Massages: a whole lot of stress


The purpose of a massage is to relax the body’s tissues. Ideally, it should also relax the mind. I recently indulged in an 80-minute Balinese massage (yes, 80 minutes – there was a promotion on) and, as the therapist covered me with a white sheet and washed my feet as if she were preparing a corpse, I had plenty of time to contemplate how I really felt about the whole experience. Am I in a minority in finding massages to be wholly unrelaxing?

Being required to lie on your front with your face poking through what looks like a gnome’s padded toilet seat is bad enough. But to be forced to contemplate the same square foot of floor beneath you for a significant amount of time (in my case at least 40 minutes) is quite something. If I could relax in these situations then I would close my eyes and drift off to a desert island, but unfortunately I got to know that piece of floor in intimate detail. I wondered whether it was real or laminate. If the former, where had it begun its formative tree years? (And when did it branch out into floor work?) I speculated on the purpose of the bowl of pot pourri placed on the floor directly under my face. Was it there to waft a delicious scent (it didn’t) or to catch my dribble? If the latter then that was considerate as dribbling was inevitable, unsure as I was as to whether it was acceptable to move an inch and wipe away the said dribble before it rehydrated the pot pourri.

Spas. Not just for chavs. Obviously.
Spas. Not just for chavs. Obviously.

Of course, focusing on a specific point is a key part of meditation. But far from inducing a meditative state and quieting my mind, for me such focus flips two fingers at self-awareness and snaps the handbrake off of a runaway train of thought. The worries of the world, big and small, race unstoppably through my mind with no distinction between the significant and the insignificant.

What is the masseuse thinking? Oh, her toe nails looks nice. Would she rather be doing Balinese massage in Bali? Does she miss her family? And (oh god!) what is she thinking about the mound of flesh on the table in front of her? A mound that when slapped onto a flat surface cannot possibly look attractive. Hold on, surely she must be grateful though that I’m not a fat, sweaty, sunburnt, hairy man? At least I’ve shaved my legs up to the knee. I’ve not had a Hollywood wax but I have given a nod to the gorse land in my native England. Is she going to flip if she has to listen to one more day of this piped Indonesian-style muzak? Would Bon Jovi bring some relief?

And talking of relief … She found that spot that stimulates the urge for a wee (in extreme cases the need to break wind). Gosh, it happens every time. Whilst the rest of my muscles have terrible trouble relaxing, my pelvic floors always manage to bag the best spot on the beach and kick back sipping pina coladas. I must concentrate on another part of my body. I must concentrate on another part of my body. Bugger. “Excuse me,” I say, raising my head with its imprint of the gnome’s toilet seat, “please can I just pop to the toilet?” The masseuse gives me a pitying look and I resist the urge to qualify my request with the statement: “I have had two children, you know”.

7 thoughts on “Massages: a whole lot of stress

  1. I always find myself wondering if my hour is up yet, and if not then just how much time might there be left? I get tense waiting for that final press on the head to tell you that it’s all over. I’m with you – definitely not as relaxing as it should be. Enjoyed your post.

  2. I never had a massage. I came close not all that long ago, when my personal trainer at the gym was doing a special offer – pay for five training sessions and get a sixth free or a massage. I thought I’d like to try a massage, but I chickened out at the last minute.
    First it turned out that it was to be a “sports” massage. Which sounded scary, like she was going to walk up and down my spine while still wearing running spikes, or maybe just pound me to a jelly with a rounders bat. Secondly, with the innocence of advancing years I had assumed that this massage would take place at the gym. Not so. She would be visiting me at home. At this point I began to feel more than a little weird, so I changed my mind.
    You’re so right. Even the idea of a massage can be stressful.

  3. I really enjoyed reading your post. The description of the hole you put your face in as a ‘Gnome’s padded toilet seat’ was spot on! The last time I had a massage, whilst I did enjoy it, I ended up aching more in the places that hadn’t been massaged! Then I went home to my normal life and within a couple of hours the massage had been a complete waste of time!

    1. Thanks for commenting. Agree totally with your last line! Mind you, you could use that argument to say never go on holiday as returning to work will undo the relaxation. Not sure I’d ever go as far as supporting that! 😉

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