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Create Your Look with milk + honey and Great Lengths Hair Extensions

March 28, 2012

Mia is a stylist at SALON by milk + honey. Here are just a few reasons why she loves working with clients using Great Lengths hair extensions. She loves extensions because they give the client an opportunity to drastically change their look instantly (after about 8 hours of work). It’s a way to help a client achieve a different style with volume and length. Extensions take an incredible amount of patience and attention to detail. For Mia, that means it’s another chance to try and achieve the perfect look for her client.

For those clients who can’t commit to the expense of a full extension application, she also does customized clip-ins which allow clients to temporarily lengthen their hair. Below are three wonderful examples that can be achieved with Great Lengths.

For more information about Great Lengths hair extensions, how milk + honey can give you the look you desire, and to schedule a consultation, click here, or call 512.236.1112.



Love is in the Touch

February 9, 2012

Matt is one of our fantastic massage therapists at milk + honey spa 2nd Street District.

Valentine’s Day is upon us. Whether you prefer to ignore the holiday or embrace your romantic side, love is all around us, especially in the touch.

Lover CatsStandard descriptions of our holiday describe a cloudy syncretism of historical figures (all martyrs for love), Catholicism, and pagan rituals Click here for’s take on Valentine’s Day. Historians often reach back to 270-300 A.D. to initiate this romantic drama. Mother nature on the other hand seems to have reached back beyond man, beyond monkey, maybe all the way to the vole.

Have you ever heard of oxytocin? I first heard about this hormone when I was in massage school, but it has since emerged into popular discourse as well. It seems to be present in every mammal on the planet. Human physiology text books echo the initial clinical scrutiny of this nine amino acid chain as a hormone produced by the sex organs for the purpose of letting down milk and contracting the uterus, but subsequent research has revealed a more utilitarian and ubiquitous character to this powerful protein.

First let me kill the suspense, yes oxytocin floods your system before, during, and after all of your sexual experiences. Likewise, laboring mothers experience a massive download of the stuff during and following labor and delivery. The experience of maternal love at first sight, and the amnesia of child bearing pain that sets in when a mother first holds her child, are both moments undoubtedly framed in the pink hazy frill of oxytocin.

I reckon it satisfies some pretty obvious reward systems that perpetuate any species with fur on their bodies, but what is it? A cursory web search describes oxytocin as a wonder molecule that increases feelings of trust and intimacy but it goes deeper than that. Dr Ray Sahelian dryly details a more clinical side to oxytocin on his own forum. He describes a powerful neurohormone and modulator that the hypothatlamic and supraoptic nuclei of the brain, as well as peripheral tissues of the heart and sex organs, produce. The hormone acts on those tissues, as well as the kidney, thymus, and pancreas, resulting in a body-wide response.

As it turns out oxytocin reduces the effects associated with stress and anxiety. It helps reduce blood pressure and cortisol levels, increases our pain threshold and directly affects the amgdyla in tempering our anxiety level. In short, everything you need for your loved ones to announce that “both mother and child are well” can be provided by this brilliant bio-character.

Oxytocin has a more humanitarian and platonic side to it as well. In addition to combating stress, pain and fear, oxytocin stimulates positive social interaction and promotes growth and healing as well. Furthermore, it just makes you feel good, content, dreamy. Put one way, it’s what makes little kids like puppies and makes puppies like little kids. It’s why cats purr. It probably plays a role in pack identity. In his brilliant collection of essays “The Scientification of Love,” French obstetrician Michel Odent extends these implications and explores the role of oxytocin in promoting healthier civilizations in general.

In this light, oxytocin is quite simply the peptide that binds. Since it feels good and is good for you, you may want to up your dose. Given its immense utility, it comes as no surprise that other stimuli outside the range of coupling and mating also trigger its release. Though supported by less rigorous literature visual and olfactory sensations will trigger it. Eating with friends and family trigger it as well.

