Monday, August 23, 2010

Healing by Touch- What Massages Can Do For You

For part 2 of my mini-day spa series, I'd like to talk about the benefits and healing power of massage. Since I am not a trained massage therapist, I thought I'd ask a professional :) Laura Ellen is an amazing massage therapist and I asked her for a little insight regarding the health benefits of massage, and here is her lovely exposé on what massages can do for you!!

I wrote massage is for everyone as a working title but that’s not really true. Some people flat out do not like being touched and for them, it’s ok, you don’t have to get massaged and if you don’t want to be talked into it that’s fine. For the rest of us . . . oh my how we love a good massage.

Massage is beneficial on so many levels. Let’s start with the physical aspects. Massage keeps your blood flowing and helps to keep your muscles supple. This boosts your immune system. Less actual sick days at work, more “calling in sick” on good powder days in the winter and sunny bike riding days in the summer. Why waste a good sick day on being sick? Get massaged monthly. Massage can make your work outs more effective because your muscles are staying flexible and stretched. Less pain during work outs, more flexibility, and less recovery time from really pushing it. It’s no secret that if you have tight muscles getting a massage is a fantastic way to get them released and happy again. Massage releases toxins and lactic acid from your system. This helps keep your skin in good condition and your face will glow. The oil and lotion used during massage keeps your skin moisturized.

Massage also stimulates the brain. Children who were massaged as infants show greater mental acuity as they age, they have a much closer bond with their parents, make friends easily, and they are able to form and keep happy relationships.

Massage can be just flat out relaxing and pampering. Not every massage has to be after running a marathon or completing an iron man. Massage feels good and you should treat yourself. Be sure you’re treating yourself well in life and keeping you happy so that you can, in turn, be happy with others.

Massage can be particularly beneficial for those who have body image issues, especially if there is some sort of malady involved. Women who have suffered a mastectomy, people with scars, missing limbs and digits. All of these people need to feel that they are still beautiful, inside and out. There is no greater way of letting them feel this than by literally touching them so they know they are not being judged.

Check out Laura Ellen's own witty and insightful blog "The Republic of Laura" at

My Own Reflection
My first massage was a not so great experience. I had received a gift card for my birthday one year for a massage at a small, non-Aveda spa in Littleton, Colorado, and it was a painful 50 minutes. The therapist didn't listen to my requests for pressure changes and I walked away feeling sore, uncomfortable (both physically and emotionally), and worst of all, confused about why anyone would want to be massaged in the first place. It wasn't until I had the first great massage of my life (at Tall Grass during the summer of 2008) that I realized how healing massages can be if performed correctly.

As Laura Ellen started off her post, not everyone likes to be touched, and at the end of high school and beginning of college, this was me. During a massage, I can feel a deep connection between my emotions and my body, and at one point in my life, I was too afraid and uncomfortable to be touched by anyone. During that first massage at Tall Grass, I flinched the first few times I felt the hands of the therapist on my skin, but soon her gentle strokes and soothing words eased me into a state of relaxation I had not previously felt. The disconnect between my body and emotions started to disappear, and I just felt...okay. Every massage I've had since then has made me feel more comfortable in my own skin, and leaves me walking away feeling a little happier with myself.

Communicating with the service provider giving your massage is crucial. The more feedback you give them about pressure and areas that need more work, the better you will feel. As a type-A, tightly wound stress case, it takes me a while before I can relax into my massage; but once I do, it's almost a transformative experience. My intention is not to make it sound as if massages transport me into some other realm where all I see is stars and swirls and love, because that just doesn't really sound credible. However, there is a sense of peace and self-love that I feel during a massage that I just don't feel anywhere else. It's hard to articulate the exact sentiments that I feel, but all I can say is that a massage heals my heart and soul as much as it does my body. With all the stress in this world, it's rejuvenating to take a step inwards and get lost in yourself. For me, this is what a massage does.

If you haven't tried a massage before, I highly recommend one! Here are some tips to help you get started:
1. Some colleges offer massages to students as part of various events or ongoing stress buster activities (I've found that often times these occur in conjunction with eating disorder awareness or a body image event).
2. See if there are any spas or massage therapy offices near your school (sometimes they offer a student discount and massage therapy students might need someone to practice on!)
3. If you really want a healing experience, find a spa that is secluded (i.e. mountains, beach, etc)- the focus is taken off of the hustle and bustle of city and college life and placed on YOU
4. It sounds obvious, but spa gift cards are easy holiday/birthday gifts! Save them up and treat yourself to a day at the spa

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