I think deep pressure and relaxation are often considered antithetical to each other. Massage is often discussed as if it is either deep or it is relaxing and never both. Deep pressure and relaxation are inaccurately assumed incompatible with each other.
Sometimes prospective clients will ask me, “do you do deep pressure?” or “is your work therapeutic?” Relaxation is, I think, a fundamental part of any productive bodywork and so I am compelled to make relaxation a pillar of my work. I would even go so far as to say that therapeutic work has to incorporate relaxation to be effective at all. Depth of the work, then, is not a goal or a technique but something that comes about when a client is able to relax enough to allow for the pressure to go deep.
Relaxation, to me, represents an ability that I strive to develop in my clients. To be able to relax is what facilitates the use of deep pressure. To be able to relax is what allows for deep pressure to actually be deep.
Tense clients can’t handle deep pressure. It’s uncomfortable, if not painful, for clients who resist it - whether consciously or not. Clients will come to me apprehensive about being sore and bruised after a massage because they have experience or have heard of people experiencing deep pressure in their massage and being hurt by it. Worse is when clients come wanting the benefits of deep pressure without having developed an ability to relax that would allow for deep pressure to be used - expecting and desiring deep pressure without an ability to let go is setting oneself up to be unnecessarily sore and tender after a massage.
A careful and caring therapist ought to work with clients to help them relax, to facilitate their letting go, to allow them to accept and overcome the tenderness they are feeling and let the pressure work into the tissue at whatever depth the tissue allows.
Deep pressure, to me, is not something desirable in itself. To me, and this is something I muse about and consider while I work, is something that simply comes as clients open up and relax. It’s just where the work goes and only when the path is made open to it.