East Bay Massage: Why Did I Cry During My Massage?

I can say from personal experience both as a recipient and as a practitioner of massage that sometimes, people cry during massage. As a recipient, it was such a powerful experience that it inspired me not only to move into the field of therapeutic bodywork, but to learn more about my self, too. Post miscarriage, I was in the throws of profound hormonal flux, and felt lost in grief. Massage gave me a window into my own pain at a time when I thought it was too overwhelming to navigate.

As a grad student in somatic psychology now, I am gaining in understanding as to how this happens and what can be done to support this process. As a massage therapist, my scope of practice includes craniosacral therapy and massage that allows for and supports people when they are negotiating intense emotions if they are ready to be expressed. Some clients think they are signing up for physical therapy-style deep tissue and are shocked to find how powerful touch is– even the gentlest, mellowest variety.

Because touch outside of very discrete circumstances (like, fighting, doctor’s exams/procedures, and sex) is culturally unusual for us Americans, we are often deeply impacted when we allow ourselves to truly feel what it feels like to feel. The truth is that it is normal and healthy to notice emotions!

Emotional release happens because we are finally in a position to let our guard down– we begin to notice how sensations are paired with emotions. For instance, the sensation of a tight throat is often paired with the emotion of sadness. The sensation of a tight chest is often paired with anger. The sensation of pain across the shoulders is often paired with a heavy sense of responsibility. If we feel safe enough, we might finally allow those emotions to fully manifest. While this might seem impossible or dangerous in our regular lives, sometimes the power of touch can guide those emotions into expression.

Most massage therapists are aware that touch can bring up intense feelings for their clients. Sometimes all you need is to be offered a tissue and the space to shed a few tears. Sometimes, in addition to receiving that massage, you can use your breath to let go of the hiss of anger. Next time you receive a massage, just try noticing if any emotions come up for you before, during, or after the session. Simply notice if there is anything there. If not, allow yourself to fully drop in to the experience of relaxation. If so, see what it’s like to have them with you.

Increasing awareness of the experience of your body from the inside– that is, its sensations and emotions– can go a long way in alleviating stress. Bodywork is a wonderful opportunity to get some therapeutic massage and a great chance to learn more about your self, too.

Thank you for visiting East Bay Massage!


East Bay Massage: Esalen

Although I practice a variety of bodywork modalities, Esalen massage was the first of my training and has influenced the way I perceive massage. Here is a little article I wrote on the basics of Esalen bodywork:

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In the book Job’s Body, author Deane Juhan tells us something important about the fundamental approach of Esalen bodywork. He explains:

Bodywork… is a kind of sensorimotor education, rather than a treatment or a procedure… I must enter into an active relationship with [the client]. The bodyworker is not attacking a localized problem; (s)he is carefully generating a flow of sensory information to the mind of the client… It is the mind of the client that does the fixing.

This passage speaks to me both as a massage therapist and as a recipient of massage. I believe it clarifies a fundamentally flawed attitude that massage therapists, health educators, and recipients occasionally bring to their sessions. “Fix me!” is a plea that I hear on a weekly if not daily basis from my clients who come to me with excruciating nerve pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, migraines, and injuries. I have to check my ego quickly as I feel my massage therapist super-hero cape unfurling behind me in a promise of ease, health, and recovery.

Have you ever felt like you needed to “power through” a painful bodywork session? Do you believe in “no pain, no gain?” Worse yet, have you ever felt brutalized by an over-zealous massage practitioner who wouldn’t listen to you when you asked for less pressure? Have you ever been bruised after a massage?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, I suggest you consider this: It is the mind of the client that does the fixing. In pleading with another to “fix” us, we not only give away the power we each contain inherently in our own bodies to heal, we assign the responsibility to someone else who is not capable of fulfilling our request.

