10 April 2009


I went for a massage today.

I love getting a good massage. Touch is important! And massage lowers my stress (which gets carried in my neck--especially the left side) and keeps me healthy. And, it makes me feel GREAT--loose, languid and with a lower pitch to my voice.

However, my massage experiences in Russia have not been good. They're way too hard with lots of fast, fingertip action (ouch). There's no manipulating a tense muscle until it pops. There's no cheesy waterfall and pan pipe music. There is nothing relaxing, to me, about Russian massage.

Today I went to a spa (instead of having someone come to my house). I had booked an hour massage but asked that it be only on my back/neck/shoulders/head. The receptionist told me that they offered a back and neck massage that was thirty minutes. I said I knew that, but that I wanted the hour "relaxing massage". She said I could have two back & neck massages. I told her that was more expensive and that I wanted the relaxing massage. She made a phone call and seemed to sort it all out.

My "specialist", Tanya, came to collect me and take me to the treatment room. On the way we chatted about what I did, where I lived, and why I wasn't at work. Once in the room she asked if I wanted my legs done. I told her no. She asked about my arms. I told her I didn't need that. "Why?" she demanded. I took a deep breath (knowing that I looked like a deer in the headlights) as I mentally rushed through my Russian vocabulary to see if I could come close to "One time when I let them do my arms, they dislocated my elbow." I couldn't, so I just said, "It is painful." Big exhalation from Tanya, the specialist.

Now, I've had lots of massages (the best in Tennessee at the Institute of Healing Arts, some good ones in Helsinki and Cincinnati--though Cinci is where they dislocated my elbow--and mediocre but not painful ones in the UK). In every case, I've been left to disrobe--leaving on my knickers. This time, I was presented with sort of disposable panties to put on--made out of the same stuff that shoe covers are. Seriously, I looked like an idiot as she presented me a tiny package that contained a scrap of elastic with two tiny panels of tough kleenex to cover my front and (some of my) back. I had no idea what she was handing me. I almost brought it home so I could photograph it for you, but just couldn't bring myself to do that. Ick.

Tanya did ask several times during the massage if it was painful. And, she was always surprised when I said yes! (Could she not see me cringing away from her until I nearly fell off the table?) But, when I told her it hurt, she'd say, "That's bad." and move on to somewhere else.

What I decided today was that the objective of Russian massage is different than the massage I'm used to. I think Russian massage, even if it's billed as relaxing, is meant to increase circulation. Judging by the value Russians put in getting whacked with branches post-sauna, circulation is important here. And, since I was really itchy, I think it succeeded in that. But it's not quite what I had in mind.

While I was lying there I had the feeling that this was significant. That it said something about...I don't know what. Russian adoption? Living in a global world? Misunderstandings in general? We're both talking about "massage" but what we think massage is and what we think massage should accomplish is very different.

I'm back. I'm massaged. I still have knots in my neck and the muscles across my chest are still tight enough to be drawing my shoulders in. It didn't release that tension or drain my lymph nodes (that might sound gross, but it really helps to knock out a lingering cold). I do have great circulation. I guess.

I'm wondering what the Swedish massage--as performed in Russia--would be like. Maybe I'll give massage in Russia one more chance. And if that doesn't work, I'll wait for my next trip to Helsinki.


Tina in CT said...

And you had to pay for this....

Calico Sky said...

Thank you for the laugh, my back hurt for you! Having been to Helsinki several times I can honestly say it is not somewhere I've ever thought of having a massage...did I miss something great?

Tami said...

I have to say, I'm not a big massage person. I know everyone goes on and one about them, but I find the thought of a stranger doing that to me kind of creepy. I've given in to peer pressure a couple of times and had a couple of massages, but I just couldn't relax enough for it to really work.
Sad, huh? :)

Ron and Dinia said...

I had to leave a comment on this as we just moved back to the states in August after 4 1/2 years in Russia. I think one of the first Russian words I picked up was for painful during a massage in Russia.

Hope you are enjoying your time in Russia as much as we did.



Annie said...

I have to say - that sounds perfectly awful.....in fact, none of your massage experiences sound good. Dislocated elbow????? Good gosh! That would have put me off massages for good, if the one given me by a roommate where she pinched some nerve in my neck hadn't done that already. Wouldn't a nice relaxing sauna do it for you?

Annie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lauri said...

I like a more gentle massage... the last lady was thankful to give her hands a break.. or so she said.

She said she is used to clients liking deep pressure.... not me..

how in the world did they hurt your elbow... did they pull on your arm?