never heard of before was offering a class in Esalen massage that started in two days and was a ten minute drive from my house. I signed up on the spot, and didn’t stop to think about what massage school would be like.

As in, you’re really naked a lot.

So as I stood there with my friend in my kitchen with lots of toddlers racing in circles around us, I asked: So, will I have to be naked all the time? And she smiled broadly and said, “Yes.” Hmmm… naked with a bunch of strangers… this might be weird… How naked are we talking here?

When I got to class, it was one of the first things we did. After a demonstration of the Long Stroke on a brave massage school veteran, we paired up and got to work on each other. The thing that’s difficult to articulate is the quality of the connection that developed within the class– it was absolutely hippie-supportive. While we were practicing, our teacher would come over, look into our faces and smile, stand parallel to us and make hands-on suggestions. It was the best kind of correction ever. Then he’d stand back, watch our technique for a second, give a thumbs up, and move on.

There was no shame. When we paired up, the one playing the client would undress behind a sheet that their partner held up for them with their head turned away. We weren’t lounging on divans eating grapes in the nude– we were learning together. We were learning a skill without the fear of being lame or dumb. Because then, you learn. 

I think having a place to go where I could be vulnerable and not feel bad about it was responsible for me becoming a massage school junkie. I fed off of safety. I thrived in learning the basics– and touch is as basic and as fundamental as it gets– with someone standing beside me, showing me how.

Who finds it difficult to sit in a chair? Well, sometimes someone who’s opened one too many bottles of wine, or else someone who desperately needs a massage. Either way, cheers! You’re totally perfect just the way you are.

Thanks for visiting East Bay Massage! You’re a worthwhile human being.

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East Bay Massage: Multiple Sclerosis

Massage for those with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) can be key to managing symptoms and the promotion of well-being. Certain care must be taken to avoid overstimulation, and massage should be avoided at certain times altogether, but with an informed practitioner and recipient, massage can become an important part of the healthcare regime for those with MS. It is important to note that up to 70% of those diagnosed with MS also suffer from depression– a condition which is often improved with regular massage.

MS is often called “The Great Imitator” because symptoms often mimic other conditions. A diagnosis of MS is usually predicated on the presence of several different symptoms– there is no single test to concretely diagnose it. Generally, symptoms include but are not limited to weakness, muscle spasm, pins and needles, depression, fatigue, and digestive disturbances.

Believed to be an auto-immune disorder, the cells responsible for repairing the protective sheathing around nerves cease to be effective. The disorder works in cycles, during which the body attacks the myelin, or protective sheathing of the nerves. During these flare-ups, the body replaces myelin with scar tissue  (sclerosis = hardened scar). In severe flares, the neurons themselves may fall under attack. Depending on the progression, which is unpredictable, flare ups may occur frequently, or can even be separated by years.

Because this disease has acute and subacute phases, massage should only be performed in the subacute phase, or in between flares. Relaxation massage can help to calm the central nervous system. Work that stimulates the nervous system (very deep work or the use of heat) may cause painful muscle cramping and spasm. So long as these simple precautions are followed, massage is great for those with MS. Mobility within the tissues is promoted through massage, as is a great antidote to stress and depression.

Thanks for visiting East Bay Massage!