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Energetic blockages and emotional release: Does massage play a part?

by Lisa Rose July 17, 2015 0 Comments

I consider myself to be fairly experienced at yoga, having done it regularly for five or six years. I have mainly opted for the power yoga style, choosing to combine fitness with meditation in a kind of  ‘kill two birds with one stone’ attitude. However, the style of yoga I found myself partaking in that morning was not what I would usually have gone for; I hadn’t bothered to check the schedule beforehand. The class was focusing largely on energetic release and techniques for removing blockages. I had been hoping for something more vigorous, but decided to go with the flow anyway and was pleasantly surprised to find that by the end of the session, my wavering mood had raised considerably.  I didn’t think to ask the teacher what the style was called, but it had got me thinking about how emotions are stored in the body, and ways to release them.

I have a good understanding of both biology and energy through my massage and Reiki training and my health and nutrition work, but I was impressed to have learned something new in the class that day. The teacher had us place three fingers just below the sternum and look for a sensitive spot just below them. We were then instructed to press a finger there and start to massage the area in a circular motion. I was surprised to find an extremely sensitive area of around 2cm in diameter that really hurt to touch; as soon as any pressure was applied it was painful. Judging by the exclamations around me, other class members were having a similar experience. The teacher explained that this area was linked to the emotions and that if it was regularly massaged the pain would start to fade and we would feel an emotional release. The concept seemed to tie in with reflexology, acupuncture or acupressure and reignited my interest in the workings of the energy channels we know as meridians.

Connecting the energetic dots

A week prior, I had been to see a massage therapist whom I’d never been treated by before. I went to treat my seized left shoulder – a recurring problem I’ve had for the last couple of years – and wanted to see if this therapist would succeed in relieving it quickly where others had previously failed. He accurately diagnosed me as having ‘computer syndrome’ and began using a combination of techniques on my shoulder; there were elements of Thai and sports massage, some physiotherapy-type exercises, and he also included some reflexology. While chatting to me about the energetic blockages his perceived in my body, he started to press on the underside of my right middle toe. I almost shot off the couch! The pain was immense. Nodding knowingly, he continued with the pressure and assured me that soon it would ease. Impatiently, I gritted my teeth and tried to keep still, and sure enough after around a minute it completely disappeared. Pressing on the other toes in the same manner caused no pain whatsoever, so I asked what the problem was with the middle toe. He explained that this toe was linked to the left shoulder, hence the pain I felt when he touched it. He asked me to check my left shoulder and on moving it around a little I noticed that the pain had indeed lessened further.

Another therapist and healer had once suggested to me that I was carrying all my ‘intuitive angst’ in this particular shoulder. It seemed to make sense as I had noticed that it had seized more frequently during periods of stress. On occasion, after massage it wasn’t just physical tension that seemed to be releasing – I sometimes felt peculiar mixtures of emotions bubbling up to the surface. It reminded me of times where I’d felt enraged for no apparent reason during Bikram yoga sessions! Perhaps pent up anger and sadness were being released by the movements.

When we ‘brush it under the carpet’, where is it really going?

It is definitely not a new concept that we store unresolved emotions in the cells and fibres of the body. Asia and the Middle East have known this for centuries, but I am not sure how many of us Westerners give it much consideration on a day-to-day basis. It also stands to reason that these would not be positive emotions, because let’s face it - we never have any reason to keep those in! Society doesn’t find them unattractive and they don’t seem to bring much conflict to the door.  So where does it go when we don’t express it? There is a lot of evidence to suggest that negativity is affects the physical body. If you become enraged, cortisol (and/or adrenaline) flood into the blood stream, and too much of it can break down muscle, bone and connective tissue. If you bang your head hard enough, you might feel a sudden uncontrollable rage well up from your solar plexus. The Alexander Technique is famed for its releasing of energetic blockages through correct alignment of the body. With this can come strange physical sensations and floods of emotion. Cranio-sacral therapy has been known to assist in the proper release of pent-up emotions, and Reiki has prompted many patients to burst into unexpected tears.

Do therapists have a responsibility to understand this process?

We all know about the damage done by poor posture or too much exercise, but how much do we know about the effects of negative thinking and unprocessed emotional challenges? We could argue that psychotherapists would be more equipped to deal with this, but surely that isn’t going to release tension held within the organism itself. What if it could be more quickly and easily released with strategic massage? With the right training and knowledge, we could benefit our clients immeasurably and probably increase our client base in the process. Would you like to see more options for this level of training in massage schools? How important is it that massage therapists train in this kind of knowledge? And do we have a responsibility as therapists to understand the ways in which we could be triggering latent emotional traumas that clients weren’t ready to address?



Lisa Rose
Lisa Rose


Massage Table Size Guide

Massage tables comes in many different shapes and size. It can be confusing for you, the customer, to choose the right one but we are here to help!

A lot of customers call us up after they have bought the wrong size massage table elsewhere and we would like to help you avoid this mistake. It normally goes something like this; they like the look of a picture of a massage table on a website, they like the low price and then they check the carrying weight is ok. If the carrying weight fits their needs they click add to cart and the new massage table turns up at their doorstep in a few days. They unfortunately assume all massage tables are pretty much the same width and size.

The standard size of a massage table is 28 inches wide (71cms) and 73 inches (185cms) long. One of the reasons many "lightweight" budget massage tables are so cheap is because

  1.  They are smaller in size (normally around 61cms wide) and as such have less materials
  2. They are sold by specialist retailers who also sell anything else they can import and turn a profit on. As such they just buy the cheapest massage tables they can find in China. They go for smaller sizes as they are cheaper.

