Episode 130

Dec 15, 2017

A reader asked, “What are some techniques and or verbiage to use to help someone to let go and relax, besides telling them to relax all the time?” We answered!

Listen to "E130: How to Help Clients Relax During a Massage" on Spreaker.
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A reader asked, “What are some techniques and or verbiage to use to help someone to let go and relax, besides telling them to relax all the time?” We answered!

Massage and Bodywork Magazine article here

This episode is sponsored by:


Sponsor message This episode is sponsored by The Jojoba Company. I firmly believe that massage therapists should only be using the highest quality products, because our clients deserve it, and our own bodies deserve it. I’ve been using jojoba for years. Here’s why: Jojoba is nonallergenic; I can use it on any client and every client without fear of an allergic reaction. Jojoba is noncomedogenic, which means it won’t clog pores; so if you have a client that’s prone to acne or breakouts, jojoba is a great choice for them. It also won’t go rancid; it doesn’t contain triglycerides like many products; so it won’t go bad. This makes jojoba a great carrier for essential oils, too. And finally, jojoba won’t stain your 100% cotton sheets; so your linens will look better for longer. And since jojoba won’t go rancid, they’ll always smell fresh and clean. For more information and to get some jojoba, go to massagebusinessblueprint.com/jojoba. That’s massagebusinessblueprint.com/J-O-J-O-B-A.

Michael Reynolds Hey, everyone. Welcome to the Massage Business Blueprint podcast, where we discuss the business side of massage therapy. I’m Michael Reynolds.

Allissa Haines And I am Allissa Haines.

MR We are your hosts. Thank you so much for joining us; we’re glad you’ve joined us today. Allissa, how are you? How’s the holiday season going for you? Are you keeping it low stress?

AH I’m keeping it super low stress.

MR Good.

AH I barely buy for anyone. I have only bought three gifts, well, four gifts, because one of the kids has a birthday on Christmas Eve; so there’s always that extra. But, yeah. It’s super low key. All my nieces and nephews just get cards, and I’m really enjoying having a really chill preholiday season. How are you?

MR Fantastic. I’m holding up okay. We’re keeping it pretty low key as well, just mainly getting fun stuff for Eli and doing some fun Christmas activities. We’re going to the yuletide celebration with the orchestra here in town; so some fun stuff. Yeah. Doing okay.

AH You used to be pretty curmudgeony about Christmas, but your wife adores the holidays, and you have gotten so into it; it’s been really fun to watch.

MR Yeah. I used to really hate the holidays, but you’re right. Ariana’s favorite holiday is Christmas, and, of course, Eli, because he’s two and a half, his favorite holiday is also becoming Christmas. [laughs] I kind of have to like it. It’s been fun.

AH I get on board because it’s just a holiday where you can stay in your jammies all day, and —

MR Right?

AH — I’m always on board with that.

MR I am all for that. And by the way, since we haven’t talked about food yet, I was admiring on Instagram, your breakfast burrito. So that’s —

AH Thank you. I met with my accountant this morning, which was — not my accountant, pardon me, my bookkeeper this morning, because I started using QuickBooks this year, and she has been just amazing helping me — because I’ve got two and a half businesses going on and technically they’re all one business, but I need to see them visually separated so I can really see where I’m hemorrhaging money and where I’m making money. And I feel so empowered today having a better grip on understanding my QuickBooks and being able to pop in there and run a few reports. And I’m never going to be able to manage it myself. I mean, I could, but I just doing want to.

MR Right.

AH And I just can’t. And I feel really good for the — and I don’t tend to feel bad and stress too much about money stuff nowadays, but I just feel kind of — I don’t want to say the B-A-D-A-S-S word, because I don’t want to make this episode explicit, but that’s how I feel.

MR [laughs] Thanks for the self-editing.

AH No problem.

MR [laughs] Well good. I’m glad to hear it. I think we have a great topic today. That’s a great segue, actually, because our topic is how to help clients relax during a massage; so what a great segue.

AH It really is, and I’m so excited to cover this because it’s a topic I adore. We got a question from a listener that said, “What are some techniques or verbiage to use to help someone let go and relax, other than telling them to relax all the time?” Because, obvs, we all know that telling someone to relax is probably the absolute worst and most ineffective way to help someone to actually relax on your table.

MR Yeah, that never works.

AH Right? It’s ridiculous. Relax! It’s like when you’re having a fight with a kid and they’re yelling and you say, “Stop yelling at me!” And you’re yelling at them. It’s just bonkers. So I may or may not have had that happen to me recently. And I love this topic because I actually wrote about it. The very first article I ever wrote for ABMP was on this topic back in 2014, and I love the topic, and I wanted to bring in some of our stuff from ABMP, too, because we have also just recently announced — and it’s coming out next week — we are starting to write a column that, of course, I cannot remember the name of right now because we were workshopping the name —

MR Oh yeah. What was the name?