Call it dinner and a movie … plus a spa day. Increasingly it seems that basic well-intentioned touch and warmth trigger oxytocin as well. Massage in all its forms release oxytocin, though the lighter kinds associated with true Swedish massage and facials probably release more. A few years ago journalist Roni Caryn Rabin reported for the New York Times on the subject, click here to read. Researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles who found that massage increased levels of oxytocin (and decreased stress hormones such as cortisol), and that a single session produced biological changes. That post-massage, wet noodle feeling of contentment where all you need is a nap is in part due to oxytocin.

So basically anytime you get that warm fuzzy feeling inside, oxytocin is probably lurking in the background, marshaling biological changes that promote your health. As our understanding about it increases, it seems to do nothing other than confirm our biological bias for falling in love, for starting families, to look after each other, to live with pets, and to build community. You are built to experience love, connection, and bonding, and that is good for you.


Letting Go of the Hold

January 25, 2012

Massage is about knowing when to let go and when to hold on. Photo by TechSavi

Matt is one of our fantastic massage therapists at milk + honey spa 2nd Street District.

Have you ever been on the massage table, and your therapist scoops up one of your limbs, cradling it in the palms of her hands, and suddenly she says, “OK, just let it go”? This seems incongruent. You thought you already were relaxed. Let go of what?

Well, let go of your arm, your leg, or your head, of course. To be fair, “let go” is one of those countless phrases that often assumes more than it communicates. Its utterance assumes awareness and understanding, at the precise moment of its opposite’s presentation. The opposite of letting go is, of course, holding on.

In my opinion, due to its vagueness, telling someone to “let it go” or “let go” is about as useful as telling them, “NASA found water on Mars,” and yet I myself am tempted to use this phrase. Usually the therapist attempts to take a limb through a range of motion and/or to reposition the client to gain access to a work area. The client unconsciously halts the action. They either directly resist it or try to help the therapist, which is unnecessary. From the therapist’s point of view, the client really is fighting the movement. From the client’s point of view, they’re probably thinking, “Dinner could be any number of things, the kids need picking up, and that feels pretty good … Oh, wait? Let go of what?”

Once we figure out what “letting go” means, we may see its worth. I advocate it as a worthy enterprise of practice and development. Holding takes place in the muscles and mind. If we could let go of our holding, we would gain an enormous measure of peace, and also get more out of our massages. We want to develop the skill of letting go, because letting go is indicated when holding on inhibits therapeutic or otherwise positive development. As therapists, we want to avoid triggering the “hold on” response.

I argue that both the fault and the solution lies within both the practitioner’s and client’s realm of control. In studying this phenomenon after a while, I discovered at least a few theories, and a few ideas for dealing with it. From my observations I believe the clashing of movement at the massage table results from specific client and therapist modes.

The client doesn’t have the awareness or skills to let go. It may also be that they don’t trust their therapist, have let their attention go elsewhere, or are under too much stress. In short, they haven’t done their homework. The therapist on the other hand has triggered unconscious alarms in the client’s body. Basically the client is either too “switched off” or too sensitive, and/or the therapist is too abrupt, checked out, or is using an ineffective posture.

First, let’s take a look at our physiology. Proprioception is one of our hidden senses. It refers to awareness of our body in space. It’s kind of like a cross between touch and equilibrium, and is what allows you to know where your arm is when you raise it over your head, even though you can’t see it. Specialized cells called proprioceptors, mostly located around the joints, provide this service for you, but you can develop this sense if you want to. Other specialized cells like stretch and pressure receptors, tell us the relative tension of the tendons and ligaments. Finally our nervous system interprets and scales any change of sensory input, such as touch, change of position, sound, or lighting.

The inclination to resist movement must partially relate to our deeply ingrained fear of falling. Usually you stop yourself from even beginning to fall, and the experience almost always resides below consciousness. We also have another unconscious desire to inhibit any movement that overly challenges our joints. I don’t think it provides the same level of fear, but it factors in. Relegating the management of a change in environment, as communicated by a change in senses, to an unconscious level makes sense from a survival perspective as well. If those changes challenge the individual’s survival needs, a reaction is appropriate.

I suspect these biological conditions provide our venue for client/therapist failure. Both of us must work to inhibit these responses.

