A recent study demonstrates the benefits of massage, including significant improvements on measurements for stress, pain, and anxiety, for military veterans--and their partners--upon returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
National Guard personnel and their partners participated in the self-directed program of complimentary therapies, including massage therapy, guided meditation, and relaxation techniques.
Veterans reported significant reductions in pain, tension, anxiety, and irritability after massage. There were also significant improvements in measures for PTSD and depression, as well as self compassion for both veterans and their partners. Veterans' partners also experienced significant overall improvement in levels of stress.
Prenatal massage shares many of the goals of regular massage – to relax tense muscles, ease sore spots, improve circulation and mobility, and just make you feel good. Massage therapy is a safe, healthy way to reduce stress and promote overall wellness. Prenatal massage can relieve back pain and improve sleep and mood, as well as decrease stress and reduce labor complications.
Massage relieves many of the normal discomforts experienced during pregnancy, such as backaches, stiff neck, leg cramps, headaches and edema (or swelling). In addition, massage for pregnant women reduces stress on weight-bearing joints, encourages blood and lymph circulation, helps to relax nervous tension -- which aids in better sleep -- and can help relieve depression or anxiety caused by hormonal changes.
The benefits of massage can improve overall prenatal health for many pregnant women, and massage therapy is proven to improve pregnancy outcome and maternal health. As always, it is important to consult with your midwife or obstetrician before beginning any new therapeutic practice.
Prenatal sessions are tailored specifically to the needs of pregnant women and their changing bodies, and therapists who are trained in prenatal massage adjust their techniques accordingly. Prenatal massage is best given while you lie on your side propped up by pillows. Sideline positioning with supportive, soft cushions is used to alleviate the extra strain on the lower back and pelvic areas when the pressure of massage techniques are applied. Neck and shoulder massage, or lower leg and foot massage are also safe sitting-up options.
Aromatherapy Tip: Use the same oil you studied with when you take the exam!
Improve Memory & Concentration
Rosemary, Peppermint, Eucalyptus, Sage
Get that extra edge you need to make the grade, naturally! Numerous studies have been done on essential oils to improve memory and focus, especially for people with ADD and ADHD. Rosemary, sage, peppermint, and eucalyptus are great choices for improving concentration, and all are particularly high in a compound called 1,8-cineole--also known as "eucalyptol". Research has shown that eucalyptol can significantly improve memory and performance on cognitive tasks!
Less Stress, More Calm
Ylang-ylang, Lavender, Citrus, Sandalwood
Lavender is considered to be an adaptogen, and therefore can assist the body in many different ways when adapting to stress or imbalances. Lavender not only has calming, sedating effects but can also be a booster when energy runs low. Linalyl acetate and linalool have been identified as active constituents that contribute to its calming and sedative properties.
While yang-ylang was shown not improve memory, it did significantly increase calmness. Sandalwood is also a very calming, grounding essential oil, even though the most exciting research being done is for its anti-cancer properties!
Eucalyptus, Rosemary, Citrus
There is a growing body of evidence indicating that Mother Nature holds the cure to much of what ails us--and can keep us from getting sick in the first place. Many of these essential oils are high in compounds such as monoterpines, thymol, and limonene. Eucalyptus, which is the primary aromatic compound and active ingredient in Vick's VapoRub, is especially high in some of these compounds, and has been found effective in relieving bronchitis and sinus infections. Learn more here: Top Essential Oils For Cold & Flu Season.
Lavender, Ylang-ylang, Sandalwood
Many studies have shown the effectiveness of essential oils to help you get a good night's rest. According to "Aromatherapy: A Complete guide to the Healing Art", clinical studies have found lavender essential oil to be effective in helping people fall asleep faster and experience fewer sleep-related symptoms. Learn all about Lavender: The Most Versatile Essential Oil.
Ylang-ylang, sandalwood, and Roman chamomile are also great choices for improving sleep – and, therefore, improving concentration and memory!
Peppermint, Citrus, Rosemary, Sage
Give yourself a little "pep-talk" with some peppermint! Scientific studies have proven the effectiveness of peppermint essential oil to fight burnout and exhaustion. Wake yourself up with the bright, refreshing citrus scents of lemon, grapefruit, and orange! Lime is truly sublime in Young Living's Stress Away essential oil blend....