Esalen massage is foundationally a relationship. It teaches us how to approach each other through touch by allowing for the greatest space and respect– listening to each client’s body and its assortment of protected postures, injuries, and narratives. You may not realize it, but when you take a deep breath during a massage, if you get goosebumps, if your eyelids flutter, your Esalen massage therapist notices and acknowledges it as permission to move deeper or as encouragement to linger.

It should not be miscontrued, however, that Esalen massage lacks depth of pressure. A session with an Esalen massage therapist will introduce varied depth of pressure, and when it is needed, the pressure does engage the deepest layers of muscle and fascia and includes stretching and other techniques unique to Esalen massage (more on that in the following paragraph!). The important distinction is that the client’s body is always in charge, because it is the client who will ultimately either let go of tension and stress, or retain them. It is not within the massage therapist’s scope or capacity to foist a ‘release’ upon the client. Clients should also always bear in mind that the session is in their honor; the client is in control, and if at any time any thing does not feel right for any reason, it is always encouraged to speak up right away. Massage therapists are often intuitive people who enjoy helping others feel better, but might not be able to read your mind.

During an Esalen session, you will no doubt experience what has been deemed Esalen’s trademark technique. The Long Stroke, aptly named, begins at the foot, flows up the leg, hip, glutes, back, neck and shoulder, and then travels down the arm and hand, connects to the hip and leg and finishes as it exits at the foot. The entire body is contacted, the entire body is re-membered. Imagine how an injured shoulder seems to scream for all your attention, and your nervous system seems able to hear only it. Much the way we are able to focus on one specific task amid a melee of other sensory input, the most urgent message is often heard the clearest. The Long Stroke effects the nervous system by integrating the parts of the whole– and even as the massage therapist stops to work with the loudest complainer in detailed work, it is encompassed again in the totality of the body through the Long Stroke.

If the client’s body is ready to let go of the pain resulting from the injury, it will do so as it is integrated with the rest of the body– supported by the massage therapist, but not due to her.

Thank you for visiting East Bay Massage!

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.

East Bay Massage: Remember! Relaxation is Therapeutic!

I’m going to admit something:

The other day, sitting in my hybrid car (parked in front of my house), I was talking on my cell phone. I pulled it away from my face to check something on googlemaps, but continued my conversation (gotta love the Androids), and also responded to a text. Still ensconced in my conversation, I started rooting through my purse, and then frantically scanning the floor of the passenger side seat, and then the back seat. “Aw, crap! WHERE did I put my cell phone?” I said. Into the cell phone.

No sooner had the words crossed my lips that I realized what buffoon I was being. Really? Could I be any more connected to technology and any less connected to myself? Or to the person I was supposedly “talking” to? Where is my PHONE? Oh, it’s on my face. Right.

I am a person, just like anyone else, who does stupid stuff like wonder where my phone is while I’m talking on it, or try to open the front door with my key fob. Yep. Did that, too.

BUT, I count myself lucky to be a Massage and Craniosacral Therapist. My profession saves me from devolving into a complete idiot. And whereas I can say with absolute certitude that massage is therapeutic for those who receive it, I can also say that it is therapeutic for those who give it.

It’s not a ponderous new idea to say that technology, while it appears to connect us to the world in ways never before possible, also makes us more isolated from each other. If you’ve ever wasted your precious ‘laundry money time’ (those surprise blocks of free time that, when they surface, feel like a $20 bill discovered in a pants pocket in the wash) doing your online banking or Facebook-stalking your ex-girlfriend, you know that weird, lonely feeling that being supposedly ‘connected’ can evoke.

It is important to remember each other. And I personally like the word “remember.” If to be a “member” of something is to be part of it, and if “re-” means to do again, “remembering” people’s bodies is what I do for a living.

It’s no mistake that kids grow in their sleep, or that when we are ill, the only thing that we are capable of is sleep. Sometimes we even respond to emotional turmoil with sleep and rest. That’s because relaxation is therapeutic! Our bodies NEED a time and place to become remembered. Our bodies need a place to become integrated as opposed to isolated from each other and from our own selves. If you’ve ever had a migraine, an injury, or a heartbreak, you know that it’s possible for one part of the body to be louder than others. One of the biggest hurdles to overcome for many (in my humble opinion) is that disconnection.

