A Three-Part Series by Michael Alicia
For me rhythm has always been a part of massage. Having been a dancer, I think of massage like a dance with choreography. Each session is like a story with a beginning a middle and an end. Music is often also a part of the massage experience I create for my clients, sometimes lyrical and relaxing, sometimes upbeat and energetic. Having also studied architecture, I have found parallels between the architectural elements of buildings and the structural elements of the body- arches, columns, trusses. For all of these art forms, massage included, rhythm is a unifying theme. I would even venture to say – All Art has Rhythm.
It is easiest to hear rhythm in the beat of music, as it is notated and defined by the time signature at the beginning of each musical stanza. Dancers and choreographers use rhythm and the beat of the music to keep time and to help tell a story. Literature, too, has measures like music in the form of chapters that give a book structure and meter, but the rhythm is more likely told in the type of story being told and how the plot unfolds. Poetry, like song, uses meter to convey a mood, tell a story or elicit a response. In architecture, rhythm is observed in the patterns of how architectural elements are arranged, like a symmetrical row of columns or the juxtaposition of windows and spaces on the facade of a building.
Rhythm is created and defied by patterns and meter and how the artistic elements are arranged. Rhythm becomes an integral part of how art is perceived and received. This is an important concept for engaging in massage. First, by recognizing that massage is an art form (and a science). And second, by realizing that how massage is delivered, metered out, has everything to do with how it is received. So next we might recognize that artists, massage therapists included, need, first and foremost, to Know Their Audience. This translates to Meet your Clients Where They Are and give them what they want. If our client arrives in a yang state we need to match their energy and so our rhythm will be faster at first. If they arrive in a yin state we find a slower rhythm that matches theirs. All Rhythm wants to find Balance. Ever notice how when music plays we find ourselves, whether consciously or unconsciously, tapping to the beat? We need to start our sessions by finding a rhythm that harmonizes with the rhythm that walked in the door. What comes after, the story we tell, the dance we perform, the choreography we create in our session, will have its overriding intention and its individual elements (strokes and stretches) for creating a unique piece of art using rhythm to communicate and harmonize the energy in the body.