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Friends in Knead

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I first went to a massage therapist because I was so stressed, and had been for a few years, [so much so] that I had lost the ability to take a deep breath! I couldn’t get to that satisfying point you feel when your lungs have expanded to their innate ability. The problem was not about lungs, it was about chronically tensed muscles in my chest and neck. Massage—actually, the entire massage experience—gave me back that natural and necessary function. It was partly the attention given specifically to those poor overly tight muscles around my rib cage and shoulders. But just as helpful was the hour of major “time out” from my regular mode of hassle. Only at the massage therapist’s did I ever take an hour to simply rest, to listen to dreamy music, to enjoy the aromas of essential oils and the calming flicker of candlelight in the daytime. And all of that was prepared for me! It was amazing that someone would invest such creativity and attention for my well being—especially at a time when I was running myself ragged in many ways. So beyond the physical aid I got, massage opened an entirely new view of how I could be taking care of myself. And I’ve been doing those things for myself over the years—I even discovered on the massage table simple things like the comfort of a pillow under my knees when lying on my back. But—there’s still nothing like having a massage and someone else take care of you that way!

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I get massaged once a month. It really helps my neck and shoulders, with the job I do. I make an appointment for no less than an hour and a half—anything shorter is a tease! You feel wonderful—it works out all the knots, your shoulders go back to where they belong. The very first massage I had was when my husband gave me a day-at-the-spa package, with a massage, facial, and so on. At that point, I realized this is a very good thing. I was recently on a cruise; I end up getting about three while on a cruise. They weren’t exactly the same as the ones I get now—but they still were nice.

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Before I got pregnant, I planned to get a massage a month during my pregnancy. I knew a practitioner who specialized in prenatal massage, so when I found out I was pregnant I set up my first appointment. In those early months, the massages gave me a chance to adjust to being pregnant, and to talk about my experience. I felt very pampered. Then, my pregnancy changed. At 10 weeks, I developed hyperemesis gravidum (a severe form of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy extending beyond the first trimester). It was like having food poisoning, for months. I was unable to work, or do anything but lie in my bed, interspersed by trips to the hospital.

But I kept going to my monthly massage appointments. Those massages were the only times I did not feel ill. I remember my massage therapist’s sympathetic ear and kind humor. It was great to laugh. Slowly, I began to get better. Toward the end of my second trimester I started feeling truly well again. By my third trimester, I felt great. Then, at a week past my due date, my massage practitioner did acupressure points to help induce labor, which started less than 24 hours later.My one postnatal massage took place at the house (at no extra charge). My grandmother commented on how it improved my coloring dramatically. (I had anemia, caused by a birth complication.) That last massage helped bridge my transition into motherhood. My body, which had worked so hard to give birth, relaxed and was cared for. It was a little time for myself, a rarity in those months. As always, I appreciated the opportunity to talk with my massage practitioner, this time about the hard work, and unbelievable joy, of life with my new baby.

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Massage is a luxury for me, as I have no physical ailments that need rehabilitation. But I would cut back on a number of other luxuries before I gave up massage. I go for hour-long massages about once a month, mostly for deep-tissue work—for the therapist to delve deep into my tissue fibers and loosen me up. As an athlete, I spend half my time either running myself ragged or biking to the point of exhaustion, or training to do such—weight lifting, cardio workouts, et cetera. I practice yoga a few times a week and stretch out almost every day to stay loose. I consider the bodywork I receive to be part of my training and recovery regimen. Also, since I’ve gone to the same LMT for almost 10 years and have built up a relationship with her, she has an intimate knowledge of my body and the particular and acute issues I deal with on an ongoing basis.

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