Holistic Beauty Treatments
The following article is an attempt to bring some clarity over the massage sessions we offer at Eden Spa, which will include issues such as techniques, pressure, and breathing and how physical therapy such as massage has evolved into a more complex therapy over the years.
You, as our customer are the center of our attention; your reasons for coming for a treatment, whether those are pain, muscle tension, improved circulation, etc or a “simple” reason such as relaxation, will be addressed through a core technique of massage which is customised to your needs. However, beyond a great technique goes a new understanding of body-mind connection that becomes alive through the hands of your therapist.
Ultimately, the aim of therapy is to release stress, eliminate or at least ease muscle pain and we would like to do this in the most efficient way. Too often though, we noticed although good results are obtained even after one session, the issue of pain and/or muscle contraction is coming back. At this point was necessary further exploration and more and more therapists started to adopt a holistic approach rather than focus their attention on eliminating troublesome symptoms.
Mind and body were treated as separate entities and it wasn’t until 1940s when W.Reich, psychoanalyst, student of S.Freud, came with the theory that psychological stress is not just in the mind but is also stored in the body, as physical stress. The transfer from psychological realm (mind) into the physical (body) is done through emotions. This later theory is validated with scientific research by Candence Pert, PhD of biochemical link between mind and body in the form of neuropeptides, or otherwise called molecules of emotions.
According to Marion Rosen and her bodywork method, our experiences such as accidents and traumas through suppressed feelings of fear, anxiety, sadness, anger will translate into muscle tensions, shallow breathing and restricted patterns of movement.
These are only few recent discoveries to support Reich’s theory of body armour; “the body armour constitutes the sum of emotional holding-back, chronic muscle tension and suppressed breathing. The later will also cause the suppression of different impulses such as crying, yelling, laughing, reach out for love, running away.” (Nick Totton, Em Edmondson).
At this point we shall leave the emotional and psychological issues to psychotherapists. The muscular armour with its two other components, chronic muscular tension and blocked breathing are two issues massage therapists cannot ignore.
I shall try to depict these and make you aware from the beginning of their strong interrelation: chronic muscular tension -> pain -> restricted body movement -> blocked breathing -> massage pressure.
To capture your attention further I shall start with some facts about breathing. According to Michael G. White, breathing development specialist, “lung volume is a primary maker of how long you will live”. The details are as follows: “Breathing supplies over 99% of entire oxygen and energy supply. Poor breathing causes or worsens chronic maladies such as asthma, allergies, anxiety, fatigue, depression, headaches, heart conditions, high blood pressure, sleep loss, obesity, harmful stress, poor mental clarity. A person reaches peak respiratory function and lung capacity in their mid 20s. Then they begin to lose respiratory capacity: between 10-27% for every decade of life. So, unless you are doing to maintain or improve your breathing capacity, it will decline and with it, your general health, your life expectancy, and for that matter your spirit as well”.
Later on, I shall come back to the importance of breathing during your treatment.
Pressure during massage it really depends on your needs, any physiological problems and the chosen treatment. However, generally speaking we adopted few principles by which we conduct our practice.
First and foremost pressure no matter how strong should still be comfortable, safe, and non-abusive. Our massage moves are precise tissue manipulation made with intention of bringing harmony into the body, through the release of endorphines, the body’s own natural pain killers. This harmony can be achieved as in Postural Integration and Canadian deep muscle massage. Postural Integration argues that until the connective tissues (the tissue surrounding the muscles and groups of muscles) is made supple and flexible it is not physically possible for muscles to relax and lengthen. Also, the discoveries of a medical doctor performing autopsies notes that diseased areas of the body were surrounded by dehydrated and stuck together muscle fibres; the essence of Canadian deep muscle massage is that “one must massage gently and progresses deeply the outer muscles fibres, in which fashion will allow the second and third layer of muscles to be addressed.”
The above explanation should also stand for the pain issue and demolish “no pain no gain” myth, by which massage has to hurt in order to be effective. Cathy Wong, the guide and specialist in alternative medicine at About.com is giving some interesting responses: “some of the most effective types of massage therapy are gentle and not involve deep pressure or pain. Too much pressure can cause muscles to seize up. Good rule of thumb – on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 is no pain, 10 extremely painful, the pressure should always be less than 7.”
And we shall totally agree with her as seen from our experience when using strong pressure while not necessary, the tension would come back into the muscles in comparison with the times when agreed with the client, the benefits of a more gentle touch would translate in feelings of release and general well-being.
Some clients may argue that with strong pressure and allowing some pain will manage to speed up the process of healing. I am afraid this concept has long been expired through the many failures of this attempt due to not addressing the core of the problem. As in Rosen Method, I believe the healing process cannot be rushed and the progress is made due to empowering the person by awareness of what makes them so tense, and it is only then when their pain go away. This is done with hands that are listening rather than manipulate and we too, massage therapists may apply some of these approaches.
There are situations whereby the person cannot feel the pressure no matter how strong. This is a case of muscle armouring, and like the iron armour is stiff and immobile because its purpose is to defend. This armouring is a physical rigidification that hardens and desensitise our bodies.
I shall finish the subject of pain with Ted Looyen’s, counselor and body worker, remark: “pain does not heal pain”.
The subject of breathing during your treatment is very much connected with the massage pressure and pain. It is highly important to acquire a peaceful and relaxing mental state, and that happens when we, therapists are asking you to keep a deep, smooth, and rhythmical breathing pattern throughout your massage.
Well, I assume a burning question got into your mind: aren’t we, therapists and the massage supposed to do just that?! To relax and give you a state of peacefulness? Surely that is what we ultimately try to achieve at the end of each treatment. However, it is a giving-receiving situation. We give a massage by using different techniques to relax and work your muscles, and you are the receiver. We need you to do something as well; to breathe. If you hold your breath you are in a way resistant to receive; your body sometimes does not agree with the very strong pressure you asked for, at which point good communication between you and your therapist is needed.
By constant deep breathing into the treatment and your therapist allowing you moments of rest between series of massage movements, you can let go of tension with each out breath. Only with each one of your exhalations we can progress with the pressure and in this way chronic muscular tension start to melt away.
Also, all of these go true for the pain. If you come with muscle pain, there is no way we can start with strong pressure. That would be detrimental and will end up with even more pain; building up the pressure while your body builds a charge of energy through breath is one solution to the problem of pain.
The answer of dissolving the body armour tension is by focusing and breathing slowly and deeply in and out all the way into the abdomen, which in turn will also achieve a state of mindfulness. According to Donna Martin, Hakomi therapist and neuroscientist Francisco Varela, mindfulness is:
– “a turning of the direction of attention from the exterior to the interior” by which you should become aware of bodily experience, thoughts, emotions
– “a change in the quality of attention which passes from looking-for to letting-come”
I believe for any treatment to be effective correct breathing technique and understanding the value of regular massage treatments are essentials.
I will leave you with A. Lowen’s definition of breathing that summarises it all: “It is an aspect of the underlying bodily rhythm of expansion and contraction that also finds expression in the beating of the heart. …, it is an expression of body’s spirituality.”
Our therapists at Eden Spa are professionally trained and use a wide range of massage techniques but because this is such a lengthy subject we shall detail our treatments in future articles.
I would only want to hold your attention by stating our techniques include a physical exercising and opening of heart chakra. This is important because from our heart comes our passion for massage and alternative treatments in general, and our love towards fellow beings. As Gerry Pyves, therapist and founder of No Hands Massage would discover: “this special movements provide us with opportunities to connect with and increase our innate human compassion.”
Have a great week and breathe well!