Download PDF - Auth Method

MASSAGE magazine—reprinted with permission
Deep Tissue
by Shari Auth, L.Acu., L.M.T.
8 Steps to a
Sustainable Deep
Tissue Practice
efore starting my own practice, I worked in a
spa. A deep-tissue massage treatment was more
expensive than a Swedish massage, not only
because the spa knew they could charge more
for them, but because the therapists hated to do them and
the monetary incentive was an alluring perk. Most of the
therapists at the spa were women who found performing
deep-tissue massage exhausting.
I was a young and ambitious massage therapist, and a
full-time student. I wanted to make as much money as I
could in as little time as possible, so I eagerly took all the
deep-tissue clients.
Doing six deep-tissue massages a day, I quickly
learned the importance of developing a massage
technique that could make me a sought-after massage
46 | MASSAGE Maga zine | July 2014 | w w |
therapist as well as protect me from injury and
fatigue. Although athletic and young, no amount
of strength could allow me to continue doing that
much work and maintain balance and longevity. It
was during this time I discovered some insights to
performing deep-tissue massage with ease, as well
as realizing a few limiting beliefs about deep-tissue
Those limiting beliefs were: Deep-tissue massage
can only be performed by therapists who are big
and strong; deep-tissue massage is exhausting to
perform; and deep-tissue massage is painful to
All of these statements are false. With the right
tools and techniques, performing deep-tissue
massage can be comfortable for practitioners of
any size to perform, as well as relaxing for clients
to receive. I designed the Auth Method of Forearm
Massage to help professional massage therapists
enjoy longer, healthier careers. The Auth Method
is a massage technique that takes the practitioner’s
well-being into account, as well as that of the client.
It feels effortless to perform and great to receive.
Below are eight Auth Method tips for cultivating a
sustainable deep-tissue massage practice.
Use your body weight instead of muscular
force to engage the tissue. It isn’t necessary to
push into tight tissue. Instead, just lean against the
tissue. Use your body weight; tight tissue will melt
under the pressure. Pushing is exhausting and runs
the risk of working too deep. Any therapist, no matter
how strong, will be fatigued by the end of a day
spent pushing through tight tissue, whereas leaning
against tissue takes no effort at all—it’s just like
leaning against a table. It’s actually relaxing.
Work on a massage table low enough to drop
your body weight onto your client. In order
to effectively use your body weight to engage the
tissue, make sure your table is at the appropriate height.
If you’re rounding through your back, the table is too
low; if your shoulders are up around your ears, the table
is too high.
When working the sides of the body, make sure you
are standing slightly away from the table, so you lean
forward onto your client’s body. When working the
front or back of the body, make sure the table is low
enough to allow you to drop your body weight down
onto your client.
Benefits of Using
Your Forearms
Instead of Your Hands
Durability. The forearms are
more durable than the hands,
fingers and thumbs, so you
will be able to work longer on
your clients with less wear and
tear on the more delicate joints
of the hands. This means
increased career longevity.
Increased surface area
of contact. Because the
surface area of contact is
broader when using your forearms, you can massage more of your
client in less time. This is especially useful when working on larger
clients and larger muscle groups.
Forearms are the perfect tool for using your body
weight. When you lean on your desk at home, do you lean on
your thumbs? Probably not. Chances are, you lean on your elbows
or forearms. Forearms are naturally great for leaning into the tissue.
The forearms provide a sturdy base for your body weight, providing you with more leverage during your massage.
Forearms are less “pokey” than elbows. Elbows are
sharp and pokey, whereas forearms are broad and smooth. Be
sure to use the upper forearm, which provides more leverage than
using your middle or lower forearm.
—Shari Auth
Use your forearms. Use your forearms to perform
the majority of the massage. Reserve your hands for
long effleurage strokes, polishing off fingers and toes, and
massaging the neck, face and head. Massage the back,
hips, arms and legs with the forearms. There are many
advantages to using the forearms; with practice they will
become increasingly sensitive. (See “Benefits of Using
Your Forearms Instead of Your Hands,” above.)
Be patient—work layer by layer. By using
your body weight instead of muscular force, your
| w w | July 2014 | MASSAGE Maga zine |
forearms will naturally drop down to the first layer of
tight tissue. As tissue releases, you will drop down to
the next layer of tight tissue. If you work patiently layer
by layer, your clients will not resist and will experience
a pain-free yet deep massage. If your client resists your
pressure, you are working too deep; ease up on your
pressure to find and massage the most superficial layer of
tight tissue first.