AH It was —

MR — It was actually pretty good —

AH — blueprint for success, maybe?

MR Yes. I think –Well — I think so.

AH Yeah. So the Massage and Bodywork magazine that ABMP puts out, we will have a column in it beginning in the January/February 2018 issue, which I’m super excited about. And we’ll have a blog post every other month on their site. And one of the things I love about the Massage and Bodywork magazine is that it’s available online for everyone on their website. And I will put a link below in the podcast notes to the article I wrote for them in 2014, and it was all about this. So let’s jump right into the topic now; I’ve done enough plugging and excitement and talking about breakfast burritos.

When we start talking about clients “relaxing,” we’re talking about two separate things, and I really like to break them apart because they need to be handled separately. So what are we talking about? We’re talking about them relaxing as in calming down and being chill and mellow and maybe even, or maybe not, a little bit sleepy or that “not quite sleeping but borderline altered state of consciousness” that can happen during a massage. And then we’re also talking about the actual physical type of relaxing so unclenching and letting the table hold them up versus trying to hold their body up on their own. Or people helping your move their arm or leg, or when you’ve lifted their arm or you’re holding their hand up defying gravity a little bit, them helping you by holding their arm up for you or stiffening up.

And the first part of this is to examine our expectations. So when I get this question, I have a combination of short answers where I’m like “Stop trying to make your clients relax. You cannot make anyone relax; just stop trying.” That’s my first gut reaction, because I’m piffy about everything, and why do you care if your client relaxes; it’s not about you. But the “it’s not about you” is really important to examine; so whose expectations need to be met here? Mine or my clients? And it’s really important to separate that. So when I’m thinking about this, I might want to — if my client seems perfectly happy with their massage even though they’re helping me hold their arm up, is it worth intruding on that to change that situation? Would they really physically benefit more from that? Or if I feel like the client never truly calms — if they’re someone whose super chatty and animated and maybe not so much in the moment — do I feel strongly that they need to be less chatty or chill out? Is that my expectation, and is there a reason for that? Whose expectations need to be met? By separating myself from that and thinking through “am I just annoyed with them because they don’t seem to relax the way I want them to, or would it be therapeutically beneficial?” Do I think that? Why do I think that? Okay. Let’s move forward.

So let’s cover the chattery-mind portion of relaxing first. If the client is in fact there to relax, but I think they’re not for some reason or another, how do I handle that? So if it’s a client who’s always been very chatty or if it’s a client who just seems to be on all the time and never truly takes a deep breath, what are some scripts to change that? I like to check in with people on occasion. Every couple of months, even with my regulars, I say things like — and this particular script is written in this article that we’ll link in the show notes — “I want to check in with you about the results from your massage, and if we need to make some changes to your treatment. Do you feel like we’re making a difference with XYZ/your hip issue? Is there anything else nagging you that we should address?” And if I feel like they haven’t been chilling out much and I think it would be beneficial for them, I will add — after they tell me if their priorities have changed, I will add “I want to make that sure you’re getting the full benefit of massage, and some of that involves a deeper relaxation during your session. I’m going to suggest that we don’t talk at all today; so maybe you could try to let your mind go blank. Maybe you could work on breathing in and out.” Or I could make that much shorter by saying “I think this could be more beneficial for you today if you did some deep breathing. So if you feel your mind start to wander or you feel like you’re getting a little chatty, take a moment, really take a deep breath.” And then I would demonstrate belly breathing or whatever you do. I tend to use breathing as tool to help people come back to their body versus having their brain be all over the place and thinking through all they’re to to lists. I do that because it works for me. That may or may not work for you.

But I’m very mindful to not say “Okay. Breathe.” And I think it was my friend Tracy who said, “I don’t like when I’m told how to breathe. I’m alive; I breathe just fine.” And that’s really, really — I get that. I feel like there’s nothing more condescending than when someone tells me to breathe. It just aggravates me to my core when people are like “You need to relax or calm down.” Unless I am legit standing in front of a yoga instructor in my yoga class, do not tell me to breathe as if that’s going to solve all my problems. So be very mindful about — and I’ve talked to enough people to know that this is a pretty common reaction to someone telling you how to breathe. I’m very mindful to be instructive in how to breathe versus just telling someone to breathe. But you do that with your own style. Michael, this is a really good time for our halftime sponsor —

MR It is a great time.

AH –would you like to tell me who my halftime sponsor is?

MR Oh, you know who it is. It’s our friends at ABMP.

AH It is our friends at ABMP.

