“The primary nature of every human being is to be
open to life and love"
definition, is about touch. As noted in the Journal
of the American Medical Association, “Skilled hands are among the
physician's most important diagnostic and therapeutic tools. The
importance of touch in medicine has been amply demonstrated.”
Massage and Bodywork come in many forms and many systems. Each
modality presents a special focus based on the population, dysfunction, or
outcome intended for the treatment. What they have in common is that they
all pull from the same body of touch positive possibilities. What makes
them distinct is the special combination that is formed when you add
creativity, purpose, depth, and sensitivity to the mix. Like a musical
composition that pulls from the same body of notes, no two pieces of music
sound exactly alike. In the same way, no two types of massage, and indeed
no two massage sessions, are the same even though they are similar.
performs many positive physio-bio-chemical reactions in the body (see
‘What is Total Body Massage?’), there can be an important emotional
aspect as well. This aspect is to fulfill the touch needs of the
overwhelming amount of research supports our need for human touch. Many
people regard our society as ‘touch-starved’. Our technology and
fast-paced lifestyles have limited our interactions with others,
particularly physical interaction. There is a great need for non-sexual,
nurturing touch that calms and comforts. By connecting with others through
touch, we connect with ourselves on a fundamental level.
An example of this kind of contact is the basic hug.
Amongst the community of psychological experts, three hugs per day
is considered the absolute minimum. But for truly good emotional health,
twelve hugs a day are recommended. "Oh no!" you say.
“How am I ever going to get my RDA of appropriate non-sexual
touch (i.e. hugs, pats on the back, handshakes, etc.)?” Well, the truly
wonderful thing about hugs is that it's hard to give one without getting
one back. Hug your spouse, hug your children, and hug your friends.
Affection is contagious. It also lowers your blood pressure, gives you a
sense of well being, and helps keep you healthy. Of course, massage is
another way of getting nurturing, healthy, non-sexual touch; and on a much
In western culture, the
body-negative and sex-negative attitudes of our society have created an
environment in which touch is viewed with fear and suspicion. The general
population is chronically ‘touch starved’. We all need touch.
Babies who are not touched will die. Older children who are not
touched often do not become socialized and are incapable of forming
positive relationships. Adults who do not receive touch are more prone to
illness and depression. And
like infants, the elderly who don't receive touch are prone to grow weak
and die. Touch is natural.
Touch is healthy. Empathetic touch can provide a supportive framework for
our growth and self-realization. Massage
is one such source for this kind of positive touch.
Unfortunately, our society
and our culture has over-sexualized touch. In our society, from the time
we are born, we are exposed to negative body conditioning.
This conditioning usually comes from our parents and grandparents,
or from our religious affiliation. We
are taught to be uncomfortable with our naked bodies, to hide behind
clothing, and we are taught that it is unacceptable to touch many areas of
our own bodies. Effectively, this causes us to deaden parts of our bodies
to awareness, sensation, and energy flow. Wilhelm Reich referred to this
as ‘body armoring.’ When we suffer emotional hurts and disappointments
in the course of our lives, we further armor our bodies to protect
ourselves from pain. For example, a person who has had negative social
experiences may become shy and withdrawn.
This body armoring greatly interferes with our full realization as
human beings, and with our enjoyment of our bodies, our emotions, and
indeed our entire psyche. Due to these factors our sexuality becomes
confined within strict limits of time, place, and modality of expression.
In many cases people have
lost the art of non-sexual touch. They loose the ability to enjoy touch
simply for the sake of the balance and joy that it brings.
They assume that any form of touch could lead to sexual intimacy. This eventually causes the question, “Is massage sexual?”
The ready answer in today’s society among massage professionals
is always, “NO!” The
“NO” answer is readily and easily defended; despite predisposed
notions, touch is not always about sex – and the corollary can also be
true; that sex isn’t always about touch.
Everyone seems satisfied with this answer – even though the real
answer is: “In some ways, yes, a massage is about sex.”
If we are to open up to
the full possibilities of our being, then we need to learn to let go of
body shame forced upon us by our parents and society, to dissolve our body
armor, and to permit the free flow of awareness, sensation, and energy
throughout our bodies. A
whole person is an integrated balance of essence, energy, and spirit (Jing,
Qi, and Shien). Touch can be a way toward the integration and balancing of
these three. Your whole body
is part of your whole person. Chinese medicine recognizes fourteen energy pathways
connecting over seven hundred energy points throughout your body.
These pathways are: Stomach, Gallbladder, Triple Heater, Governing
Vessel, Conception Vessel, Pericardium, Kidney, Small Intestine, Bladder,
Heart, Spleen, Lungs, Colon, and Liver.
There are also other ‘weaker’ paths along which energy travels.
These fourteen paths use fourteen different energies (or
‘powers’) and combine in different ways and combinations.
Taken all together with the fields they produce, they constitute
your ‘life force’ or ‘spirit’.
According to the theory of An Mo (Chinese Massage meaning ‘Press
Rub’) all of these lines of force must be brought into harmony. Once
balanced, these forces coalesce to form a unified, well-balanced person.
These energies include breath (lung) power, heart power, vascular
power, and many others. Sexual
power must be included with these powers, but it is just one of many.
These energies can be used for manifestation of any desired purpose, for
spiritual advancement and enlightenment, as well as simply for heightened
pleasure and well being. So
massage, in a small way, is about sex – but only because sexual
expression is a natural and integral part of our existence, just like
anger or joy.
A massage can work –
actively or passively – with these fields and cause expressions of your
existence. It is not uncommon during a massage to feel a broad range of
emotions, sensations, thoughts, and perceptions; and to have responses to
these feelings. All of these expressions are a natural and intrinsic
aspect of your existence.
What does this mean?
During a massage, it is usual to have some kind of perception and
reaction to what is happening to you on many levels. For example, while receiving vigorous back rub, you can
perceive and respond on many levels.
“That feels good, I like it, I am calm, I am sleepy, I am
releasing my anger, This technique makes me feel warm, The masseuse’s
hands feel very hot.” These
perceptions and responses can all happen at the same time.
Any response to sexual power you feel in your body is just as
natural as any other response to the massage.
These responses continue
after the massage and gradually taper off.
After a massage, when your body’s energies are balanced, you feel
calm, want to eat healthy food, breathe deeply and naturally, etc.
Each reaction is according to the related energy pathway. People who decide to have sex with their life partner after a
massage find that sex after a massage is far better than the average sex
they have had. This is
especially true when both partners have received a massage.
In the same way, people who have a glass of clean cool water after
a massage often feel that it is the best water they have ever had.
If they decide to eat, the food seems particularly good and
So, yes, a massage is
about sex, but only to the extent that sexual power is a small part of our
organism as a whole. More
importantly massage is about your whole being – your whole person.