The heart chakra is the bridge between the lower and higher chakras, balancing the physical world with the spiritual. The fourth chakra unifies the mind-body-spirit, bringing "wholeness" and integrity to our being. Our ability to heal ourselves and others, is centered in the fourth chakra, our hearts.
Chakras are influenced by (and have influence over) the world around us and the world within us. Colors, sounds, natural elements, relationships, words and thoughts, clothing, foods, everything we interact with everyday has an effect (for better or worse) on the health and function of our chakras.
Sometimes, circumstances can leave us feeling unbalanced. While there are many things influencing our energy systems that we are not able to control, there is much we can do to help bring ourselves (and each other) into a healthy balance.
Reiki (ray-kee) is a healing technique based on the chakras and energy systems of the body. During a reiki session, the therapist facilitates the quality and movement of that energy, balancing the chakras, and activating the natural healing processes. Reiki treats the whole person, creating many beneficial effects that include relaxation and feelings of peace, security and well-being.
Another major benefit of reiki and energy work is simply creating time and space with the intention to re-connect with our own mind, body, and emotions. Taking the time to get in touch with ourselves, physically and emotionally, is critical to living a healthy, happy life. Re-connecting with our hearts can open us to tremendous healing.
Some questions to ask yourself and your heart chakra:
Set aside some time to get in tune with your heart, mind, and body. Book a Reiki & Energy Balancing appointment.
Learn more: "Have You Experience the Power of Reiki"
Massage therapy can relieve muscular stress and tension, help with managing pain, and provides numerous benefits for overall health and well-being on many levels.
A majority of people who get massage report the neck, shoulders, and upper back between the shoulder blades as areas that hold a lot of tension, and it's no surprise. Working at a computer all day, driving our cars, caring for others, and many other daily activities tend to put significant demands on our upper bodies.
Massage therapy physically opens and eases tension and stress held in the chest, ribs, shoulders, and arms. This physical release encourages the "relaxation response" and encourages numerous biological benefits to take effect.
When we are in a hurry or stressed-out, our breathing becomes more shallow, our heart rate and blood pressure rise, and "stress hormones" such as cortisol flood our bloodstream. This constant state of "fight-or-flight" can have damaging effects on our health.
Many recent scientific studies have shown massage therapy can decrease blood pressure and heart rate. In fact, research has shown significant reductions in blood pressure, heart rate, and levels of cortisol after just 10-15 minutes of massage!
Another major benefit of massage and bodywork is the time and opportunity to re-connect with our own mind, body, and emotions. Taking the time to get in touch with ourselves, physically and emotionally, is critical to living a healthy, happy life.
Quite often, that 60 minutes on the massage table may be the only completely uninterrupted "you-time" that you get during the week. No phones, no kids, no other place to be, and no one else needing any of your attention except yourself. Re-connecting with our hearts can open us to tremendous healing.
Given that skin and our sense of touch are closely tied to the "heart chakra", it makes sense that massage and bodywork can have an influence on this energy center.
Our physical heart and blood, as well as the entire circulatory and respiratory systems, work in synchronicity with our heart chakra. Lungs, diaphragm, esophagus, thymus, breasts, ribs, upper back, shoulders, arms, and hands are all tied to this vibrant energy center. All of the "connective" tissue of the body is governed by this chakra. The predominant sense organ and sense related to the heart chakra is, in fact, skin and our sense of touch.
The experience of unconditional love is a powerful energy that sustains us through the most difficult times in our lives. Our ability to heal ourselves and others, is centered in the fourth chakra, our hearts.
February is American Heart Month, and the American Heart Association considers effective stress-management to be key in keeping a healthy heart. In addition to relieving "stress", the scientific research is showing that massage therapy can be a safe, effective way to maintain heart health on numerous levels. Below is just a short list of ways massage therapy can have a positive impact on your health.