Likewise, if you aren’t feeling tissue releasing under
your touch, you may be working too lightly. Don’t be
afraid to drop your body weight onto your client. You may
be surprised at just how much of your body weight your
client can comfortably accept. If leaning into your client
is new for you and you fear hurting them, practice with a
partner who can give you good feedback.
Work the area of real tension and pain, not just
the area where the symptom of pain is. Where
the client feels pain and the source of that pain can be
different. At times, clients will ask you to pound away on
an area of tension such as the lower back. These areas may
be so locked up that you feel like you need a sledgehammer
to soften them. I find that after I work the hips, the lower
back will release. The client may not have been aware that
her hips were even tight, because she was feeling the pain
in her lower back.
Oftentimes, the client can’t take very much pressure
at the true source of the pain. So, instead of spending a lot
of energy pounding away at a symptomatic area, treat the
source of the tension instead—this requires less energy
from you and is more effective for your client.
Put a muscle on the stretch to work deeper
without working harder. By putting a tight muscle
in a position that stretches it, the massage work you do
on this area will be intensified—but not because you are
working harder. By putting the muscle on a stretch, it
becomes more taut and more sensitive to massage.
Good body mechanics means being grounded in
the legs and relaxed in the upper body. I attended
acupuncture school shortly after finishing massage school.
In acupuncture school I was introduced to a nonviolent
form of martial arts called qi gong, which couples movement
with breath. In qi gong, the body can be likened to a tree
with imaginary roots coming out the soles of the feet,
the legs strong like tree trunks, and the arms loose and
bendable like tree branches blowing in the wind.
This is how you want to feel when performing massage:
strong in the lower body, with the knees bent, and relaxed
in your upper body. Keep your back straight, core engaged
and chest open. If working in a bent-knee stance is new
Exclusive Online Special!
MASSAGE Magazine
Only $1.25 Per Issue
For Expedited Service
FREE if You Act Now!
Order now and get
a music CD for free!
CD contains 74 minutes of soothing
massage music on 16 tracks
Call 888-883-3801
Order online:
48 | MASSAGE Maga zine | July 2014 | w w |
for you, you may need to lower your table a notch. In my
workshops and on my DVD, A Guide to Using the Forearms,
I teach simple qi gong exercises to encourage healthy
body mechanics while massaging.
Body mechanics are the key to our career longevity.
Good body mechanics make performing massage
effortless and keep our bodies feeling good. With good
body mechanics, performing massage can keep us in
shape rather than be a constant source of pain.
Use the breath. For most people, the breath is
unconscious. Most don’t really think about their
breath unless they are doing yoga, pranayama, or some
other practice that involves breath awareness. So, we will
often find our clients not breathing on the table.
Slow, deep breathing relaxes the mind and body and
is therefore a crucial tool for bodyworkers. Encourage
your client to breathe, even if it means breaking a relaxing
silence. Ask your client to breathe under your hands or
into an area you are working on. This increases circulation
to that area and also relaxes your client. As your client
focuses on his breath, he is, whether he realizes it or not,
meditating. Use his breath as a helpful and effortless tool
for deeper release of both mind and body.
Your career
There is much talk in the massage community
about building a successful practice, but what does it
matter if you are too tired, burned out—or even worse,
injured? Learn to work smarter. Take your own body into
consideration as well as that of your clients.
By using the forearms in addition to the hands,
massage therapists gain another tool for doing massage.
More tools mean more options and, hopefully, a longer
Shari Auth, L.Acu., L.M.T. (, is a
licensed massage therapist and acupuncturist, and is
certified in the Rolf Method of Structural Integration. She is
the founder of the Auth Method and has a full-time practice
in New York, New York. Auth is a National Certification
Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork-approved
provider, and has designed a 20-CEU home study course
on forearm massage. M
$159 Liability Insurance
 Liability Insurance - Professional & General
$2,000,000 per occurrence, $3,000,000 annual individual
aggregate— $2,000,000 Products and Completed
Operations individual annual aggregate.
 Rental Damage Insurance $100,000
+ PLUS Identity Theft Protection Insurance $25,000
+ PLUS Stolen Equipment Insurance $1,000
FREE Business Website
ONE POLICY COVERS: Massage • Beauty Disciplines •
Yoga, Pilates, & Dance Instruction • Reflexology • More!
2 easy ways to get instant coverage
2 1.800.222.1110
| w w | July 2014 | MASSAGE Maga zine |