I’ve experienced a LOT of massages. As a believer in the healing properties of a good rub down I regularly schedule a massage back home, especially when I’m also consistently going to the gym and/or playing Ultimate Frisbee. Sometime last year I discovered Beijing Foot Massage on Burnet road. For a mere $40 they offer 80 minutes of foot, head, and back rejuvenation. Shirt off, pants on. Primarily pressing and kneading through a towel-blanket followed by a lotion rub.
A few years ago I enjoyed a handful of authentic Thai massages in Thailand. For ~$7 each I could have afforded one per day if I had the available time. Alas, I was only able to squeeze 4 in during the week we stayed in that country. Thai massages focus a lot on stretching and using pointed pressure along energy lines of the body (inner legs, arms, and spine.) Loose fitting clothes left on. Here’s a sketch I did after a particularly stretch-intensive session.
Then there was that couples massage Cheng and I got in Myanmar where the ladies walked on us, rubbed us down with herbal oils that reeked of Tiger Balm, and told us we shouldn’t shower for 5 days. Um, we lasted about 2 hours. Clothes on (even with the oil.)
Yesterday I decided to ask for a massage at the gym I recently joined. For about the equivalent of $11 it was worth trying at least once. I’m not sure if this experience is typical for all massages in India, but it is definitely worth sharing!
*Warning: the following is rated R for language and graphic descriptions of nudity.
No, this wasn’t some sort of torture table. It actually seemed quite beautiful in person. up close. nose-touchingly close. First off, notice the lack of towel or sheet. Just me and the oil on this baby (with 2 thin mats thrown in for “comfort!”) I was told to take off all my clothes except for my undies. Don’t get me wrong, I’m perfectly comfortable stripping down to the buck, then climbing under a sheet or towel for modesty. However it was a bit disconcerting to disrobe in front of the woman and lay down on my back on the table, then be drizzled with oil. Throughout the massage, she kept pulling my underwear this way and that to rub around it. I often thought “why didn’t she just have me remove them?” Then I remembered the beginning work on my legs…long, quick upward movements stopping only when they crashed into that cloth barrier.
It’s rare when the massage therapist asks for me to hold up or support my own body part. Usually they prefer I relax totally. But this lady locked out my elbow and spread my spirit fingers in the air, then proceeded to double fist my arm like a teenage boy. Whoa.
Remember that scene in The Karate Kid, when Mr. Miyagi performs his hand cupping heat magic to Ralph Macchio’s knee? I got a brief taste of that action on my knees and elbows.
Next up, the belly massage. Occasionally, I’ll get asked if I want my stomach massaged. I’ve said yes, and I’ve said no. It depends on how I’m feeling that particular day. Usually, the focus is on the abdominal and oblique muscles as well as around my ribs and diaphragm. I got some of that yesterday. And then she Mr. Miyagi-ed my belly button.
Well, I’d been wondering about this next bit. Was she going to massage my pecs and work around my breasts, or would they be just another body part to squish and pull? Goodness, I don’t know why I even bothered to question it. Of course they received the full treatment! I haven’t felt that thoroughly assessed since my last annual medical exam!
Usually flipping over to lay on my stomach is the best part. I LOVE to have my calves, back, and shoulders rubbed. But take a gander at that face divot on the table!
After slipping and sliding my way over, I started off by nestling my nose in the center space and resting my forehead on that mid-level ring, but every time she performed an upward stroke, my head would bump into the circle rim. I tried moving my hands off the designated arm/hand circles to cushion my head, but she forcibly returned them. I definitely wasn’t entirely relaxed at this time. So, needless to say, I did not enjoy the second half of the massage nearly as much as the first.
But OMG! The steam bath at the end rocked my world! I knew the gym offered it, but I hadn’t remembered to explore it yet. While I was still covered in oil after the massage, she directed me to this tiny room and handed me a stool. I wasn’t sure how long to stay in there, but figured I’d figure it out along the way. Man, it was not long enough. All too soon she cracked open the door to tell me the steam was over and I should start the shower.
I can only really judge the efficacy of a massage over the next couple days. During the rest of the massage day, I felt lethargic, without appetite. Probably I didn’t rehydrate properly to compensate for both the massage and the steam bath. I’ll know better next time. But wow, my skin has never been clearer! I practically glowed. Heck, I’ll probably repeat the whole shebang again in a couple weeks because, why not?