By Donna Stephens Johnson, LMBT, MMP, Owner of Utopia Spa in Aberdeen, guest columnist
“Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are” ~ Ancient Chinese Proverb
Acknowledging the body, mind and spirit connection, the massage therapy profession holds that massage therapy treatment can lead to improved health outcomes by facilitating the balance and connection between the three. For most of us, it is easy to make the distinction between body and mind. According to world renowned teacher and author John Kehoe, “The body has its own wisdom and ways of knowing, separate and distinct from that of the mind. The mind thinks while the body feels. From each of these ways of knowing we get valuable information. Just as seeing and hearing are two totally distinct senses which supply us with discrete sensations, so too the body gives us different feedback than the mind”.
But what is the difference between mental and spiritual wellbeing? One area that might give us a clue to spiritual wellbeing is our emotional health. Emotions actually tie all three of these domains together as our thoughts stimulate deep beliefs and are expressed viscerally in the body. Emotions can be tied to deep and powerful feelings, sometimes expressing aspects of ourselves that we aren’t even aware of on a cognitive level. As a massage Therapist, I’ve witnessed a client bursting into tears during a session, in a sudden release of pent up emotion, and then leave the spa feeling spiritually unburdened. Massage therapy doesn’t just feel good; it has physiological and neurological benefits. Among the many benefits of massage therapy are those related to the body’s production and regulation of neurohormones. These are the hormones produced by the nervous system that affect an individual’s behavior and general well-being. Massage increases the availability of all neurohormones affecting brain chemistry.
It’s All In Our Head
Massage tends to elevate the levels of dopamine, a neurohormone released by the hypothalamus that affects intuition, inspiration, joy, enthusiasm, and influences fine motor activity like painting or playing a musical instrument. Those lacking in dopamine will likely exhibit clumsiness, poor focus, and be easily distracted. Massage tends to elevate levels of serotonin, a neurohormone that regulates behavior in terms of emotions, acting to quell irritability and cravings. Those low in serotonin often have difficulty sleeping and tend to suffer from depression and obsessive- compulsive disorders. Massage reduces levels of cortisol, the stress-related neurohormone produced by the adrenal glands. By encouraging sleep, massage can increase the availability of growth hormones that promote cell division and are involved in tissue repair, regeneration, and healing. Acupressure and trigger point therapy (applying pressure to tender muscle tissue to relieve pain and dysfunction) are further examples of massage techniques that provide a number of important benefits. These techniques create endorphins, which are compounds known to reduce pain and produce a sense of euphoria. After 15 minutes of massage, endorphins come into play and their “feel good” effects may last up to 48 hours.
The Whole Picture
So, how does body, mind and spirit fit together? An individual’s emotions come from his/her mental state. If one is tense and worked up, it will affect their mind. In turn, it will translate to their body, creating muscle tension and high blood pressure, for instance. Therapeutic massage will use this process in reverse; it will relax the body and reach into the mental and emotional state of the individual. It will then create a cycle, easing both the mind and body.
The body, mind and spirit work as a system of energy. We connect our body, mind and spirit to keep energy flowing within us. This energy flow can be abundant or restricted, depending on our ‘state of being’ in each moment and it changes constantly. We all know that a professional massage can do wonders for your immediate stress level. There is much that a spa visit can do for emotional wellbeing. The perks of monthly rubdowns go far beyond one relaxing afternoon. Health, peace, time, silence, touch and relationships are all things that people may hold sacred that they can experience in a visit to a thoughtful, compassionate holistic spa.
Massage Is Medicine
Its reputation may be as a luxury and pampering for the self- indulgent, but massage has a firm place in ancient history and Eastern and Western medicine. Hands-on manipulation for healing is probably older than any other healing tradition. The oldest written records of massage go back three thousand years to China, but of course it is much older than that. Physicians and healers of all forms and from all cultures have used hands-on manipulation throughout history as an integral part of health care practice. Today’s massage therapists practice a multitude of techniques originating from ancient methods. From those roots, they remain inspired by a goal cultivated centuries ago – to help others heal their physical and emotional well-being and experience a higher quality of life. Today, massage therapy stands as a highly respected holistic healing method practiced across the world. Massage tilts the balance away from stress and toward relaxation and healing. In fact, regular visits to your favorite spa can provide multiple lasting benefits. Be kind to yourself and consider making massage therapy an integral part of keeping yourself mentally, physically and emotionally healthy.
To schedule a massage for your mind, body, and spirit with Utopia Spa, please call 910-757-0415 or visit our website www.utopiaspanc.com.