Reflection on the Holistic Massage Course by Annie Johansen
Annie Johansen started the Holistic Massage Diploma back in September 2015. She has kindly shared her reflection on the course so far. This is an exercise all holistic massage students are asked to undertake half way through the course.
What were your expectations and anxieties at the start of the course? Which of these have been met? Is there anything you need to do about them now and if so, what?
I have wanted to study massage for so many years now (9 to be precise, 7 since I took the plunge and first got in touch with BCMB) and after many jobs, 2 babies and a whole lot of soul searching I am finally doing it! I spent a good few months gathering information about different massage courses in and around Bristol, looking at course content and trying to work out what would suit me and before I applied, I visited BCMB. The moment I stepped through the door I knew this was the course for me. My expectations (which have been met!) were that there would be far more hands on practise then other courses, that we would be learning how to massage without damaging our own bodies and we would be practically applying APP knowledge as we are massaging people. The course has surpassed my expectations with the self-reflection work, holistic approach, energy work, and so many more additions to massage and body work! My anxieties were that with two small children and a job I would find the course too much and not be able to cope. This hasn’t been the case at all, if anything the fact I am being regularly massaged, enjoying the meditation homework and the student practice sessions at BCMB working so well for me, I am actually feeling more calm than I have done in a long time!
Consider the 4 massage principles we have been working with, do they work for you and if so how? Is there anything you would like to change?
Self-Awareness: I love the self-awareness principles, the activities we have been doing from the anchors meditation to the energy work on ourselves, feels like not only am I helping others with massage, but this course is really helping me to slow down, calm down and notice myself. Which, as I imagine most mothers would agree, is something quite easily brushed to one side when you are trying to look after two other humans! I think this is hugely important in massage practise, as you need to look after yourself and be grounded before you can start working on helping others!
Quality of Touch: This is something that I think is hugely important – before the course I have had ‘alright’ or sometimes rubbish massage and not been able put my finger on why and after studying (and practicing the quality of touch exercises on myself) I can fully see why! 50/50 touch is incredibly important and the best feedback I have had are the massages I have felt were amazing, showing the 50/50 principle in reality.
Posture and Movement: Correct posture and movement during massage was one of my expectations before the course started and I was so pleased it was one of the first things we learnt. Before I had even got anyone onto my table I knew how to stand, how to use my body so that I didn’t get into any bad habits before hand and have to relearn! This is one of the most valuable lessons and something I still have to remind myself to do, sometimes I feel like I’m struggling with a massage and then I realise my shoulders are up, and my stance is all wrong. To have that as a starting point has made massage so much easier to do!
Rapport and Communication: I am quite a sociable person and verbal communication comes quite easily, so it has been really great to learn and work on my non-verbal communication – listening to and responding to people’s bodies, their breathing and body language. I am a fast talker, which in my current world of marketing works well, but this is something I have to work on and especially not filling silences in consultations with chatter, but simply allowing clients to talk, at their pace, about their bodies!
Which areas of the course do you find most enriching and /or challenging? How might these areas unfold? What are your needs for the remainder of the course?
I find the hands on practise the most enriching – I love to massage and to be massaged, so this goes without saying that I would like this part the most! I find the APP side fascinating – our bodies are so clever!! I do find this a challenge, but the more we do, the more it comes clearer. I also find that including bone names and muscles in our write ups means they are becoming easier to remember. I think as I have always massaged in an intuitive way, having to think of the body as bones and muscles and label it as we massage is my biggest challenge – I totally understand the importance of it, but I just struggle with this and then when we are working with specific muscles and / or deeper work on muscles I find my confidence takes a knock and I have to really concentrate so I’m probably not as grounded or 50/50 – I would imagine I am streaming!
How has your experience of the course to date affected the rest of your life? Are there possibilities or potentials from the rest of your life that might inform your massage and vice versa? How might you pursue these?
I would say it has rounded my life, I no longer feel the need to constantly think ‘what if’ I study massage as I am doing it! It has made me appreciate the life I have made for myself, my children and how far I have come. I think instead of trying to change myself into the calm, laid back person I am probably never going to be, the self-awareness exercises make me realise it is fine to be me most of the time if I can have my escape into calmness with massage, both giving and receiving. I think empathy and understanding from my own life informs the massage I give – I also think this will be ongoing and my massage will grow with me as I grow.
What massage means to me?
Massage is my calmness, my escape and my rest. It restores my energy and leaves me feeling whole again. I feel like I can fly or that I am floating on water, waves of relaxation wash over and inside me and leave me refreshed and restored. It is like someone presses reset and for that hour I am updating – so no one can reach me or use me or distract me. I don’t have to please anyone, or talk or crack a joke. I am simply me, lying quietly while someone else controls my body. I don’t have to worry or write lists or even think, I can just be still and appreciate that for this hour at least I am hidden from the world!
Escapism – Restoration – Contentment