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.