How are you breathing today?
When was the last time you focused on breathing? Since breathing is not something we need to remember to do, it often goes unnoticed.
Relaxing the body during a massage, or as I like to say, “allowing yourself to be heavy on the table” is the key ingredient for the most effective therapeutic massage possible. In order to attain relaxation of the physical body, your mind must relax and let go. To control your breath is to control your mind. Learn to relax the mind and the body will follow.
Sounds simple, right? Not always. Many find it difficult to quiet the mind during a massage. The mind begins to go from one thought to the next, forgetting to relax, and before you know it, the massage is over. We become stuck in cyclical stress thinking of day to day life and responsibilities. Stress becomes the norm. Tension is piled onto muscles already tight, aching from preexisting injuries from sports and trauma, postural misalignments from sitting at a computer, looking at your phone, standing on your feet, and so on... Releasing muscle tension and correcting misalignments through therapeutic massage and bodywork is your massage therapist main goal.
The duration of your massage is YOUR time to let go of anything and everything before and after the massage. Breathing is the simplest way to relax your body. When you fully exhale, then inhale directing all the air to the belly, and repeat this practice, the brain naturally switches from fight or flight (the sympathetic nervous system), to rest and digest. This allows the parasympathetic nervous system to work its magic. The overworked, tense muscles of the neck, shoulders and chest will ease. The ability to embrace deep tissue massage work, without the constriction and unnecessary pain from the “fight” reaction from your muscles will occur. The activation of the parasympathetic nervous system lowers pain receptors in the body. Deeper “belly” breathing (diaphragmatic breathing) encourages the diaphragm to move freely, making space between the ribs and abdomen, elongating the torso, and strengthening abdominal muscles. This exercise massages internal organs, lowers blood pressure, and helps the body to work more efficiently in eliminating waste and toxins in the body. Basically, therapeutic massage and deep breathing work beautifully together, supporting and amplifying each others many healing and beneficial attributes.
My first question I ask every client is “How are you feeling today?” At the beginning of each session I silently assess the breath and by incorporating the simple diaphragmatic breathing practice, I gently bring your attention to relaxation and restoration. “Take a slow, deep, complete, breath.” I do the same. And if I notice a client becomes restless or reactive to pressure, I will ask again, “lets take a slow, deep, complete, breath.”. The results are immediate and apparent to the client and massage therapist.
We want you to walk out of your massage and feel a difference, relief in problem areas, happy and satisfied with optimal results, So, the next time you get a massage, help your massage therapist help you and take a deep breath. Allow yourself to relax and enjoy an overall sense of well being, physically and mentally.