This weekend, Ruth & I went to London for a short course in massage. After hitting up a couple of geocaches in the beautiful Holland Park, we trotted into Notting Hill and met up with the woman who was to show us a variety of different ways to massage a variety of different body parts. “This is going to hurt,” the instructor warned us, as we sat ourselves down alongside the other two students – a Spanish couple about ten years older than us – and introduced ourselves. “We’re going to be experimenting with the extremes of hard and soft pressure to understand when each are useful and to find the middle ground. If you don’t wince at least once during that process, then your partner is doing it wrong.” She wasn’t kidding. At one point, I remember musing over whether the instructor might run an S&M dungeon on her days off. I think it was right after she said, “Come on; I want to see red marks!”

A variation on the 'S' move, common to hand and foot massage. As opposed to the 'M' move. Hang on... these moves are called 'S' and 'M'...? Seriously?

Feet, hands, shoulders, heads, backs… we took a tour of the body, swapping over from time to time to alternate who was the masseur and who was the… masseuee? Apparently I was the star pupil and picked it up quickly, but I may have had an unfair advantage because I’ve got “just the right kind of thumbs” for massage – they’re fat and straight, which is apparently ideal. So if the world of software goes belly-up when we someday invent computers that can program themselves, at least I now know that I could retrain as a massage therapist.

It’s a profession for which I’ve discovered a new-found respect. Massage is hard. Surprisingly harder than it looks. Despite her slender arms and shoulders, our trainer had a hell of a grip and a lot of upper body strength: emulating the level of pressure that she was able to apply was incredibly challenging, and by the second time that we were switching positions, I’d begun to work up a bit of a sweat. In my case, at least these bouts of exercise were punctuated by getting a nice relaxing massage (or, at worst, being used as an experimental punching bag), but for a professional masseur there’s no such relief.

All in all, it was a fun afternoon/evening out. We learned some enjoyable skills and got the chance to practice them under expert guidance. Once I’d learned to think of the rhythm and looseness as being similar to drumming (“What is that? 3/4 time?”), I really got a knack for loosening up back and shoulder muscles with hand-tapping. And Ruth learned to do an awesome hand massage trick using her knuckles.



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