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Create a nice space and time for massage, where you won't risk being interrupted. Make sure neither of you will have to rush anywhere after. Switch off your whatever, take off your jewelry, wash hands. You may like to do a small warm-up of your body and hands before starting: Loosen and rotate your neck, shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, knees, ankles… Shake (the stress off) your arms and legs… Breath into your abdomen, center yourself…Smile :)
As important as your physical surroundings, is your emotional world:
Both of you should take a moment to notice how you are feeling before the massage. You too, the Giver. Are you having a good day ? Are you nervous ? Tired ? A little upset about something, but pretending not to be ? Acknowledging your own emotions before you receive or start giving a massage will help you find the right, comfortable place to be with yourself and the other. It will help you respect your limits and boundaries, and importantly, it will help you not mistake your emotions for your friend's and vice versa. All of which contribute to clear intentions, emotional safety, and a massage that will be good for both.
Massages affect the circulation and communications within and between all systems in the body (muscular, circulatory, nervous, etc.), it is how they can achieve their really nice effects. However, for the same reasons, they should be exercised with caution or avoided (totally or partially) in certain cases, see our Massage precautions & contra indications sign + more details on the why and how surrounding these in a our table coming up soon
Ask your friend a few basic questions about their general health, starting with HOW DO YOU FEEL TODAY ? Do you feel any pain ? Regarding possible illnesses, try not to be too intrusive. Inviting them to read the list of contra-indications can be a good alternative, as it will preserve more privacy.
Also, use your senses and common sense: What do you see before you ? Are there bruises, cuts, signs of rash on their hands and arms ? Does the skin look fragile ? Do they look like they are with a fever ?
Observe the partial or total precautions and contra-indications, if any.
Some conditions will require that you adapt your pressure (no strong pressure for example in case of osteoporosis), avoid a specific zone (injury, open wounds) or avoid massage altogether, especially if untrained (infectious or acute inflammatory disease, cancer..), or the use of essential oils (allergy, for example)…
Later as you start touching, keep feeling and adjust in real time to the “information” you pick up, so the massage will be adapted to your friend's needs and condition.
Invite your friend to say what they wish for with this massage, in their own words and images, according to how they feel, here and now. Invite them to make a wish. It could be to ease pain, relax, stop worrying, feel safe, loved…
Defining an intention together, even a very simple one (the simpler actually the better), sets the massage on a good path, and helps bond you together in trust. It can also be an opportunity for your friend to express something important, to release an emotion, a state of mind, in the comfort of your presence. It will help you intuit and adjust better. Whatever comes, welcome what is, keep it simple.
Focus more on receiving your friend's information and impressions rather than on interpreting them, avoid overthinking things, and keep the communication lines open.
Observing your friend's aspect (by looking, asking/talking, feeling) can give you a sense of the general directions with which to work in order to best support your intentions. Is your friend's face flushed or pale ? Are they hot, cold ? What's hot and what's not in their body ? What's open and loose or tight and closed ? Where ? The jaws ? The knees ? Where does some sort of power seem to need some sort of release, and where does some sort of little joy seems to need encouragement ? Is your friend agitated ? Talkative ? Is their voice exasperatingly high, or strangely low ? There would be many observations possible here, and of course more knowledge to add in to make sense of them. Again, keep it simple. The one thing that can help you is to know that massage is about circulation, it's about restoring / sustaining free, harmonious flow of fluids, matter, mind… Don't give yourself a headache over this, do what seems natural to restore or sustain “flow”. If the upper body is hot while the lower body is cold, you can choose to work from head to toe to “redistribute”. If your friend is cold, you can warm them up with frictions, blankets, water bottles, soulful music. If their mind is confused or agitated, their eyebrows frowned, you can clear the clouds on their forehead… If they need grounding, you can go to their feet.. If they're agitated, you might want to work slow and steady, with a calm confident hand…Etc.
In the end, a good massage is a mystery mix of knowledge-skill, intuition, and improvisation, all coming together in love.