A Year of Monthly Massage

Susie is a wife, a mother, and a hard working professional. Like many people, she believed she was too busy for massage. Then one day, her husband got a great idea. He called me up and asked if he could buy a year’s worth of monthly massages for her for her birthday. I was moved by this man’s love of his wife. He said he knew if she got it into her on-going schedule, like her hair appointments or pedicures, she would realize that she can fit it in.

At the midpoint in our year, during the intake part at the beginning of her appointment, I noted, “This is massage number six in your year of monthly massages.”

She quickly replied, “The best year ever!”

We both laughed, but it’s true!

Regularly scheduled massages make a difference in one’s life. As a recipient of massages, myself, I love it for stress reduction, a chance to surrender during my busy week. When I get a massage in the middle of a hectic day or time in my life, I treasure it. I often say something like, “Hooray, an appointment where I get to lay down and relax!”

Massage therapists manually treat our muscles via kneading, gliding, stretching and other modalities that increase our circulation, improving the health and tone of our muscles. A therapist can treat areas of chronic tension or pain, and even help correct postural distortions. But another important factor is the way the therapist communicates with a client’s nervous system. Beginning with simply placing hands on you and holding them stationary, for instance, the therapist lets your nervous system know, via a calm, gentle “Hello”, that this is safe touch, which calms the nerves further, encourages deeper breathing, and helps with the release of tension in the muscles. The therapist helps guide your body from a stressed state, even a “fight or flight” response (a function of the Sympathetic Nervous System) caused by deadlines, life changes, bosses, anxiety, etc., to your “resting and digesting mode” (a function of the Parasympathetic Nervous System).

Our bodies were not designed to be under stress constantly with our adrenal glands over-stimulated. The fight or flight response is really meant for extreme danger, but the many stresses people sometimes experience in the modern world can put our nervous system in that mode. Here’s where massage comes in handy, bringing us back to “resting and digesting”. It’s like a reset and a reminder of our calmer way of being.

Now it’s up to us to take that feeling of relaxation and renewal with us after an appointment, and maintain it with healthy choices for self-care such as stretching, exercise, hot baths, yoga, meditation, creative outlets and drinking plenty of water.

Try prioritizing self-care more, and see how it affects your life, busy as it may be. You might find you have more energy and more to give. Feel free to comment here and let me know about your experience.


Relax and Nurture with a Therapeutic Bath

I love baths because I find the water element so healing. In various healing traditions, astrology, tarot, and other symbolic contexts, the water element is often representative of the emotional realm.

I have noticed that visiting a large body of water, immersing myself in the ocean or a swimming hole, sitting by a powerful waterfall, or watching a river flow by, can all be therapeutic to me. In the case of swimming, and especially floating, there’s surrender in it. There’s something about the way water hugs us that is reassuring, maybe reminiscent of the womb. But if I can only be by the sea at night or during a storm, and can’t go swimming, it still soothes me. It’s vast and comforting, bigger and deeper than my deepest woes.

What’s a busy person to do when she or he needs the healing power of water but lives in a landlocked area and doesn’t have time for a beach or river trip? Take a bath.

There’s an art to bath taking. It’s way more than filling the tub and getting in (though it can be that simple). Below are some of my favorite elements to incorporate to personalize my therapeutic bath time.

I usually start by cleaning the tub before I run a bath for myself, or our children. It’s nice to start with a fresh tub, and worth the two minutes of scrubbing and rinsing the bathtub.

I usually run my baths pretty hot, but I lean more toward simply warm during the summer so I don’t overheat myself. While the water is running, it’s time to add bubbles, salts, or essential oils. I often add calming lavender essential oil to my bath water with a few drops of Earthy, grounding patchouli essential oil.

Music makes bath time more relaxing for me, and to be honest, a little less boring. If I am stressed, I don’t want to listen to worry and mind chatter. I’d rather hear classical music, or something melancholy or soulful on Pandora, like Elephant Revival or Madeline Peyroux.

I light candles, turn off the light, and crack the window open a little for fresh air and some nature sounds.

I gather various supplies for self-nurturing. I usually bring some cool drinking water, but may also bring hot tea, or even beer or wine. I might bring a washcloth, rose water spray, a bath brush or loofah, a nailbrush, and/or a pumice stone.

I often oil my skin with a mini-massage before a shower or bath, using olive or coconut oil. This helps with my circulation, and also protects my skin from being stripped of its oils by the hot water. I may massage myself more during the bath, or stretch, using the warmth of the bath to make my muscles suppler. A seated forward bend is easy to do in the tub, and it helps stretch hamstrings which are tight on many people. I have even stood facing the corner and basically did my famous “doorway stretch” in the tiled corner, opening my bath-warmed pectoral muscles, thus opening my posture. Got carpal tunnel syndrome? Do your forearm stretches in the bath. You’ve got time…

One of my favorite additions to bath time has been the honey facial. After I have washed my face gently with hot bath water, giving the pores some time to open in the steamy bathroom, I pat my face dry, and then I apply a little honey to my face and upper chest. The darker the honey is, the better, because it contains more antioxidants for my skin. It doesn’t take much more than about a spoonful. I leave the honey on for about 15 minutes, estimating time by the number of songs that have played on my laptop. Then I gently rinse. After the bath I moisturize, usually with coconut oil.

What else would make your bath just right? Padded bath pillows are nice for comfort, for instance. How about a friend? My fiancé sometimes visits me during bath time, and I think he also takes comfort in the water element and the soothing environment I create, even though he usually sits outside the tub and chats with me or holds my hand. I also have mother-daughter baths with my little girl, passing on the fine art of relaxing in the bath.

I feel truly blessed to have a home with a bathtub, and to have hot running water at the turn of a knob. This is one of the ways I heal and nurture myself, filling my own cup, so I can then give to my family and my clients and students.