Massage Module Taster
Massage mind-body link.
Massage has a profound effect on our health. It improves circulation, relaxes muscles, passively stretches, aids digestion, increases alertness, reduces anxiety and by stimulating the lymphatic system, speeds up elimination of wastes products. During massage, there is increased intensity and frequency of alpha brain waves, which is associated with deep relaxation. During this relaxation response a person is in a very pleasant state floating between being awake and asleep, similar to meditation. It even helps the masseur’s blood pressure go down, like stroking a cat! Massage is like an active meditation – calm and absorbing. The quiet rhythm relaxes the masseur – it’s virtually impossible to stay in a bad mood while giving or receiving a soothing hypnotic massage.
When we are presented with someone with injury, headache or simple muscle pain there is always a mental or emotional state that underlies his or her visit. People, who present themselves with apparently simple physical problems commonly have deep seated emotional problems that they are unwilling to admit to, are not able to see the connection. Part of our work is to help the clients to perceive this mind-body link, if they do not already understand the concept, so that they can start healing themselves through positive action in their daily lives.
When clients arrive with, what appear less simple conditions of emotional or mental problems, they have already allowed themselves to acknowledge that the source of their ‘dis-ease’ is in the mind and so are actually closer to healing. Many people are now reluctant to take antidepressive and sleeping tablets, and wish for a more holistic approach to the ups and downs of their lives. Emotionally, massage acts as a safety value to the pain and anxiety that physiological and psychological illness can provoke. Unexpressed emotions are often contained in tense muscles as reservoirs of dysfunctional tension, which when stroked release and dissipate emotion.
Let us look at this concept further. A person can be seen to have two distinct but interlinked aspects.
- The mind or the thinking person
- The body or the physical person
With most people the thinking person part is the ‘boss’, who tells the physical body what to do. If the arm is told to rise it rises. For instance if the thinker wants to skip lunch, it is skipped; or perhaps the thinker wants to eat bad food; stay up late; continue working when the physical body is tired or to stay in a stressful relationship. All too often the physical person’s needs are totally ignored by the mind, it is usually treated like a servant or even a slave until some part of the body cannot cope with the demands any more and breaks or malfunctions. Under stress, which these ‘orders’ create either mentally or physically, the muscles of the body become taut, tense, painful and more easily damaged than softer, flexible, unstressed muscles. Even a car has to have an MOT, so why do we think our beautiful, giving, incredible, functioning bodies should not be cared for and looked after? Buddhists call our body our ‘temple’, it is indeed where our spirit resides, our home in this existence, and has an intelligence of its own if only we cared to listen to it.
Simply massaging a person may release emotional and mental tension, without even talking about the problem beforehand the body understands the process of release. This is the beauty of bodywork, which allows what is hidden within the tissues of the body to be softened, cared for and revealed, through the pleasure of healing. In aromatherapy massage, essential oils are also added to this combination of emotional and physical benefits to enhance the work on body, psyche and spirit, changing client’s attitude to past experience, present emotional state and future intension which increase the power of the results.
It is useful to relate to appropriate parts of the body with its psychological function… as you become more experienced in bodywork the answer to the physical manifestation of illness in a certain part of the body often will be made known as you work.
Last week I worked on an elderly lady. She had a bad right shoulder. I worked on the well shoulder first, so the bad side got the idea and realised I was not going to hurt it. During the massage I worked around the collarbone (clavicle) and shoulder-blade (scapula), very gently as she seemed prickly, and as I worked her body started to trust me allowed me a little deeper, until I realised that she was hardly breathing and her rib cage was taking up as little space as it possibly could. I took a big sigh, breathing for her it seemed, and said, “Don’t forget to breathe”, which she did and the muscles around the shoulder softened, moved and the tension released. She then spoke saying it was good to get some treatment and telling me that her brother had died of a chest infection a month ago. Her chest had become infected the day after the funeral. I spoke to her awhile about the situation and how exhausted she was, suggesting she had a week off work for a “breather” and to allow her self time to grieve and heal. She smiled, her shoulder and chest physically and emotionally a little better, she was on the journey to wellness.