Make sure the massage table is the right size for you and your clients as the narrow massage tables at 61cms can be very uncomfortable for anyone who isn't petite and many clients cannot relax with their shoulders and arms unsupported.


The Width of the Massage Table:

Almost all therapists choose the standard 28 inch wide massage table. All our massage tables are the same length so it is only the width and shape our customers need to decide on.

Your massage table should be wide enough to cater for the wide variety of shapes and sizes of your clients. It needs to be wide enough to comfortably accommodate your treatment style, while being narrow enough to ensure you don’t have to strain your own back during treatments.

Each therapist's postural training and ability is different, so only you will know what massage table width you can handle. We have spoken to therapists who are five feet tall and get the wider 30 inch massage tables, and we speak to six foot therapists who have back problems and go for a 25 inch wide massage table. Everyone is different.

Generally speaking, if you are of smaller stature, you may do better with one of the narrower 25-inch massage tables. If you're quite tall, or are particularly keen to offer your clients a very spacious experience, a 30-inch massage table might be more suitable.

If you are in doubt, see if you can go into your local training college and see whether the massage tables there suit you. However, there is another way to get a feel for what will work of you don’t have access to a couch when you are deciding:

Cut out a piece of cardboard to the dimensions of both sizes you are deciding between. Put it on top of the kitchen table and lean over it. Visualise a client lying there, and see which width will suit you and your client best.

measuring the width of a massage table

Make sure you can get close enough to the table that you can pivot at the waist and have your shoulders squared to the clients hips, with your hands parallel to the clients' spine. Working in this position will ensure an injury-free career, so it's an important factor in your decision.

The most popular massage table widths are 28 and 30 inches. We sell 25-inch massage tables but you should really only choose this width if you are shorter in height and having a wider massage table might put your own back at risk over the course of your career.

You can also choose the 25-inch if you want to have the lightest massage table possible. By reducing the width of the massage table, the weight is also reduced. Now, this can mean a trade-off of some client comfort, but this trade is often worthwhile if you are a fully mobile therapist and use public transport frequently, where saving a kilogram or two will make a difference to you over time.


The Height Of the Massage Table

Nowadays, almost all portable massage tables come with height adjustable legs. Whichever massage table you choose should come with a large height range to accommodate you, and to cater for a broad range of therapies.

A common height range of massage tables is between 60 to 80cm, and this height range should cater for everyone. To check which height you need your massage table to be at follow this rule of thumb:

1. Stand up straight with your hands by your sides. Clench your fists.
2. Measure the distance between the floor and your knuckles
3. This distance should equal the height of your massage table.
4. Add a few inches in height to allow for the body of the patient on the massage table.

The height of a massage table is usually only adjusted when different therapists are using the same massage table, or if you have a client that is outside the average size you normally treat. So for example, if someone with a lot of body depth comes for a treatment after an average size person, you may need to adjust the height a notch or two.

You should be able to adjust the height of a massage table in just 2-3 minutes. Even though you mightn't adjust the height very often, the faster the better when you do have to!

There are 2 types of height adjustment mechanisms found on modern massage tables.

1) Twisting knobs (found only on wooden massage tables):

If you are working with a wooden massage table, it is better to have two knobs on each of the four legs for greater strength and reliability. When buying online, make sure to check how many knobs are on the legs. Cheap massage tables often only have one knob, and when you raise the legs to the highest heights they are less stable and have been known to snap.

2) Telescopic push-buttons (found only on aluminium massage tables):

The mechanism to adjust the height of an aluminium massage table is much the same as the push-button method on aluminium crutches. It only takes a few seconds to adjust each leg, and the mechanism is very reliable. Check out the video to see how it’s done.


Massage Table Shape:

The following are the different shapes of massage tables on the market.

1. Rectangle shaped with square corners 

This is the traditional shape of a massage table and the one you are probably familiar with seeing. Our Combi-lite 3 in 1 and Affinity Portaflex are shaped like this.

2. Rectangle shaped with rounded corners

Same as no 1 above in every way except the corners are rounded. Does not affect function in any way, just a different design/look.


3. Hour glass shaped with gradual gradient 

A fabulous massage table innovation in recent years, which solves a lot of the problems around choosing the correct width is the hourglass shaped massage table.

This style of massage table is wider at the ends, and tapers somewhat at the middle. This provide a spacious and comfortable experience for your client (as the shoulder and feet area are 30 inches wide) without compromising your own posture and health, as the middle of the couch where you lean over is a much narrower 26 inches wide.Having recently upgraded to one of these hourglass massage tables myself, I can vouch that my working days are much more comfortable, and many of my clients have commented on the extra comfort from the wider shoulder area.


4. Hour glass shaped with sharp gradient
Same as point above but instead of the it gradually going from wide to narrow, the massage table changes quickly from normal width to narrow width so people of very short stature can get in close.
5. Oval Shaped

 The name says it all! There are no corners on the massage table. Therapists normally choose this for one of two reasons. They simply like the look of this massage table and it is aesthetically more pleasing in their treatment room and/or they find it easier to move around the massage table during the treatment without having to side step the corners. This is particularly handy when space is limited in your treatment room.

oval massage table


Have any questions or comments about anything above? Please let us know in the comments below!