When I teach massage workshops in Westbury-on-Trym, the number one thing that people say they will remember from the session is posture.
Most of us have no idea how to sit, stand and walk in a way that is in tune with our body and its natural mechanics. And if we spend long hours sitting in one position, this is emphasised even more.
When needing to apply pressure with our hands - whether that's lifting, carrying or pressing, we often use the strength of our arms and shoulders. This is okay now and again. But what if this is the only method you use, or, if like me, you don't have a lot of upper body strength?
It was through this necessity that I learnt how to give deep pressure in massage by using good posture. I didn't have shoulder strength I could call on, so I had to use body mechanics to learn how to use my weight effectively.
Using a basic Tai Chi standing posture (see above), I stand with feet about hip width apart, bend my knees, sit into my hips, bum is tucked under and I keep my back naturally straight - without forcing or stiffening up. This gives the feeling of being grounded in the legs and pelvis and that this is where the strength and power comes from. You then move from your hips, putting one leg forward and rock back and forth, leaning onto the receiver. Your arms and shoulders are loose, just following the effort of your hips and so aren't getting strained. From here you can lean onto the body with your weight as much as is required.
I found this posture difficult to master at first. It took me months of practice to feel comfortable with it and over a year before it became instinctive and natural. But it was worth it!
Seven years later, it has not just changed the way I massage but how I move in life. I move more fluidly, sit more easily and have no back pain from working at a desk as I did before. Massage has become a dance, a continuous flow, where I am almost always in motion, even if subtly, keeping my body loose and available to move.
Every student I have is blown away by practising this posture at a massage workshop in Westbury-on-Trym. Even in a 35 minute massage, it revolutionises the way they think and feel about giving massage. They realise that they don't have to strain to give a good massage and that it also feels better to the person receiving it if they are relaxed too.