Recently, after a few days of hiking and yoga, I was feeling tightness and straining in my muscles, so I took a trip to the Villas Health Center for a Sports Recovery Massage. I was running a bit late, so I didn’t have time to steam and sauna before the treatment, like I generally prefer, to loosen me up. When I entered the room, my practitioner, Liliana had me de-robe, lie face-down on the table, and select a scent for the massage oil. I choose rosemary because in my haste to get to the appointment, I stumbled into a rosemary bush and still had the uplifting, earthy smell on my mind.
This massage was very similar to the Ranch Classic (I wrote a blog about that treatment in October; you can read it here), but took it one step further by adding several assisted stretches, which I found very helpful. The heated table and blanket felt great on a chilly day and allowed me and my muscles to relax which was beneficial to getting deeper into the stretches to come.
To begin, Liliana assessed my spine to see what she was working with. She used subtle force and vibration to feel each vertebra and to notice the differences between the two sides of my back. Then, the real work began. She started with my legs, using long, straight strokes down my calves, and shorter, more kneading strokes across my hamstrings. I could feel the down-dogs lingering in my legs, and as she massaged, my muscles finally released and became the lazy dogs I was hoping for. When she got to my feet and started pressing on pressure points, it felt so good to have the tension there freed.
When my legs were loose, she bent each at the knee, one at a time, propping my shins on her shoulder, to stretch my quads. She made sure to ask me where my limits were so my muscles wouldn’t spasm and there was no pain in my knees. With my legs bent, she re-massaged my hamstrings and calves, then flexed and circled my feet a few times to work out the kinks in my ankles.
Next, she moved to massage my back, neck, shoulders, and arms. Her strong hands stroked, kneaded, and struck along every surface, focusing on trigger points and areas of tension. For me, that meant most of her effort was spent on my neck. Try as I might, it seems like it is always tight. Luckily, the relaxing environment and loosening effects of massage generally help.
After inviting me to flip over onto my back, Liliana lifted each of my legs individually toward my face until I found my limit and held the stretch for a while, using her body as a backboard for me to rest my leg on. Then she folded my legs into a figure 4 stretch, once again asking for my input on how far she could go before she began massaging all my leg muscles in the new position. The way she folded the sheet before every stretch to not invade my personal space was like a choreographed dance. It was strategic, tasteful, and very appreciated. Our last stretch together was a spinal twist. I generally have trouble getting into twists by myself, but given her gentle pressure and guidance, this was one of the best ones of my life. I could feel it release the tightness in my hips and the effect was felt throughout my entire body. Bliss.
Then she moved back to my neck and shoulders to access the muscles there at new angles. She lifted me up slightly, supporting me under my scapulae, in a delicious heart opener. She worked on the tightness in the sides of my neck leading to my jaw, where most of my stress resides. I think I almost fell asleep; I was so relaxed! The jolt I felt when she lifted my skull away from my spine in a perfect occipital lift woke me up and left me smiling. That is one of my favorites and tends to be my most needed adjustment. It is not always possible for me because I find it difficult to relax, but Liliana made me so at ease that she got it on the first try.
With that, she announced that the treatment was finished and sent me on my way. I walked out of the room a little taller than I went in, and much less sore. I headed straight to the steam room to maintain the looseness for as long as possible and to help alleviate the feeling of tenderness the next day. Recovery, like everything, happens one day at a time. This treatment felt like a hundred steps in the right direction.
Thank you to Liliana and the entire staff at the Villas Health Spa for allowing me to try this treatment.