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: Somatic Awareness and Massage

In our high speed culture, it’s not hard to fall out of connection with the internal experience of our bodies. The “soma” is the body as it is experienced from the inside. Even emotions have an important component  of physical sensation– we see this revealed in the language we use to describe feelings. “My heart was singing,” “My blood was boiling,” “He gets under my skin,” “I had a lump in my throat,” and even “It scared the shit out of me” all reveal the physical side of emotions.

Between work, commuting, child care, Facebooking, and any one of the many tasks possible on our smart phones, we are increasingly engaged with things that may pull us away from connection to self. When we are out of connection to self, we may begin to take the view that our bodies are “things” more than our “selves.” We may increasingly find fault with our bodies, feel frustrated in its limitations, or even come into an adversarial stance to our own bodies. Or, we may simply fall out of communication with our bodies– why do we raise up our shoulders to our earlobes? Why do we tense up our neck muscles? Why do we clench our muscles chronically? If we’ve fallen out of contact with our selves, we might a) not even notice when we do these things and b) feel confused as to why we do once we have made that giant leap of noticing in the first place.

Awareness of the soma is something that can be tamped down, sometimes out of necessity. On some level, our bodies and minds may, by way of a coping mechanism, reduce somatic awareness if the sensations inside are unpleasant because of trauma. Yet tapping in to the experience we have on the inside can be profoundly healing if we are supported in safety. A somatic psychotherapist is the best support for this process, as long-silent emotions coupled with a new level of somatic sensation may take us into uncharted territory. A professional trained in how to help others integrate somatic experiences with appropriate interventions will help create an environment that is supportive and safe.

Where can massage fit into the process? Connection with another can help us direct our attention inward if the touch is therapeutic in orientation. When you book your next massage, try making a special note of what sensations or emotions arise in your body as you are touched. You may be surprised to find times when tears seem to float to the surface. You may experience a deep sense of stillness and calm like the deepest waters of the ocean. You might feel jittery and agitated. All of this is helpful information that takes you into a deeper connection to self. Try not to judge your sensations or emotions, but if you do, just notice that. Bringing our awareness to our somatic experience is a practice much like meditation– it may take time. You may find that dropping in to your felt sensations during massage is a gentle invitation to the body to arrive fully in the present moment.

Remember that somatically oriented psychotherapists are trained in helping you to integrate your new found awareness, and that the right massage therapist can support your journey into increased somatic awareness through the application of therapeutic touch.

Thank you for visiting East Bay Massage!