Breathing Technique to Quickly Relax Massage Clients

Are you looking for a fast way to get your clients to relax? Do you feel like the first fifteen minutes of the massage is wasted because it takes that long for your clients to calm down and settle into the massage?

This technique is a body saver for the therapist. Instead of fighting with the client’s tissue at the beginning of the session, you are simply standing in one place with your hands on the client and counting. Incorporating techniques like this into your massage therapy sessions can lengthen your career and demonstrate your versatility as a therapist. Work smarter, not harder, right?

This technique is designed for clients that have a difficult time settling into their own body and grounding. The client may be nervous about the session and they will most likely be talking about their family and friends more than they are talking about themselves. The type of person that can benefit from this technique is overstimulated by their life, so they have a hard time getting centered and grounded into their own body.

You cannot simply say to this type of client, “relax, empty your mind.” THEY CAN’T. They need direction. Mindful breathing gives them a job to do and something specific to focus on. If they do not have that guidance, their mind will drift to their to-do list or elsewhere, making it challenging for them to enjoy the massage. Taking a few moments at the beginning of the massage session with this guided breathing meditation will stimulate their parasympathetic nervous system and is time well spent.

4 – 4 Breathing Technique

  1. At the beginning of the massage, hold the client’s ankles and take an audible breath yourself. There are a few things that can happen here – so watch the client closely. There may be no change and they continue to breathe in a shallow and quick manner, they might take a deep breath, too, or they might be talking. If they are speaking, invite them to listen to the sound of your voice and launch right into the technique.
  2. Place your hand on the abdomen, or if the client is prone, their mid-back. Keep your hand soft and gentle and imagine the heat from your hand warming this space on the client. Do not press into the client – simply place the hand on the client with no pressure.
  3. Instruct the client to inhale for four counts and exhale for four counts. Count out loud as they breathe until you notice the body relaxing.
  4. As soon as the client relaxes, stop counting and continue your massage.

This is so simple, but it really works. I have used it countless times (pun intended) with my clients.

Other resources may suggest breathing techniques that encourage the practitioner to hold the breath. If the client has a strong meditation, yoga, or controlled breathing practice on their own, you can incorporate a four-count hold between breaths. However, if the client has a strong practice in any of these disciplines, they most likely will not need your guidance to help them focus. Make sure you know your client and only use the technique described here if the client is exhibiting signs that they are ungrounded and/or unfocused. You do not want to lead a client in a guided meditation that wants to do their own meditation. You should know where they stand by completing the intake process and being aware of the client’s mindfulness practices. This is one of the techniques we will be practicing in my massage continuing education class called The Breath – a Self-Care Exploration, where we use yoga, bodywork, stretches, and breathing techniques to relax and ground. You can register for NCBTMB approved courses here:

What to Say to “Tight” Massage Clients

OHMYGOSH. Your muscles are. So. Tight. You are just loaded with knots!

Has anyone ever said this to you? Have you ever said this to a massage client? 

A simple statement like this may seem like a great way to get repeat customers, but it can have a profound effect. I have had massage clients come to see me and tell me how “tight” they are because some massage therapist told them that they were tight 20 years ago. They can carry around this outlook with them for a lifetime.

Think about the long game. Truly educating clients on what you are feeling on a DEEPER level than just saying they are “tight” can help them tune into their own body. It can allow them to have an awareness of the sensations THEY feel and draw their OWN conclusions instead of basing the story of their body on someone else’s opinion.

While giving a massage, if you are feeling resistance from the tissue and find it necessary to talk to your client about it (which is totally ok), base your opinion of their tissue on a comparison to that client’s own tissue. Do not base your scale of tightness on all the clients you have ever worked on. There are tons of different types of bodies and tissues; you are doing yourself and your client a huge disservice by comparing their body to others. If, during the massage, you notice differences, by comparing one side of the body to the other or within a muscle, use words like “stagnation,” “stickiness,” and “blockage.” These words indicate movement is possible. They do not have the finality of “you are tight,” which implies an unchanging way of being. Then, talk the client through the process as you unblock that space TOGETHER, all while the client is breathing and moving with you to release the area. When you talk to your clients about their bodies, let them know that if they are “tight,” there is a way to change it. Clients can “loosen up” through lifestyle, physical activity, mindfulness, massage, stretching, and so on. This idea allows them to understand how fluid our tissue is and that our bodies CHANGE, moment to moment. 

Your clients are not “tight,” “knotty,” or “stuck.” They are in control of moving the stagnation that sometimes occurs in the body. Do not sign them up for a life sentence of tightness with your words. Empower your clients to achieve freedom, movement, and CHANGE in their body.

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If you enjoyed this post about finding the right words… watch this video that discusses what to say and do in embarrassing situations that can arise with your clients.