Photo: Miljan Zivkovic/Shutterstock
Lying down for a massage should send you straight to nirvana. Which is why it's particularly frustrating when your mind races with worries about your body and your unshaved legs to the point that you just can't relax. So we wondered—as you probably have—what the massage therapist really thinks when she's working her magic on your back. Here, seven massage therapists and one former spa manager dish on what they wish you knew and what they wish you'd just stop worrying so much about. (Related: The Mind-Body Benefits of Getting a Massage)
We don't care about your hairy legs—promise.
"The most common comments I get from women are, 'I am so sorry I didn't shave my legs,' and 'I'm sorry, I'm really due for a pedicure.' Let me tell you, it does not bother us to massage your stubbly legs. We massage men's legs, so why would a woman not shaving bother us? Not to mention, as a woman, who wants to shave every day? Not me! As for feet—as long as they're clean, we don't care if they feel a little rough or your nail polish is chipping. So feel free to relax and enjoy your massage!" –Kelly Pellegrino of Reflections Center for Skin & Body
Our #1 goal is to help you relax.
"Massage therapists are masters of illusion. We go to great lengths to keep you in a relaxed state of mind—holding in a sneeze to the point of tears, trapping spiders, and contorting into positions to reach a lotion bottle that has slid across the floor, all while keeping contact with the body. While working at a mountain resort, I even had a coworker trap a mouse during a session! All the while, the guest is blissfully unaware of any disturbance." –Jonna Slade, Spa at JW Chicago
We're not judging your body.
"I've been massaging for almost a decade now, and the only 'hidden' thing that I would want my clients to know is this: I'm not judging you in the way you think I am. While I am not blind to issues—I can see that huge mole as clearly as anyone else—I am not horrified by it at all. People apologize constantly about their bodies. Many women apologize for unshaven legs, to which I reply, 'I didn't shave mine either, so we're even.' While I'm massaging, there is so much information being processed by my fingers that my mind is preoccupied. I just wish people could stand in my shoes for a day and see how lovely their bodies really are. Each person's muscles open a world of possibilities for them." –Kristie Garduño of Clients Kneaded Massage Therapy
Surprise couples' massages are rarely a good idea.
"I was a spa manager in my early 20s and heard constant complaints and comments from massage therapists. Here's a tip: Don't surprise your S.O. with a couple's massage! Make sure he agrees to it ahead of time. I saw guys get so angry and flat out refuse to get the massage. Guys usually get boners during a massage, and all of us at the spa believed this is why they turn them down." –Liz Guidone, massage therapist, Connecticut
Don't drink and massage.
"Alcohol and massage do not mix. Alcohol in certain amounts acts as an anesthetic, which means what doesn't necessarily hurt during the treatment may leave you feeling pretty beat up the next day. Also, if you are pretty buzzed, we may refuse treatment due to liability issues. You need to be of sound mind and able to communicate to receive a treatment. So save your glass of wine for afterward. " –Ashli Carnicelli of The Skincare Belle
Ridiculous stuff happens on the reg.
"One of our regular clients came to our spa for a 60-minute anti-stress massage. As the massage began, soft new-age music started playing in the background. Both the client and the masseuse were blending into the music. About 30 minutes into the massage, the client began to fall asleep. The background music shifted to birds tweeting. The client jumped up and, in the nude, was screaming, 'There are birds here! I hear birds!'" –Anna Pamula, Renu Day Spa
Things can get emotional.
"I was giving a very interesting client her massage. I was doing some trigger-point work and all the sudden she went quiet. Then, I heard a wail-sob that was heartbreaking. She was crying so hard that I could see the tears dropping onto the ground from the face cradle. I asked her, 'Are you okay? What's wrong?' Choking through tears, she told me that she's a man transitioning right now and it's her hormones. You will hear the most intimate stuff and be like a therapist sometimes! I just told her to 'let it out, it happens all the time.'" –Ashley Wirtz, massage therapist, California
It's normal to fart.
"Don't mind farting! The body reacts in different ways to massage work, and one of them is that it helps to relieve digestive stress so the system can do its job. I think of it being similar to when the stomach growls—it's a sign of the body relaxing!" –Heather McCandless of Relevant Bodywork