Health & Wellness: Body song

Rachael Angelese on getting the most out of massage

By Flora Tsapovsky

If there is such a thing as a one-stop shop for all of those new year aches, kinks and insecurities, that would be The BodySong Massage Center and School, a healing center and education temple in Novato. Rachael Angelese, founder, certified master healer, bodyworker and educator, isn’t a stranger to anxiety and fear of the unknown—in 2007, she was diagnosed with Stage IV Hodgkin lymphoma. Overcoming the scary disease led to shaping and honing new concepts in her practice: The Infinity Wave, attentiveness to the body’s energy cycles and rhythms, and the Golden Path, a teaching method in which students learn to “help the body go into a deeper state of unwinding, and can move stuck energy, allowing the system to regenerate.” The wave and beach connotations of these names aren’t accidental—Angelese grew up in New Zealand, and draws great inspiration from nature.

Along with massage programs and courses, BodySong offers custom massages by Angelese and experienced practitioners, as well as services—from coaching to hypnotherapy to acupuncture—by different specialists ready to tackle any mind and body problem that the shift into 2016 might bring. “My intent is to reach more

Rachael Angelese, founder of The BodySong Center and School, equips students with groundbreaking insights and skills.
Rachael Angelese, founder of The BodySong Center and School, equips students with groundbreaking insights and skills.

people than I am able to personally touch in my practice,” Angelese says, “to help more people connect to the heart of our being, to staying present with compassion, and trusting the unfoldment of our individual healing journey.”

Prior to the grand spiritual journey, however, it would be nice to figure massages out, once and for all. The most relaxing activity on earth doesn’t come naturally to many, and there are plenty of questions and confusions out there, from the right practice to those embarrassing tickles. Since Angelese, a massage therapist of 20 years, would be the perfect person to address them, we asked her a few—so that you don’t have to.

Flora Tsapovsky: How should I ask the therapist for what I need?

Rachael Angelese: “The massage therapist is there for you and the benefit of your healing. If you are experiencing too much or not enough pressure from the therapist or experiencing pain, please let them know. In my practice, I ask the client about the pressure being given, and listen for subtle cues such as the client’s breath, or hesitation in their answer to make sure they are receiving what they want from the massage.

“There should be no concern that you will offend the therapist, as we truly want your comfort so you can deeply relax and feel supported. Communicating openly with your therapist is important and appreciated for what you want or don’t want in a massage. With that being said, an experienced therapist will sense and know what is needed in the body that may differ from where you are experiencing pain.”

How do I find the right massage therapist for me?

“Just as each artist, musician and designer is unique, so is each massage therapist. With that in mind, finding the right therapist that resonates with you is important, and not one therapist fits all. With our toolbox of modalities and intuitive gifts, we each differ in styles and expertise. There are usually two common elements we each have, and that is the love of massage and the wish to help people. If you are not having an experience when you get off the table of feeling healed and uplifted, then keep looking for the right therapist for you, because it is a very personal choice.”

When and what should I eat before a massage?

“It is best to eat lightly one to two hours prior to receiving a massage, to allow for optimal digestion and comfort. Eating closer to the massage time, or a full meal may be uncomfortable, as the digestive system needs blood to digest food, and massage draws more blood to your extremities. Avoid eating sugar, processed or heavy foods, and drinking coffee or alcohol before a massage to help your digestion, nervous system and lymphatic system. Drinking water before and after is beneficial for your blood circulation and the lymphatic drainage of metabolic wastes from your muscle tissue. This will help your energy levels and prevent nausea.”

How do I know what massage is best for me each time?

“If a client comes to me with low back pain they have had for the past week, the session will be different than if they are coming to unwind and relax. For relaxation, opt for Swedish, Hot Stone, Lomi Lomi—using long soothing gentle strokes. For treating pain and specific conditions—Deep Tissue, or Trigger Point Therapy, Neuromuscular Therapy, Lomi Lomi—focusing on specific areas rather than massaging the whole body to relieve pain. For rejuvenation—Shiatsu, Thai Massage, Breema, Sports Massage, Lomi Lomi—improving the flow of energy in the body, improving flexibility, for athletes. Many therapists use an eclectic blend of techniques throughout the massage to customize to the client’s needs.”

How do I get the most from my massage?

“I always like to ask my client if there is anything in particular they would like from the session. It helps to know if the client would like me to work on certain areas such as their feet and hands, or to concentrate on the areas of pain and compensating muscles, or do they want a full body massage? This inquiry allows me to have an understanding of my client’s wishes for their session. If your therapist doesn’t ask at the check-in, please let them know before you get on the table.”

How much information do I need to tell my massage therapist?

“Certainly communicating any past and current injuries you have, pain you are experiencing and any other medical condition that may be necessary for us to know, such as cancer, vertigo, lyme disease, Parkinson’s, digestion imbalances, just to name a few. It is not necessary to share what you are going through emotionally. However, stored emotions may be released from your body in some sessions, and you may wish to share that you do want relief from a particular stressful time, or are experiencing grief, for example. We do not need to know the details at all, yet knowing the quality of emotion may be helpful for the therapist to support your releasing through touch.”

How can someone NOT love massage?

“Massage is not for everybody. Devoted clients who recommend massage to their friend or family member believing that a session would greatly help them, can be left baffled when the person does not follow through and make an appointment. There are many reasons why some people prefer not to be massaged: Being uncomfortable with being touched by a stranger, even if it is a professional therapist, sensitive to being undressed on a table, having ticklish areas of their body, and they feel instinctively protective, reluctant to feel the painful spots in their body or the fear of being hurt. Also, there may be stored trauma in the body. One thing I have learned from my own healing journey and my years of experience in this work is that we all have our own timing and readiness for this to heal. Whatever the reason may be, it is not one for us to judge or push. It is a very personal decision.

The BodySong Massage Center and School, 100 Professional Center Drive, #112, Novato; 415/308-3930;

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