The words “you can go harder” ring like sirens in a massage therapist’s ears, almost all of the time. Harder is not better, and often times it is not actually deeper; it is simply more painful.
I used to wonder why people enjoyed this sort of pain so much, I’m clearly not that sort of masochist…
And one day it clicked. The more locked down we are, the more tense we are, the less we can feel – physically and emotionally. This is not to say that tense people are insensitive, often it’s quite the contrary. But there is an undeniable correlation between muscular tenacity and emotional bottling. Neurologically, physical pain and emotional pain share the same brain region. Studies show that pain killers such as acetaminophen are effective in decreasing hurt feelings just as they are in treating hurt bodies. But, I digress…
Deep Tissue is a massage modality, a therapy in it’s own right. Literally it is a method of addressing the layers of tissue that sit deeper within the body (closer to the bone, farther from the skin). It is sometimes painful, when there is injury, adhesion or scar tissue; it sometimes brings up strong emotional release. Trigger points and pressure points can be particularly intense, but even these will respond to a surprisingly non-painful pressure. In fact, deep tissue can at times be painless, even pleasurable. It always brings different sensations and intensities in different areas of your body.
Any tuned-in massage therapist can read your body, and the body doesn’t lie. The body either surrenders to touch, or it fights against it. It is unconscious and uncontrollable for the most part, and it tells what is most honest. If you notice your breath being held during a massage, consider if the sensation is actually too intense. We massage therapists are listening to the feedback from your body, and adjusting pressure accordingly. Your body will respond differently session to session, so it is important to feel into your own body during each session. There is no reward (other than bruises) for powering through it.
Rather than blindly determining what you believe you need (unless you’re actually trained in anatomy and physiology), find a therapist who you resonate with and communicate openly. Together you’ll find the pressure that suits each area of your body, resulting in relaxation, increased circulation, detoxification, increased range of motion, and decreased pain. At the end of your session, instead of feeling beat up, you’ll feel freed up. You’ll learn about your body, and perhaps gain a bit more insight into where you’re really at.
Your request for ‘deeper’ may very well be a request for someone to pummel down the walls you’ve built; maybe the deeper you seek is not in pressure but in presence.