If I might overstep my scope, I think therapists must know how to create a space of safety. For a massage therapist this means we communicate. We don’t engage the fear of falling or the resistance to joint torque. We must provide the base that supports any manipulation we do. Deep horse stances and T-stances that support our physical center are necessary when we stand beneath the client’s limb. In this manner, we lend our clients a center of balance for movement to occur in their body, and no sense of falling. Secondly, we can expand our attention to encompass the full joint and limbs in our movement. If we approach transitions gently, and manage to minimize our own physical stress and efforts, we could probably defuse most resistance at the table.

Now for the client. It isn’t your fault that you unconsciously don’t want to be controlled by another individual. In fact, the pervasiveness of this habit suggests it’s a universal survival utility. Getting a massage shouldn’t be one of those times when survival instincts are firing though. In my experience, massage is a “co-creative” process. In other words, to the extent that a client is prepared to receive the massage, is the extent to which he or she will derive benefit from massage. Client and therapist should always be on the same side of a goal and the approach to that goal.

Client preparation may include physical, behavioral, and mental preparation. This may mean showing up to session early, taking a shower, stretching, reading, or agreeing to rest your worries on the floor as you receive. If I had to guess, being prepared to let go of your personal narratives would help the most. Write down your to-do lists if you must, but don’t bring them to the table. It may require a deeper practice and mind set.

You can physically learn how to let go by raising your arms and letting them drop of their own accord. You may need to convince yourself that it’s OK to take time off for your own care and maintenance. Knowing what you want from your massage and being able to communicate that will defuse quite a bit of anxiety. Of course in the extreme, no massage therapist worth their salt will violate boundaries by working the breasts or genitalia (we don’t consider the glutes to be a no-touch zone), but you should set boundaries ahead of time for yourself anyway. I think it’s a lot easier to relax if you’ve already decided what constitutes a deal-breaking breech of comfort. It feels empowering to take responsibility for your own sense of safety.

At the heart of this exchange is the relative ability to relinquish control as a client, and provide a safe place as a therapist. It requires practice, communication, a benefit of the doubt, and a little risk, to step out of our habitual holding and controlling, but in my opinion it’s worth it.


SALON by milk + honey Now Has Kevin Murphy Products

December 13, 2011

Kevin Murphy is now welcomed (and sold) at SALON by milk + honey.

milk + honey is carrying the full line of Kevin Murphy products including shampoos, conditioners, styling products (for men and women), conditioning treatments and color bugs! What is a color bug you ask? It’s a fun way to temporarily add some flare (or color) to your hair.

Kevin Murphy products are paraben and sulphate free and are made from renewable and sustainable resources, such as pure essential oils and plant extracts. We love having products that we believe in, that work, and are kind to our environment.

Kevin Murphy is an Australian line created by a stylist, and the products are sold only in salons. They were originally created by Kevin because he couldn’t find products that worked on all ranges and types of hair, but would also work on editorial looks.

Come visit us in the SALON and we’re happy to tell you all about it!

Spa Partisans

Exciting New milk + honey Online Options

December 12, 2011

If you’ve been to milk + honey recently or have an appointment scheduled in the coming weeks, you may have noticed some changes in our processes. In some cases we’ve been a bit slower at scheduling your appointment or checking you out as our concierge staff learns to master the new system. We truly appreciate the patience you’ve shown.

With that said, we are very excited about the new system because of the many benefits it will offer you:

Better Email Communication
In the past, we offered limited email confirmations. With our new system, you will receive an email immediately after you schedule your appointment, and then again about 36 hours prior to your appointment to confirm. The new confirmation email offers a simple link that allows you to confirm the appointment with a single click rather than having to reply to our email. These emails also include links that will automatically put your appointment into calendar apps, such as Outlook and iCal.

If for any reason you would prefer not to receive any email communications from us, we’ll be happy to confirm by phone, and will remove you from all email lists.

Online Account Management
Our new system also allows you to manage your own milk + honey account online. From our online portal, you will be able to:

  • • View future and past appointments
  • • Review product purchases and place online orders
  • • Confirm or cancel upcoming appointments
  • • View your series or milk + honey memberships
  • • View your VIP point balance
  • • Purchase popular products that are available at the spa as well as series, memberships, and gift certificates

Over the next few months, we will also start to offer online booking of certain treatments, allowing you to schedule your treatments from a computer or smart phone.

