Are you looking for ways to get rid of the dry skin on your body and uncover fresh smooth skin? Do you want a way to relax and unwind, exfoliate and hydrate your skin all while relaxing in professional hands? If so, then you need to learn all that you can about sugar scrubs.
Did you know the ancient Chinese and Egyptians used healing cupping techniques? There’s much controversy around the origin of cupping, but there’s no doubt this healing technique has been around for thousands of years. Many people enjoy cupping, even if it does leave them looking like they’ve been hugged too tightly by an octopus.
Massage therapy is often thought of as a luxury. It’s considered something to do just to relax and have a pleasurable experience.
Meditation and the concept of mindfulness are now fairly mainstream and we all probably know the importance of being in the “present” moment. Mindfulness is a mental, physical and emotional state of being where one remains focused on the present moment. It’s a way to free yourself from outside thoughts, emotions and simply exist in the “now”, providing your tired, high speed, thought processing brain a much needed and restorative break that can have lasting effects throughout your day.
When practicing mindfulness, thoughts relating to the future and/or past are simply “observed” and allowed to pass on by, without allowing oneself to engage in the thought or emotion – almost as if you are a bystander to the thoughts.
As you first attempt to focus only on “now” and disengage your brain, it’s perfectly normal to encounter a barrage of thoughts, ideas, internal dialogue and more that try to pull you away. After racing in circles a while, most of our minds will eventually slow down, providing us with a deeply restorative experience.
Here’s what to do:
When a thought, body sensation, or image emerges in your mind, observe it loosely, without attachment. Let these things your mind creates spontaneously float on by. Think of your mind as the sky and thoughts as clouds, and just observe them.
When you catch yourself ruminating on any one thing, just take a deep breath and focus on the exhale, letting what you’ve been fixated on pass.
Mindfulness on a daily basis can lower anxiety and stress, improve sleep, and increase a sense of well being.
How can mindfulness improve your massage therapy experience?
The mind-body connection is a powerful one. Massage therapy in and of itself naturally calms the body and mind and so does mindfulness – so the two combined can provide a deeply relaxing experience. By intentionally helping to slow down your mind with some simple mindfulness exercises during your massage treatment, you can significantly enhance the positive effects of massage on anxiety, depression and even physical well being.
For some, switching off the mind during a massage is an easy thing, but for others it’s difficult to calm the mind enough to fully enjoy the experience. This is when the idea of meditating during a massage can come into play. Often referred to as a “mindful massage”, it simply means staying present and focused on your body and breath during your treatment. There are many other ways mindfulness can make your massages even better and we’ve picked our top five.
1) It may improve your tolerance for pain
We all know that sometimes a therapeutic, deep tissue massage can seem a little more like torture than a treatment when problem areas are being worked on, however firm pressure is often needed in order to release muscle tension and adhesions effectively. Mindfulness during a massage can be as simple as focusing on your breath. Take a few deep, calming breaths and imagine that you’re breathing directly into the painful spot. Breathing into the “pain” as it takes place may allow you to withstand more, meaning your therapist can work with problem areas longer and ultimately, you’ll end up feeling much better. As you breathe out slowly, imagine the pain being dissipated and pushed out of your body with each breath. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you can teach your body to “let go” of the tension and pain.
Of course, we don’t want you to be in so much pain during your massage that you hold your breath or tense up more, and if that happens please always let your therapist know to lighten up a bit in that area.
2) It can give you an increased feeling of relaxation
Focusing on your breath during your massage will also help to stop your brain from being cluttered up with racing thoughts, bringing you a sense of calm. This means you can lie back and enjoy the experience, falling into a deeper state of relaxation.
3) It can help your muscles to relax
As your mind quiets your body will also soften. When your muscles loosen and relax your massage therapist can perform a more effective massage as your muscles will be much more malleable. Mindfulness during a massage therapy session can be just as effective as doing yoga stretches before a treatment.
4) It may allow you to “feel out” your body’s aches and pains
Being mindful during your massage can allow you to focus on the touch of your massage therapist and notice the way it makes your body feel. By truly tuning in to your body you’ll be able to identify problem areas much quicker and you’ll probably find yourself deeply relaxed and letting go of bodily tension that has accumulated from the stress of everyday life.
