Our bodies are designed to respond to nature. There are simple ways that you can bring nature into your studio. Even seemly basic additions to your studio can trigger an innate relaxing response in the body.
• Nature sounds. Listening to the sounds of naturerelaxes our nervous system. You can bring the relaxing sounds of nature into your session by playing ambient sounds like the sounds of crickets or ocean waves before and during your session. A water fountain can produce this same effect.
• Photographs of nature. When we look at photographs of nature, our bodies recover from stress more quickly.Have nature artwork on your walls, or place a nature photograph on the floor under the face cradle. Decorating with other elements from nature, like stones and decorative wood, can give your studio a more natural feeling.
• Plants. Even though we no longer live in the wild, being around plants can help make us feel like we are part of the natural world. Decorating your studio with living plants can be healing for your clients. Plants release natural chemicals called phytoncides that boost our immunity. There is natural bacteriain the soil that decrease stress levels and gives you an uplifting feeling.3
• Aromatherapy. Give your client a choice of aromatherapyfor their massage. Let them choose between blends that represent different places in nature, like a forest blend, or an ocean blend.
• NatureBody™ Meditations. You can play pre-recorded guided nature visualizations during your massage. NatureBody™ massage stories integrate massage music, ambient nature sounds, and relaxing guided meditations to transport your clients to a natural, relaxing setting where they can visualize their body unwinding in nature. Playing NatureBody™ massage stories during your session is a nice way for both you and your client to partake in the experience, together.
You can influence your client’s powerful brain to help their body relax and recover more thoroughly during their massage session. Visualization works.
Giving your client cues to help them relax, enhances your session in several ways.
Talking quietly to your client gives them something to focus on, so they can quiet their thoughts and be more present in the moment. Your soothing massage voice helps your client relax more deeply.
In a very relaxing way, you are teaching your client how their muscles are designed to function and how their body is meant to move. You are guiding them to a deeper understanding of their body. The images you give them stay in their minds. They leave their session with concepts that they may remember for the rest of their lives.
One of my favorite visualizations was when back in massage school. My teacher, Jon Hart, got excited when he talked about watching an Olympic athlete run. He described how the athlete’s leg muscles would flop between foot strikes. The athlete’s muscles would tense strongly for that one moment, and then return back to relaxed between contractions, even in the middle of competition. I still remember this image 21 years later. I visualized this athlete moving like a gazelle; leaping and running at 40 miles an hour, and sprinting at 60. Every time I run or massage someone’s legs, I picture the gazelle. What a beautiful vision to share with a client who is getting back into jogging, or loves their morning runs. (P.S. if you don’t like being the prey, you can visualize running like a cheetah instead.)
Our knowledge as professional healers is the link people need to understand their own bodies. In massage school, we learned about the nature of the body and how to communicate effectively with clients from all walks of life. We can use descriptive images to help convey our healing information in a simple, easy-to-understand, and memorable way.
Just as you cater your massage techniques to your client’s body, you can also speak with language and images tailored to their interests. You are in a special position to give your client a memorable and customized experience.
When you use descriptive language and vibrant images during a massage, your client recognizes that you are tailoring their massage into a special experience, designed just for them. The care you are putting into your work is becomes more evident to your client.
As with all things, the best, most transformational massages begin with listening and observing. Listen to your client before every appointment. Observe how they are talking, moving and breathing as they tell you what they want from their session with you. Get to know how they use their body, and how they want to use their body. What kind of transformation are they looking for? What images and examples might resonate with them? It is up to you to make the connections. Use imagery that relates to your client’s experiences, to describe your concepts.
Many people do not like to talk during their massage sessions, especially about unrelated topics. However, we have found that clients thoroughly enjoy hearing us talk to them about their bodies. They are interested in our insights and curious about what sensations they are feeling. Realistically, the talk does not last very long before they drift into relaxation.
• Be intentional. Think first, then speak. What comes to your mind after hearing the client’s needs for the day? As you work on your client, let the textures and movements you are observing inspire you. Share some ideas as your client relaxes.
For example, if your client’s shoulders are part of your massage plan, describe your favorite shoulder concepts. Help them visualize their shoulders moving fully and freely.
You can relate ideas like spreading your wings or swimming. These concepts give your client’s busy mind calm, effective material to focus on.
As they surrender to relaxation, their mind is filled with colorful, positive images of how their body can move, and how their tissues can feel. You are helping them set goals for their body.
• Quiet your voice. Guide your client into relaxation with a low, quiet voice. Some clients will listen intently to what you say. Others will let your words wash over them as they drift in and out of consciousness. (Their unconscious mind is listening, too.)
• Let your voice be part of the serene, tranquil setting you are creating. And know when to be silent. Give your client time to absorb each thought before introducing the next idea.
• Complement your massage with your voice. Let your hands and your voice complement the imagery you are trying to convey. You are communicating with your clientthrough both voice and touch. Your client’s mind and body are responding to the conscious and unconscious input they are receiving.
• Pause. Be silent between sentences. Give your client the time to physically absorb and respond to the concepts you are introducing to their bodies.
• Work with their body. Help your client understand what a relaxed muscle feels like. I frequently describe muscle bellies with the image of water balloons: soft and floppy. Even fun language like “floppy” can make a client smile. Happiness is a welcome form of relaxation.
Give yourself time to think of the images that go best with the muscle you are working on. It is up to you to find the connection with your client. When I work on a client’s metatarsals, I describe the feeling of their feet conforming over the natural earth as they step on uneven ground. I describe their toes as being loose and receptive, like antennae.
• Use all the senses. Visualization is more memorable when you make it descriptive, colorful, vivid, and creative. Try to incorporate as many senses as you can in your descriptions.
• When your client has drifted off. If your client has fallen asleep, you can continue to visualize their balanced body moving freely. You can continue to speak quietly. The joy and power that you feel through the visualization is being communicated to your client. Holding the visionhelps shape the way your touch is delivered.
A visualization to open your chest and stand taller: Imagine you are floating in a placid lake, watching the clouds move across the sky. Your ears drop back into the water and you listen to the sounds underwater. Your chest rises above the surface as it opens and expands. Your spine is growing longer as you float. Your legs rest down into the water.
Our clients are excited to experience something new and healing during their sessions. They are honored when they experience the care you are putting into their sessions.
Guiding them with words, images and intention gives them something to aspire toward. You are offering your clients hope, positivity, and healing through massage and visualization.
Erik Krippner, LMT, and Faye Krippner, LMT, have been practicing massage together, side-by-side, for nearly 20 years. They are the creatures of NatureBody™ massage stories, helping people relax and heal through guided visualization and self care. Find out how you can use visualization in your practice, and listen to a free NatureBody™ meditation at aquaterramassage.com/lmt/free-meditation.
1. MacMillen, Amanda. “Why Nature Sounds are Great for Relaxation.” Health, A Dotdash Meredith Company, 13 June 2022.
2. Dockrill, Peter. “Just Looking at Photos of Nature Could Be Enough to Lower Your Work Stress Levels.” ScienceAlert, 23 March 2016.
3. Schlanger, Zoe. “Dirt has a microbiome, and it may double as an antidepressant.” Quartz, 30 May 2017.