Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Treating Yourself to a Massage

Massages are a huge benefit to bellydancers. They can loosen up tight muscles, alleviate soreness, and help heal injuries. There's plenty of pyschological benefits to massage, too: relaxation, rest, and you can even have the social benefit if you go with a friend or partner, or make friends with your masseuse!

If you have never had a massage before, you should try it! You can either do self-massage, or pay a professional to do it. I recommend both, but first, the benefits of one over the other.


Self-massage requires either a tennis ball or a dense foam roller. Foam rollers can be had for very cheap--I purchased mine from Amazon for less than fifteen bucks. They're great for your hips, glutes, thighs, calves, and upper and lower back. If I'm a little sore or did too many shimmies in dance class, I just pull out the roller. You can also use them as exercise tools to improve your core for those belly rolls. Check out some of the videos on YouTube for ideas.

For smaller areas or to work out a knot, use a tennis ball. They work best if you lie on the floor with the ball underneath you, and you roll around the ball to work out the knot. You can also have a partner, friend, or family member use the ball to apply pressure to the area you want massaged, but make sure you effectively communicate what you want and what hurts.

Professional Massage

Professional massages can be more expensive, but it's worth it to have someone who is familiar with massage techniques and anatomy, and how all the muscles work together. There's also that psychological benefit, because spas are designed to be very relaxing. If you're an introvert like me, you've got a quiet room with soft, soothing music playing and maybe even some aromatherapy. If that much quiet makes the extrovert in you uncomfortable, make friends with your masseuse and you can enjoy some conversation while your get your muscles worked on. Massage can often help alleviate stress, anxiety, and depression, so even if you're not experiencing any soreness or tightness, you'll find you can still benefit from your massage.

If you're injured, get yourself to a masseuse as soon as possible (after you visit a doctor, of course). A professional masseuse trained in sports massage can help break up scar tissue, stretch the injured muscles, increase blood flow to the area for healing, and restore mobility and flexibility, leading to a faster recovery.

Tips for your first time

If you've never had a massage before, the first time you walk into the room can be daunting. Here's a few tips on handling your first time.

Before your massage:
-Remember that your masseuse does this almost every day, all day long. There is very little she hasn't seen before.
-However, don't go to your massage appointment after a class or a sweaty workout. Just because your masseuse has seen it all doesn't mean you need to subject him to it. 
-Your masseuse should have a short briefing with you when she shows you to the room. This is the time to tell her about any trouble spots you have. Any old injuries, stiffness, places you want her to avoid--speak up!
-You can get as undressed as you want, whatever's you're comfortable with. Since you'll be face down or covered by a blanket the whole time, though, I do suggest at least removing your bra so the masseuse can work on your back. 

 During your massage:
-Don't be shy or afraid to speak if something hurts. Speak up if it hurts, or ask your masseuse to work on something else for awhile to give you a break if the pain gets to be too much. 
-Learn to relax. Your masseuse will move you if she needs to, and she needs you to be relaxed for that. My goal is always to have my masseuse tell me "Relax!" as little as possible.

After your massage:
-Tip your masseuse. It's just the nice thing to do.
-If you want to go frequently but money is a problem, ask your masseuse or the receptionist for upcoming specials. Some spas also give you points for recommending new clients, and everyone has social media promotions nowadays. There are lots of ways to discount your services. Don't be afraid to ask!
-Hydrate when you get home A deep massage will release toxins into your bloodstream and dehydrate you, so you may feel nauseated or have a headache after. The best cure is to drink plenty of water.
-Soreness and bruising are common, especially after your first couple of sessions. Apply hot and cold packs, or take a hot bath or shower and rinse off with cold water after. Any soreness will disappear in a few days. Hydration will also help alleviate any soreness.

If you decide to make an appointment with your masseuse post-haste, enjoy it, and prepare to get addicted!

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