5) Practicing mindfulness can extend the benefits of your massage therapy treatments
Whenever you notice yourself feeling stressed, tense or anxious, just use your mindfulness technique and do take some deep breaths in, notice where there is tension in your body and slowly exhale. Do this a few times and it will help calm your body by releasing muscle tension as well as calm your mind.
Anxiety is a term that can encompass several feelings including worry, fear and unease. Sometimes we label it as ‘stress’. We can all feel anxiety to varying degrees at times in our lives such as before a job interview, when a loved one is sick, or during transitional life moments such as graduations or kids moving away from home. In these situations, feelings of anxiety and stress are completely natural and normal.
However, many people often have feelings of anxiety/stress with no obvious source and it can be difficult to manage those feelings. This can cause feelings of restlessness, trouble concentrating, difficulty falling or staying asleep and it can reduce quality of life.
Extreme anxiety can be a symptom for a number of conditions including panic disorders, phobias, PTSD, social anxiety disorders and GAD (general anxiety disorder). Physical side effects of anxiety may also include heart palpitations, shallow breathing and light headedness.
There are many holistic therapies that may provide relief from anxiety. These include meditation, mindfulness, a gratitude journal, aromatherapy, regular exercise and massage therapy. The benefits of massage therapy for anxiety are very similar to those of depression. Massage therapy may be a good way to get back in touch with your body, improve circulation and reduce blood pressure, and release muscle tension and pain. Clients usually leave their massage therapy session feeling physically lighter, more ‘loose’ in their muscles and more balanced overall.
Massage therapy also reduces cortisol which is the body’s ‘stress’ hormone. This is mainly done by reducing the ‘fight or flight’ sympathetic nervous system response and activating the ‘rest and digest’ parasympathetic nervous system response. Massage therapy also causes the brain to release “feel good” neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin, endorphins and oxytocin.
Regular Massage Therapy improves circulation, improves overall nutrition of tissue and elasticity of blood vessels. It improves blood flow and increases oxygenation of tissues. Massage therapy lowers blood pressure. Massage also boosts the immune system and helps to counteract all the sitting that many people do, and also counteracts all the muscle overuse that can happen in the workplace. (Overuse injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis can be reversable with therapeutic massage!)
Several massage therapy studies have been done to measure effectiveness on anxiety and depression and the outcomes that the data showed were very positive. The results showed that post-massage therapy, cortisol in urine decrease an average of 32.7% and it also decreased in saliva by 21.1%. Dopamine (a feel good brain chemical) increased by 26.8% and serotonin increased by 31% in the urine output. Massage therapy is a powerful strategy worth adding to your self-care arsenal!
Post – massage it’s a good idea to take time to rest and relax, hydrate with plenty of water, take a warm Epsom salt bath, and focus on getting a great night’s sleep!
If you are interested in other complementary therapies that may also help your anxiety, we also offer reflexology and craniosacral therapy as well as relaxing spa treatments.
Who are we? We are The Self Centre Massage & Wellness in Edmonton AB – on a mission to make wellness rituals convenient and accessible without compromising on quality. So, from just $95 an hour (includes GST), you can enjoy a range of massage therapy treatments from an expert registered massage therapist at a time to suit you.
Download the Mindbody app or go to theselfcentre.com to book a session of restorative self care time.
Citation: Field, Tiffany & Hernandez-Reif, Maria & Diego, Miguel & Schanberg, Saul & Kuhn, Cynthia. (2005). Cortisol decreases and serotonin increases following massage therapy. The International journal of neuroscience. 115. 1397-413. 10.1080/00207450590956459.
Keys to Getting Your Best Massage Therapy session ever
1) Know the results you want from your massage therapy session: Do you want Therapeutic or Relaxation massage? Are you in pain with muscle tension or do you just want to de-stress and have total
body relaxation? We will customize your massage to meet your needs and we can best do this when we know what you want/need/expect.
2) Direct billing – we would be happy to direct bill for you to the companies we deal with. Please come prepared with your insurance information and knowledge of what your coverage is, if they allow direct billing and payment to a 3rd party, and what percentage is paid. We also do require a valid credit card on file to be able to carry a balance on your account. (Visa debit/credit does not work).
