For several years, I have been saying that “one of my jobs is to get massages.” I actually think, one of my missions in life is to get pampered, in general, actually. As in, I think one of the reasons I decided to have a body was so that I could experience the bliss that is a really good massage or other form of physical nurturing. I’m still in the process of making that a paid gig. In the interim, though, I thought it would be helpful to share about some of the many alternative healing modalities that are available in this wide world of ours and to share some of the pros and cons of many of them (the ones I’ve experienced, at least). This also gives me an excuse to seek out other practitioners and methods I’ve yet to try 😉.
For a long time, I used to give massages. My parents tease me about the fact that my first business venture, at 12, was to rename myself “Madame Majestic” and stick a sign on my bedroom door that I was offering massages. My primary clients were my step-mother and my grandmother (There’s also that one occasion where my brother convinced me to give him a 30-minute massage for 4 bucks. It was a perfect early lesson in the folly of setting your prices too low!).
I can say, without hesitation, that I was really good at my massages. My hands are really strong and I had an intuitive ability, from very young, to follow the threads of energy in a muscle, to relieve the tension and to relax my clients. I also used to massage animals from time to time and once had a dog melt with joy from a petting session that turned into an impromptu puppy massage. It wasn’t until I’d been rubbing said pup for about 30 minutes, that his owner came over and remarked that his dog was usually very wary of new people and he’d absolutely never seen him draping his body across a stranger in an attempt to get more pets. My response was nonchalant but I felt a sense of pride and pleasure that I’d been able to make another being feel so good that they were able to relax and be at ease where they might usually be anxious or uncomfortable.
One of the best massages I’ve ever received was when I was in college. There was a massage therapist with a little private boutique in town that I’d heard others speak of and who had an amazing rate for 2 hours of treatment. The entire experience was delicious and wonderful and set the standard for what I hope for in a massage experience. It was soothing and relaxing and intuitive and I could tell that he definitely took pride in his work and his ability to bring ease and flow to muscles that had been tight and restricted. If I had it to do over again, I would go back and make it more of a priority to get massages from him before I graduated.
The main issue that kept me from going to see him initially was the fact that I didn’t know what to expect. I was concerned about safety and there was a part of me that was held back, observing what was happening, in case things took a turn. I’ve had that experience in other places as well, and it sucks. I’m not yet at a place where I can get a massage once a week, so any time I am able to get one is precious and it doesn’t feel good to realize I’ve wasted time worrying when I could be savoring every moment.
I got the idea to do a brief overview and “what to expect” during a massage at a Chinese Reflexology Establishments. So, I’ve decided to start this Pampering Series there.
Chinese Reflexology Establishments
Pros- Usually Affordable, can be very easy to find, and accept walk ins
Cons- Language barriers, adjusting massage routine may be difficult, sometimes not private
I’ve often come across these places in mini malls. The prices are usually extremely affordable which is why these have been my default for years- especially in times when my money was as tight as my muscles.
There is usually a map of the soles of the feet hanging in the window with the correspondences between that area of the sole and some other part of the body. I’ve experienced places where the massages were all done in one big room with clients seated side by side. I’ve seen places that had curtains that could be pulled closed between clients. And I’ve been to places where there were small rooms with individual massage tables set up. One of the great things about these is that they are usually really open to accepting walk-ins or making an appointment for as soon as possible if they happen to be full at the moment.
The possible challenges of Chinese Reflexology Establishments include language barriers. The person giving the massage may not speak any English and the person running the front desk may speak limited English which makes it hard to make specific requests (which I almost always have after years of dance injuries and mommy neck from extended breastfeeding and then years of working at a computer). Because they may not be as private, sometimes the noise of other clients chatting can be overheard during your session. I’ve also noticed that the massages usually follow a specific set routine and therapists may not be intuitive in their massage or be able to deviate from the routine.
Overall, I still think these places worth it to check out, though. I will say that the way to get the best experience is to go in with an open mind and little attachment to outcomes. The prices are great (hopefully, allowing you to tip more generously) and I always find some benefit to taking the time to relax and receive a massage, even when I don’t have the best experience of my life.
The Best I’ve Ever Had- Once, when my SO and I were on the outs, I consoled myself with a 3-hour massage at a Chinese Reflexology place near my apartment. In addition to a full body massage, I also got another full neck and back massage, targeted focus in specific areas of discomfort, a tiny woman stood on my back and used her feet to give a deeper massage in areas that remained tight and I also got some cupping done. That was a delicious experience and was one of the few times when a massage was actually long enough for me.