As a bonus for using this system you will earn 1,000 VIP points for creating an online account. Keep in mind that this is a new system, so data only goes back to December 2011. We’re confident this system will become more and more useful with time.

Online Gift Certificates
Just in time for the holiday season, we have a new system to purchase gift certificates that can be emailed or printed instantly. If you are looking for a beautiful instant gift certificate, click here. If you prefer to have a gift certificate mailed to you or yours, please click here. Don’t forget that we have special Holiday Packages for you to enjoy as well.

We truly appreciate your patronage and hope our new system will enhance your experience with milk + honey. If we can be of any further assistance, please let us know.

Massage, Wellness

Finding the Balance With Your Massage Therapist

November 14, 2011

Matt is one of our fantastic massage therapists at the downtown milk + honey spa. In this article, he discusses the benefits of finding a balance with your massage therapist.

Finding the Balance With Your Massage Therapist

When it comes to massage, it really does come down to different strokes for different folks. The give and take inherent in any bodywork exchange reminds me a lot of a dining experience. The menu outlines your options, for which you have a provider, and you mostly understand what to expect. But the entire exchange is predicated on those expectations. Generally speaking, a successful exchange occurs when a chef’s expectations match or exceed that of the diner.

Have you ever gone to dinner with a friend, ordered the same thing as one another, and had totally different reactions to the experience? How did that happen? Presumably the same hand is behind the creation of both dishes, presumably creating from the same ingredients under the same conditions of production.

I bring it up because something similar plays out throughout the entire duration of any service at the spa. I do not mean to suggest there is no such thing as objective standards in the realm of massage, or facials, or dining, but I would like to point out that the energies playing out during any service in the spa is subject to the influence of both the personal preferences and expectations of the client and the practitioner.

Basically, though it would be pretty rare and represents an extreme case of the phenomenon, you could have a wonderful service and thoroughly hate it at the same time. The case of harmonizing expectations or assumptions is a constant factor for any exchange between a client and a provider. You and a given therapist may never really click, but an intelligent consumer of services may be able to control the quality of the service they receive to the extent that they can identify this constant.

I only bring this up because of how it enable diplomacy. I think most people live their lives based on assumptions. We have to base our actions on assumptions because we would never get anything done if we didn’t.

If we begin at the most convenient case, it would be a case where two people have mutual goals for the exchange. In this case let us assume that the practitioner and client both want the client to receive a great massage. The practitioner assumes a great massage satisfies certain requirements, and the client does as well. Those assumptions may or may not match, and that will create an experience of harmony or disharmony.

Different Strokes for Different Elefolks courtesy of w00kie

What the two parties are selecting for their wish and action could be as separate as day and night. Some of this is inherent in the vagueness of the language. Take a client that “just wants to relax.” If I work on them the way my body would need to be worked, they may not be happy. I cannot relax if someone is just petting me like a cat and talking my ear off. I want quiet, variety, medium deep pressure, and if I’m honest, I want some knots worked. Swedish isn’t relaxing to me, but I find conservative deep tissue massage extremely relaxing, while too much is … simply too much.  I also do not think it is that relaxing to have an overly clinical massage that doesn’t have any art in it. I like a little yin with my yang, and I feel like a good massage leaves me feeling better for the week, not just the day.

Not all of my clients agree. Some of my clients want to be worked briskly and lightly, others want to feel like they are stepping down from a raft that has been gently bobbing up and down when they’re done, and on occasion my clients cannot relax unless I bury my knee in their back.

Practitioners can vary the speed, depth, rhythm, approach, priorities, and techniques in a given session. They can even change the music or temperature of the room. Most of them cannot read your mind, and even your body language may be hard to read.

The client on the other hand, may be rightly concerned about hurting the therapist’s feelings, which contributes to the quality of work they do. So, what should be done if their expectations fail to harmonize?

