Massage as Poetry in Motion

Tim Sullivan is a yoga teacher and massage therapist in training. You can find him at and

You would struggle to find a massage therapist who doesn’t find it necessary to have some sort of relationship with the energetic body. It is difficult to deny that underlying the complex systems of circulation, respiration, and movement lie far more complex systems of energetic anatomy. Whether you’d call it chakras or meridians, these systems are often tangible not only to us, but more importantly, to our clients.

There are many different ways of connecting with these energetic systems, and often, mystic poetry can transform our inner experience in a heartbeat.

“O friend, understand : the body
is like the ocean
rich with hidden treasures.
Open your innermost chamber and light its lamp.”

With words like these from the 15th century poet Mirabai, your mind has the potential to go from extraneous details right into the interior of your own body. Whatever tension you as the therapist brings to the table needs to be softened as the journey of the massage begins. By simply coming back to this line, I often feel myself receptive to enter into a session.

And why not treat each massage as a journey? We, as therapists, are not simply moving through mechanical action, but rather, an intimate dance with the client’s energetic systems. In Patajali’s yoga sutras, one of the oldest yogic texts, the author says that each asana, or pose, requires sthira, or steadiness, and sukha, happiness or inner joy. While steadiness comes from a cultivated practice of grounding, sukha can be less tangible. As therapists, how do we cultivate our own sukha and more than that, how do we transmit sukha from our hands to the client?

Sometimes, a line such as Rumi’s,

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I will meet you there,”

can transform us into our more intuitive selves. We move beyond our attachments and judgments. At times, poetry can serve as the silver bullet that takes away fatigue before our fourth consecutive massage, or gives us inspiration to devote our energies to each and every client.

Encourage yourself to take poetry off the shelf and place it next to the massage table or next to your bed and allow yourself to find inspiration in these mystics with spontaneity. When you need that little thunderbolt of inspiration, pick up some Rumi and find yourself “fierce like a lion, tender like the evening star.” This becomes the art of living with sukha.

Your exploration into poetry doesn’t have to be from bygone eras, take the words of contemporary American poet Mary Oliver,

“You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.”

Bring the artful dance of sukha with you into your next session, and see if the poetry comes out through your touch.