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/ by Tommy Kirchhoff /

Massage: Pleasure & Pain

I took a real interest in massage when I was about 12. My mom and I would trade massages every evening. It was a good deal that continued through high school. When I graduated, my seven-year old sister gave me a gift certificate drawn in crayon, good for one head rub.

In college, a girl in the dorms showed me how to massage a hand. She said, "doesn't that feel good when I work all your fingers?" She was right. So began my exploration. I learned about craniosacral massage from the radio; a DJ talked about how effective it is to gently massage the head using only the weight of a nickel. Of course, like all the techniques I list here, it takes real training and know-how.

A couple years after college, I received my first professional massage. I shocked my masseuse when she walked in and found me laying face down, naked, but not under the sheet. I thought that's what she told me to do. Oops. She later told me, "your globes were smiling at me."

I started getting massage on a regular basis. I recall my first Russian trigger point massage. It's effective but just too painful for me. I go to relax.

In Kansas City, a Chinese woman gave me shiatsu with a towel. I loved it, except she worked vigorously on my stomach, which made me sick. When she later omitted the visceral work, it was one of the best I've ever had.

Not long after that, I was in Vegas for my sister's wedding. I played three dollars in a slot machine and won three hundred. At the mall, I paid for a "water massage." I laid down in something that looked like a tanning bed, and received high-pressure streams of water behind a rubber sheet. It was so good that when I go to indoor pools, I like to lay under the kiddie water fall and let it pound on my back.

In 2002, I went to Thailand for almost a month. On the second day, I learned that a two-hour massage was a mere seven dollars. I decided that was something I would do every day. On the third day, my masseuse asked if I wanted Thai massage. I gave it a try. Turns out, it's like chiropractic "cracking" for your whole body. She even cracked my knees ! Although it's kind of scary the first time, it does make you feel really good-- except the time a little Thai girl bruised my sternum. Okay, that's my warning.

I learned about Rolfing, but could never bring myself to get it. Rolfing utilizes strong manipulation to re-structure joints and "properly" align the skeleton for more efficient movement. Everyone I've talked to said it's awesome, but awesomely painful. Hmm. Not for me.

My mom became a Reiki Master, and gave me a treatment or two. It's amazing how well it works, considering she didn't even touch me.

My favorite masseuse is named Mary and she lives in Utah. Mary not only reads me to know that I'm relaxed (because if it hurts, you're not relaxed... Harriet--); but Mary does lymph drainage therapy. Man that's cool stuff. Mary can drain the lymph nodes around my ankle, which takes down any swelling and makes if feel awesome.

I had another massage in Northern Michigan where the masseuse asked me if I wanted biofeedback. I said, "sure, I'll try it." She moved one finger around until it hit a tender spot, let's say on my shoulder blade; when I alerted her to it, she'd hold that spot and start moving another finger around, let's say my hip. When she hit another tender spot, she would hold both, have me breath in deeply and breath out. When she removed both fingers, neither spot was tender. I thought that was pretty cool too.

Which brings me to Tui Na. Chinese Tui Na massage involves a whole range of techniques such as reflexology of the ears, hands and feet; all the way to the chiropractic-like manipulation of Thai massage. This blog was supposed to be about Tui Na as the fourth branch of Traditional Chinese Medicine-- but I felt it would be better to share all that I've learned about the amazing massage arts.



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