As a massage therapist I often ask new clients about their prior massage history. The response I get most often from clients is, "I love getting massages, but I don't get them as often as I'd like." We have become conditioned to scheduling regular physical checkups, dental visits, and time for physical activity and exercise. However, many people still have difficulty finding time in their schedules for regular massage sessions. I'm not pointing fingers at anyone, because I'd be the first to admit that I, too, wish I made more time to receive massages as well. In case you're considering deepening the role massage plays in your self care routine or if you're on the fence about scheduling that first appointment, here are five of the many reasons why massage should be a positive, healthy habit.
1. An Ounce of Prevention Is Worth A Pound of Cure
Surely you've heard this old adage before (perhaps even from a family doctor) when discussed in relation to healthy diet and exercise being a major factor in prevention of heart disease. But did you know that massage can be a very powerful asset for preventive care too? By seeing a massage therapist regularly you can prevent minor skeletomuscular injuries from becoming major problems that could lead to loss of mobility or flexibility later in life. Massage therapy specifically works to lengthen muscles that are stuck in a pattern of chronic shortening. If you're worried about the cost of regular massage sessions consider how costly prescription drugs, doctor visits and surgeries would be once that nagging muscle ache becomes a real structural problem. In this case an ounce of prevention through massage is worth more (and may cost less!) than a pound of cure.
2. Enhance Your Yoga (or other Fitness) Practice
If you are serious about deepening your yoga practice and find yourself attending regular workshops and classes to try to target a specific trouble spot (backbending, hamstring stretches, hip opening, etc.) massage just may be the complementary modality to help enhance your efforts. A skilled massage therapist is able to isolate and create length or opening in muscle groups and joints by applying techniques to the soft tissue. Try this: Book a massage prior to your next regular yoga practice. Ask the therapist to focus on a specific area of the body where restrictions in the muscles have caused difficulties in your practice in the past. Once you've worked with a massage therapist to lenghten these muscles, try a yoga practice that challenges that muscle group. By using massage as a way to assist with chronic shortened muscles, you may find that parts of your practice that had seemed challenging, unpleasant, or downright impossible are more within reach.
3 . Keep Your Cool
Many people use meditation and breathing techniques to relax the mind and create a deeper connection to the inner self. For some people meditation can be a real challenge because it requires a self-created stillness that can be at opposition to the challenges of modern life. Regular massages can be extremely beneficial for those who find relaxation to be difficult. By incorporating techniques that act upon the muscular, nervous, and circulatory systems, massage therapy can help slow down the heart rate, decrease activity in an overstimulated nervous system, and allow clients to deepen their breath. As a result, a relaxing massage can have many similar effects to practicing mindful meditation. By keeping your body, mind and spirit in a relaxed state for longer periods of time you can avoid the harmful side effects of stress such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and tension headaches.
4. Elevate Your Mood
If you are looking for a way to beat the blues or simply put a little pep in your step, massage can turn your mood around. In addition to the general lift you'll feel once chronic pain is lessened or eliminated, a massage treatment can cause a mood boost by the release of endorphins into the bloodstream. These amino acids can act as the body's natural painkiller and cause a general feeling of well-being. Several studies have also shown that massage and other forms of therapeutic touch are effective remedies for lessening depression and anxiety.
5. It Feels Good AND Is Good For You
There are not many indulgences in life that can't also count as vices as well. In our culture we are trained to turn to fast food, fatty desserts, alcohol, cigarettes, or other external sources for gratification and pleasure when it's time to treat ourselves. Receiving therapeutic massage is one of the few truly healthy ways that you can treat yourself to a physically pleasurable experience that is also beneficial to your health. Rather than celebrating that next anniversary or birthday with a heavy meal at a restaurant, why not consider a couples massage instead? Taking care of your body and enjoying the relaxation and health benefits of massage is a great way to celebrate special occassions, treat yourself for a job well done, or unwind on that unexpected day off. It's also a great way to ensure that you'll have plenty more happy, healthy birthdays to celebrate in your future!