Updated: Jul 29, 2019
Massage — a self indulgent luxury or something more restorative and healing? Massage comes in various forms and styles as do massage therapists. Having experienced many different modalities myself, some resonate more than others. Most, however, are conducive to a holistic healing practice and lend themselves to healing beyond just the physiological domain.
Our bodies try very hard to tell us things about our lives and environments. They are constantly giving us clues: on how our jobs, relationships, eating habits, physicality and even our unresolved pasts are affecting us.
Stress is a common factor for people attending my massage clinic. Stress accumulates in our bodies, and prolonged stress can have lasting effects, impacting our bodies, moods and behaviours. The body responds to stress by activating our endocrine system, better known as our fight, flight or freeze responses. And in turn our bodies will often respond with one or more of the following: headaches, muscle tension, chest pain, fatigue, stomach issues, sleep problems, high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, diabetes and changed sex drive. It affects our mood too, inducing anxiety, restlessness, irritability, anger, sadness and depression. These symptoms potentially lead to behaviours we would generally tend to avoid, such as over- or under-eating, reactivity or angry outbursts, drug or alcohol abuse, increased tobacco use, social withdrawal and reduced exercise.
Anxiety too is a significant factor in people’s motivation for a healing massage. The most accurate description of anxiety that I have come across is that it’s just like fear, only without awareness of what we might be in fear of. Which can make it all the more unsettling.
Other signposts that the body provide can be muscle tension and knots, rashes, aches and pains, reduced range of movement, irrational behaviour, obsessive thinking, depression, and so on.
If we do not pay attention to our bodily messages — both physical and emotional — then they tend to respond in kind. Gradually our stress, unresolved emotions and lifestyle accelerate our body’s degradation, increasing the likelihood of developing ailments and illnesses, both physical and psychological.
The body is like a television, showing what our lives are about. Like the morning news, our bodies and emotions try and tell us what’s going on in our world. But too often, all we hear is the white noise. We are too busy to notice. Or we just want a quick fix to be able to get on with things.
This is where massage can be helpful. Massage will bring to the surface or accentuate what is happening deep within. It can help move or reduce emotional turmoil, as well as rescue emotions that have been trapped for too long. It can assist us to release something we’ve been ready to release for a while, but have not known how. It will also reduce your stress levels for long enough so that your body gets a break for a little while and remembers what it’s like to be relaxed again.
Negative emotions — such as resentment, fear, depression, anger, failure, jealousy and hopelessness — have their purpose. They indicate a need for change or warn us of impending danger. Fleeting, they are perfectly fine and normal, and even beneficial. However, when they persist — when we hold onto them beyond their functionality and feed them — that’s when they can have harmful, lasting effects on our physical and psychological health. Not to mention, negatively impacting our relationships, work and home spaces.
Massage opens up our body’s sticky locks, allowing ourselves into those areas that may have been off limits for some time.
Perhaps everything is great in your life too, but you’ve been disconnected from your body, whether in your mind more than usual or too busy to relax into it. Massage is a great way to feel in your body again.
Massage is a also wonderful tool to balance the nervous system. Our autonomic nervous system is divided into two branches. The sympathetic nervous system is concerned with speeding up responses and increasing our heart rate and breathing. The other is the parasympathetic nervous system, which slows the body down for repair processes, like digestion and rest. Our bodies are continually trying to maintain a healthy balance between these two systems.
Massage stimulates the central nervous system via the peripheral nerves in the skin, which stimulates the autonomic nervous system. When over-stimulation of one particular system occurs, the therapeutic effects of massage help adjust so the natural balance can be restored. This helps the recipient's body to rest and for the regenerative processes to take place.
The healing touch of a positive intention and skillful application, received within a serene and warm environment with aromas and sounds that resonate at a higher frequency than that in the hustle and bustle of everyday life, can have an amazing effect on your day and your life. It will whisk you away for awhile and can shift or bring to the surface exactly what you need to. It can reveal you to yourself as well as resolve areas that are no longer helpful. And ultimately, it will rejuvenate your body and relax your mind for a while, sending you back out into the day afresh.