Many of us struggle to feel comfortable in our own skin. Sometimes it seems like we can see the beauty in everyone but ourselves.
Massage therapy offers a unique opportunity to cultivate self-love and body acceptance. It's not just about feeling pampered or relaxed (though those are definitely nice side effects): it's a therapeutic reconnecting of body and mind.
Here's 4 ways massage helps with self-love and body acceptance:
1. Each massage is an an opportunity to set boundaries around your body.
We have all, unfortunately, experienced violations of our bodily autonomy, even if it's as simple as your mom making you give your grandmother a hug when you didn't want to. In a world that can sometimes punish us for speaking up for ourselves, it can be difficult to assert boundaries for ourselves.
When you come in for a massage, your therapist is trained to listen to you. You can expect to be asked if you're OK with face massage, abdominal massage, and glute (butt) massage... If there's any parts of your body you don't want seen or touched, for any reason, just tell your therapist at the start and they'll honor it. You don't need to explain why or say sorry.
If you change your mind about something during the massage, or would like another pillow or an extra blanket, you're encouraged to speak up and ask for what you need. You're not being a nuisance, you're practicing advocating for yourself, and we love it.
2. Receiving a massage can also be a form of exposure therapy.
By allowing ourselves to be touched and become comfortable with being seen, we can start to let go of some of the shame and insecurity we may feel about our bodies.
For example, you might think the varicose veins on the back of your legs are a really big deal. You might come in secretly dreading when the massage therapist will undrape your legs and see them for the first time (although they don't react, as far as you can tell). You might feel embarrassed during the leg massage (although your legs feel great afterwards). The next time you come in, you might be a little less embarrassed about your legs. By your third massage, you totally forgot varicose veins are supposed to be a thing, and you're just looking forward to getting your massage!
3. During a massage, we don't talk about the appearance of the body, we talk about how it moves and feels.
Instead of worrying about how we look, the conversation becomes about how our body is working and what it needs. This can be a refreshing change of perspective, and can help us shift our focus away from appearances and towards self-care.
To self-talk is no longer "My legs are ugly" but "Huh, my legs are a little tight today, I'll do some hamstring stretches for them."
4. Massage invites us to be present in our bodies by providing a constant stream of positive sensation.
When we don't like our bodies, we often learn to disassociate from them and don't feel like ourselves. By receiving massage, we can learn to be more present in our bodies.
It's like a guided meditation, with touches guiding you instead of words.
You're practicing noticing your body, through stimuli that feels good, which is powerful for overwriting neural pathways of chronic pain.
Your body is your home: let's get comfortable here.
If you're feeling nervous before your massage or find that your mind keeps wandering to negative thoughts or worries, you can try these affirmations:
"I am deserving of love and care, just as I am."
"I am grateful for my body and all that it allows me to do."
" I treat my body with kindness and care."
"I deserve to feel good in my own skin."
"I trust myself and my boundaries, and I will only allow touch that feels good and nourishing to me."
"I am grateful for the opportunity to connect with my body and get to know it better through this massage."
We hope massage therapy can be a helpful resource for you on your healing journey.
If you're in the Seattle area, we invite you to book an appointment with us at Sage Bodywork. Our therapists are dedicated to providing a safe and respectful environment for all bodies. We are Health At Every Size aligned and gender-affirming. We offer a range of gentle and effective techniques, including Manual Lymphatic Drainage, Myofascial Release, and Cupping, all of which can be highly effective for relieving muscle tension and promoting relaxation.