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What Massage Therapists Want You to Know!

  • Posted on July 2, 2013 at 4:41 am

In my ongoing effort to open the lines of communication between clients and massage therapists and other body workers, I asked two well-seasoned therapists what they wish clients would know. What you read might surprise you.

Neil, a massage therapist for 25 years, works at a high-end spa in Arizona, and he’s seen it all. I asked him what he wished clients knew, in an effort to make his job easier. Not surprisingly, his number one issue is cleanliness. His biggest pet peeve is dirty feet. “Yes, it’s hot here in Arizona,” he said, “but we have showers. People don’t realize that if they wear black sandals in this heat, the black will rub off on their feet.” He told me a story about a guy who came in for a massage straight from the golf course, and had sand between his toes. Neil said, “I told him I wouldn’t work on him until he showers. He actually thanked me and said he felt so much better afterwards.”

Smelly Feet

“Some people come in with really bad attitudes,” says Neil. “You wouldn’t think this would happen at a spa, but it does.” He said some of his favorite clients have been celebrities. “They’re just so thankful to have some alone time, without cameras in their face that they make the best clients.” He admits that most clients are easy to deal with, though. “It’s the 1 in 20 high-crust spa visitor that’s difficult.”

I got a good laugh when he offered that, “Men are wimps. They can’t take the pressure.” And he confessed that the thinner the woman, the more pressure she usually requests. When I asked him why he supposes that is, he said, “Probably because they have less adipose (fat) tissue.” The slimmer the client, the less pressure is needed to get to the muscle.

Megan, a massage therapist based in Santa Fe, offers a different opinion on what she wishes massage clients knew. Although she doesn’t have a particular problem with smelly feet, she admits some massage therapists will do the feet first and then the face, if a client comes in with stinky feet. I thought this was a brilliant way of deterring clients with toxic tootsies to schedule a massage before washing.


Other things on Megan’s wish list? Silencing cell phones, speaking in a quieter voice, avoiding wearing strong fragrances, and if you are a smoker, trying to avoid smoking a cigarette right before a massage. “If you wear contacts, they can be uncomfortable in the face cradle, for some people, so consider sporting your glasses to the session,” says Megan. And when I asked her about tipping, she said, “When tipping, be aware that your therapist is probably only making maybe one-third of what you’re paying for the massage, so an extra couple of bucks, if you really enjoyed it, can go a long way.” I suppose this only applies to massage therapists and body workers who are employed by a spa. Those who work for themselves probably appreciate the tips as well, but are not handing part of the fee over to an employer.

So, there you have it. Thoughts? Opinions? Suggestions? Leave ‘em here!



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I Got (Hot) Stoned

  • Posted on March 22, 2013 at 11:36 pm

I got up off the table after my 90-minute hot stone massage, and I was so woozy it’s a miracle I was able to stand up. Now I know why they have mirrors in the treatment rooms. They’re to make sure you don’t leave with your underwear on the outside.

Hot stone massages feel nothing like traditional massages. No fingers or elbows knead your back, the lotion is used sparingly, and of course there’s the scorching heat. But a really cool thing happens as soon as those stones hit you. The heat instantly drops just enough to feel hot but not Towering Inferno hot.

woman having stone massage in spa salon

My therapist, Heidi, placed one tiny warm basalt river stone on my forehead and palm-sized ones in each hand, as I lay face up on the massage table. The facial stone packed more healing power than I expected it to. It nearly melted blissfully into my third eye. The hand stones were hot and also equally calming.

Heidi started by saying, “I’m going to have you lie down on a row of stones that will sit along your spine.” I thought, “Okay, bulging discs be damned, I’m going to let her do it, even though it sounded only slightly more comfortable than a lumbar puncture. Surprisingly, I hardly even felt them, as they were wrapped in a soft gauzy covering. 

A rectangular black heater was plugged into the wall three feet from the massage table and held an array of black stones of different sizes. I occasionally heard it buzz as my limbs softened into the table. Heidi placed a large hot stone in each of her hands and, like an artist, began drawing large broad strokes across my legs and arms. After a half hour, she flipped me over and did the same on my back and neck. The heat infiltrated my body so deeply and aroused the kind of repose you often feel after emerging from a Jacuzzi.

It looked like Heidi had to work really hard at this, so I asked her if hot stone massages were more difficult for her, and she said, “It’s harder to concentrate on the rhythm of the strokes, but it’s actually easier on the hands.”

When the massage ended, I was so (hot) stoned that all I could manage was a crooked smile. I might have mumbled a “thanks.” After dressing, Heidi handed me a small cup of water and said, “Sometimes you can feel lightheaded after a stone massage because the heat penetrates deeply into the muscles.” I was so glad she said that. She even suggested sitting for a while before leaving. I had had previous experiences with dizziness during and after massages, but this, thankfully, was just an uber relaxation of my muscles. I stopped for a sandwich afterwards at a café, for takeout, and I messed up the entire order. Twenty minutes later, I was back to normal.

It’s so cool to get hot stoned.

Today’s Tip

If you’ve never had a hot stone massage, I strongly suggest trying one. This massage is contraindicated, though, for certain conditions such as pregnancy or high blood pressure. A good massage therapist will ask you if you want stones to rest on certain areas, such as your legs, face, and hands, while she’s massaging the rest of you. If the stones are too hot, you should ask the therapist to place a light covering over them. I suggest getting a hot stone massage when you have nothing planned afterward, as you might feel dazed for a while.

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The Price of Needing a Kneading at La Costa Resort and Spa

  • Posted on March 16, 2013 at 4:05 am

So, guess what? I just got back from a week-long meditation retreat with his majesty, Deepak Chopra. While staying at the La Costa Resort and Spa (where the Chopra Center is located), however, I got a massage. This set me back $160, but I wanted to see how it rates compared to the average rubdown at half that price.

The spa at La Costa is an experience in sensual awareness. The sprawling grounds are dotted with villas, a sundries store, the Chopra Center, and an Internet cafe with pricey sandwiches. A 10-foot fountain cascades right outside the spa entrance. The spa’s boutique greets visitors at the entrance. Yoga clothing, balms, and hair products strewn throughout the intimate room of ornate woods and turquoise tiles catch the eye from the outside, and are available to anyone passing by. The boutique is also the waiting area for treatments.

The spa attendant took me inside and offered me the requisite plush white robe. I toured the ladies locker area, which lacks for nothing, with its steam room, massive jetted tub, sauna, brushes combs, blow dryer, and even curling irons. The spa grounds included another whirlpool tub, gardens of rosemary, basil, and spearmint, and even a small reflexology labyrinth, which was piercingly painful on my feet. But all of these ambiance enhancers are designed to justify the $160 cost, because the massage alone will not.

 On a scale of one to ten, I’d give the 50-minute vanilla, cardamom, avocado massage a six. It felt routine and formulaic, and when I asked for her to go a bit deeper, she did, for about five minutes, and then slipped back into a light-to-medium reverie. The massages I receive at the Massage Envy in Santa Fe put this one to shame, at less than half the cost. I did not have time, or funds, to sample any of the other treatments, since the meditation retreat involved 12-hour days of ohm-ing, stretching, eating, and listening to lectures on the neuroscience of meditation.

 Today’s Tip

Before booking a massage, consider whether the treatment justifies the cost. At some resorts, only those booking a treatment have access to the swimming pool, whirlpool, steam room, sauna, and other cushy amenities. If you want to spend the day indulging in these luxuriances and don’t want to spend a lot of money, book the least expensive treatment—usually a manicure or pedicure—and spend the day using the facilities.

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