Friday, March 30, 2012

massage, bodies, miracles

If I told you that what I've been doing all day every day the last week (and will continue to do for maaaany more weeks) required me to bring my own pillow, bedding, a sack lunch, and comfy clothes, you'd probably think I was enrolled in daycare.

But then you would see the oil stains on my sheets that I can't afford to wash out and the anatomy textbooks that I could barely afford to purchase.

You see, all my time has been spent standing on my bare feet, standing over a massage table learning all the intricacies of the body. As I run my hands over a plastic skeleton and memorize chart after chart of muscles and nerves, I feel completely overwhelmed at the miracle that is the human body.

My 5'11 German instructor, Keesha, guides her gigantic hands over mine, her pin-tight curls cascading over her broad shoulders as she sways to and fro, telling me, "Zee thigh eez very sensitive t'ere." She holds back big German chuckles when my first male client gets an erection during a foot massage, or the time when she accidentally farted in the middle of a 60-minute relaxation massage. She tells me again and again and AGAIN to quit tensing up my wrists unless I want to suffer from repetitive motion injury. When a battered woman peels into ugly sobs when I massage her hands, Keesha pulls me aside, her eyes filled with worry. She explains to me that we all carry energy that can be passed through each other; it's important I do not internalize this woman's pain. As I look at her in bewilderment, she struggles to find an explanation that sits well with her non-native English. With her powerful hands still on my arm, she says, "Our muscles carry our memories."

I was in a yoga class a few days ago. The session was wrapping up; it was time for a cool-down meditation, and we got into hip and chest openers. As I spread my arms out on the floor into the chest opening pose, I found myself welling up with tears--but I wasn't crying out of physical pain. I felt this hot energy move from my chest, up my throat, into my eyes, down my cheeks. The teacher calmly knelt by my side and whispered, "It's okay. Release it. Mend your broken heart." After class, she informed me that my unexpected eruption was due to heartache. She rolled up her capris to reveal a silvery scar near her knee, explaining, "I tore my IT band awhile back because I was afraid of moving forward."

While my friend was living in Thailand, she received a full body massage. She said that while the therapist worked on her shoulders, she felt nauseous and humiliated, whereas when the therapist rubbed her glutes (where you would expect her to feel a "personal bubble" violation), she felt fine. "I thought I was going to throw up because of the anxiety and embarrassment that filled me," her email read. "Not for that situation, but it was like leftover emotion from having felt that way and not faced it in the past."

Our bodies really are miracles--miracles of bones and blood and muscles. It's a miracle that our parents, against all natural odds, conceived and birthed us--that we too, against all natural odds, can conceive and birth offspring. It's a miracle that we have circulatory, lymphatic, muscle, nervous, immune, digestive, and skeletal systems that, despite their complexities, fit together so perfectly. And now I'm realizing that the most miraculous part of our bodies is that we have the ability to heal each other of the things we cannot heal ourselves.


  1. I love this post. Anna is like an hour away from getting her massage therapy license and her stories echo a lot of what you say. This is a really interesting field and yes the bodies are amazing. But you should talk to her because she has also had some really crazy stories. Her anatomy teacher that she respects/respected so much--2/3 into the semester started talking about time travel. Such a great world.

  2. I loved reading this post. All these experiences are so close to home it reminded me how important it is that I record some of my own! Beautifully written. Your words are so easy to feel.