Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Getting the most from your massage

I found a lovely article in today's Press Democrat. Mind you, once I tracked it down, I discovered it was a blog post written back in July. Ah well! It's still very much worth reading.

10 Tips to get the Most Out of Your Massage
By Kate Forgach, author of the Go Frugal blog at freeshipping.com
A professional massage may seem like a waste of money -- until you've had one. Frugal fans know a good massage can provide more health benefits than a visit to the doctor, and often for less cash. As an added bonus, a massage can provide a real spiritual lift.

But how do you get the most out of a massage when you're lying there worrying about spending all that money? Taking off your clothes and slipping under the sheets is the easy part. But how do you fully receive all the benefits obtainable full a massage.

Since I sometimes have trouble getting the most out of a massage, I asked a therapist friend for some guidelines. Here's her advice.

1. Drink Water Before and After
Most therapists will remind you to flush toxins after a massage, but it's equally important to hydrate before climbing on the table. That's because the pressure from your masseuse's hands pushes lactic acid out of your muscle tissue and into your bloodstream, where it circulates throughout your body.

Without water, your blood flow is sluggish and stagnated and may not process these toxins as readily as hydrated, less viscous fluids. If your worried about drinking too much tap water we recommend getting a Brita filter.

2. Talk to Your Massage Therapist
Tell the massage therapist your concerns, needs and expectations before you start. Let them know about problem areas, like a bad back, trick knee or the knotted shoulders caused by computer work, so they can avoid these areas or pay special attention, as appropriate.

Be sure to express your environmental preferences, as well. Let the therapist know how you like the music, room temperature, etc. You don't want the ambiance jarring you out of your cozy zone. If you're an aromatherapy fan and have a specific preference, bring a sample with you.
(I also have a small selection of therapeutic grade essential oils that I keep on hand, specifically chosen for common issues of pregnancy and postpartum, but I am more than happy to use a favorite of yours.)
3. Don't Be Bashful
In general, the less you wear, the fewer obstacles to a good massage. Your certified massage therapist is trained in sheet-draping techniques that will ensure your modesty is protected at all times. So remove everything, slide under those silky sheets, and don't waste energy worrying about what the therapist will think of your body.

4. Stop Thinking

This may be the hardest part of relaxing into a massage. I find yogic rhythmic breathing prepares my body and brain.

While the therapist is getting set up I perform deep breathing exercises, inhaling from the stomach, upwards through the chest cavity and mentally swirling the breath through my brain. On the inhale I gather all my thoughts, tensions and negativity into a gray smoke and expel it out of my body. Then I reverse the process, filling my body with pure air. Five cycles usually do it, then I repeat this process whenever niggling thoughts stop me from enjoying the massage.

5. Relax Your Body
Don't engage your muscles to help the therapist maneuver a part of your body. This doesn't really help as it just tenses your muscles and makes the therapist's work harder.

6. Breathe Through the Pain
Don't hold your breath when the therapist begins working on a muscular knot or the muscle will continue to hold its tension. Instead, start narrowing your focus to a deep, rhythmic breathing pattern. Try to visualize tension leaving your body on the exhale and allow your body to relax a little more with each breath.

7. Talk Less -- Listen to Your Body More
Sometimes a verbal release is just as therapeutic as a muscle relax, but if you're chattering away during a massage you're not really concentrating on your body. Animated conversation makes your body tense up, so save the chit chat for lunch dates.

Do talk, however, to give the masseuse instructions. Let them know when the pressure is too soft or hard; if you're feeling chilly; or if you'd like them to work more on a specific area. Then head back to dreamland.

8. Recover Slowly
Don't harsh your mellow by jumping off the table after the therapist has left the room. Take a minute to glory in your newly relaxed body.

Slowly open your eyes and appreciate the room's ambiance. Roll slowly onto your dominant side, push gently up to a seated position with one arm, and sit on the edge of the massage table for a few moments.

The therapist should have left a glass of water, so take time to slowly sip the entire glass before donning your clothes and gliding back into the real world.

9. Drink More Water
Flush those nasty toxins out of your system with plenty of water. Otherwise, you could end up with sore muscles and nausea -- making the massage a complete waste of time and money.

While there's no magic number of ounces you should drink, the more water you consume the better you'll feel.

10. Take It Easy
Help your body and mind hold on to the benefits of the massage as long as possible. Return to the breathing exercises when you begin tensing up throughout the day or when your brain returns to its natural fretting routines.

At the end of the day, treat yourself to a relaxing evening. Eat a light dinner. Soak in a warm bath with scented salts or aromatherapy oils, then curl up in bed for a deep, restorative sleep.
(I couldn't figure out how to contact Ms. Forgach from her blog, so I couldn't ask permission to post this.  I'm sorry!  If you find this, Ms. Forgach, please contact me.)

Jena Vincent of Abundance Massage

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