Learning anatomy, physiology, kinesiology and pathology along with basic massage skills are required as the building blocks to creating the art of massage. At first your hands are unknowing and don’t know what they are feeling. Your massage school teaches you basic routines to follow so you can learn various ways to safely touch. Learning to palpate and understand what you are feeling comes with practice. As you work on people…many, many people…they start to integrate the science and all the book learning into what makes a massage great.
David Lauterstein, author of ‘The Deep Massage Book‘ talked about art on his Facebook page and started with a definition.
“Skillful massage must draw on scientific knowledge – thus, the certainty that we need to be, to the extent we can be, science-based is not in question. but also art-based. Science is obliged to be evidence-based. Art is not. It enjoys the freedom to respond in the moment”.
Think of art like painting or sculpting. An artist takes what they see and feel and turn it into works of are. Art depends a lot on intuition but also needs the skill and science to create it.
Intuition is the ability to bring subconscious information into conscious awareness. It is how some massage therapists just know instinctively where and how to work on someone. From Part 1 in this series of articles. It happens when something is practiced over and over and the concepts of anatomy, physiology, kinesiology and pathology are ingrained in the repetition. It is what makes massage therapy also an art form. From my article Science literacy
The problem we have is that we tend to confuse intuition with metaphysical theories and magical thinking.
Preserving the Art
The Art of massage depends on intuition, feeling, inspiration, relationships, the manual art (pressure, timing, applications of touch). The massage therapy profession seems to be moving toward an evidence informed (or as some incorrectly call it evidence based) practice. The Skeptical Massage Therapists tend to look down on anyone doing anything other that evidence based massage. Traditional and Indigenous forms of massage therapy are not evidence based, but still do have a place in the massage profession with informed consent. (link to my other site www.massagepracticebuilder.com)
Massage therapy is a way to communicate with people through touch. When people are touched, they feel. Two people can take the exact same classes and learn the same exact things and give a massage to the same person at different times and the experience will be unique to that therapist…to that person receiving. The therapeutic relationship is at the heart of the art of massage.
The art of massage goes way beyond techniques and types of massage. These things are systems that teach us to touch in different ways, but it is all the same really to the client. It is more about how they feel during and after.
The art of massage can’t be learned in books or from articles or even hands on classes. It is learned by giving massage, learning to trust your hands and follow the “pathology” (the path of the disease or condition). Through the Power of Touch, we are restored. Like looking at amazing art, we are deeply moved with artful massage. Clients will say and do things like:
“I came in with back and neck pain and left feeling nicer towards my coworkers and spouse.”
“I finally had the courage to get out of that toxic job or relationship.”
“The human hand, acting in concert with the heart, mind and
spirit, is arguably the most sophisticated tool in the known physical
universe. With its pressure and warmth, guided by intelligence, care
and inspiration, we can work with muscles and fascia, literally
remodeling the human form and dramatically altering each and every
human function.”– The Deep Massage Book
Understanding the Science.
Massage school is filled with with the anatomy, physiology, kinesiology and pathology basics. What is important to learn is Science Literacy which is about the process of science and learning about pseudoscience. The massage profession is filled with anecdotes, pseudoscience, metaphysical explanations and traditional types of massage. These types of massage often have a narrative that is not based on evidence, which is fine. Informed consent will inform clients of what they will be receiving.
The Art of Massage is also the title of a Book by John Harvey Kellogg which was an interesting combination of science and art.
Please don’t name your business the Art of Massage…there are much better massage business names (link to my other site www.massagepracticebuilder.com) to choose.