Updated from an earlier post dated June 2015, originally posted HERE
“Breathing in, I calm my body. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment, I know this is a wonderful moment.” - Thich Nhat Hahn
I start every bodywork session with by breathing, in sync with my client.
I find that the simple act of conscious breathing being aware of "in breaths" and "out breaths" slows my mind, gets me prepared, and for the client on the table, simple directed breathing sets immediately the process of allowing oneself to let go of stress and begin to enter a state of relaxation. Truthfully, though I actually start every session with a speech! Not really a speech so much as a welcoming greeting, wherein I say "Welcome. Inside this space, is like a sanctuary. The phone gets turned off, and on the other side of that door - lay your obligations; the bills, the job, the kids, the illness, the whatever that calls to you, obligates you or otherwise demands your attention or creates your worries. Inside, here in this space is just the now.
Bodywork with me starts with and is a form of meditation.
Much is made of the capabilities of alternative therapies, but much of the evidence to support massage's meditation’s effectiveness in promoting mental or physical health isn’t quite up to snuff. Why? Many studies don’t include a good control treatment.
But when researchers from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD sifted through nearly 19,000 studies, they found 47 trials that addressed those issues and met their criteria for well-designed studies. Their findings, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, suggest that mindfulness meditation can help ease psychological stresses like anxiety, depression, and pain.
Dr. Elizabeth Hoge, a psychiatrist at the Center for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Disorders at Massachusetts General Hospital and an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, says that mindfulness meditation makes perfect sense for treating anxiety. “People with anxiety have a problem dealing with distracting thoughts that have too much power,” she explains. “They can’t distinguish between a problem-solving thought and a nagging worry that has no benefit.”
“If you have unproductive worries,” says Dr. Hoge, you can train yourself to experience those thoughts completely differently. “You might think ‘I’m late, I might lose my job if I don’t get there on time, and it will be a disaster!’ Mindfulness teaches you to recognize, ‘Oh, there’s that thought again. I’ve been here before. But it’s just that—a thought, and not a part of my core self,'” says Dr. Hoge.
One of her recent studies (which was included in the JAMA Internal Medicine review) found that a mindfulness-based stress reduction program helped quell anxiety symptoms in people with generalized anxiety disorder, a condition marked by hard-to-control worries, poor sleep, and irritability. People in the control group—who also improved, but not as much as those in the meditation group—were taught general stress management techniques. All the participants received similar amounts of time, attention, and group interaction.
Positive Emotions Lead to Better Health: New research suggests that meditation, massage or any other mood-enhancing activity can serve as a nutrient for the human body.
In recent years have psychologists begun to appreciate the benefits of happiness and positive emotion — benefits that include everything from enhanced creativity to improved immune-system function. Dr. Barbara Fredrickson at the University of North Carolina, a leader in the field of positive psychology, posed the question, “What good are positive emotions?” and came up with the following possibilities.
Happiness broadens your focus and expands your thinking Positive emotions — curiosity, love, joy, contentment, wonder, excitement — expand your focus of attention. When you’re angry, your focus narrows to the source of your frustration and the object of your wrath. Your mind is like a heat-seeking missile, bent on destruction.
Contrast this with what happens when you get excited about something — your mind opens up and there’s a free flow of ideas and intellectual possibility. Curiosity abounds. This is precisely why passion is so essential to artistic endeavors. This is also why you need a high positivity ratio in the workplace if you want a high rate of productivity and a healthy bottom line.
When Psychologist Jon Kabat-Zinn and others studied the brain activity that accompanies this type of meditation, they found that it was the left frontal lobe of the brain that was literally turned on — the part that scientists refer to as the “happy brain.”
Positive and negative emotions can’t exist at the same moment in time. Embracing one negates the other.
Studies on touch have shown that something as simple as receiving a light touch hand from a compassionate friend or the act of petting your favorite animal can lower your blood pressure — so you can imagine the positive impact of the sustained and focused touch of massage - and, touch requires no prescription, nor has any negative side-effects.
The next time you find yourself feeling negative — upset, angry, sad, or worried — try taking an hour or so for massage and see what happens — it may provide just the escape you need from those negative emotions.