1. Massage Therapy Can Relieve Stress
Research has shown massage therapy is effective stress relief. Massage therapy can reduce stress significantly on physical and psychological levels including decreased blood pressure and heart rate and improvements in mood and emotional states. Massage is also proven effective relief for anxiety and tension headaches.
2. Massage Can Improve Your Cardiovascular Health
Massage has been shown to not only decrease blood pressure and heart rate, but also significantly decrease in the hormone arginine-vasopressin (a major player in regulating blood pressure and water retention). Numerous controlled studies have shown significant reductions in blood pressure, heart rate, and levels of the "stress-hormone" cortisol after just 10-15 minutes of massage!
3. Massage Can Reduce Dependence on Medications
In the United States, only about half the people being treated for high blood pressure have actually succeeded in getting it under control. Many people with heart disease or high blood pressure are prescribed medications. Too often, these medications do very little to help, with a long list of undesirable side effects.
In a recent scientific study, researchers studied 236 volunteers who received up to 60 minutes of massage therapy. Average systolic blood pressure fell by more than 10 mg Hg, diastolic pressure reduction of 5.3 mm Hg, and heart rate decreased by 10 beats per minute after just one treatment. That's better a reduction than many prescription medications, without any nasty side-effects. Findings of another recent study indicated that massage also has a lasting and significant effect on blood pressure 72 hours later compared to the control group.
4. Massage Therapy Benefits Cardiac Patients
Recents studies have shown that massage therapy reduces tension, anxiety, and pain in patients awaiting invasive cardiovascular procedures. Massage therapy can also significantly reduce the pain, anxiety, and muscular tension, as well as improve relaxation and satisfaction after cardiac surgery.
5. Doctors & Hospitals Recommend Massage Therapy
In a recent survey, 64% of hospitals reported using massage therapy as part of outpatient care, and 44% use massage therapy as part of inpatient care. Among Consumer Reports readers who used deep tissue massage, usually for back or neck pain, 28% said their doctors had recommended it.
Edited and re-posted from original article published February 2016.
Most of us here at Balanced Bodywork practice reiki, or some form of energy and chakra work. Many massage therapists quickly discover that there is more to bodywork than just the physical body. We learn about reiki or other energy work practices, such as healing touch, while we are still in massage school. We bring this awareness of the body's energy systems, and how these energy systems interact with the physical body, into each and every session we provide.
What is Reiki?
First of all, let us begin by learning what reiki is not. Reiki is not a religion, nor is it affiliated with any religion. Many people do consider reiki to be a spiritual practice, and reiki may be practiced by persons of any religion, or none at all.
Reiki (ray-kee) is a complementary health approach in which practitioners place their hands lightly on or just above a person, with the goal of facilitating the person’s own healing response. Reiki literally means “universal life energy”. It is a Japanese healing technique based on the energy systems of the body and principle that the therapist facilitates the quality and movement of that energy to activate the natural healing processes. Reiki treats the whole person, creating many beneficial effects that include relaxation and feelings of peace, security and well-being.
How does Reiki work, and what does it feel like?
Reiki is a simple, natural and safe method that everyone can use. It also works in conjunction with all other medical or therapeutic techniques to relieve side effects and promote recovery. Most commonly, Reiki is offered through light, non-invasive touch with the practitioner's hands placed and held on a series of locations on the head and front and back of the torso, as well as arms, legs, hands, and feet. A complete Reiki session is offered to a fully clothed recipient who is lying on a treatment table or sitting comfortably supported in a chair.
The experience of Reiki is subjective, changeable, sometimes very subtle, and unique to each individual. People often experience heat in the practitioner's hands, but sometimes the practitioner's hands feel refreshingly cool. Other common experiences are subtle pulsations where the practitioner's hands are placed or cascading waves of pulsations throughout the body, sometimes the feeling of bubbles being released. Many people report that they feel as though they have been hovering in a state between waking and unconscious, a deep, sleep-like meditative state. Most people experience Reiki as a very comforting, relaxing experience.
Every reiki practice is grounded in five simple precepts:
Just for today....
Do not worry.
Do not anger.
Be grateful for your many blessings.
Do your work honestly.
Be kind to yourself and others.
