All the Feels
Getting the massage: You're worth it
By: Matt Swanseger
It has been said that before you can love anyone else, you must learn to love yourself. But how does one go about internalizing a strong sense of self-worth? Well, you could spend hours writing yourself sonnets about how you're super sexy or a total badass — and trust me, I'd like to read them — but there's a much easier place to start. This may seem counterintuitive, but it's as simple as shutting yourself up, letting go, and allowing yourself to be taken care of. It's called massage therapy and there's both a good rhyme (or rhythm) and reason for it, far predating the Italian sonnet.
When exactly massage therapy originated is a bit of a touchy subject among historians. As for when it was first legitimized as a topic of study, however, their hands are all over The Yellow Emperor's Classic Book of Internal Medicine, published circa 2700 BCE. Its insights continue to be relevant nearly five millennia later, as its English adaptation is still a standard in massage therapy training, as well as alternative medicine practices such as acupuncture, acupressure, and herbology. Egyptian tomb paintings from around the era indicate that they too were pretty "Ra Ra" about massage therapy, specifically reflexology, or the study of applying pressure to "reflex zones" on the feet and hands. In Southeast Asia, Buddhists and Taoists observed touch as a sacred rite in Ayurveda (Sanskrit for "life health" or "life science")
The forefathers of Western civilization were pretty fond of it too, as the Greek and Romans also enjoyed the rejuvenating and stress-evaporating virtues of massage. However, as time wore on toward the Middle Ages, it was written off as an extravagance or indulgence of the materialistic and worldly, because you know — pleasure is the devil. Fast-forward to the early 1800s, when Swedish doctor, gymnast, and educator (what a trifecta!) Per Henri Ling formulated the "Swedish Movement System," which was the recipe from which a Dutchman named Johan Georg Metzgar spelled out the maneuvers used in today's Swedish, or classic massage. It is characterized by light to medium pressure, long and smooth strokes, and the purpose of relieving general tension throughout the body and getting the blood flowing. Its primary counterpart, deep tissue massage, more aggressively targets problem areas.
Pam Perron, a licensed massage therapist (LMT) at Monacella Massage and Kinesiology with a background in special education, elaborates on the benefits of treating yourself. "We tend to downplay the value of touch, of visceral sensation, of being cared for and [temporarily] being free of responsibility. We need to reprioritize the self. Society is so motion-oriented. It is vital to just be."
Curious about the strange and alien phenomenon of "just being," I treat myself to an hour-long relaxation massage, with elements of deep tissue for my neck and shoulders (under strain from hours in front of a computer carefully churning out rubbish for our readership). Unobtrusive new age and world music plays in the background as my grievances slowly melt away. My assigned LMT, Pam Barbato, asks what I think. "Well, I didn't hate it," I say with a self-satisfied smirk worthy of a 1,000 Roger Federer backhands.
Proprietor Missy Monacella is committed to customizing the experience to each individual customer — as with yoga, there is no universal path to relief. "There's not too much between the team that we don't know how to do. Feedback is vital. We are here to help," she says. An aromatherapy component can be added to any session through the application of essential oils (e.g. invigorating citrus, calming lavender), freeze babies can be pampered with (comfortably) hot stones, and pressure can (and should) be adjusted to the patron's comfort level.
After the session is over, I am advised to drink plenty of water, as massage also facilitates circulation within the lymphatic system, which helps flush out toxins hanging out in the body's interstices. All told, I walked out a glowing, contented, amorphous puddle of humanity, fully equipped to mold myself to whatever situation that might have followed. I didn't resolve to do much else that day, but if I had, there would have been a whole lot less fuss. The advantage of feeling carefree while still caring cannot be understated.
To schedule an appointment at Monacella Kinesiology and Massage (1001 State St., Ste. 1322) visit monacella.massagetherapy.com.
Feel free to treat yourself, a loved one, or both at these locations as well:
Panache Salon and Spa (2501 W. 12th St.): panacheerie.com or (814) 838-3333.
Massage Envy (2070 Interchange Rd., Unit 220): massageenvy.com
Conventina Day Spa (10747 Peach St., Waterford, PA 16441): conventina.com
Matt Swanseger could get used to this — or your unremitting acclaim — at firstname.lastname@example.org