Historically, massage is one of the oldest and simplest forms of relaxation and healing. For example, Tomb paintings indicate that massage was performed during early Egyptian times and the Chinese used massage for many medical conditions over many centuries.
More recently, health experts such as staff at the Mayo Clinic inform, “…massage can be a powerful tool to help you take charge of your health and well-being, whether you have a specific health condition or are just looking for another stress reliever…”
Finding good stress relievers is important since managing stress can lead to:
- Enhanced sleep quality
- Greater physical energy
- Improved concentration
- Increased circulation
- Reduced fatigue
After my hip replacement, I started to schedule a monthly massage with Ann Arbor’s favorite massage therapist, Renee Vettorello. I enjoy the monthly visits and respect the usefulness of massage for relaxing muscles, reducing stress, and providing pampering. Too often, though, I wedge the massage between various appointments. I rush in, relax, and then rush out.
While on a recent vacation, I had time to experience massage in a different way and with some new benefits. I was not rushing in and out. Moreover, I was already relaxed, since I was in a warm, sunny climate enjoying the sun, sand, and surf. In addition, since the resort provided complimentary massages, I had the additive effect of having a variety of massages within a 5-day period. Talk about relaxation! I had:
- Two, 30-minute back massages
- Two, 1-hour holistic, full body 60-minute
- One 80-minute hot stone massage
During these massages, I expected to enjoy the traditional lovely benefits and sensations; herbal aromas, bells and tonal music, darkness, oils, and the comforting pressures of hands or warm stones. What I didn’t expect were the instances of intense focus, clarity, problem solving and creativity. The number of ideas and solutions blasting into my head astounded me.
Given the hectic times and our often-harried lives, it’s comforting to have such an experience. In the larger picture, it emphasizes our need to create islands and periods of relaxation during which our minds and bodies are completely relaxed and rejuvenated. Such experiences shouldn’t occur only during a yearly vacation. This is especially important if our livelihoods require constant innovation and change.
The key is to find some way of de-stressing so that you have the mental energy to be creative and/or solve problems.
For some people, a massage is not a relaxing experience. In fact, these people abhor them; they hate the feel and smell of oils or lotions, detest the new age music, and get the heebie jeebies when they need to stay put or have someone handling them for 30 to 60 minutes. For them, other types of experiences are far more relaxing, and that’s fine.
Many people respond to water. An ordinary, everyday shower may be the place where their ideas flow best. Other people relax best when submerged in water: as they edge into a hot tub of bubbly, fragrant water, they feel the tension flow out of their muscles. In one famous example, Archimedes, the Greek philosopher and mathematician, enjoyed a burst of scientific awareness when he was in a tub. Although he was trying to figure out a different problem, he realized that when something sinks in water, it displaces water equal to its volume. Excited, he shouted “Eureka, (I’ve found it)!”
Hopefully, you will find your special way of releasing tension, thus allowing your natural creativity and problem solving abilities to flow. Give yourself the opportunity to have a “Eureka!” moment.
Here are some tips to help you have a “Eureka!” moment:
- Experiment. Try different types of massage and varied periods of time. For example, you might do best with a shorter rather than longer massage or one that is in a darker rather than a lighter room, or one designed for athletics rather than calming.
- Allow at least 5 to 10 minutes before the massage to calm down a bit. Visualize some relaxing scene and invite yourself to the experience. Remember the calming and positive sensations that you can enjoy.
- Allow at least 5 to 10 minutes after the massage to enjoy the calmness and pleasure— before you run off to the hassle of the day.
- Consider alternatives to massage such as showers with music, traditional baths, or hot tubs.
- Use special features offered at health clubs. For example, after your workout, swim or spinning class, use the hot tub, steam room or sauna. Dry or wet heat works wonders on tired, cranky bodies.