Sponsor message You can go to abmp.com, and you can access a whole bunch of stuff including their Massage and Bodywork journal, which I already talked about, and the largest community in massage and bodywork. ABMP goes above and beyond great liability insurance — and it is great liability insurance — and makes it much easier for you to succeed at what you want — at what you love, pardon me. They have fantastic liability insurance, again, they also have insurance for the property in your office. They have free continuing education, advocacy, personalized customer service. They’re super awesome – I’m gushing now. But you can go to abmp.com, and we thank them for being such a hearty sponsor of this episode and our newsletter and the abmp.com/student resources. They’re just a joy and a pleasure.

MR [inaudible]

AH — Okay. End gushing. I’m going to take a breath. What do you have to say? You are — sometimes we overlook the fact that you are, in fact, a trained massage practitioner, and —

MR That’s true. It’s been a while, but that’s true.

AH How did you feel about helping your clients to chill out a little on the table, if you feel that’s appropriate.

MR Oh, I don’t really — this is probably not worth anything, and I’m not sure it works for everybody, but for me I was nonchalant. Basically, acting like everything’s no big deal was kind of my way of getting people to relax. For the most part — I worked at a spa; so people seemed kind of relaxed anyway; so it wasn’t a huge deal. But occasionally, someone might see me, first time getting a massage or something and the more nonchalant and acting like everything was no big deal, that seemed to really help people. Because it’s like “Oh. Okay. He knows what he’s doing. He’s a trained professional. This is all — everything is happening the way it’s supposed to happen.” That’s kind of how I approached it. And that’s really all I did. So that may or may not be useful at all to anybody. [laughs] But that’s all I did.

AH That is incredibly useful because that is personality setting the tone. And that’s a really big deal. I used to be, and I’m still a little bit, but I used to be way more type A than I am now, and I found that since I have chilled in this job, my relaxation massage has gotten a million time better because the vibe that I’m giving off, my anxiety level is so much lower that I’m setting a good tone. So there’s that.

So let’s move on to the actual body stuff. Some clients will just naturally tense their arm or their neck or their toe when you start to massage that area. This happens a lot especially with people’s first massage or their first couple massages when their getting used to what it feels like to have someone else move their body around a little. It can be a very odd sensation, and not everybody’s used to that, and some of us — me, specifically, I’m a super control freak about my body; so it usually takes me a couple massages with somebody to be able to let my head go, let my neck go when they slide their hands under my head. And my friend Megan pointed out, we tend not to think of receiving massage as a skill, but it is a skill, and, with practice, it gets easier to just be heavy on the table. If I find, especially during someone’s first massage, that they’re helping me — and I cover this in my intake when I’m talking them through — just before I leave the room so they can undress — when I’m talking them through what’s going to happen on the massage table, I sit in my little stool, and I say “I’m going to start at your head and neck right here. I’m going to sit in my little stool; I’m going to start here. I’m going to get my hands under your neck and shoulders and under your head and you’re going to find you might want to help me by lifting your head or lifting your arm. Your job is to just go totally floppy and let me do all the work.” And I preface that with new clients, especially, before that first massage. So they get on the table, and I come in, and I start to massage them, and if I find that they’re helping me, I will say that same thing. “All right. Your job is to just go totally dead and let me do all the work.” Or “Let your whole arm drop; I’ve got you.” And maybe a little bit of a jostle. This isn’t rocket science. Because you can do this non-verbally, too. And it happens a lot when I pull someone’s arm out from under the sheets, and then I redrape, and I’m working on their arm, and I find that they’re helping; so I just jostle the tiniest bit, and that sends a signal. And I might even say it out loud the first couple times I work with them. As I jostle or shake or wiggle their arm just a tiny bit, I’ll say “You can let your whole arm go floppy; let it go slack; I got you.” And then all it takes after that is that hint of a jostle, that hint of a shake, and they just automatically go dead. And I say right out “It takes some practice to get used to this; this is just your first massage with me.” And it tends to help a lot. That said, I have clients who’ve been seeing me for 12 or 13 years who will absolutely never let their arm go slack. They will always help me get it out from under the sheet. They will always move it back when I redrape. They will always hold their hand up and hold their fingers perfectly spread apart so I can massage each finger, and they are never going to let that go. And that’s okay. They’re getting the massage they want. If they weren’t they wouldn’t keep rebooking with me for 12 years. At that point, it’s really important for me to remind myself that this has become my hang up, and I need to let it go. And it might be that every so often I try again, especially if I’m doing some work on their wrist and I really think that relaxing those muscles as I work is going to be way more beneficial, then maybe I’ll say something. Or maybe I’ll just use the skills that I have in my toolbox and do a little active isolated stretching or doing a little bit of strain/counter-strain, or doing a little bit of motion and having them do some motion with me and help me as I go. They’re obviously getting the massage that they want. It’s cool if on occasion I pop into that in case I think something might be beneficial, but more often than not — and we’re winding this up now, my concerns about these things are more about me than they are about the client. And getting out of my own way is the best way to treat my client. And getting away from my own expectations.