Bodywork puts us in our place. Which is in our bodies. Human touch has got to be the most incredible means of communication to that end. The first massage I ever received left me feeling like a baby, in absolute comfort and ease in my body. I didn’t know that massage therapist from Adam, but the fact that she reminded my ankle that it belonged to the community of my foot, knee, an hip was so important to me that the experience propelled me into the same field.

All of the overwhelm of the day (it was one day before my wedding– yikes!) seemed so much smaller and manageable afterwards. Neurologically speaking, she accessed my parasympathetic nervous system and calmed the fight or flight response. But at that time, all I knew was that I felt relaxed. And that felt good. AND, it served a purpose. It helped me feel better.

How many times have you vowed to get ‘healthy?’ How many inspired conversations have you had with friends about improving your diet, starting yoga, or hitting the gym more often? How many of us look at our bodies in the mirror with a critical eye? How many of us actually conceive of massage as part of being healthy?

Here’s the thing: Massage feels good. And it’s good for you. If you think about it, how many things both feel good and are good for you? I don’t want to poison the well of health by singling any one thing out, but we all have a list of those things that we know we should be doing but don’t. Because they suck.

Massage’s benefits are so voluminous that I will devote a separate post to them entirely. Suffice it to say that getting in touch with your body is great for your nervous system, and even the way that you view yourself. It’s an activity that is therapeutic because of all of those physical benefits (lowering blood pressure, increasing circulation, loosening tight muscles, etc.), but also because it is done in community. With another person present to support you as you become healthier.

I love being that person. I consider myself So. Lucky. to work in a mellow, cozy room, with calming music playing, helping people feel better. It also reminds me of my own humanity. When therapeutic relaxation occurs within community, every body benefits. When we are truly in our bodies, we are less likely to be lonely, isolated, or overwhelmed by stress. That kind of communication, not the kind where tear apart your car looking for the phone that is on your face, benefits us all.

I’m pretty sure that if everyone engaged in bodywork, there would be no war.

Remember! Relaxation is Therapeutic!

Thank you so much for visiting East Bay Massage!

East Bay Massage: Welcome


I am a Certified Massage Therapist through the state of California and am certified to practice Esalen massage through the Esalen Institute. I also practice Craniosacral therapy and draw on these modalities to tailor each session to the client’s needs. Other modalities I practice include pregnancy and infant massage, deep tissue, hot stone, and Reiki.

I work primarily as a massage therapy vendor for the employees of SAP-Dublin. My office here is open Monday-Friday, and I book appointments beginning at 11 am. If you are an employee of SAP-Dublin, you can schedule your appointment by clicking the “online scheduling” button and selecting the service you are interested in. You can also email me at Amanda.Flasck@sap.com, or ring x 8116. Discounted packages of three are available for any service!

For the public, I have an office in the lovely Montclair neighborhood of Oakland, CA. You can find me at the Montclair Wellness Center located at 5737 Thornhill Dr., Suite 203. I am currently taking appointments for Sundays here. You can book a session by clicking the “online scheduling” button and selecting the service you are interested in. Be sure to select “Amanda Flasck–Montclair” as the provider. You can also email me at amandaflasck@massagetherapy.com, or call (510) 282-6248.

The source of my interest in the healing arts has always been my curiosity in the connection between the mind and the body. We truly embody our thoughts, beliefs, trauma, and stress in the expression of muscle tension, chronic injuries, and protective posturing. Bodywork, through the practice of therapeutic touch, can serve to ease dysfunction and pain while encouraging the body to find natural balance– its unique expression of health.

I look forward to working with you in the pursuit of greater health.

Be well,

Amanda Flasck, CMT