Sharing Touch and Massage in A Yoga or Movement Class
I love sharing some mini-massage treatments during relaxation at the end of a class. It’s such a lovely way to connect and share some mindfulness and meditation. But, in the past I’ve got about it in a very clumsy manner, with good intentions but not enough consideration.
I am preparing to teach a Thai Yoga Massage Taster online through Zoom for the first time this week, and some of the yoga or movement teachers attending may be taking the techniques they learn back to share in their classes. So, with that in mind I thought I’d share a few quick notes about sharing touch, and especially massage, in a movement class:
The use of consent cards* will give students the ability to choose whether they wish to be touched or not in class, and in which portions of class. For instance, students may wish not to have technical adjusts or assists in their asana practice but may wish to have relaxing touch during finishing poses and relaxation.
I would also recommend asking again for consent prior to the time when you will be offering massage – Ideally have students opt in rather than opt out. Opt-in signals might be consent cards, or something simple like asking students who wish to have a little massage to put their hand on their belly. Again, assume that if they aren’t using the signal, they don’t wish to be touched.
Moving Around the Room
The use of touch in class, especially massage, is not a trauma-sensitive practice. Moving around the room and touching people, particularly when you may have dimmed the lights, can be very triggering for some. It may be helpful to note in your class information that you plan to offer massage during relaxation so that people can either choose a different class that doesn’t include touch, or can choose to practice relaxation in a different manner that feels safe for them, which may include remaining in a seated position, moving to a wall, or leaving prior to relaxation.
If you are sharing massage during relaxation, that usually means that you are offering personal attention to one student at a time while others are in relaxation or meditation. This makes communication about consent, comfort, and pressure challenging. Think ahead about how you might discuss these elements with the group prior to relaxation so you can ensure students can communicate their comfort and needs without disturbing the rest of the relaxing students.
During this Covid time touch is limited in our movement classes in order to protect everyone’s health. Follow your local health guidance about proper spacing, hygiene, PPE, safe practices in the use of touch. It may be that you are practicing these techniques at home or in one-to-one situations more at this stage, and hopefully soon we’ll be able to safely return to sharing compassionate and relaxing touch.