Reclaim Your Center

By Jennie Hastings
[Savvy Self-Care]

In the career of a massage therapist or bodyworker, there are many repetitive movements. We effleurage, petrissage, pin, stretch, drain, feel what has changed, and repeat. We gain knowledge and insight with every pass we take over a client’s body, and with each treatment, we learn something—no matter how subtle or nuanced—that helps to refine our practice going forward.
This constant learning is a beautiful part of our profession and means that, with the right attitude, we are never trapped or stagnant. There is always something new to explore, whether it be the energy from which we make contact, the frame we give our work through our marketing and intake, or the way we actually place our hands on our client’s body and the pressure we apply.
At some point, though, for every therapist, there will come a moment when it feels like this work is overwhelming us. Inevitably, we will get tired, distracted, or bored. Our interest in our clients will wane, and we will begin to feel like a robot—a massage machine going through the motions of the treatment, but not really there. This is when we need to come back to center.
Because life is an always-changing balancing act, finding yourself out of your center is no reason to be hard on yourself. There is no blame to be placed, no guilt to be felt, no fear to let take over. It is simply a time to notice what is happening with the eye of an objective observer. Think, “Oh, this is interesting …” and not, “This job just isn’t for me.”
Noticing you are out of your center is a victory in itself and means you are quite an advanced practitioner. Like everything in life, and in our clients’ bodies, nothing can be changed until awareness is achieved, so noticing is a great first step.

Achieve awareness
Once you have arrived in nonjudgmental awareness of being out of your center, what can you do about it? Pay attention. What is it that is taking you out of the present moment? Is your mind racing and full of thoughts? Is your body in pain somewhere? Do you feel angry at your clients or yourself for some deep hidden reason? Explore yourself. Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and ask yourself what is going on.
Because you are the feeling genius that you are, undoubtedly an answer will come. For me, my mind is often the culprit that pulls me out of my center. Like most people, I think way too many, mostly repetitive, mostly unhelpful thoughts. Yes, of course we have real concerns in life that need tending to, but we do not need to think about them on an endless loop. This is extremely unproductive, not to mention painful. When this is happening to me, I know I need to relax, meditate, breathe, write down what is going through my head, and make an action plan of small steps to address the challenge. This applies regardless of the issue at hand.
When my mind is racing, I also have come to understand that it may simply be because of a shift in my external environment and circumstances. At times like these, I know I need to massage myself with oil in the morning and evening, get more sleep, sip warm water, and eat warm food. All these practices are soothing and grounding to the thought storms that can take over the mind, and they will work for most people.
If you realize you are out of center because of physical pain, it is smart to stop working long enough to rest and repair. It is easy to forget how important it is for us to receive massage and bodywork ourselves. Feeling out of center is a good indication that you are overdue for a treatment. You will also benefit from taking a yoga class; taking an extra day off to catch up on rest, exercise, and healthy food; and taking an Epsom salt bath. Check in with your posture while you are working. I always know I am in my center when I am intelligently using my body during a treatment and not straining myself out of laziness or over-giving.
If you notice it is an emotion that is pulling you away from your center, take out your journal and write about it. Ask yourself what you are believing that is supporting this emotion. When you get an answer, ask yourself, is this true? Be honest. It is usually very interesting to discover what the deeper levels of our emotions are telling us. Be sweet to yourself while you dig into your emotions. Buy yourself some fresh flowers, light candles, and use essential oils to brighten your environment. Lovingly invite yourself back to your center. Working through your emotions in a responsible way like this is often all you need to do to shift them.

The Joy That is You
Coming back to center is something we do again and again. It is not a job accomplished once and then we are done. When you are centered, you know what you are doing and why you are here. You are in the present moment and you identify with the peace, confidence, and joy that is you. Life is good at throwing us challenges that will get in the way of our knowing this. As we progress on our journey of life and on the paths of our careers in massage and bodywork, we become more adept at noticing when we are off center and finding ways to return as quickly as possible, not only for our own sake, but for our clients and the world.

Try This Centering Routine
You can easily practice this brief centering routine between sessions. It can be done in a bathroom or in the hallway outside your treatment room while your client gets on the table:
• Place your feet hip-width apart, stand tall, roll your shoulders back, close your eyes, and take three deep breaths into your belly.
• Mentally say a short prayer or affirmation.
• Place your palms somewhere on your body and give yourself energy and love.
• Find gratitude.

Jennie Hastings is a board-certified massage therapist, writer, and yoga teacher. She is the author of The Inspired Massage Therapist (Massage Blossom Books, 2012). She believes having a career in massage and bodywork means having infinite possibilities and is always exploring new ways to evolve her practice. You can find more from her at