Every now and again, I look back on old blog posts and find one that deserves to bubble to the top again. Since writing this I have discovered a new author and lecturer worth listening to - his name is Dr. Gabor Mate. He is an author and lecturer and physician by training. A short video he made about stress can be found here - but please take a moment to listen to some of his thoughts, and or read any of his books.
Should I get a massage during Covid????
Is it safe to get a massage during Covid? Yes. Let me start with the answer and work backwards, in case you don't like to read alot :)
I have been wanting to write this post for a while. The pandemic has been extremely hard on Massage Therapy. When Covid restrictions hit, we all shut down, for me it was from March 2020 until about September/October of 2020, and even when returning, I only saw one client per day; no couples massage etc. We were all scared and unertain. After all, even more so than restaurants, a massage takes place in a small confined spaced. We are in a room for an hour or more, what could sound more dangerous?
And the irony is that because of Covid isolation, massage, human contact and touch was needed more than ever. So what to make of things? Well fast forward one year, and this is what we know: People are hyper aware of Covid vs in the beginning when no one knew anything. People are masking. People are sanitizing. People are in general avoiding large crowds of strangers. People are getting vaccinated by the millions. The most vulnerable and the super spreaders sadly have passed away in large numbers. I myself lost a cousin in the first few weeks and it was beyond horrible. In short the world is adjusting to a new normal.
I don't envision a day when the government or scientists will issue an "all clear" or "its over" type of announcement. I envision more that we will roll into a period where masks are "recommended." In Japan, a densely populated country, citizens have been wearing masks long before Covid.
So what is it that makes massage so safe? Nothing really. It is a calculated risk. But the empirical evidence over the past 6 months suggest it is no more dangerous than not getting a massage. And there are huge benefits....to your immune system, to your mind, to your sense of well being. There is no statistical evidence to suggest massage contact poses any greater danger than any other activity outside the home. It is a numbers game and a measured risk. I cannot recommend that you go get a massage but I can say that more than ever I think it is needed and if you feel like you could benefit, then I would consider making an appointment and simply enjoying the experience.
In my own practice as I said, I am vaccinated, I see half the number of clients I used to see to spread out the space in between. We perform extra sanitation measures. We are masked when you come in and leave. Masking while on the table I have found to be largely unnecessary so it is your personal choice. I do wear a mask.
Covid has robbed us of much of the rhythms and simple pleasures of daily life. Covid is here like an unwelcome relative its not going anywhere. Everyone is doing their best and it is time, I believe to start to return to activities like massage. Of course things could change; a new strain, or different outbreaks, in which case the world may have to hunker down again. Until then, please consider returning to your favorite massage therapist if you have been thinking about it. Ask questions of their practices, feel safe and enjoy being human again.
This is one therapists opinion. I am not a scientist nor am I giving medical advice, It is simply my personal opinion.
The Missing Pieces: Less and less body is being included in "full body" massage - It doesn't have to be.
This article came across my desk and caught my attention. The discussion is about how and why more and more, therapists and schools in the US are backing away from a true full body experience. It does not have to be. with proper training, good client communication and informed consent there is no reason why in 2019 this should be. I have interjected my thoughts in italics, but otherwise this is re presented in abridged form from Massage Magazine. published from
The anterior (front) torso, including the chest and abdomen; hips; buttocks; and medial thigh are often avoided or only given cursory attention during many massage sessions.My awareness about this developed after reading many posts on social media about “full-body massage.” Discussions with massage colleagues, educators and therapists indicate this problem is real. I Have seen many posts about the chains not allowing massage 1" below the collar bone, or glutes at all.
“There is a significant decline in the number of massage therapists that are willing to perform massage therapy on gluteal, pectoral and abdominal areas,” said Brent F. Jackson, academic program manager, massage therapy, at Central Carolina Technical College, headquartered in Sumter, South Carolina. He said he believes there are three factors contributing to this situation.
First, he said, massage therapy businesses and schools alike are wary of being involved in litigious situations, because of criminal acts by some massage therapists have made the news and are therefore overly conservative when it comes to creating curriculum.
