Reclaiming our often lost natural connection
to parts of the body


reflections from a massage therapist
who was born & raised in France,
and who has worked in the USA for decades


Here is my personal experience with massage, communicating with clients, draping, etc.

in Europe and Asia I was initiated into a whole new world filled with grace.

I took my first massage workshop in the 70’s in Western Europe, where I was born & raised. It was done with reverence, in silence - except of course for preliminary instructions. We were slightly draped around the waist, & more if we got cold. The room radiated with motherly caring and child-like innocence.  I was initiated into a whole new world filled with grace.  I knew I wanted to share this work with others.

I honed my ability to be fully present while giving/receiving comforting & liberating touch

I took several trips to South Asia, where I honed my ability to be fully present while giving/receiving comforting & liberating touch. In Europe & Asia, I gave/received an abundance of massages and never encountered a “breast problem”. We were dressed or partially undressed, depending on techniques used & context: Shiatsu and Thai Temple Massage vs. long soothing oily strokes. A breast was not something to avoid or put extra focus on in any of the trainings I attended, just an intrinsic part of the body.

in the US It took me years to recover my natural self-confidence & joy in the bodywork process.

In the 80’s in the US, things changed for me in massage school. The focus was now on contra-indication, pathology and liability. It struck me as fear-based, defensive & desperately seeking acknowledgement.  It took me years to recover my natural self-confidence & joy in the bodywork process. I discovered that some clients and friends had internalized the kind of American modesty imported from puritans fleeing European religious persecution.

Following "the rules", I saw myself awkwardly dance around the breast when offering long connecting strokes - thus singling it out instead of emphasizing physical wholeness - an oxymoron…

Following my intuition....

Following my intuition, I sometimes ask women if they want their chest covered at all times.  Some say “yes, keep me covered” - for the comfort of a familiar habit and/or a warming sheet.  Some say “no, go ahead, I am fine, I feel free this way,” or “why not?I’ll give it a try” (I encourage them to change their mind any time if they feel like it). Some of them have just undergone a mastectomy with or without reconstruction, others are getting ready for reconstruction: all need to be seen, heard and accepted as is. What better place to do so? 

So much noise about breasts.....

So much noise about breasts, yet I see the root of the problem in our un-questioned beliefs about our body & self, our un-questioned ideas of  “manhood” &  “womanhood.” This all too often results in acting out our sexual confusion as manipulative predator or “cooperative/helpless” prey. This confusion is a significant aspect of the un/learning & healing people seek in massage.  As we know, every part of the body can be sexualized, made a fetish of. How we touch & are touched depends on our intention and communication.

I believe it's aberrant to sexualize breasts all over the place, while at the same time shamefully hiding them. It’s absurd to be legally allowed to walk bare-breasted in NY streets but not on Instagram. In France, the topless beach tradition set in motion in the 60’s inspired a good five decades of a de-dramatized breast and therefore more natural attitude towards the female body; only in the past couple of years are tops returning - to deter phone abusers from turning women into internet sex objects & the general public from confusing half-nudists with urban activists (e.g. Femen). 

When I receive a massage....

When I receive a massage, do I automatically want my breast/chest area uncovered during massage? No. It depends on who is massaging me, man or woman, & what’s going on for me that day.

 I give massage from a detached and caring place

When I give a massage, I communicate openly & respectfully with each individual client from within my own acquired comfort zone;  I offer the covered vs. uncovered option from a detached and caring place; remembering that we all have some kind of story about breasts, I honor the client’s boundaries &/or interest in self-discovery and self-liberation.No pushing, no pulling, no unnecessary charting or stigmatization - just respectfully present to each situation. The idea is to reclaim our often lost natural connection to parts of the body. 

As to male clients...

As to male clients, of course I automatically uncover their chest when working on this part of their body - unless they have told me otherwise, to stay warm or feel like a tucked-in child again.

cultivate self-awareness and clear communication

Bottom line in my opinion is this: let's foster a culture of self-aware massage therapists who communicate clearly with their clients and vice versa . It's that simple!



Written by Claire Massart, MA, LMT (aka LMP), 2016

Born and raised in France, Claire Massart is a seasoned massage therapist who was initially trained in Europe where she worked as a massage therapist.  She continued her training in Asia and the USA and has worked in Seattle, WA as a massage therapist for several decades.

Visit Claire's massage website here: AWiseTouchForHealth.com.

 

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