Increasing Body Awareness Through Massage Therapy
Posted by in community on Mar 1, 2013
By Guest Blogger, Tamar Thomas. LMT- Massage Therapist/Owner at Inner Truth Massage
Receiving regular massage therapy as part of a preventive wellness regimen has so many health benefits. You’ve surely heard the list: Increased circulation, improved immunity, removal of lactic acid and toxins, relief from headaches and muscle soreness, faster recovery from injury, etc. The documented research includes not only physical benefits, but a mind body connection as well.
In my opinion, the most important benefit massage provides is an opportunity to go inward and be aware of oneself in the moment. To “climb out of your head and into your body,” as my anatomy instructor used to say. It is a magical hour where you are not sleeping, but not moving; just observing being present in your body. Going inward during bodywork helps us connect with our highest self, with who we really are, and to experience the way we would ideally feel every day- relaxed, centered, happy, and healthy.
The state of deep relaxation that a massage delivers helps us “hear” our body’s signals more clearly, whether it is an awareness of hidden stress or the need for more or less of something in our lives. Have you ever come down with a cold or flu, and realized that you have been demanding too much of yourself? If you had been listening to the signals, to slow down and nurture your body’s demands for rest, you could have possibly prevented the illness. You were probably feeling stressed, tired, and overworked.
So many of us go through daily life completely disconnected from our body. A dull ache in a joint, throbbing between the shoulder blades, or a tension headache, and we tend to pop an ibuprofen before considering the cause. We have such constantly busy minds catering to the tasks at hand, the to-do list, and to others’ needs that it is easy to overlook the messages our bodies are sending us. Massage therapy provides the perfect opportunity to turn off the internal chatter and just listen. Once we have slowed down and are tuned in to our physical self, it is so much easier to recognize and take the steps needed to heal. Be it more sleep, hydration, stretching, mindfulness of habits, applying ice for inflammation, or making that appointment for chiropractic care, awareness is the first step.
Massage also helps us bring awareness to subconscious holding patterns or tension. It is so common for a client on my massage table to announce, “I didn’t even know I was sore there until you started working on me!” We can hold chronic muscular tension in our neck, shoulders, back, and/or hips, often without an awareness that we are doing it. Here’s a test: Take a few deep breaths and ask yourself as you’re reading this, “Am I holding tension anywhere in my body right now?” Pause and breathe. Do a mental scan from head to toe and ask for feedback from your body. Where are you holding your stress? What did you find?
Another way to connect our mind and body is through exercising gratitude for the parts of us that do feel good and that unconsciously keep us alive and thriving. Donna Gates from Positively Positive writes, “How many of us are thankful for our health and for the body itself? The body, with all its senses, strength, and flexibility, is the one thing that we could be most grateful for. Many times we forget about the many miracles that the body performs on a daily basis. Because our bodies are always with us, keeping up with the tempo of life, we have a tendency to take the body for granted. Only when something goes wrong with the body do we appreciate it.” I find the following exercise really helpful for communicating with subconscious holding patterns in my body and to remind myself to be grateful for where I feel good.
Awareness and Gratitude Exercise
- Focus on the rhythms of your breath. Are you taking short, shallow breaths or long, deep ones from your chest or belly? Take a few breaths to fall into your own rhythm.
- Consider how your entire body is feeling. Any areas that you’ve been neglecting? How do they feel? Take note of any pockets of tension, tightness, soreness or fatigue. Where does discomfort live in your body – your head, neck, shoulders, back or feet, perhaps?
- Where does your body feel relaxed, content, and comfortable? Take a moment to be thankful for this feeling. On the in-breath think, “I am” and on the out-breath think, “At peace.” No matter what is going on around you, it is always possible to find an inner sense of peace and calm.
- Say the following aloud or to yourself now and throughout the day: “With each out-breath, I am releasing pent-up tension and stress. With each in-breath, I am restoring physical well-being.” Just this act of attention and awareness has the power to bring you more energy and reduce stress.
You may be wondering how I can help you as a massage client to be more in the present moment and bring your consciousness into your body through massage. Here are a few things I do in my practice:
- I take the time to ground myself and to create a safe space for allowing you to just “be”, leaving my own “stuff” out of the session with 100% attention on you and your needs.
- I really listen to you before the massage – taking into consideration your personal preferences for pressure, temperature, favorite aromas, past injuries or tension patterns, current needs and energy level, etc
- During the massage, I am always tuned in to the rhythm of your breathing and I use it to guide the pace and depth of my pressure and flow. Slow, calm breathing is an indication that your body is welcoming in the work, while holding the breath is a sign that the work is too deep.
- Your body knows exactly what it needs to heal itself, so by listening to your body and connecting with your higher self, I am able to listen as well, and can adjust my work so that you receive exactly the kind of session that you need at that time.
Here is a challenge for you: Be a little bit more aware of your body today. Slow down and be mindful of your body’s needs. Take a moment to really be still and listen. You may be surprised at what you hear.
About the Author:
Tamar Thomas, LMT is a licensed and nationally certified massage therapist. She has owned and operated Inner Truth Massage since 2008 and has recently moved her practice to 40 Pleasant St in downtown Portsmouth- Across the hall from Healing Hands Community Chiropractic. She is thrilled to be collaborating toward Healing Hand’s motto “Wellness for All” and has extended an exclusive ongoing offer to HHCC patients: A 25-minute back and neck massage on a scale of $20-$40. Manage your massage appointments online at www.innertruthmassage.com or call Tamar at (603) 616-2828 for more information.
About Healing Hands Community Chiropractic
Our mission at Healing Hands Community Chiropractic -Portsmouth, NH is to promote and support the overall health, well-being and highest quality of life of all individuals and families in our community through affordable chiropractic care.
Healing Hands Community Chiropractic is a health -care model intended to increase access to chiropractic care by offering adjustments in an open setting and fees on an affordable sliding-scale, without income verification. By doing so, we offer the people of our community the opportunity to receive treatment as often as they need, to get the results they deserve with no insurance hassles -simply paying what they can for only $20- $40!
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