Prepare your hands before giving PetMassage

Prepare your hands before giving PetMassage

Before you begin any exercise, you need to warm up. Stretch your body. Before beginning any project, you need to clean and prepare your tools. In canine massage, our tools are our hands. I’d like to share some ways to prepare your hands so that you can give your dog the most effective massage.

Many of the exercises I describe are from training workshops that I’ve attended in Aikido, Judo, Tai Chi, Qigong, Jin Shin do and Jin Shin Jyutsu. They are also variations of stretching techniques I practice in hand massage for humans. Variations are used with dogs in their massage.

PetMassage is a form of animal communication. The conversation goes something like this: you connect with the dog through some form of touch. It could be still touch or moving touch. Thumping touch, touch with light pressure, touch with deep pressure; lingering touch, fleeting touch, gentle, rough; touch with intention, and/or touch clouded with distraction. Your touch is your part of the conversation.

Every type and style of touch engenders a response from the dog. It could be in the coat, the skin, the connective tissue, muscles and tendons (body). Touch could trigger a holding pattern trapped in a memory (mind). Your touch might stimulate a deep-seated belief or behavior (spirit). Reacting to your tough is your dog’s part of the conversation.

Your hands sense the response and reply with another variation of touch; to which the dog reacts. Back and forth.  It is truly a conversation.  It’s absolutely and totally nonverbal.

What transpires is usually beyond our comprehension. Information is always flowing though. We can be sure of that.

Feng Shui your hands. You do not want anything on or in your hands to get in the way of whatever is flowing. Remove the clutter. Open passageways as well as you can.

Ideally, the conversation is open and comfortable; nurturing and life-affirming. The conversation, a type of talk therapy. We just don’t know what the subject is or how it’s unfolding. And that’s okay. As long as we don’t get in the way, whatever work the dog needs, at whatever level he is processing it, is getting support.

Honor the process. Take care of your hands and prepare them. All your skills and techniques flow through your palms and fingers. Your hands project your intentions. Each massage is a life changing event for your dog. Preparing your hands charges them our part of the conversation will be cleaner, clearer, and more coherent.

The first action you need to take is to wash your hands. Think of how distracting it must be to your dog to be inundated with the aromas of the sandwich you had for lunch. Or the scent of other dogs, or the treats you used for training. What about the cleaning solution you used on your office furniture. Dogs perceive their world using their senses. So, clear scents.

The next action is to warm the tissues. Rubbing your hands together creates heat. The action is called frictioning. Warm the skin deep to the subcutaneous blood vessels and surfaces of the fascia around the muscles. Rub the fronts, the sides and the backs of your hands. Friction up and down your forearms, elbows to the wrists and back.

Compression: Squeeze your palms and fingers, one at a time, working your way from the hand to the fingertips. This increases circulation and with it, receptiveness.

Joint mobilization: Twist your fingers, rotating each of the knuckle joints. Here is the way to mobilize your metacarpals, the bones in your wrist. Pronate and supinate: alternate turning your hands palm up to palm down. Notice the stretch to the muscles in your forearm and elbow. Mobilize the muscles and tendons in your hands, touching each fingertip individually to the tip of your thumb.

Stretching: Pull each fingertip straight out. If you are already flexible, pull them back. Be cautious pulling your fingers back, though; it could potentially hyperextend the tendons in your wrist. Avoid flapping your wrists up and down; this too can stress the tendon fascia.

Here’s the most important: Stretch your palms. Hold them out in front of you and draw your thumbs and little fingers back. Relax and repeat several times. Synchronize this palmar stretching with your breath. Each stretch expands with your inhalation; each relax contracts with your exhalation.

Dexterity: Wrist touching circles. Press your wrists together and make circles with your wrists on each other; your hands circling around each other. Widen the movement, making large circles with your arms and hands: over your head to in front of one shoulder, down to waist level, and over to in front of the other shoulder. Reverse direction and repeat. This engages the entire torso. It engages the entire body, since you must transfer your weight from one foot to the other to make the big circles.

Notice that you are smiling. It has that effect, too.

But, getting back to the hands; there is one more exercise that completes the charging of the hands this was not included in the video. Curl your fingers one by one into the base of your thumb and extend the other fingers. These are all finger positions used in mudras. Mudras are hand positions used in meditation that carry specific goals of channeling your body’s energy flow.

You are now more handsome than ever. With clean, flexible, charged, and openly responsive hands you’ll more easily palpate, and spontaneously respond to your dog’s non-verbal narrative.

Enjoy your conversations.

Please watch the YouTube version of this article:  Prepare your hands before giving PetMassage

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