There is nothing quite like that post-massage bliss, but are there actual health benefits of massage?
The answer is yes! Massage has been used for thousands of years by people living all over the world as a means of naturally treating both mental and physical body ailments.
Massage therapy is defined as “the manual manipulation of muscular structure and soft body tissues of the human body, including muscle, connective tissue, tendons and ligaments.” There are many different types of massage, and the styles slightly vary. They can range from light stroking to deep pressure. Some of the different types include, but are not limited to, Swedish massage, deep tissue massage, sports massage, and trigger point massage.
Today, studies show that the benefits of massage include hormone regulation, raising immunity, lower blood pressure and stress reduction, and less pain and muscle tension. Some studies have found massage may also be helpful for anxiety, digestive disorders, fibromyalgia, headaches, and insomnia. Excuse us while we go book our next massage now.
Yoga and massage have a lot in common. Yoga is actually a form of self-massage. We know when we practice yoga, we actually lengthen and breathe space into tight areas. We also massage internal organs by bending, twisting, and breathing throughout our practice. The benefits of both massage and yoga include detoxifying the body and increasing circulation in the blood and lymphatic system.
The lymphatic system includes a complex network of vessels, ducts, lymph nodes, the spleen, the thymus, the adenoids, and the tonsils. The main function of the lymphatic system is to cleanse toxins and protect against harmful invaders in the body. This means it carries waste from the tissues and into the bloodstream for removal. The benefits of massage therapy can include helping out this complex system. Pretty cool, right?
We are constantly coming into contact with toxins, whether it be through food, air, cosmetics, toxic household cleaners, tap water, or simply the natural metabolic wastes our bodies produce that need to be flushed daily. Every one of our cells takes in nutrients and eliminates wastes. Once a fluid is passed out of a cell membrane, it becomes “lymph” fluid. It contains substances that the cells want to get rid of, including wastes, pathogens and undigested proteins. Making sure that we remove these toxins regularly is incredibly important for our overall health.
One of the biggest differentiators between our lymphatic system and the other systems in the body is that lymph does not have a pump. This means it can easily become stagnant. Not good. Both stress and toxin build up cause lymph stagnation. This can lead to impaired immunity, disease, bloating, fluid retention, swelling, cellulite, the inability to lose weight, PMS, low energy, low immunity, chronic sinusitis, swollen glands, and stiffness.
Ideally, we want to keep that lymph moving right along. One of the best benefits of massage includes moving lymph through the body. Lymphatic massage is a specific form of massage that targets the flow of lymph in the body. It uses a specific amount of pressure and rhythmic circular movements to stimulate the lymph, moving it towards the heart, back into circulation, and therefore mobilizes toxins for clearance.
Some other great ways to encourage lymphatic drainage include staying hydrated (well-hydrated tissue help moves out waste material), exercising regularly, dry brushing, practicing yoga, and developing a deep breathing practice.
The Benefits Massage: Physical Release
Have you taken a power and strengthening yoga class yet? If so, you’ve probably pushed your body physically throughout the practice, which can be a very good thing! However, as we build strength and push our muscles to new places, we can use massage to help reduce muscle fatigue, improve performance, and create more body awareness.
Similar to Savasana, on of the benefits of massage is teaching us how to let go. This isn’t always the easiest thing to do. And the thing is, you’re usually laying on that massage table for about an hour, not just five minutes. This process can be extremely transformative helping to quiet the ego and surrender into just being and receiving. Those thoughts of “when is this over?” will likely arise, even when massage is meant to be fully enjoyed. The mind likes to run us around a bit. The massage challenges us to fully surrender and breathe through life when things can seem difficult – the perfect sister medicine to a yoga practice.