If you've been reading my column lately, you know that I've been feeling the pinch of stress from some major life changes. And it hasn't taken long for that pinch to become a literal one. My neck has been feeling incredibly stiff and I find myself sitting at my desk with my shoulders creeping up to my ears. So when Tif emailed me a couple of weeks ago to ask me if I would be willing to come in for a Bodyboosters session with her--to potentially review it for the blog--I was shocked and elated and felt like someone out there knew I was in desperate need of a massage. Something I was putting off for a number of reasons. So, I promptly agreed.
But, after the initial excitement, and perhaps hasty decision to accept, I started getting a little concerned. First of all, it's Tif. She is arguably the most intimidating instructor on the Lithe roster--in my opinion. I wasn't exactly sure how her no-nonsense attitude in the studio would transfer into the tranquil space of a massage room. And not only that, what if I hated it? (I've had a lot of massages in my day, and am actually pretty picky about them.) And now I had agreed to write a review one! How would I explain that I didn't feel comfortable writing about it, if it was actually terrible? I was starting to get anxiety about a massage--something that was supposed to relieve the effects of anxiety. Oh the irony (and oh, my ability to get anxious about just about anything).
I decided to be upfront with Tif and let her know about my reservations. She didn't bat an eyelash and told me that I wouldn't have to write the review if I didn't enjoy it or find it helpful--while adding she highly doubted that would be the case. And obviously--since you are reading my review--she was right.
If you've ever taken a class with Tif--particularly Melt--one of my favorites--and one of the reasons I should've known my reservations about the massage would be proven wrong--you know that she knows the body. She doesn't just say to put the small yellow ball on your upper back, she tells you to roll it up and down the cervical spine, or to place it directly under your C3 or C4 vertebrae. She refers to your trapezius and where your muscles "insert and attach." She knows how the body is put together and how all the muscles work, and this translates into her work on the massage table.
When I first arrived, she asked me to tell her a bit about what was bothering me. I explained about my stress and anxiety, how I thought I had maybe pulled a muscle in my leg in Thigh High the week before, and where I was feeling the most tense and tight. She was unbelievably warm, attentive and asked me some pointed questions to really understand what exactly I needed. Something I really appreciated.
The room was really nice (and obviously super convenient since it's at the Old City studio). It was spacious, dimly lit and was playing the requisite relaxing music. Tif made me feel super comfortable, left the room and let me get situated. I hung up my clothes on some hooks on the wall and got on the table. When she came back in, she spent the first few minutes doing something I hadn't had before in a massage. She starting pulling my muscles apart--for lack of the appropriate terminology. She put her hands on either side of my spine, and just gently began pulling the muscles in opposite directions. She did this around my shoulder blades, my hips, and around my neck. Everywhere. And it was heavenly. She hadn't even really started, and already I felt an enormous release and relief in my back.
Then she got to work. Finding tense, knotted muscles and firmly, but kindly working them out. I just kept thinking...this woman knows what she's doing. Because let's face it, unless you're totally inept, it's tough to give a bad massage. It always feels good when someone is rubbing you down. BUT, I've definitely had massages where I've felt like the person was only doing just that...rubbing me. That there was no attention being paid to tightness or problem areas. And I suppose that works for people that want a purely relaxing experience, but I like my massage to actually be a therapeutic experience that not only relaxes me, but also helps me repair and rebuild the muscles I work so hard in life.
Clearly, I had come to the right place. Tif checked in with me periodically to make sure I was ok, which I also appreciated. When it was time to turn over on my back, she impressed me even more when she started massaging my right leg and asked me if that was the one I had pulled (I hadn't specified). She said she could feel it, and could tell it was inflamed. She gave me some advice on how to care for it, and it truly felt worlds better the next day.
I will say that Tif's services are not the same as a massage at your favorite high end spa in town (although she's worked at those places too from what she told me). You're not going to get a fluffy robe, or a menthol steam before you lay on a table strewn with orchids. BUT, you will get body work (and a hot steaming towel across your entire back to begin) and some serious therapy from a highly trained massage therapist that knows the body in and out and knows your work out...and one who CARES. At one point, during the massage, she remarked that she could already see a difference between one side of my back--which she had been working on--and the other that she hadn't worked on yet--and then said, more to herself, than to me: "I love my job." And I smiled to myself because I knew it was true. You can tell that she really enjoys giving massage and watching the transformation she helps make happen in her clients bodies. She even followed up with me the next day to see how I was feeling.
I left her room feeling really limber, loose, and compelled to go back...and soon. So if you are feeling like I've been feeling and think you could really benefit from some body work, I think Tif is your gal. (She's really nice, I promise!)
See you in class!