Here I go again, on to my next massage clients. I’m currently about 75 miles Northwest of Anchorage, Alaska. Moving along at about 120 knots and about 1200 feet up. At least that’s what it looks like on the dash as I peer over the pilot’s shoulder. This time, I’m heading out on a big, sleek, red and white turbo De Havilland Otter on skis. We should be arriving at the prestigious Winterlake Lodge in about another 20 minutes. Airplane is the only way in, unless you want to undertake the 90 mile snowmachine ride in from Talkeetna. In the summer, forget it. Too boggy.
My clients are onboard. They are to be guests at the Lodge for the next few days as the dog mushers blow through there at checkpoint four during the famed Iditarod Sled
Dog Race. They all look excited. A few VIPs from Anchorage, a couple from D.C. and another from North Carolina.
Oh nice! Here we go winging through the little pass again to the big valley where the lodge sits. Glacial-smoothed tundra stares right in my window. Awesome! We must be only 500' off the deck here.
Never would have guessed being a Massage Therapist would look like this.
This is my 5th or 6th time out now. I’ve been out in Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter, and it’s a different place, each season. In the winter there’s snowmachining, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, then when it warms, hiking, kayaking, fishing, heli-hiking, heli-flightseeing, great food, camaraderie and of course, great massages.
Usually relaxation massage out here. Just tuning up a body not used to winter sports or a long hike or maybe just a bit of indulgence to offset a hectic life. I might have to occasionally smooth out a casting arm being overused from going for those monster Rainbow trout. Out helicoptering from fishing hole to fishing hole the day before.
Now, my massage therapy practice is not always as glamorous as this, but it sure is interesting. My clients are so interesting. They open up to you as a massage therapist. You hear the back stories of CEO’s to a hairstylist in from Florida. You might find yourself doing massage by candle light because the generator just kicked off, or doing hard work with a line of chair massage clients at a health fair; in a hallway! I’ve done chair massage in the luxurious Denaina Convention Center for a Chamber of Commerce gathering, open-air massage at the raucous Downtown Market and an overnighter on the Kenai Peninsula for South Central Foundation, as well as numerous and ongoing gigs at many other places in town. It’s fun to be able to go into these places and meet people, where otherwise you would never go. It’s also nice to be so warmly welcomed and invited right on back into the business. Everybody likes having the massage therapist show up.
Your clients are interesting. They are all puzzles. Do they want relaxation, or therapy? Is it low back pain? Recent shoulder surgery? An old snowmachining crash still bothering them? Single mom of three needs TLC? Old injuries, or new? Recent life changes? What’s their rhythm, their depth? What approach, acupoint formula, should I use to give the client what they’re looking for? As I’m giving, is it working? Do I need to change approaches midstream? What do I need to say? Do I need to say anything?
A puzzle, the assessment, the approach. As my skills grow from further work on myself, advanced massage skills, acupoint formulas: the puzzle solving gets faster and the fix, more effective.
The puzzle, though, I find has more depth as I gain more depth. One can look deeper into a person and give, deeper, more refined care.
I was pleased to find, the years of Taiji and Qigong I had prior to massage school actually added to my understanding of massage clients and how to correct imbalances. I see things in body posture and movement and qi flow that tell me things.
I was actually opposed to going to massage school originally. I used to work in hospitals in varying capacities; I thought working with massage clients was like working with patients in hospitals. More of that impersonal, institutional relationship. I wasn’t interested in getting back to that.
I was wrong.
It’s much more personal and meaningful. Some of my clients have been with me for years. I have seen them change and grow for the better in those years. I’ve also been surprised at how fast and effective the massage techniques can be at times. Providing pain relief, relaxation and better health; and all with just my hands. Often times giving people hope, where before their was none.
So, entering the field of massage therapy has been quite the eye-opener. Quite meaningful as I improve people’s lives, and as I see the genuine appreciation on their faces. They don’t have to say a word. You do a good job; you read it on their face, you read it in their body. I get paid well for what I do, and, in addition, the greater "payoff", is in knowing I made a difference in someone’s life.
Shifu Lawrence Chase Acuff, LMT