Second, he said, “In academia, we are also encountering a broad spectrum of skill, and therefore a possible lack of qualified and confident massage therapy educators. That lack of training may be inhibiting the student’s professional growth.”
Third, said Jackson, there is simply a growing trend of the therapist not wanting to put in the effort required of a true full-body massage. Instead, he said, therapists are cutting corners.
“As a profession,” Jackson said, “it is necessary to be open to treating these areas when warranted, as would any other health care professional.”
Educator Nancy Dail, of Downeast School of Massage in Waldoboro, Maine, has also witnessed this trend. “I have long been aware that massage therapists have been cutting corners around the human body, basing massage on a rote recipe and repetitive sequence versus a treatment based on the individual’s medical history, posture, repetitive actions or injuries,” she said.
“Since society has a vulnerable perception of the abdomen, it has been the most logical area to skip,” Dail continued. As to other areas, she said, state regulations on breast massage, draping and professional conduct have led to restrictions on how the client’s body is addressed.”
However, student ignorance and state regulations cannot fully explain the diminishment of the full-body session. In my research and conversations, I have come to realize there are three pieces to this situation: incomplete massage education; apprehension on the part of clients; and insufficient informed consent across the profession.
Massage Education“Attempting to avoid excessive intimacy, my students’ hands often tense up around buttocks, chest, belly and inner thighs. I teach them instead to deliberately connect with these tissues using safe touch,” said Barbara Helynn Heard, a continuing education provider and practicing massage therapist in Seattle, Washington.
Although many massage schools provide a comprehensive education that prepares students to offer complete, full-body massage sessions, Heard’s approach isn’t how all massage students are being taught to touch clients’ bodies.
I, and many other massage educators, believe some schools’ entry-level education falls short in developing skills in positioning, draping, time management, communication and consent about the process of massage. Massage education sometimes creates fear related to boundaries and sexual misconduct litigation instead of developing professionalism. Instead of assessment and critical thinking skills imbedded into the massage session, a massage sequence is sometimes drilled into students.
For example, the common statement, “Disrobe to your level of comfort,” only creates confusion. Instead, direct instruction needs to be given. Such an instruction might sound like one of these two examples:
“I regard the anterior torso as crucial, yet it is avoided in 90 percent of the massages I receive,” said Eric Stephenson, who was interviewed for this article when he was director of education at imassage continuing education and consulting company and who is now chief wellness officer for Elements Massage. “This is one of the great paradoxes of massage therapy.”
Part of the problem, in my opinion, is that the two national massage organizations do not accurately educate the public. One association’s website states, “A typical full body session will include work on your back, arms, legs, feet, hands, head, neck, and shoulders. You will not be touched on or near your genitals (male or female) or breasts (female).” This statement essentially omits the chest, abdomen, hips, buttocks, thighs and face. With these areas unmentioned, what type of expectation does this create in the consumer and employer?
Another association’s website states, “Depending on your needs, the massage therapist will massage either the full body (except private areas) or only specific areas that need attention, such as especially tight muscles.” This statement is so ambiguous that the information is confusing. What are private areas?
Despite professional strides in the massage industry, confusion between massage therapy and illegal sexual solicitation continues to occur. Something must be done so that the massage therapy profession as a whole can move beyond this degrading situation. I challenge our professional organizations and major employers of massage therapists to collaborate and directly address this issue.
Additionally, there is gender bias pertaining to male massage therapists.
“As a male therapist, I have to maintain trusted professional relationships with clients, [which includes] education about various body areas included in the massage session, to achieve client goals,” said massage therapist (and my son) Luke Fritz, an instructor at my school, Health Enrichment Center in Lapeer, Michigan.
I believe the massage field should launch a public awareness campaign that clearly discusses sexual inappropriateness by both the client and the massage therapist, and that describes body areas included in general massage coupled with an example of informed consent. There should be ethical guidance by our professional associations and employers that frames clear statements to the public and massage therapists about appropriate behavior.
Such a statement might read: “Massage therapy is a nonsexual health service. Sexual behavior by the therapist toward the client or by the client toward the therapist is always unethical, inappropriate and illegal. It is always the responsibility of the massage therapist and business management to ensure that sexual misconduct does not occur and to report sexual solicitation by clients to law enforcement. Clients who feel that the massage therapist engaged in sexual misconduct should immediately report to the business management and to law enforcement.”
