Within moments of meeting with massage therapist Abie Ansari of Hands On Massage, it became abundantly clear to me that not only is Abie extremely knowledgeable about the subject of therapeutic massage, but she also has an enthusiasm for her work which is both infectious and inspiring.
Having experienced two different types of massage from the broad range of treatments, Abie offers (both equally wonderful and effective), I can attest that from the initial consultation, right through to the treatment follow-up, Abie works in a way that is both respectful and reassuring and following my treatments, on each occasion, I left the clinic feeling relaxed with troublesome muscle tension eased – and enjoyed the best nights sleep I’d had in a long time!
Keen to learn more about Abie’s work, and her distinctive approach to massage we met up. Over coffee, Abie offered a great deal of insight into the benefits of massage therapy, explained her background and journey to becoming a therapist – and also dispelled a few massage myths along the way!
Can you tell me how and why you became interested in massage therapy?
For me, it just seemed to be a natural progression coming from a science background with a science degree and interest in the functioning mechanics of the body that led from studying anatomy to an idea that a great many stresses and strains of modern day life maybe alleviated or even prevented through therapeutic massage. So, it seemed normal that I would go into something linked; but it was important that it should have a holistic element. One of the things that appealed to me is that massage branches off into lots of different areas and I decided to focus on a few areas. I initially chose to focus on pregnancy massage, primarily because in the west there is a tendency towards viewing pregnancy as if it were an illness instead of a condition. There are a number of normal changes, and aches and pains associated with being pregnant, so I think for me, it was about offering a service which aims to normalize things, dispel a few myths and not just with pregnancy massage, but with massage in general. When you have clients approaching you, who are convinced that they have something really wrong with them, it becomes an educational forum to rationalize their fears, and help them understand that the human body does not always perform perfectly but, with therapeutic massage, the body can be encouraged to show progressive and sustainable improvements. It also offers a way to support, help and empower people in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. For example during pregnancy massage I am acutely aware of the need for a client to adhere to and communicate with her midwife and other medical professionals any changes, fears and apprehensions. Massage is very much an adjunct to other disciplines.
With all forms of massage it’s about the client taking time out for themselves and routinely taking care of their body. Whether it’s someone who is spending a great deal of time training in the gym, a client who is pregnant, or one that has perhaps lost a lot of weight; massage can be incorporated into this as part of the process. Assimilating this process can be seamless, and this is where I can help. It becomes a partnership between the client and the therapist, where I endeavor to teach each client ways in which they can help themselves, so in that way it also becomes an empowering process for them.
How would you explain the massage treatment/session process?
Upon initial contact, I take a detailed health history, so any concerns, misconceptions anyone may have about the treatment process can be discussed openly, honestly and any contra-indications will also be addressed. Additionally, it is important to understand the reasons for seeking treatment i.e. specific aches and pains, relaxation etc. This approach means that everything can be tailor made for that client and appropriate advice given. It also allows me to address any misconceptions there may be about the treatment, such as massage being unsafe during pregnancy or bamboo treatment being some sort form of brutal assault!
With any client that comes to me, if they have any concerns about their health, or conversely if I have any concerns that may give rise to a treatment being contra-indicated I will always recommend that clients seek advice from their GP prior to commencing any treatment.
During bamboo massage I use a compressed piece of bamboo of various lengths, which is gently heated, and rolled over muscles, much as I would use my arms and hands. The level and depth of pressure is altered to suit the client’s own tolerance and need, very much like deep tissue massage/ sports massage. For example if someone is looking for a relaxing massage it can be worked at a level similar to that of a hot stone massage, but bamboo massage also offers that bit extra as it means that I can work with all of the muscle groups, because of the way the bamboo is heated. For example I am able to work over clothing and it allows me to work on larger muscle groups like the gluteus muscle. Naturally, I am always aware and respectful of people’s dignity, but yes, it offers a way of working with all the muscle groups that isn’t always possible with other types of massage, without compromising the client’s privacy and dignity.
It’s also important to develop an open and positive client-therapist relationship where clients feel able to highlight that a particular area of the body feels tight, or they’re concerned about something and we can work together to address that, and hopefully see improvements over a number of sessions.
What would you say are the main benefits of massage?
Massage helps to improve or maintain suppleness and fluidity of the muscles, improve range of movement, which is important as humans we are designed to move, we are not supposed to be rigid and wooden. The muscles have an important job to do, they may be supporting the back, or supporting an arm so it’s important that flexibility is maintained, and the muscles can do their job. Massage can help prevent soft tissues strains or injuries – massage almost wakes the muscles up, so they can do that job without any restrictions or limitations. For example I may use massage to help break down scar tissue or prevent its build up, or maybe a client has poor posture so we maybe working to improve that with massage, stretching and lengthening muscles and providing lifestyle advice; all these things work together to improve alignment and massage is wonderful for preparation for or recovery from strenuous workouts. It can reduce spasms and cramping. It also improves the condition of the body’s largest organ – the skin.
Massage offers a fantastic way for people to have a little time out for themselves, to relax, and for some it’s that ‘hands on’ touch, which is so important. This is a big part of the pregnancy and baby massage work I do.
Baby massage, helps with bonding, helps to establish a routine with the baby (usually from about 6 weeks) in my classes, it’s a one-to-one process between the parent and the baby, I don’t massage the baby at all, and I use a doll called Tilly! I also offer a Dads group as I feel it’s important to have a Dad’s only session so that they have an opportunity to build support networks that they can link into, whether they’re a first time Dad or not.
What kind of feedback do you receive from clients?
I find that pregnancy massage clients come to me and say that they have enjoyed the best nights sleep ever and when can they book in again! The sense of relief for some of my clients is huge, it’s a special time and some aches and pains can detract from that and I feel my job is to assist with that.
I recently had client come to me for warm bamboo massage, who was a little skeptical stating that they were accustomed to a heavy sports massage. After an hour they left and I was so worried that nothing was said but the following morning I was touched to have received the following text…
“Hi Abie, just wanted to say that although I felt pummeled and viewed the bamboo sticks with horror and fear… I am a new person, no aches or pains, no bruising … I am booking again! Walking tall today!!”
I feel really touched that most of my feedback has been positive and it is quite humbling really…we all like a compliment! And additionally it helps me address areas that I may need to improve upon.
Abie currently works from the following locations:
Saltaire Therapy (Wednesday)
Skipton Spirit of Pilates (Thursday)
Ilkley Complementary Clinic (Friday)
Also starting at Neals Yard Leeds soon (Saturday)