Here you go! An explanation of why massage can be beautifully beneficial on so many levels. It’s a long-ish read, so make a cup of tea, settle down in a cosy corner and take some time to absorb the information. Thank you for reading.
Physical touch, when given with with informed consent, can be highly therapeutic, creating calm and stillness on all levels; physical, mental and emotional.
It is my belief that therapeutic touch and resting with intention are both essential for a happy, healthy human experience. A massage session, with its focus on physical touch and total rest, creates space and time for recovery from multiple stresses. This may simply involve relaxing from the mundane stresses of everyday life, or it could be facilitating healing from deeper physical and emotional trauma; the benefits of massage have a wide range, and are different for everyone!
Consciously setting time aside for rest and recovery is becoming increasingly necessary in today’s world, which is rich with resources and stimulation – both a blessing and a curse! It’s brilliant that we have so much information around us and in our pockets, but constantly “receiving” becomes exhausting and overwhelming. Taking intentional breaks from this – making time for a massage, rather than accidentally napping on the sofa – allows our minds and bodies to recover, find stillness, clarity and calm, and return to everyday life with renewed energy and vibrancy.
As well as helping us to handle daily life, bodywork can also be an effective tool for approaching deeper issues, such as facilitating the healing of trauma (physical and emotional).
Whenever we experience a traumatic event – such as an injury, or stressful occurrence; any scenario in which we feel helpless, hopeless and lacking control – the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system becomes engaged, and we produce a fight, flight or freeze response. The body is flooded with stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol, and the heart rate, blood pressure and breathing rate all increase.
Trauma occurs when the body is overwhelmed by this response – it happens too fast, too “big” or too many times – and is unable to complete the response and release the stress hormones and energy created by them. When the stress response remains unprocessed, it settles in the tissues of the nervous system, and is reactivated every time a stressful event occurs – even if that event poses no real threat (for example, speaking in front of a crowd).
It’s important to note that this response can be triggered by both real and imagined threats; we can experience a minor stress response simply by opening our social media apps and seeing a scaremongering headline about, say, a street attack – even if it has happened far away from us.
When we experience this stress response over and over again, it goes from being a healthy, evolutionary feature – designed to save us from predators by making us run away or play dead – to being maladaptive. This prolonged stress damages our health, creating a constant increase in blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate and muscle tone/tension – think about how many people hold tension in their necks and shoulders as a result of stress – and increasing our risk of heart disease, obesity and diabetes.
So how does massage help release the chronic stress that we hold in our nervous systems, and come back to having a relaxed, happy, healthy body and mind?
Well, massage elicits a parasympathetic nervous system response – the opposite of what is described above. The role of the parasympathetic nervous system is to create homeostasis – the body’s ability to maintain a balanced environment. During a parasympathetic nervous system response – also known as a rest and digest response – the heart rate decreases; the muscles relax; the bronchial tubes in your lungs constrict; digestive enzymes are released and your urinary output increases. These are all functions designed to maintain long term health and balance and conserve energy. Sounds good, right?
Massage also decreases levels of cortisol – the stress hormone mentioned earlier – and increases levels of serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin – hormones and neurotransmitters that are associated with feelings of happiness, love, euphoria, improved sleep, social bonding, and reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety. How wonderful is that?
In my practice, I focus on deeply relaxing, therapeutic massage. I enjoy creating a safe, nurturing space in which a client can truly rest, recover and find stillness, because I believe that the psychological benefits of massage are hugely important.
As aforementioned, massage can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression; it can also help one create a healthy self-connection, and boost self-confidence and self-esteem. When you book a massage, you are sending yourself a message that you love your body; that you believe it deserves devoted time and space for rest and care. In a society where we are frequently told that our bodies are “too this, too that, not good enough”, this self-care is a really powerful act!
Bodywork is also a beautiful way of finding peace through mindfulness; giving and receiving massage are both very mindful acts. An hour of resting on the massage table gives you an hour to focus on how your body feels; to process sensations and take note of how/what you can feel, in the present moment, without judgement.
This is an invitation for you to come and experience the beautiful benefits of massage and bodywork on my treatment couch; to reconnect with your body and mind, and give yourself time devoted to resting, healing and recharging. Massage is self-care, and it’s essential to realise that self-care is not selfish – it’s utterly necessary to maintain health, balance and happiness.
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