3) If you want therapeutic massage – what kind of pressure do you like? If you like the “good pain” of a deeper pressure massage please let your RMT know. If you
like a lot of pressure in some areas and lighter in others, again just communicate this. Note that if you choose to have a therapeutic massage you may be tender for a
few days in the areas worked on, much like when your muscles are sore after a workout when you haven’t worked out in a while. Occasionally there may be bruising after
a deeper therapeutic massage. Again, it’s important to let your RMT know during treatment if anything is out of your comfort zone. Don’t feel you need to ‘suffer’
4) Relaxation light touch/lymphatic drainage/body flushing – in some cases this is the best thing for a person, depending on what you like and what your body
needs. However relaxation doesn’t always mean light pressure. A relaxation massage can also be firmer pressure, but the goal is different than therapeutic massage
5) Mix it up! It’s totally okay to want relaxation on most of the body and deeper therapeutic work on problem areas or vice versa. Please keep in mind
though, that when therapeutic work is done it is more focused and you will likely not be able to have a full body massage because of time constraints.
6) What do you like? Another way to be as happy as can be with your massage is to tell your RMT areas you really like or don’t like getting worked. Like hands, feet and head or maybe your glutes and legs. Always identify the difference between problem areas (“my hips are sore”) and areas you enjoy (“I like my feet worked on”). This will enhance your massage 10-fold but if you don’t say anything at all we could skip past those areas to focus on the obvious issues, leaving you dissatisfied. If you have many problem areas it’s very difficult to treat the full body as problem areas need extra time to be worked on properly.
7) Book accordingly; give your massage therapist time to work on your body. 30 mins will only be enough for maybe one problem area or back/neck/shoulders relaxation massage. 60 minutes is adequate for full body relaxation or therapeutic massage on a few problem areas. 90 minutes is the best bet when you have many problem areas or you want an ultimate relaxation treat.
8) Temperature is another key factor in having that massage that is very important. At our clinic we offer heated tables, hot pads, and hot towel treatment. If when you get on the table it feels too warm or if at any time you feel too cold, please let your therapist know.
9) Hydration – This is so important and way we can’t stress it enough. Without adequate amount of hydration nothing works quite right in the body. Muscles don’t
respond the same and when you are dehydrated muscle spasms and cramps start to come out to play sometimes during the massage, which is not fun. You will get the best
results if you stay hydrated both before and after your treatment. It’s also a good idea to not come in with a totally empty stomach as being hungry will be distracting during this very important time for you.
10) Arrive early enough to fill out any paperwork especially if it’s your first visit or you have insurance to go through. Because of our busy schedule, we always
end our treatments on time even if not started on time, as we have other clients to see afterwards.
11) Never be afraid to say “that area is tender”, or “that feels really good”, or “I feel that shoot down my leg” or “I’d like some more pressure there”. We love
the feedback; it makes our job easier and when we can do our job properly it will make you happier. We don’t take it personally, everyone is different! It takes a
couple treatments with a therapist for both of you to feel comfortable.
12) Good Fit – we have many therapists and if one person doesn’t fit your needs we can match you up with someone who can. Feel free to reply to the feedback email
that is sent out after every treatment, it’s only seen by the owner, and we will be able to determine the best fit. It’s amazing how even RMTs that go to the same
school come out with different styles, pressure levels etc.
13) Nature calling – it’s a good idea to void your bladder prior to your massage (especially if you’re drinking all the water we want you to) so that you aren’t
distracted during treatment and you can enjoy the full session without needing to ‘go’
14) Treatment planning – if you have chronic pain and/or tension issues the best scenario is to come once a week for a couple weeks then taper off onto a
maintenance schedule. 1-2 massages a year doesn’t leave you with much of the benefits you would get if you came regularly until you feel some relief in problem areas
and then get on a maintenance schedule that suits your schedule and budget. The absolute best way to get the massage you want is to GET massages.
We look forward to seeing you soon to give you your best massage ever!
Carl Parnham RMT and
Lara Clement, owner, The Self Centre