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The Value of Fluff-n-Buff

The bodyworkers at Freed Bodyworks are known for their ability to dig deep, to find the source of your pain, and to be fearless in applying the pressure necessary to get you out of pain. This reputation is due at least in part to Frances’ (founder) Fingers Of Steel. They have a well-deserved reputation for being able to find muscular attachments and hang on to them till they squeal for mercy (in a totally therapeutic kind of way!)

Those kind of skills are often thought of as more “advanced” or “technical” and are highly prized by many massage therapists and clients. So much so that relaxation massage is often spoken of, somewhat derisively, as “fluff-n-buff” or “swishy”. But we are here to tell you: fluff-n-buff can totally save your day, your week, and your sanity!

Mary dragged herself through another day. Her boss needed to start replacing all the people who’d left her office recently because she had become a department of one, handling the work normally done by four. Add to that her two teenagers and her aging parents and there didn’t seem to be a minute that someone didn’t need something from Mary. When her massage therapist asked her what she needed out of her massage, she was surprised to hear herself blurt out: “an hour where I don’t have to answer to anyone else!”

Part of the magic of massage is that we are experts in giving you what you need, when you need it. We can use a host of techniques to induce relaxation. Swedish massage. Reflexology. Hot stones massage. Aromatherapy. Ayurvedic massage. It can all help you reach a place of quiet and calm in your mind and body.

Jamal wasn’t sure what how he was going to make it. It had become all-too-apparent that his father was days away from dying, losing his long battle with lung cancer. His father was his greatest supporter, always encouraging Jamal to follow his dreams of being an actor. He’d just won a plum role in a well-respected regional theater production and he longed to share the good news with his father but, due to the pain meds, his father was just too far out of it. Jamal just needed a place where it was OK to admit he felt awful, he felt like a like a part of him was dying. He needed a space that was gentle, quiet, and loving.

Long-term stress, especially when it affects many areas of one’s life, leads to over-arousal of the nervous system. The focus of relaxation work, directly and indirectly, is on your nervous system. Do you know how critical the health of your nervous system, including your brain, is to your overall health? Your nervous system is wired into every aspect of your body and controls how you respond to your surroundings. Without a healthy and well-balanced nervous system, nothing else can truly operate optimally.

Lee’s fibromyalgia was threatening to flare up again. They ached all over, couldn’t think clearly, and were getting crappy sleep. They had used up half of their sick leave for the year and it was only May! Feeling desperate, they sat down with their massage therapist and simply said “make everything quiet again.” They knew that if the massage therapist could restore calm to their nervous system their body had a much better chance of getting ahead of this flare-up.

When your nervous system gets too ramped up in response to stress your body changes how it operates. Your digestive tract slows down. Your circulation gets re-routed. Your muscles tense. All of this is designed to respond to short term dangers. Too often our nervous systems get ramped up and often stay that way for days, weeks, or months. It’s not difficult to see why we ache and drag with too much stress. Our digestion, blood flow, and muscle tension are all distorted by an over-aroused nervous system.

Jo-jo thought she’d needed a massage for her aching shoulders. But when the massage therapist started asking more detailed questions about what was going on in her life, Jo-jo burst into tears. Bumblebee, her cat, had died three weeks ago. Jo-jo was stunned by how much she missed that stupid cat! Without Bumblebee curling up on her lap or walking across her keyboard, Jo-jo went days without anyone touching her. She longed for simple physical contact. Could she actually say that to a massage therapist?

The answer is YES! Humans need touch to thrive! Massage therapists specialize in the art of touch.

You won’t always be stressed by major life events. The routine, the mundane, and even things you have chosen and welcomed into your life can be responsible for wearing you down. A little compassionate touch can go a long way in helping you get by.

Moby was sooooooo close to finishing this blankety-blank-blank Ph.D. thesis! The years of study, research, and writing were almost at an end. Yes, there was still the defense of the thesis to get through but first Moby had to write the never-ending (it seemed) thing! Moby longed for even an hour of a head not swimming in notations, cross-references, and yes those interminable footnotes!

You don’t always need to “hurt” somewhere to justify a massage. It’s enough to want peace, quiet, calm, comfort, and compassionate touch. It’s the first thing we all learned as massage therapists. Want to know a secret? Giving you a good relaxation massage is also relaxing for us! Giving relaxation, it turns out, is relaxing.

Here’s what a couple of our therapists who love to do relaxation massage have to say:

Miriam Pérez: There are so many ways to achieve deep relaxation in a massage therapy session. Massage can be therapeutic even when it's gentle--allowing you to ease into stillness and calm that can be hard to achieve in everyday life. If your goal is relaxation, we'll make a plan before the session about how best to achieve that in our work together. It could be a session only focused on soothing and gentle work that optimizes that state, or a combination of a full body relaxation session with one or two areas of deeper more focused work.

Laura Wurst: Warmth, relaxing essential oils, and massage? Pure luxury! Hot Stone Massage is a relaxing form of body work that involves applying heated stones (thermotherapy) to the body. I warm and oil smooth, round stones and use them in the palm of my hands to massage the body. The heat from the stones penetrates the muscles deeply which promotes increased detoxification, relaxation, and relief of long-standing tension, stress, and fatigue.

Kelly Bowers: When a client asks me to help them relax and quiet their minds and hearts, I feel like I’ve been invited to something particularly intimate and sacred. Sometimes it’s pretty straightforward – had a crazy week and need to chill out – and sometimes it’s more complicated. Death, grief, fear, loss, or even grinding fatigue. You’ve trusted me enough to let me see just how tough life can be for you. You can bet I will do everything I can to make this hour a place of safety and healing.

Renata Manaici: I offer a special session that integrates massage and energy healing. This session is for people who have more than just physical aches and pains to release; in addition to these, many of us carry emotional, mental, or spiritual disharmony that only amplifies our physical discomfort. In this unique treatment, I first relax and balance the body using Swedish massage. Once your individual energy field is calm and open, I use Healing Touch (an energetic healing modality) to remove and clear any discordant energy from the client's field. It is a deeply relaxing and restorative treatment on all levels, including physical and non-physical aspects of the field such as emotional, mental, and spiritual.

Karen Culpepper: I hold space, a cocoon, for healing and relaxation. I also often offer a hot towel on your back after work on the back, warm neck wrap and eye pillow once you are face up, and a hot towel on your feet at the end to set the tone for total relaxation.

Garshana-Abhyanga is a deep cleansing treatment. I set the intention: what is there you may want to let go of so that you can start anew? Wear clothes you don't mind getting oil on and something to cover your head. The treatment starts off with an invigorating scrub with silk gloves to let go of the old cells and open the pores to accept a warm oil infused with over 80 herbs. The Abhyanga portion is a rhythmic massage using an herbalized oil specific for your present imbalances with the intention of restoring harmony between the mind/body/spirit.

Rita Elsner: I offer a variety of modalities and techniques that can help to subtly ease your mind and body. I start with comforting still touch, to help you feel grounded and calm, followed by slow compression with hot towels to soothe aching muscles. This sets the stage for more effective Swedish massage and myofascial stretching of superficial muscle groups, helping them to soften while increasing blood and lymph flow. I also incorporate gentle Thai yoga stretching (adapted to table work) that can help unlock deeper muscles in the hip and shoulders. I close my sessions with focused energy work to create a deeper and more complete sense of peace and relaxation.

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