Introduction to Massage Essentials for Health
Essentials for Health - School of Massage
Introduction to Massage
When one person touches another in a loving way, there is a release in both, of the hormone oxytocin. Well known to be found in abundance in breast-feeding mothers, it is the hormone that ensures the bond with and love for the infant is secured. When released through touch in both men and women, in gives us a feeling of well-being and of being nurtured.
Massage treats the whole person, communicating a sense of peace and tranquillity, and developing a feeling of being in touch with our inner selves and an inner contentment. Often after a number of massages people find that they are more aware of their bodies and more able to relax, switch off from their thoughts and retreat from the stress of their day, relieving mental and emotional tension that frequently manifests as muscle tension.
In all complementary therapies there is a premise that the body is naturally designed to be in a state of ease and effortless functioning. Massage can literally soothe our nerves and produce a feeling of well-being. The action of rubbing the skin creates changes in the body and the hormone endorphin is released. This is the body's natural pain killer which also creates a sense of well-being. It improves circulation by assisting the flow of blood from the limbs back to the heart. Through the deep stroking movements called effleurage, is increases the flow of fresh blood, which carries nutrients and oxygen to organs and muscles.
Massage of the abdomen will stimulate the muscles of the stomach, intestines and bowel increasing the action called peristalsis by which food is digested. If food can be digested and eliminated more quickly there will be fewer toxins within the body and less disease-causing bacteria.
The first action of massage on muscles is to encourage them to relax and lengthen (imagine a wound up elastic band being unravelled), relieving tightness, tension and toxins.
The second action is to encourage fresh blood into the congested area, bringing fresh nutrients and oxygen to the fatigued muscle, and assisting with the removal of the toxic waste product produced by muscle action called lactic acid. This waste product if left within a tight muscle can crystallise and cause severe muscle soreness.
Massage will assist the flow of the straw coloured fluid that circulates our body known as lymph. The lymphatic system is instrumental in fighting infection and developing immunity. We have lymph nodes, which act as filters to prevent the spread of infection while lymphocytes, carried in the lymph, fight infection.
The lymphatic system has no pump to push lymph around the body and is dependent on muscular contraction, gravity and passive movement to move it on. Massage therefore directly assists lymphatic drainage by pushing lymph out of muscles and other cells and on towards the collecting nodes, speeding up the removal of waste products and toxins.
The soothing stroke known as effleurage can reduce blood pressure by calming the body and reducing the cardiac output (the amount of blood forced out of the heart per minute). It also reduces peripheral resistance (factors that oppose blood flow) caused by contracted and tight muscles not allowing blood to flow freely.
Massage removes dead skin cells allowing sweat glands, hair follicles and sebaceous glands to be free of obstruction and therefore work more effectively. The blood supply to the skin is stimulated, taking fresh nutrients to feed the skin. The skin also greatly benefits from all the vitamins and minerals found in the massage oils.
Through all the above benefits of massage, a person will gain a realisation of how good a relaxed body can feel and therefore may take steps to actively prevent stress affecting their muscles as it occurs. An increased awareness of oneself will encourage a person to take better care of their health and feel more in control of it. Improvements in health through dissolving blocks that prevent the body from healing itself and reducing the stressful onslaughts that "run us down", will lead to a happier and healthier lifestyle.
Massage: the antidote to stress
In today's world, few of us are able to escape from the trappings of modern day living and the stresses that accompany them. From our environment we are constantly bombarded with noise, pollution, chemicals in food, rush, frights, other people's emotions and negative news stories from the media, sick building syndrome and radiation from electrical equipment.
On the inside we suffer from our own high expectations: perfectionism. Trying to do too much in too short a time, fears founded and unfounded, worries, wanting to please others, keeping our emotions pent up, and being in a hurry. Our day to day lives are often further complicated by life events, a marriage, a birth, a bereavement, moving house, divorce, losing a job, going on holiday, a brush with the law. At work we often are expected to take on increasing amounts of work and responsibility, meet tighter deadlines and work with other people where communication is poor and expectations are too high. In the home people are often juggling their work with their private lives and family commitments and stress is often apparent in conflict and disquiet in relationships.
No wonder we are suffering from stress and that our health may also begin to suffer! The problem for us today is that the fight or flight response is often activated regularly and inappropriately in modern day living.
A cat runs out in front of our car and we slam on the brakes and experience palpitations, we go for an interview and suffer sweaty palms and dry mouth, we rush around in a hurry and become tense, we have an argument and we feel shaky and sick, we think of that pile of work on the desk and become anxious and exhausted!
There is, however, good news. The stress response can be counteracted by healthy living and particularly the ability to relax.
Relaxation can take many forms; a warm bath, a stroll in the country, yoga, a sauna, reading a good book, meditation, breathing exercises and, of course, massage. Through the act of relaxation we stimulate a part of the brain (the parasympathetic nervous system) that slows down the heart rate, the rate of breathing, lowers blood pressure and stimulates digestion and immunity.
Massage can be one of the most effective ways to learn how to relax. To switch off that nagging voice inside your head, to unwind from the overwork, rush and worries that compound, to be encouraged to breathe easily and slowly, to have the tension eased out of muscles to slow the heart rate and lower blood pressure.
To experience the magic of massage for yourself come to our massage magic workshop or buy a copy of total massage”
Essentials for Health - School of Massage, Aromatherapy & Sports Massage
in Central London, UK
Based at The Post Graduate Centre, St Thomas' Hospital, Waterloo