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Massage: The good, the bad, and the funky

I remember my first massage vividly. It was almost 20 years ago. I was in the midst of planning a conference and my CEO at the time could see the stress building. She asked if I’d ever had a massage and when she found out I hadn’t, she recommended a trip to her therapist, conveniently located two doors down from our office.

That massage was transformative. Not only did it relieve the tension I was feeling; it turned me into a massage junkie. It became the first of many, many massages. I’m a sucker for the whole scene now. I love the soothing soundtrack, aroma of essential oils, and the sound of trickling water when I walk in. Even before I get my massage, I feel the tension begin to slip away, and I’m like a kid in a candy store waiting for my turn.

I have had a lot of wonderful experiences, a few mediocre ones and one doozy that will be forever etched in my brain. In most cases, I dread the end. I always wish the therapist would lose track of time and I would get away with a few extra minutes. However, on the occasion of my worst massage, I was watching the clock waiting for it to end.

I was at a high-end retreat with my mother and sisters. We’d been looking forward to our get away for some time. We were giddy filling out our information on the clip boards waiting to see who would be greeted and taken into their room first.

I should have known when the gentleman who greeted me arrived with bare feet. In my Zen state of mind, I shrugged it off. That was until I laid face down on the table with his feet directly below me. No amount of essential oil would mask that odour. It’s not very relaxing to hold your breath during a massage, but that’s what I did until he moved out of that position. The smell was still there, but at least it wasn’t directly below me.

Then there was the temperature in the room. When I first walked in, I commented on how cold it was. It was winter. The window was wide open. Even with many layers of blankets, I was freezing. I mentioned it again, but he still didn’t close the window. I started to seize up.

The kicker was his massage technique. I always request a full-body massage. I don’t have any issues, so I don’t have special requirements or need “therapy.” However, he started to twist and contort my body in really physically uncomfortable and unusual ways. I felt like an athlete being prepped for the Olympic trials. I asked him what he was doing, but by this point, I was so flabbergasted, I don’t even recall what he said. Although, I do know that it wasn’t anything along the lines of, “Oh, I’m sorry. Would you like me to stop?” Or, “What technique would you prefer?”

It was the longest 60-minute massage I’ve ever had. It created tension that wasn’t even there when I arrived. Thankfully, that tension melted away when I regaled my mother and sisters with the story over wine and peals of laughter.

Heather West

Executive Director (2017 - 2018), Leading Spas of Canada

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