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.
Having trouble sleeping? A Tranquility Massage promotes better sleep
I cannot tell you how many of my clients tell me they have difficulty sleeping at night. I myself fall into this category from time to time.
Many people have a hard time falling asleep at night because they feel stressed or anxious. This could be caused by chronic stress or a major event.
Poor sleep is a common problem in the United States. As many as thirty percent of people in the United States have experienced bouts of insomnia, while at least ten percent experience chronic insomnia. Two things commonly rob people of a good night’s sleep: anxiety and pain. Massage can address both of those issues helping you rest easy.
An overactive mind can keep you awake. Massage can trigger serotonin, a neurotransmitter that induces calm feelings. In addition, we often hold tension and stress in our muscles, especially our neck and back. This tension can cause our bodies to feel tight and rigid, making sleep difficult. A massage can release the tension that is held in these places so that muscles feel relaxed and ready to rest.
Pain can also keep you awake at night. If your neck throbs, joints ache, or your lower back is sore, it can be very challenging to rest comfortably. Massage therapy can relieve pain, even chronic pain so that you can improve the quality of your sleep. Massage reduces inflammatory cytokines, which are known for causing inflammation and pain. The article states that essentially, massage has the same effect as other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NAISDs) such as Tylenol and ibuprofen. Reduced inflammation means less pain which will result in better sleep. It is a more natural way to reduce pain.
The Tranquility Massage is designed to help calm your nervous system and quiet your mind. To maximize the effect, I recommend booking the last or next to last
appointment of the evening. Better still if you can, would be an in home treatment ( not available as a promo, full price plus travel only). Follow the massage with some chamomile tea, and quiet time in bed with a book or something that generates soft nature sounds like rain falling. YouTube has many available like this Do not go on the computer, phone or TV.
Try this amazing massage treatment, once a week for one month to see how it improves your sleep.
I have made this available at an affordable price. It covers 4 weekly appointments and must be used within a one month period.
Regular Price $440 Package Price $299 You Save $141 off the regular price.
Book your package HERE
To maximize the effect, I recommend booking the last or next to last
appointment of the evening. Better still if you can, would be an in home treatment ( not available as a promo, full price plus travel only). Follow the massage with some chamomile tea, and quiet time in bed with a book or something that generates soft nature sounds like rain falling. YouTube has many available like this
Do not go on the computer, phone or TV.
Read what others have to say ............
To say that I love massages is an understatement. In fact, the French phrase "raison d'être" (aka "reason for being") comes to mind, because it's hard to think of anything I love more.
When I heard about the Tranquility Sleep Massage by Healing Hands, I honestly could have cried. And now that I'm on the other side of this experience, I can tell you one thing with absolute certainty: Find some way, any way, to make this a part of your self-care routine.
I had the good fortune to do a massage exchange with a local well respected colleague this week. Naturally I was apprehensive because she has a very good following and has been well established for years. So it was with some satisfaction that she had such an appreciation for my work and my approach. And it got me to thinking about how relaxation is really more than just a spa pleasure but really at the foundation of pain relief as well as stress relief. This comes up often in my discussions with clients about pain, and the mind (where pain is located) and the importance of calming the mind through all the senses, and how touch, sound, smell, temperature of the room, all play a role. Anyway I digress. Back to the exchange, here are some words lifted from her description of my work to her clients.....
Is it really all that important to relax and relieve stress?
Yes! Today I am promoting the idea that Gentle + Kind is actually the new Deep Tissue.
Nooooo...I can hear some of you already!
Trust me. I get it, the too-gentle massage. You want to scream and jump off the table. One time a client DID scream at me: "PRESSSUURRRRE!!!!"
Oh my. For sure I had misjudged. I stepped it up (although mostly out of fear :-)
But pressing harder is not necessarily "stepping it up." It is more difficult than you might think to give a super focused, stress-reducing, theta-state inducing Swedish "relaxation" massage.
Luckily we now have Edward for that!
He gave me a massage yesterday and since his website boasts "Elite Relaxation" that's what I ordered. I don't mind sharing that there was a small amount of drool that I needed to manage. I'm picky when it comes to bodywork, and I can say with all confidence that I am happy to leave you with Edward again while I head back to western Mass again next week.
Let me say this about relaxation: it often relates directly to pain relief. If you know me, you know that I now exercise my right to refuse service to certain new clients.
Text from potential client: Hey, are you strong? I need really deep tissue. I can take it.
Me: No. I am not strong. I recommend Mike's Sports Massage. He is strong. Thank you.
Of course I am strong, and I remove trigger points, but the body also has to relax. The ability to relax the body is just as important, if not more important than strength. I was reminded of this after Edward's massage.
Despite the spiel I just gave about relaxation, for my own massage I had thought that I would save "working" on my shoulder for another day because we were doing "Swedish relaxation" massage. Dummy. My whole nervous system relaxed and then guess what happened. My shoulder stopped hurting!
This also surprised me about relaxation: Recently I have been taking Valerian if needed for post-workout soreness. It works! I had tried Turmeric because of its anti-inflammatory properties but I was disappointed because it didn't do much for me. Valerian is said to reduce anxiety and blood pressure, and to help with sleep. In other words, it relaxes and calms the nervous system, just like Edward!
Now of course, everyone's pain will respond to something different. What is it for you?
(courtesy of Lisa B. Massage)
I am looking forward to receiving my exchange session from her next week. In the meantime take what she says and see if it applies to your own situation.
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.