Why get a massage? (AKA What's in it for me?) Round 2:
We're delving into the esoteric today, loves. This is the part that defies quantitative analysis, yet is a part of every massage.
Last post we discussed what massage can do for your muscle mobility-- the basic, down-to-brass-tacks element of bodywork. This post is about your mind, your emotions, all the parts that get mixed together until you're not sure if you're neck hurts because you're stressed or you're stressed because your neck hurts.
A favorite phrase in the wellness world is "Our issues are in our tissues." In other, less rhyme-y words: massage creates a safe space for your body to process and release things you may have forgotten (or never realized) you were holding.
Clenching anger in your gut. Worry in your neck. Sadness in your chest.
We store a lot of emotions and sensations in our bodies under the label of "stress." Exhaustion, fear, anger, grief, uncertainty, and much more, get hidden away in our muscles and fascia. During a massage session, for a whole beautiful 60-90 minutes, you are invited to practice letting it all go, with a helping hand in the tough spots. Compassionate touch facilitates healing on a deep, primal, psychological level. It releases pain, emotional and physical, and clears so much space for joy, fun, and peace.
I know, I know.
"You get all that just by squishing people?" You say. "Calm down, Erin, it's just a massage."
OR IS IT?
Our brains are wired to determine our reality based on sensory input. You understand what a room is like because you see it, feel it, smell it, hear it. What you may not know, is that if a person holds their gaze, unwavering, long enough, they no longer see anything--just pure blank whiteness. Because the brain isn't receiving new visual input, their brain has no way of knowing anything is there.
I've experienced this first-hand in meditation. When I focus on a single point and meditate, eventually my vision becomes framed by a growing cloudy white vignette. According to my brain, the other things in the room cease to exist simply because I haven't looked at them for a few minutes.
Our bodies need data from all our senses, or it forgets what's there.
Without touch, we literally cannot know what is happening in our tissues.
Sadly, we do not give much credence to physical sensation. The feel of things is pretty much never in our top 10 priorities of focus. A hell of a lot of feelings get relegated by the brain as “Not Important” because we're worried about dishes, and meeting people's expectations, and OMG that smells awful I have to take the trash out. Over time we start to miss those cues like the tightening in our throat when we're talking to a certain person. Like the anxious tapping of our feet while in a meeting we really wish we could leave. The little pull in our low back that's trying to say "I need rest, please please please bend your knees more."
Guilt has a physical feeling. Grief has a physical feeling. Discontent has a physical feeling. Fear, anger, love, worry, all have physical manifestations that lurk inside your body. When ignored, repressed, or otherwise unprocessed, they tend to find creative ways of letting themselves out…
Ways like holding you back from what you want to do, but you don't know why. Ways like your arm locking up after a tragic loss, and despite traditional western medical methods, just won't move. Ways like overeating to console a sadness you don't understand why you still have after all the other therapy and work you've done. Ways like hating to be touched.
Side note: Now do you understand how much it worries me to hear someone say, "I can't stand to be touched"? IT FIRES ALL THE ALARM BELLS. My fingers just start dialing counselors/talk therapists on their own accord. Elaborate treatment plans with a full team of health professionals start blooming in my head like a out-of-hand patch of dandelions.
Bodies must have touch just like lungs must have air and cells must have water. If you hate to be touched, pretty pretty pretty please, call a talk therapist, a reiki healer, a hypnotist, a psychologist, an emotion code practitioner, anyone you trust to help you, because my love you need help with this. Right now.
(End of rant.)
Massage provides our brains the sensory data, the space, support and safety to notice any mess inside of us and work through it with compassion. It brings to light so much we did not know we had in us. In 90% of massage sessions at some point or another my lovely client will say, baffled, "I had NO idea I was sore there." We need to know where we're sore, holding, or blocked if we're ever going to fix it. And where else, besides massage, can we get that kind of undivided sensory attention? Not many circumstances afford us the luxury of being touched, without expectation or agenda, over our whole bodies, bringing loving attention to what is there.
Our bodies have so much to tell us. Inspired ideas waiting to be unlocked. Old habits ready to be released. Pain, no longer serving us. Love, waiting to be listened to. Lessons waiting to be unlearned. Memories that can be set free, and energies to be revitalized. The changes compassionate touch can bring are astounding.
Touch brings attention to who we are, and who we are waiting to be.
So, in the end, what's in it for you? Everything.