If it is in the beginning of the session, you can wait and see. I have seen many therapists change their “tone” for lack of a better word, based off what they feel. Personally, I will not go deep into muscle tissue without trying to warm it up a bit first. If the session is not meeting your expectations, identify what it is you would rather not experience, and then lie about it.  No really, “That feels good, but…” Then reveal the truth in the form of a question, “Can you slow it down?” Basically what you will be doing by adopting this approach is building rapport with your therapist in such a way that it builds harmony. I mean, if you’re nice about it.

You are allowed to reiterate or clarify your goals, “I appreciate the attention to that area, but it’s a little overwhelming, and I really just want to zone out.” You are also allowed to change your mind about what you want, and you can redirect your therapist based off of what you have felt so far. “It feels really good when you work that area like that, will you hang out there?”

Actually, you are also allowed to be really abrupt, abrasive, or obnoxious about it, and a good therapist will try to comply. Let’s face it though, honey’s better than vinegar.

I know it can be tough catching the therapist at the right moment, but I think it is worth the effort to get what you want. There will probably be a small period of adjustment, but if you make the assumption that your therapist wants you to enjoy this, and is talented enough to adjust what they are doing, you may better approximate your experience at the table so that you won’t have to complain about it later.


What is a Muscle Knot and How to Get Rid of It

November 8, 2011

Today, one of our expert 2nd Street District massage therapists discusses what is a “knot.”

What is a muscle knot?

muscle knot

“What is that thing, anyway?”

I’m always getting asked this question. I’m a massage therapist, and “that sore, crunchy thing” is a muscle knot. But what actually is a “knot”?

Muscle knots are small bumps that commonly appear on the back, neck, or shoulders and usually feel tender or sore when touched. They are comprised of muscle fibers and bands, which form a bump or “knot” when tightened under stress or tension. While knots are the commonly used term among the general public, medical experts refer to these spots as myofascial trigger points, which are classified as either active or latent.

If a trigger point is classified as latent, you’ll only feel pain when the area is pressed. On the other hand, active trigger points can produce random feelings of pain even without being touched. 

It’s important to note that muscle knots/trigger points can also cause pain to radiate to surrounding muscle tissue and even other areas of the body in some cases. For example, a trigger point in your trap muscles (upper back) may radiate pain into your lower back, and it could even lead to pain in a completely different area of the body such as the calves.

What does a muscle knot feel like?

As noted, muscle knots are small bumps that feel painful to the touch. Knots can vary significantly in size, from the size of a pea up to a golf ball or larger. In most cases, you will not be able to see a muscle knot but will be able to feel it when touching the area. Muscle knots will feel swollen and tense compared to the surrounding area. When feeling around to find muscle knots, it’s important to be gentle because aggravating them can lead to more inflammation and discomfort. 

Where do muscle knots occur?

Muscle knots can occur anywhere in the body where there is muscle or fascia (connective tissue). However, the most common places we see muscle knots develop are:

  • Neck (typically on the sides)
  • Shoulders
  • Back (upper and lower)
  • Buttocks
  • Legs (quadriceps, hamstrings, and thighs)
  • Upper arms

photo by woodleywonderworks

What causes muscle knots?

It would probably be more accurate for me to say that no one really agrees on every aspect of what constitutes a knot, how you get knots, and how to get rid of them. However everyone agrees that a knot forms in muscle tissue. This includes connective tissue such as fascia and tendons. Blood almost certainly plays a role, as does our nervous system. They are raised from the rest of the surface, and sometimes they are tender.

The most common causes of muscle knots are:

  • Stress and anxiety
  • Overexertion (such as overdoing it while exercising)
  • Poor posture
  • Sitting for too long
  • Unhealthy eating
  • Dehydration

As noted, knots tend to form in stressed or damaged muscle. Overdoing it in the gym or on the trail will certainly aid this, but most massage therapists I work with are more inclined to find knots in muscles associated with desk work. These associate with the commute and compute postural distresses of holding your head and arms away from your body for too long.

