Draping is the technique of uncovering only the part of the body that is being worked on during a massage. Draping allows you to be totally nude underneath a sheet or towel and feel safe, warm, and unexposed. It also gives the massage therapist the freedom to massage all parts of the body without being encumbered by clothing.
Using draping, the massage therapist only works on the part of the body that is exposed—your back, one arm or one leg, for instance, while the rest of the body is covered. Your private parts are always concealed. That way, the therapist maintains a professional and ethical practice while avoiding embarrassment to the client or herself.
A sign of an experienced massage therapist is that he or she handles draping in a quick, deft way that makes you feel safe and comfortable. In fact, you may not even notice it because they handle everything and let you know if you need to do anything, like turn over. The therapist will give you precise instructions, so you know what is happening and what is expected of you.
An electric pad on the table is often turned on to help keep you warm. The room temperature should also be warm enough that you are comfortable. If you overheat, you can ask the therapist to turn off the electric pad or take off a blanket. If you're too cold, you can ask for a blanket.
Draping in a Spa Setting
Most spas have a massage table with a bottom sheet, a top sheet, and a blanket that may or may not be removed before the massage begins. The most upscale spas might have some kind of beautiful display, or a tray on the massage table that has the products that are going to be used, especially if there a body scrub.
You take off your clothes or robe while the therapist is out of the room, then get between the sheets according to the therapist's instructions. You usually start face-down for your massage, with your face in a padded cradle that allows you to breathe. The therapist will knock before entering the room, then pull back the sheet to work on your back and shoulders first. The top cover is folded back to about two inches below the beginning of the gluteal cleft, so the therapist can work on the attachment points of those big, important muscles.
When finished, the therapist will cover your back up, then uncover one leg at a time. The therapist does a quick tuck of the sheet or towel under the opposite thigh, while positioning the cover to expose as much leg as possible. This way they have full access to the muscles on the back of your leg without the sheet coming loose or your private parts being exposed.
A private practitioner with whom you have an ongoing therapeutic relationship might expose the buttocks as part of the draping on the leg. However, in a spa setting the therapist doesn't usually expose your buttocks. If they need work the therapist might work through the sheet.
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Time to Turn Over
When it's time to turn over, the therapist will let you know. He or she will hold the sheet or towel up and instruct you to move down so that you are fully on the table, then turn over slowly onto your back. As you're turning, the therapist places the sheet over your body, again, quickly, so you don't feel exposed. This is all considered draping.
The therapist then works her way back up the body while maintaining proper draping, massaging the front of each leg and both arms. The massage usually continues with more work on your shoulders, and if you're a man, your pectoral muscles. (They do breast massage in Europe, but not America.) Often a scalp massage finishes the treatment.
The therapist will let you know the treatment is over and give you further instructions, such as "I'll be waiting outside with water." He or she leaves while you are still on the table, covered, unless you specifically need help getting up. In that case, they are trained in how to assist you while still maintaining modesty.