Body Sense

AUTUMN | 2017

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Page 8 of 15—your resource for all things bodywork 9 CONTACT BETWEEN MASSAGE STROKES Therapeutic strokes that are applied to specific areas of tension, pain, or immobility are typically short, jostling, and/or deeply engaging to the muscles and connective tissues that surround muscles. These strokes are often applied at a quicker pace (with the exception of joint movement). When too many variations are applied in succession, the experience can feel jumbled to the client. If, instead, one or two effleurage strokes are incorporated between each of these stroke variations, your system settles and resets before the next short, specific stroke is begun. The resulting experience for you, the receiver, is fluid and soothing. Since the specific strokes mentioned above are believed to stimulate circulation and break up connective tissues that are stuck together, it makes sense to "rinse" the area that has just been stirred up. Although research has yet to confirm it, we believe this movement of metabolic wastes happens through longer, smooth effleurage strokes. Additionally, we believe that these quicker, specifically directed strokes can be stimulating to the sympathetic nervous system (remember, the activated state of being); therefore, your massage therapist can counteract these strokes with one or two transitional effleurage strokes, inviting a parasympathetic, or restful, pause. This translates into a balanced and well-rounded session for you. FINAL CONTACT Applying effleurage upon completion of a body part brings all the pieces together, smooths out the edges of shorter strokes, and offers a gentle message of closure. Without this element, an ending can feel abrupt and segmented, rather than incite a sigh of relief. One client used to tell me, "I just love when you do that [final effleurage stroke]! It's like you are taking all that stuck stress that you stirred up and pulling it right out of my body!" You might notice yourself automatically releasing a deep exhale after this final, soothing stroke is applied and the body part is re-draped. It's as if the body is naturally saying, "Ahh, yes. Sweet relief!" SECRET INGREDIENT REVEALED Now that the secret skill is revealed, you can comfortably talk about it with your massage therapist. The purpose of client education is to help you know what you are receiving, as well as empower you to ask for what you want and need if you aren't fully satisfied. The more you know, the better equipped you are to take your self-care experiences to the next level. B S Cindy Williams has served the massage profession as a practitioner, school administrator, instructor, curriculum developer, and mentor since 2000. She enjoys the challenge of blending structure with creative flow to provide balance in her classroom, bodywork practice, and life.

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