No matter what your reasons are for attending massage school, you are making an investment in yourself. If you take the steps now to get the most out of your education, it will be an investment that will continue to pay you dividends for years to come.
As a massage teacher, I see many of my students making the same mistakes I did when I was in school. Following is a distillation of the top 10 things I tell my students, so they can get the most out of their schooling.
1. Don't underestimate the necessary commitment. A good massage school is harder than most people expect it to be. Think about it: You are asked to simultaneously learn the vocabulary of anatomy (foreign for most people), the touch of one or more modalities, the proprioception of correct body mechanics, the communication skills of a therapist, the business skills of entrepreneur and the energetic presence of a healer. This is no small task and will require focus and discipline to achieve. Dedicate yourself and your schedule to it.
2. Get plenty of sleep. Adequate sleep is crucial to the learning process. Chronically getting fewer hours of sleep than what you require every night produces what is called sleep debt, and it severely diminishes your capacity to apprehend new material. Sleep at least eight hours every night.
3. Become engaged in your learning. These are lifelong skills you are learning and not just obligations to get you past your exams or national certification. The more you actively immerse yourself in the material, the more you will get out of it. You are solely responsible for your learning.
4. Ask lots of questions. If there's something you don't understand completely, make sure to ask for clarification. If your teacher can't clarify the point for you, ask another teacher or classmate. If you're still not satisfied, research it online or at your local library. Don't let anything slip past you. Sooner or later in your practice, you will work on a client with a specific issue and you will need to know that particular bit of information. Be persistent.
5. Think of your tuition as an investment. Massage school isn't cheap. If you've chosen the right school though, it will be worth it. You only have to pay your tuition once, but the skills you'll learn will pay for themselves many times over. Remember, nothing of value comes easily.
6. Don't be afraid to make mistakes. Keep in mind that you are engaged in a learning process and by definition do not know everything. As such, this is where you will make the most mistakes. I even encourage you to make mistakes. Try everything. You will not do everything right the first or second time you try it, but you will eventually. Your school and clinic are your laboratories where you get to experiment with everything you've learned. All you have to do is simply lean (don't leap) out of your comfort zone a little more each day; this is the only place where the real learning takes place.
7. Develop good study habits. Study regularly a little bit each day, and avoid waiting for one long cram session the night before a test. Experts say you need to spend two times your in-class hours studying each week. That means spending six hours per week studying the material covered in a three-hour lecture. Plan your study schedule each week and stick to it.
You may also want to start or join a study group. The conversation helps to keep you engaged in your learning, and teaching your classmates helps to reinforce the material for you. A study group also provides you with a couple of bodies to practice your palpation and touch skills on.
8. Work on your teachers. One of the best things you can do to help get the most out of your massage education is to work on your teachers or other massage professionals and ask them for specific feedback. Who else is better suited to give you the most constructive feedback on your technique? Fellow students aren't yet technically savvy enough to know what to look for and clinic clients have a tendency to be neither specific nor candid.
Many students are averse to work on their teachers. I'm not sure why this is, but my guess is they think they'll be judged if they don't administer a perfect session. I assure you, this is not the case. Your teachers are there to assist your learning, not belittle it. Be open to the positive feedback you receive and trust me, you will learn more in one session with a good teacher than in 10 sessions with someone else.
9. Don't underestimate the personal growth that will occur. I guarantee you will be a different person by the time you graduate. You can't go through such an experience as massage school and not grow on many levels. Sometimes that growth isn't always easy. You will receive a lot of therapeutic touch and that may bring up some issues for you. Above all else, remember always to be gentle with yourself.
10. Trust in yourself. Albert Einstein once said, "God does not play dice with the universe." That means everything that happens, happens for a reason. You wouldn't be in massage school unless you were meant to be there, which means it is within you to succeed. You have the capacity to be better than you think you are. Trust in that and strive for excellence.