Knots, as we vaguely understand them, are also likely to form in individuals who are stressed or have high anxiety. I don’t mean to overstep my scope of practice here, but I will simply observe that people undergoing emotional stress due to family, career, or other life events may be more likely to develop knots as a result of the physical manifestation of that stress in the muscles. I’m constantly hearing, “Oh I keep all my stress in my neck and shoulders.” And I often find knots up there.

If you frequently deal with muscle knots, examine the causes above and see if there are any lifestyle changes you can make to help prevent knots from forming in the future.

What are muscle knots that crunch with massage?

Some knots seem to invest more than one muscle tissue. Comprised of inflamed myofascial layers, and almost always including a concentrated degree of connective tissue, these knots feel gristly, and their size does not predict sensitivity to pressure. These knots tend to sound and feel “crunchy.” I’ve heard this crunchiness comes from either connective tissue build up or from calcium crystal build up.

Essentially, muscle knots have reduced blood flow and circulation, which means toxins can become trapped in these areas. Over time, trapped toxins will solidify in the muscle knot if not dealt with, resulting in hard, crunchy bumps. To get rid of crunchy muscles, you’ll need to break up these deposits by gently massaging the area and encouraging circulation.

How to get rid of muscle knots?

Keeping in mind that muscle knots seem to form in relation to how we use our bodies, I would first suggest taking the time to assess your lifestyle and how you inhabit your body throughout the day. You may be able to change a habit or arrangement so that you don’t form the knots as quickly in the first place.

If you find that lifestyle changes aren’t helping to the degree that you need relief, massage can help get rid of muscle knots.

Most therapists will treat knots of any variety with localized pressure delivered directly to the knot. More sophisticated practitioners, whether from training or experience, will undoubtedly apply different techniques to your knots based on what they feel. Generally speaking, true trigger points respond better to direct pressure than the more gristly “adhesion” knots. Releasing trigger points in this way can relax the entire muscle. Adhesive knots seem to respond better to being “ironed” or “combed” out of the tissue. Sometimes separating one muscle from the other through movement can deal with those types of knots.

If you’re dealing with muscle knots and seeking relief, book a massage with our experienced massage therapists. Massage therapy helps treat knots by increasing circulation and improving blood flow, which loosens stiff muscles and relieves tension. Choose from several types of massages and get a thorough consultation with your massage therapist to address specific pain points. Book now or give someone else the gift of relaxation with a gift certificate.

Massage, Wellness

Zero Balancing: What is it and how does it differ from other massages?

October 12, 2011

by Giovanni Pescetto

milk + honey is home to a very special massage therapist named Tanner. He performs Zero Balancing for his clients who are looking to relieve body aches and pain, release restrictions in movement and provide lasting relief from emotional distress. There are many more great benefits from Zero Balancing. Call 512.263.1115 to schedule your session with Tanner today!

What is Zero Balancing?
Zero Balancing is a unique form of bodywork that recognizes the relationship of body structure and body energy. It is a body-mind therapy that uses skilled touch to address the relationships between the structure and energy within the body. It involves the use of finger pressure and gentle traction on the bones and joints to create a point of balance, or a fulcrum, around which the body can relax and reorganize itself allowing the receiver to let go of held tension and pain and experience a new level of integration.

How is Zero Balancing different from other modalities?
Forms of bodywork, such as massage, chiropractic, and Rolfing are mainly focused on improving the function of the physical body. Other modalities like acupuncture and Reiki work to enhance body energy. Zero Balancing engages both the body structure and body energy simultaneously allowing the person to come into balance with themselves and one another.

How will a Zero Balancing session work for you?
A session begins with a discussion of your current state of health and goals for that particular session. This conversation may range from reducing discomfort or tension in a specific area to improving energy levels to helping with stress relief. Next you will sit and then lie on your back, FULLY CLOTHED, unless it is integrated into a massage session. If you do combine Zero Balancing with a massage, please allow an additional 30 minutes when booking. Once you are on the table, the practitioner will assess your body for tension mainly held in the bones and joints. Then your Zero Balancer will apply gentle finger pressure or traction called Fulcrums into areas around the hips, spine, ribs, feet, and neck to support the body, allowing it to deeply relax and release held tension in these areas. This enables your own energy to flow in clearer, stronger fields and helps you to feel more in your body. The session typically lasts 30-45 minutes and can be combined with massage and other health regiments. After the session, you are given a few moments to rest or dress if needed. Then you will be asked to walk to integrate the work and to give you an opportunity to notice any changes that may have taken place during your Zero Balancing session. Zero Balancing can often take you into enhanced states of enlightenment similar to meditation, so it is helpful to walk or receive a hug. This helps to transition you back into the rest of your day.


