Monday, November 9, 2009

Massage Class

Way back in January, I wrote a list of classes I'd like to take, and things I want to do. I'm at a point in life where I'm as free and unencumbered as I ever will be, and I want to take advantage of it.

Well, I took the archery class. And I loved it.

Now I'm continuing to tick off things on the "wishes" post. I'm taking a second-quarter class in massage. It started three weeks ago, and it goes every Monday for eight weeks until the end of the semester.

I'm really enjoying it! I had my doubts on the first day of class - the teacher is your stereotypical alternative-medicine advocate, with the wild mane of frizzy hair, long loopy scarves and full skirts in earth tones. She urged us to be "open-minded," to pay attention to "the healing power of touch," the "magnetic forces between all objects," and to "set our intentions in prayer before laying on your hands." Oh my. And I knew it was going to be a hard sell, because she told us that "If you are looking for scientific proof," and here she mentioned that more people at World's Best School have asked about scientific studies than anywhere else she has worked, "then this is the wrong class for you."

Um, yeah. You expected to try and teach a bunch of engineers and scientists about neti pots without any supporting evidence? She must have seen the skeptical looks, because the next week she brought in photocopies of an article. Except it was from Wikipedia.

Nice try.

This week, she brought in a couple studies from more reputable sources, and you could tell everybody breathed a little easier. We students like our data, thank you very much.

But the spiritual bent aside, our teacher is certified in a variety of types of massage (including prenatal massage, how cool!) and has been practicing for nearly twenty years. She is very knowledgeable, and has organized lesson plans for us to follow.

Each lesson lasts two hours. It starts with our teacher explaining the techniques we will learn, and showing us anatomy charts where appropriate. She then demonstrates on a volunteer, and then we pair off and try the techniques ourselves on each other. It's a wonderful system - it means I get a free massage every week!

The first week we learned compression and traction. In my own head, every time I think about it I think "compression and tension," but that's my engineering bias coming in there.... :) Compression is just what it sounds like - pressing into the body with the palms of your hands. It's very simple, feels good, and is soothing. A good opening stroke, says the teacher. Traction is stretching - the arms away from the body, the ankles away from the spine, and the head from the shoulders. Well, not TOO far away from the shoulders. We also learned effleurage (long sweeping strokes), and petrissage (kneading).

The second week we covered head and neck massage. I found this very odd - I never have people touching my face. But I paired up with a spunky girl that I really enjoyed working with - we had fun especially with the scalp massage. We laughed that the boys were having a hard time dealing with girl's curly hair...

This week we did abdomen massage. This is the teacher's specialty, as she does a majority of her work in pregnant and post-pregnant women. We learned how to feel your partner's breathing, and to gently release tension in the stomach and hip muscles. One particular technique involves pressing straight down into your partner's belly button. Here you can most strongly feel the pulse, because major veins and arteries run through your middle. The teacher said that according to traditional Chinese massage (or was it Mayan?) the naval chakra is the strongest, and the pulse here is a measure of your vitality.

Well, it turns out that my pulse is ridiculously strong. It scared my partner. "Why is your belly MOVING?" she cried. We had the teacher come over to ensure that no strange growths were occurring in my stomach, and fortunately no, I am not abnormal. I just have a combination of a really strong pulse and really strong abs (thank you abs workout class!), so my poor partner couldn't even feel what she was supposed to.

Up next week for Miss Vitality: neck massage! I can't wait.

1 comment:

  1. Oh wow, this sounds awesome, I may need to look into something like this for next term