Words on Wellness
Leg Massage: The Forgotten Zone
When I first introduce massaging the legs here is what I usually explain to my students:
The legs are the forgotten zone of the body. Most people come to us for shoulder issues or back issues. Lots of people get reflexology treatments or get manicures and pedicures because they want their feet worked on. And these days folks will spend extra money on expensive haircuts (guys too!) for the added value of a good scalp and head massage.
It is the rare client that comes in because of how much their legs are in need. And yet the biggest bones, muscles and tendons of our body are all located in our legs. That is no accident. Our legs are in fact the work horses of our body. They support our weight with everything we do and they also store loads of tension and emotions. In fact they work so well that you rarely hear them complain. It is only once we’ve packed them so full with work and stress that things start to creep out and we feel something come up in our backs and then think- ‘hey I better go get a massage!’
The reality is our legs are the epicentre of so much activity and what’s more it is even a misnomer to think of them as ‘legs’. The word leg (or back or head or any other ‘part’ of our body for that matter) is a construct that we started learning as soon as we could walk. It is one of the first things our parents started talking to us about. The fact is our body never learned that lesson. And to look at our body’s anatomy we can see that most of the muscles and ligaments and tendons in our back extend into our legs and vice versa. They are intimately connected and so when we see clients with back issues, there is so much we can accomplish by massaging the legs. It is quite possibly the most vital part of the massage both as a way of promoting deep relaxation and also as a way to help unwind many of the knots and key problem areas that our clients want us to address.
In Thailand massages regularly last 3 hours or longer and most of that time will be time spent on the legs. I think a big part of that is cultural in that this is a 2000 year old massage and for most of that time the people getting massaged were spending most of their days on the feet and their work was very labor intensive. But another reason for that is because of the very nature of our legs. Since they are generally less sensitive than our backs and they work so much it is a great place to get the energy flowing again in the body and the overall affects of a massage that involves lots of time spent on the legs is dramatic. There is much we can learn from these results, even if our needs tend to be more back and shoulder centered.
Because of the many directions and ways our legs work, along with the myriad places that tension can build up, it was also a very difficult area of
the body for me to make sense of in developing my practice over the years. There are alot of ways we can massage the legs depending on if our clients have lower back issues, sacrum issues, problems with their hips, tight hamstrings, tight calves and knee issues. It is quite possibly the most complex part of giving a quality massage.
That is also why I developed an advanced course that takes time out to examine the legs. At the Primary level we gather a strong pool of stretches and techniques to massage those legs. But in the advanced course by spending a whole weekend massaging the legs (and feet!) we can really dissect this part of the body, look at those diverse needs and come up with amazing treatment plans and at the same time add some very essential new stretches and techniques to your tool belt.
One of those aspects that makes massaging the legs a challenge is the hip. It moves in so many ways and so much tension gets locked in that area of the body. Freeing our hips is akin to feeling so much more free in our bodies, and this is one of the most exciting aspects of this class. A collection of stretches that therapeutically target the hips that can be received by anyone regardless of their flexibility.
Some of my absolute favorite stretches are taught in this class, both as the giver and the receiver. Walking on the legs, the Dancer, Demi-Diamond, Knee stretch, Foot Spinal Twist… The list goes on and on. In fact when I think of some of those postures it makes me think of Homer Simpson when he thinks of donuts (mmmmmm donuts!) I know that is a strange analogy and definitely reveals my age, but the comparison is apt because once I teach you some of these postures you’ll have your clients begging – nay drooling- for more!
Thai 303: Advanced training for massaging Legs and Feet along with Therapeutic applications is taught once a year at the Still Light Centre
The next course is coming up June 21-22 2014! Class times are 10am-7pm daily. Click here to register for Thai 303