Massage for Happier Healthier Life

September 28, 2011

Matt is one of our fantastic massage therapists at the downtown milk + honey spa. In this article, he discusses the benefits of massage, that have been around for a long, long time.

Massage for Happier, Healthier Life

I frequently encounter the perception that massage exists solely as a pursuit of idle luxury. Often even well-educated clients only “treat” themselves a few times a year, but anyone remotely interested in overall health ought to investigate the beneficial effects of massage first hand.

Many writings from our ancient civilizations describe the healing benefits of intentional touch. In our modern world you can still observe other social mammals, like dogs and cats, pack and cuddle up together. Our children come running to us for healing and a consoling touch after any playground insult or injury. For me, it deepens the impression that perhaps we have been using massage for as long as we’ve had hands with which to touch.

Judging from the sheer ubiquity, vintage, and variation of the massage craft now, I’m tempted to argue that there has been a style of massage for any given culture at any given epoch. Within our society countless forms of massage speak to very specific needs. That being said, the results are remarkably similar when one person touches another for the purpose of support and healing, no matter the external manifestation … the client leaves feeling better.

It is a misconception to think massage is only about your muscles, it addresses your entire body.

The most basic styles, such as Swedish, at the very least “feel good” and “get things moving,” and kind of “squeegee” out the gunk that makes your muscles tight and sore. This is because massage enhances circulation, decreases nervous system activity, promotes digestion, and even aids immunity functions. The traditional Chinese medicine theory asserts it moves our life force energy through sluggish and stopped-up areas, toning the whole of the system. Of course, directly working the muscles also relieves and rebalances the musculoskeletal body, that body you inhabit at work, at home, and at play, so as to safeguard you from overuse and stress. This is the sweet spot of massage: receiving therapy at the most basic, direct, one-sided, and lived-in level possible.

It seems those who receive massage regularly probably live with less pain, anxiety, depression, insomnia and blood pressure. They enjoy a greater sense of well being, greater flexibility and range of motion, and a relaxed state that is simultaneously revitalized. They probably get sick or injured less often. If you do not receive massages, you may not die of touch starvation but you probably will live longer, and might enjoy a higher quality of life, if you incorporate massage into your lifestyle. People have been doing it forever.



Getting the Most out of Your Massage (Part 2 of 2)

July 21, 2011


This is part two of two. The first entry is available here. It focuses on preparing and communicating. Part two focuses on receiving and resting.

Whether this is your first time on the table or your 52nd of the year, you can get the most out of your massage by preparing, communicating, receiving, and resting.

You can enhance your massage by breathing and consciously “letting go.” If your stresses are really are so important, you can pick them right back up on the way out. Breathing, in particular, helps. Center yourself by exhaling gently, and allow your belly to take in new air on its own. If the session presents you with a particularly sensitive or challenging area, focusing your breath there. Asking yourself to relax around that area can be surprisingly helpful. But only go along so far as you feel comfortable. If at times you find yourself breathing too hard, you may need to communicate to your therapist that less aggressive techniques would be appreciated.

Some massage includes stretching and movement, and it may be tempting to help or even resist such efforts. Of course, this usually just slows or thwarts the good intentions of the therapist. Receiving well means inhibiting the inclination to play a part in controlling your limbs, of course within reason.

If you already listen to your body, let me validate your common sense. Take it kind of easy the night you get your massage. Avoid vigorous exercise, work, or partying. You’ll want to drink plenty of water to help flush your system, and there’s nothing wrong with gentle movement and stretching. A quiet walk, a nutritious dinner, and a detox bath can all help. This is also a good opportunity to check in and see what you notice. The massage may have given you a new awareness that will be helpful to you going forward.

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