So I hope that I have given some real tangible advice to help clients relax mentally and physically on the table. I would totally invite you all to look at the link I’m going to put in the podcast notes, because I’m really proud of that article that I wrote for ABMP back in 2014, and I would love to have you read it. And that’s all I got, Michael.

MR Cool. All I have is “act like it’s no big deal”; so if that helps anybody, too. There you go.

AH Awesome. Setting the tone. That also helps.

MR So if you don’t mind — I didn’t actually ask you in advance; so stop me if you don’t want me to, but I was hoping we could talk about the new structure in 2018 for our content. Do you mind if we —

AH Do it, man, let’s do it.

MR — We sent an email out about it; we’ll probably send, maybe, one or two more, but just in case those emails got caught in spam filters or something, I just wanted to talk about what we’re doing differently in 2018. So as you know, we have been offering monthly free content every month for — what? Two or three years now. And you did it even before we formed this company, but —

AH It’s been three and a half years. I think it’s been 44 months or something or 40 months.

MR So there’s a ton of free content out there that a lot of people have taken advantage of, have been using. So starting January of 2018, the content that was in that free account is now going to be premium content. So things like the monthly blog posts that you can customize and use on your own website —

AH Okay, hang on though. Because the way you said that made it sound like all of our previous content was moving to premium.

MR — Well I was going to get there.

AH Okay. Sorry. Go ahead then.

MR [laughs] Let me clarify by saying all future content will be premium. All of the existing content up to now is still going to be free and open. So you can just go to the website; you can click on free stuff. It’s all there for anybody —

AH And you’re not even going to have to log in anymore to get that free content.

MR Yes. It is all available to anybody for free with no obligation at all. So it’s all still there. So future content, that is the monthly marketing content will be premium. So things like the monthly blog post that you can use on your website, social media images, there’s some more stuff in there I’m forgetting. But anyway, all that stuff is going to be now — the future versions of those things will be premium. So it’s a good time to consider going premium if you want to. If not, we’re still going to include freebies on our newsletter list; so if you’re not signed up, look at the top of our website and click on that little link to sign up for our newsletter, which will go out and give you links to the articles for the week that we’ve published on our website and stuff like that. It sounds like you’ve got stuff to add. Go for it.

AH I do. And I’m popping in because I want to tell people that part of the reason we’ve decided to do this is because this content is going to be getting even better. We have hired a professional writer to write the blog posts that will be available to premium members to use on their websites every month. And if you’ve been around me or the stuff that we do here at all, you’ve heard the name Katherine Mayerovitch; she is a brilliant professional writer. She has actually already written the first quart of blog posts for the premium members for 2018. We have one on fads, fixes and fakes dealing with health hype around the new year that is brilliant. It’s a wonderful blog post that talks to — so I’m going to use it on my massage practice website telling my clients how to really separate what is a dumb fad that they shouldn’t spend money or time on versus what are really useful health tips. Because we know January and gym memberships go up and people start buying Ashley Black’s fascia blaster that they think is going to remove cellulite, which, by the way, it won’t; it’s just going to bruise you and cost you lots of money. So she wrote beautiful blog post about that. She wrote a blog post about headaches, all the different kinds of headaches, and how massage may help some of them. She wrote an amazing post that I cannot wait to get out, massage myths the contraindication edition. So when is massage actually contraindicated and what are some myths people believe that are just total crapola. So part of the reason that we’ve moved this to the paid content is because we are paying a brilliant, brilliant writer to really create a higher level. And we’ll still have some occasional free stuff quarterly. And you’ve got 40 months of free content backlogged. So if you have been considering a premium membership, now is a good time. It is currently $9 a month; you should get in on that. And the premium content is really awesome. And the premium community, our private Facebook group, is only getting better. And that’s my shtick.

MR Thee you go. You’ve been warned. There you go. [laughs] We have more stuff cooking for next year, too, but we’ll keep that —

AH We’ll save it for next time.

MR — We have more stuff; so stay tuned for that. Anything else you would add, or are we good?

AH I’m good, man.

MR All right. Let’s do it. Let’s wrap up, then. Thanks for joining us today, everybody. We’re glad you’re here. Don’t forget you can email us comments, questions, topics, anything you want to podcast@massagebusinessblueprint.com. And, of course, our website is massagebusinessblueprint.com, where you can find out more about all that stuff we just talked about. We love iTunes reviews. We just got one a few days ago that just warmed my heard. We read every single review. We appreciate those reviews on iTunes. It really means a lot to us; so thank you, thank you, thank you. So until next time, have a great day. We’ll see you then.

AH Bye.

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