This section covers the value of touch, a brief history of massage and its benefits and shows you how to work on yourself.
The importance of appropriate, nurturing touch is highly underestimated. The ancients valued it much more than we do. Our ancestors knew that it had restorative, rejuvenating and therapeutic powers.
Acupressure, a thousand year old finger-pressure massage technique, has been known to help disabled children to be better equipped emotionally for classroom learning. PRES, Santa Cruz, California's acupressure in the schools program, has enjoyed marked success with developmentally disabled and Downes Syndrome children and young adults in this and other areas. Basically, it reduces physical, mental and emotional stress, relieves pain and sets up trust and bonding between the giver and receiver, thus allowing the person to function in a more balanced, confident way.
Above and beyond all techniques, loving touch is what heals. What you do isn't half as important as the intention behind it. Various studies have shown that orphaned infants who lacked tactile and sensorial stimulation were dull-eyed and listless. Tragically, some died.
The Netsilik Eskimos who live in the Canadian Arctic, are friendlier and and freer with their affections than we. Even though the Eskimo mother lives in harsh conditions, she bestows warmth and loving acceptance upon her children. Visitors are greeted with warm and gentle hugging and stroking. She never chides her infant or interferes with it in any way, except to respond to its needs. We would do well to follow in their footsteps.
Massage is an ancient, timely art. Hippocrates praised it's therapeutic benefits. The first recorded use of massage was in his time. He extolled the importance of touch as an adjunct to medical treatment. Treating the whole person, appropriate, nurturing touch balances the body and restores one's sense of well-being. European athletes have long valued massage for recovering from muscle injury, pain and strain. People in the U.S.A. are just beginning to recognize it's amazing effects.
Massage facilitates harmonious body function and restores one's self-healing abilities. Bodywork balances the entire system; leaving the person with a glow of well-being. According to athletes such as Olympian Mary Decker-Slaney and tennis pro Chris Evert-Lloyd, massage, like stretching, is an important part of body maintenance as well as an insurance against injury. Massage can loosen muscles that stretching can't. It probes deeply and is specific.
A massage practitioner can also discover potential trouble spots, For instance, tight muscle groups that are vulnerable to strain and tendons that have a predisposition for tendinitis. Massage therapy can be utilized as a diagnostic tool. An achey, tense area is indicative of improper posture, or other ineffective "habits" (both physical and mental) that are crying out for attention and change. Sometimes tightness in the shoulders, neck and back indicate an incorrect sleeping posture. It is best not to sleep on the stomach. It's optimal to sleep on your back, or on either side. If there is back pain, sandwich a pillow between your knees and bring them halfway to your chest. While on your back, place the pillow underneath your knees. A mere change in position can eliminate pain. Tension in the scalp, forehead, neck and shoulder area, especially, can begin to clue you and the therapist into which thought patterns, attitudes and "out-dated" belief systems you are operating from. Chronic tension might be indicative of long-held traumatic memories that are literally "trapped" in your musculature.
Bodywork unlocks and releases joints and releases pent-up and deeply buried emotions. It is useful in recovery from major or minor muscle injury and strain. It increases blood and lymph flow, thereby bringing oxygen and nutrition to speed healing of minor muscular tears. Also, it helps with the removal of lactic acid and other toxins. Massage slows nervous impulses in the muscle tissue to assist in pain relief. Acting as a natural tranquilizer, it slows heart rate, strengthens the immunological system, reduces blood pressure and anxiety. It can relieve the pain of migraine headaches, also. Most importantly, you will experience profound relaxation during and after a massage. Books to see: THE MASSAGE BOOK by George Downing and SHIATSU by Tokujiro Namikoshi.
Self-massage and stretching as stress and illness prevention measures are most effective when applied daily. After the fact, it can lessen stress, soothe nerves, comfort the emotions, strengthen the immunological system, and increase blood and oxygen flow to the body and brain. Massage slows nervous impulses in the muscle tissue, bringing pain relief. Used daily, it may relieve chronic stress and depression. Besides, it feels WONDERFUL to care for yourself! It's one more tool to put in your "bag of tricks!"
NOTES: Specific details and exact times and amounts are sometimes left out of this tutorial, because by listening to your own body, you will be more aware of what to do than any specific instructions we can give. Working on yourself is a way to get better acquainted with your body's needs. Remember to RELAX and do it GENTLY!
Massages are not recommended for severe rheumatoid arthritis (in some cases, very lightly pressing and gentle stroking the arthritic or injured area can be very comforting and healing), tissue damaged areas, inflamed joints, fractures or serious sprains until 4 days after the injury occurred. At this time, do the following self-acupressure treatment for an inflamed injury that is not a fracture, break or severe bruise:
To release stagnated blood, energy and heat, apply gentle
pressure to the swollen area. Hold this gentle but firm
pressure for 10 seconds a little below the pain threshold.
Stop pressing and relax while breathing deeply. Repeat this
10 second interval 10 times with a minute of relaxation in
between. To help in your recovery, visualize yourself doing
your favorite activity with comfort and ease. Picture the
injured part in it's pre-injured "perfect" state. And, think