The problem is that major employers are accepting substandard massage as the norm.
One reason for this may be that the confusion between massage and sexual interaction will just not go away, so employers might limit massage application to particular body areas because of the fear of sexual misconduct lawsuits.
It is very concerning if we have come to believe that the major body areas cannot be massaged in the typical 50- to 60- minute session. Massage employers and clients need to be assured that all massage therapists are providing quality massage services and can provide massage to all appropriate areas of the body.
I welcome comments on all my posts but especially would welcome comments on this one. What has your experience been? What is your preference?
Ok I will just come out and lead with it - Send him or her this link to a Massage Gift Certificate ! Seriously, its not that massage is the only gift, but if you are reading this blog, there is a very good chance it is something you would love, and therefore sometimes it is helpful to give guidance.
Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. And expectations sometimes run high. Whether it is the gift, or the card, or the flowers or the dinner - Valentines is sort of like New Years for some - there is pressure to succeed.
Some of you reading this may already be dreaming about roses and Godiva, others a romantic candlelit dinner and a stunning pair of diamond studs.
Still others may just be hoping for a morning to sleep in and maybe a cup of coffee handed to you before you even get out of bed. Maybe more help with the kids, if you have them.
Tips for Making Your Spouse or Significant Other a Better Gift Giver
Don’t make it a guessing game.
Gift-giving shouldn’t be some kind of test—especially not a pass or fail one. For those who are literally happy with anything, I guess this post is not aimed at you. For others, they wish their spouse was more thoughtful, but maybe he just needs guidance and does not excel at reading minds.
There’s no reason to be sly or secretive about what you want for a special occasion. Just be open about it.
For men (and I am assuming most reading this blog are women) I think most would love to make you happy and give you what you would love, so spell it out. Send an amazon link,
But if you have something in mind—even if it’s just the type of present you’d like —don’t just cross your fingers and hope they can read your mind.
Let Him Know When He Gets It Right
When your spouse or SO hits the nail on the head gift-wise, feel free to gush over it—and then demonstrate how much you love it by making a point of using/wearing it in his presence.
Not only will he feel proud of his present of choice, he’ll also be more likely to give a repeat performance!
Tell Him to Consider This - What does he love about you, and then give a gift reflecting that.”
So if your mate is totally stumped, suggest he consider what exactly it is he loves about you. If he loves how organized you keep the whole family, maybe you’ll end up with a beautiful, classy day planner. If he’s grateful for your cooking skills, you might get to enjoy a brand new cast iron skillet. If nothing else, asking that question is a helpful starting point.
Encourage Him to Think Beyond Stuff the Store
A house full of stuff does not a happy person make.
Life is about experiences. And this goes for you too in the giving department, Maybe it is a helicopter flying lesson, or grown up go carts.
A study from researchers at San Francisco State University found that when we spend our money on experiences rather than things, it can actually lead to increased satisfaction and well being. This again is a perfect reason for getting and giving massage.
So help your spouse out and make yourself happier in the process by suggesting he focus on experiential purchases. A gift certificate for a manicure, a pair of tickets to the theater, or a coupon for a skydiving trip (for the thrill-seeking readers out there!) might be in your future.
Remember: It Really Is the Thought That Counts
It is cliché, but it is true. As long as there is thought that goes into it. A thoughtless gift picked up on the way home can hurt, better no gift. But a thoughtful mate might be struggling and one gift you can give him in return is direction.
Note: Because most of my readers/clients are heterosexual females, and because it it too cumbersome to do otherwise, this post is written that way, but it of course applies to all genders and couples. Anyone who knows me knows that no offense is intended. If you are unattached this Valentines day than of course gift yourself....what a wonderful thing to do!
October 22-28, 2017 is National Massage Therapy Awareness Week !
A Really Good Massage Blog
I write about things that I myself need to be mindful of. ways in which I would like to improve. It is not from the perspective of preaching - but rather writing helps me work out what I myself need to do - we are all in this together.