Massage therapy, Healing and Presence
The use of massage as a means to relaxing muscles and relieving tension for both physical and mental health dates back almost as far as human history itself. Nearly every civilization practiced its own brand of therapeutic touch.
In modern times, we are faced with a lot more muscle tension, and as such the benefits of regular massage sessions are endless. This constant muscle tension that we endure is a direct result of the poor stress management so prevalent amongst us in modern times.
Why is this a problem? Because mental stress increases adrenaline and cortisol levels. This induces a fight-or-flight response within our bodies, which in turn makes our muscles contract involuntarily and also directs blood and energy flow away from internal organs. This has a twofold effect on the body:
1. We do not relax the tensed muscles as we are not aware that they have become contracted
2. Immune system response is significantly reduced as the body’s resources are directed to the parts responsible for mobility (external defense) rather than towards the proper internal functioning of the body (internal defence)
This leaves us tensed and prone to sickness.
This is also where massage therapy comes into play.
When we experience a professional massage, each body part is handled with great care in order to induce a general feeling of well-being and also to relaxed tensed muscle tissue. Rather than being just a series of mechanically applied movements, massage therapy is more like a subtle body to body communication that takes place in which the message conveyed to the client is something along the lines of “it’s alright to relax/you’re safe now”, but spoken in a language far more primordial than the spoken one.
During such a deep state of relaxation, the client may be well advised to remain present and focused on the sensations experienced with the purpose of inducing a meditative state. A state of “massage mind” (as some people reffer to this meditative state) can have very beneficial effects. This is because when muscular tension is released during a massage, the subconscious content associated with that specific tension also gets relieved. As such, for best results, it is advisable that the client maintains an equanimous mindset for the duration of the massage so that he/she can easily let go of both pleasant and unpleasant sensations that may arise during the massage.
The benefits of massage therapy tend to be cumulative, so in order to achieve this deeply relaxing meditative state more easily and also to experience the countless other benefits that massage therapy has to offer, multiple sessions are required.
Aside from the many profound benefits that a state of deep relaxation may have on the mind and body, massage therapy also impacts the many different bodily systems in the following ways:
1. In terms of mobility, it increases the joints range of motion, promotes muscle elasticity, flexibility and repair decreases fibrous adhesions resulted from immobilization; reduces number and intensity of muscle spasms; improves posture and balance; removes soreness and fatiugue
2. As a general detoxing effect, it increases urinary output; relieves lung congestion; helps move fluid through blood and lymph circulatory systems.
3. Provides stimulation and moisture to the skin; improves skin condition texture and tone by means of the various oils used during the massage.
4. Impacts the immune system by reducing inflammation through decreasing the number of cytokes; reducing adrenaline,nor-adrenaline (responsible for fight or flight response) and cortisol(stress hormone) levels.
5. Helps nervous system activity by relaxing muscle tissue, which in turn releases nerve compression; stimulates parasympathetic nervous system which promotes healthy sleep patterns.
Particularly beneficial for athletes is the fact that by increasing the fresh blood supply and lymph circulation in all areas of the body, it helps repair micro-trauma athletes suffer during intense training cycles, thus boosting their performance. Athletes especially benefit more from a more toning massage which helps supplement their daily workout routine.
Since it is an overall health-booster, massage therapy is very much recommended for people recovering from surgery, as well as people with precarious general health due its immune-boosting function.
Each and every session of massage therapy is unique, as it is catered to the needs of the individual at the particular time the massage is taking place. While some people might be over-worked and need to unwind, others may benefit more from a more vigorous and simulative session in order to help re-tone their muscles or simply to boost overall energy levels. Such may be the case for people coming out of long periods of inactivity which may have caused partial atrophy of certain muscles. This is why a target is set before each session in order to achieve the client’s specific wants and needs.
The underlying goal of any massage session is to help the client get back in touch with his/her own body so that any imbalances that may be present sort themselves out and the body gets restored back to it’s own natural energy flow. This has limitless value and potential as the more the client feels at ease and the deeper he relaxes, the more he is able to let go of harmful thoughts and emotions and the more he can develop a sense of a much needed meditative concentration which is a genuinely precious thing the have in these harsh times we live in.