At Riverside Serenity Massage & Wellness, the type of massage we offer is commonly called “holistic” or “integrative” massage. Those terms by themselves don’t really tell you a lot of meaningful information, so this post will deconstruct that a bit. That way, you can determine whether or not our services are appropriate for you before you schedule your first massage with us.
What do we mean when we say “holistic” massage?
We mean that before you get on the table, we take the time to get to the root of not just your goals for the session, but what’s going on in your life that might be contributing to your concerns. This creates a more precise and customized experience, allowing you to get the most out of your massage, and empowering you to continue receiving and increasing those benefits between massage sessions.
For example, if someone comes to us complaining of chronic headaches, we take a step back and look at what might be contributing to those headaches. Is it allergy season, and are they allergic to the one or more of the many (many, many, many) kinds of pollen in Richmond? Do they spend the majority of their time hunched over at a desk, looking up at a computer screen? Do they spend hours in the operating room, their heads bent over their patient? Do they spend a lot of time reading, their head and shoulders curled into a tight (if temporarily cozy) position? Are they stressed about their job, their home life, or current events, and thus spend much of their day with their jaw clenched and their shoulders hunched around their ears? Do they have a chronic illness? Is there a hormonal component? Are they taking a medication that can cause headaches? All of these things, alone or in combination, will have an impact on the focus for that particular session and the recommendations we make for long-term treatment.
Additionally, if there are things in your life that you want to do more of, but can’t because of stress or pain, we take those things into account and focus on them. For instance, if you love cooking, but your job involves a lot of work with your hands (whether you’re a surgeon or a mechanic or a programmer), your hands, wrists and forearms might be too exhausted and sore at the end of the day for you to really enjoy the activity, so we’ll spend more time releasing the tension in those areas. Or if you want to enjoy spending more time with your loved ones, but you’re so drained from your job that you don’t have anything left to give at the end of the day, we can focus on relaxing and recharging you so you can be at your best for those you love.
What do we mean by “integrative” massage?
In brief, we take all the different massage and bodywork techniques we’ve learned, and blend them into a particular massage experience depending on what our discussion with you reveals you need at that time. This can include “basic” Swedish relaxation massage, myofascial release (both “deep tissue” and more gentle methods like slow stretching), trigger point work, manual lymphatic drainage, acupressure, reflexology, Reiki, prenatal (or side-lying) massage, and add-ons such as hot stone massage, aromatherapy, or contrasting hot-cold therapy.
For instance, a desk worker who’s on a severe time crunch might need help relaxing and getting a good night’s sleep so they can go back to work the next day and focus so they make their deadline. They’ll need a different approach than a desk worker who’s feeling lethargic and uninspired, or one who’s focused and alert, but whose physical pain is interfering with their best work. And if any of those desk workers is pregnant, you have another layer of complexity added to what they need at that time.
Who wouldn’t like this style of massage?
We have encountered a few kinds of people who don’t enjoy “holistic, integrated” massage. If any of these describe you, you may want to look elsewhere, because our style might frustrate you a bit.
Primarily, folks who don’t like our style don’t want any particular focus to their massage. They might have tension areas, but they don’t want to address them. They also tend to not want to make any changes to their routine to improve their stress or tension; they are comfortable enough with the status quo, and only want to get massage when “things get so bad they can’t stand it anymore.” They tend to find our style frustrating for that reason. We encourage our clients to make goals to improve their well-being and their quality of life, and we do what we can to support them as they work toward their goals. Many of our clients do reach a point of “maintenance,” where they may have few or no areas of tension in a particular session; we work best when there is a long-term goal in mind (and “maintenance” falls under that category).
On the other end of the spectrum, clients who want one very particular massage style for their session might be frustrated with our work. While we can do just trigger point work, or just Swedish relaxation massage, or (even more specifically) just circular friction around your joints (and nothing else for the entire hour), that is not where we do our best work. We typically won’t do just one sort of thing in a session unless it is medically indicated (a good example of this is manual lymphatic drainage). Our style is truly integrative, and our best work happens when we have freedom to use the tools available to us through our hundreds of hours of training in various massage and bodywork modalities.
There are many different approaches to massage therapy. We’re always interested to hear about things that have worked well for you in the past, and we will definitely do our best to incorporate them into your massage. But we do ask that you trust us if we do something a little bit different from your past experience. (Obviously, if your therapist does something that feels uncomfortable, or if their pressure isn’t right, then you absolutely should let them know immediately. That’s not what we’re talking about here.)
Most people do find a great deal of benefit from holistic, integrative massage.
With this approach, your massage therapist has the ability to adjust the massage session to be just what you need that day. With the exception of add-ons (things that increase our costs in time and materials), you don’t pay extra for this customization, and you don’t need to worry about whether or not your massage will include whatever techniques or modalities could make the most difference in achieving your goals for the session.
If you’re interested in trying out our approach, schedule your appointment by clicking here. (Psst! Use coupon code “NEW20” to get 20% off your session if this is your first appointment with us.)