Reiki can also be performed on one's self. An integral part of of reiki is learning to become aware of the energy systems and facilitating the flow of universal energy for the healing of ourselves, others, and the world in which we live.
Everyone has their own personal needs and reasons for receiving reiki, and almost everyone leaves their session feeling more comfortable, centered and grounded, and with a greater sense of well-being. We hope that you will give reiki a try, and we are honored to be a part of your healing journey.
Originally published May 2014.
Running out of will-power to stick with your New Year's resolutions? It may be because you have too much stress. Dr. Amit Soon from Mayo Clinic explains the effects of stress on will-power in this excerpt from NPR's Science Friday...
The #1 Killer of Will-Power is......STRESS
As Dr. Amit Sood explains in the NPR Science Friday interview above, when we are stressed-out--which is a lot of the time-- we are more likely to revert to our ingrained habits, much like a "zombie".
Some of Dr. Sood's suggestions for keeping your resolutions stress-free are to keep it simple, specific, and realistic, and to be intentional about setting goals that have real meaning to you. Don't over commit yourself, and find a partner who can help keep you motivated. Dr. Amid Soot also reminds us that often these changes take time.
De-Stress Your New Year's Resolutions With Massage
Most Americans New Year's resolutions focus on taking better care of themselves, and often this includes finding ways to better manage stress and achieve a better balance in our busy lives.
"Anyone who enjoys massage should consider indulging regularly," says Mark Hyman Rapaport, MD, chairman of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Emory University School of Medicine. “Of course, a single session will do great things for the body, but regular sessions seem to be even more profound.”
There is growing scientific evidence for the many beneficial, stress-relieving effects of a good massage. Massage therapy has been shown to boost the will-power hormone--serotonin. A stress relieving massage or reiki session could be just what you need to strengthen your resolve!
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1. Get Active & Stay Fit
Whether you are a professional athlete or just getting started with a fitness program, massage therapy has been shown to have major benefits for exercise, including enhanced performance and cardiovascular health. Massage therapy is also effective for pain management, faster recovery, and prevention of injuries, so that you can keep going. Massage therapy can be a key part of maintaining peak fitness.
2. Get Better Sleep & Feel More Energized
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), insufficient sleep is a public health epidemic. Lack of sleep contributes to many of the chronic diseases--such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression—which threaten our nation’s health. Inadequate sleep is associated with a number of medical conditions, and can negatively impact a person’s overall health. Massage therapy has been shown to reduce fatigue and improve sleep.
3. Lose Weight--With A Relaxing Massage!
Massage is at least as good as chocolate, but with zero calories. Massage therapy has been shown to boost levels of the "feel-good" hormones serotonin and dopamine, while at the same time lowering levels of the "stress-hormone" cortisol. This boost in beneficial neurotransmitters not only feels good, but it also helps ease stress and decrease appetite. Increased levels of cortisol can slow metabolism, trigger inflammation, and encourage the accumulation of belly fat. In addition to revving your metabolism, massage can also help out with any stiffness or sore muscles after that great workout!
4. Massage Therapy to Reduce Anxiety & Stress
Too much stress is the #1 reason why we lose our will-power and fail to succeed at our goals. Stress takes a toll on your health and quality of life. Massage therapy has been shown to reduce stress significantly on physical and psychological levels including decreased blood pressure and heart rate and improvements in mood and emotional states (who doesn't feel better after a massage?!) Massage can also be effective relief for anxiety and tension headaches.
5. Give Your Immune System a Boost with Massage
Don't let a case of the sniffles slow you down! In addition to lowering cortisol levels, and increasing our "feel-good" neurotransmitters, massage therapy may also improve immune function by increasing our body’s natural "killer T cells” and lymphocytes, which fight off viruses and protect us from infection and disease. Massage therapy is also being researched as a complimentary treatment to promote healthy immune and endocrine function in cancer patients.
Enjoy Greater Health and Overall Wellness with Regular Massage Therapy
Research shows massage therapy can aid in physical, mental, and social well-being, and may also help prevent disease by improving immune function and reducing stress. With such a long list of health benefits, resolve to make massage therapy a part of your wellness plan!
Originally published January 2015