By Claudia T Hudson -
For thousands of years, simple but very powerful hand and finger massage and pressure techniques have been part of the natural healing system of China, Japan, India and other great civilizations around the globe. It is believed that the healing power and health benefits from massages will bring relief from pain and eliminate a wide variety of common ailments without drugs, medical procedures, and with no side effects. With the help of massages, you will be able to safely and simply restore balance, renew energy and vitality, relieve stress and tension, and alleviate everyday aches and pains and common complaints such as headaches, menstrual cramps, neck pain, and eye strain. Massages help the body heal itself.
These ancient treatment modalities of massage can be used effectively in conjunction with modern Western medicine, and are being used in exactly that way in hospitals everywhere but only recently.
The Western approach to wellness
Modern western Medicine has not focused so much on the health benefits of massage and other holistic methods. Instead, it has given its attention almost entirely to curing disease, rather than creating health. Its expertise relies in surgery and medications to restore health once a person becomes ill. Many lives have been saved by this approach, sometime almost miraculously. However, drugs often have a toxic side effect, which weaken the body, causing future problems which then have to be treated with more drugs.
The Eastern approach to wellness to using massage therapy
The approach of natural healing systems from the East is quite different. Their primary goal is not to heal the disease once it occurs, but to prevent it. These systems encourage good health by paying attention to balance in one’s own life through diet, exercise, meditation, and stress management. Massages are especially beneficial for stress management.
Given all of the evidence of the health benefits of massage, You would think a regular massage would be as important to us as taking our daily vitamins and evening walk. The good news is that the West is finally catching up. Massages are now offered at almost all major hotels and spas. They are offered on cruises and in hair salons and most recently in a well-known health food chain grocery store in the US and Canada. Yes, you can now buy a gallon of milk and have a lovely Shiatsu massage all in the same afternoon.
Messages involve releasing tension from the muscles in the body and there are several variations of massages using specific pressure points. Two of the most popular are the Swedish massage and Shiatsu massages.
Shiatsu, a form of massage to promote good health
Shiatsu, like other finger pressure massage therapies, is part of a holistic approach to good health. Blockages in the energy flow and imbalances in the system are often a consequence of personal habits in diet and activity, as well as our personal perceptions, thoughts and emotional reactions. Other factors, such as age, lifestyle, even the weather all play a part.
Because of the interconnectedness of so many factors, it is important to not use Shiatsu message therapy in the typical way many people today use medicines: popping a pill to relieve symptoms rather than finding out why they have the problem and correcting the underlying cause. For example, taking an antacid may relieve a stomach ache, but the cause was probably from over-eating, or eating foods that are too heavy, too greasy or too spicy for you. That doesn’t mean its wrong to seek symptom relief when something hurts or is out of balance. But it’s a mistake to rely on the “magic bullet” approach rather than seeking out and correcting the cause, because the same symptom will repeatedly arise until you amend your lifestyle.
Combine massage with other techniques
Below is an example of how message combined with other techniques can alleviate a health problem such as anxiety.
MEDITATE. To quiet the mind and relax the body, practice some form of meditation or relaxation, such as the Relaxation Response, visualization or whatever you have found that helps you relieve stress. (In an important study comparing methods of relaxation and meditation, TM was twice as effective as any other method for reducing anxiety.)
It is better to have meditation instruction from a qualified teacher. To help you right now, try this: Sit with eyes closed and mentally “watch” your breathing. Notice the cool air coming in through the nose and how your chest or belly expands; notice the exhalation, the warmer air against your nostrils, your chest and belly settling. Just sit quietly and maintain your awareness like this, bringing it quietly back whenever you drift off. Do this for 10 to 1 5 minutes. Twice a day is best.
TRY A MASSAGE. If you can afford it, get a full body massage by a trained professional. This is one of the best ways to relax and let go of stress and tension. You can give yourself a very soothing massage at home in just minutes. Slightly warm up 2 or 3 ounces of oil (sesame, sunflower or coconut are good), and apply to your entire body. Rub some oil into your scalp with your palms, rub across your forehead and along your cheek-bones. Rub along the long bones of your body (arms, legs), and use a circular motion on elbows, knees, and shoulders. Rub your chest and abdomen and as far around on your back as you can reach. Just use the flat of your palms; kneading the muscles is not essential. Then massage your feet, especially the soles. Follow with a hot bath or shower, and see how relaxed you feel. If you don’t have time for an entire massage, rub a little oil into your scalp and the soles of your feet.
Using massage therapy to promote good health is one way to begin taking charge of your own health. You may begin to notice, for example, how habituated you have become to tension, stiffness or pain. The more heightened you body awareness becomes, the more quickly you will notice tension in your shoulders, neck, or wherever it begins to collect. Now you will be able to dissolve it almost immediately, before it has a chance to develop into something more serious.
So find yourself a comfortable space and set aside some time, with the desire to give full attention to your body. Whether you spend 15 minutes a day for prevention, or work on specific points when you feel tense, tired, stiff, or achy, give the health benefits of message a try.