"Massage is one of the more affordable mini-vacations from stress," says Clarence Gaston, massage professional of Handprints Massage Therapy
in Palm Bay, Florida.
"First realize that you are purchasing the services of a professional.
While the therapist is the expert, you are the boss. If you have any
concerns and/or physical ailments, be sure to let the therapist know."
Gaston encourages his clients to begin relaxation by closing the eyes
and centering on breathing. "Take several cleansing breaths in and
out. Let your thoughts wander wherever they want to, not focusing on
anything in particular, just drifting."
Different Strokes for Different Folks
Of the dozens of types of massages, three of the most popular are
Neuromuscular, Swedish, and Shiatsu.
Neuromuscular relieves specific muscles with pressure to trigger
points. In neuro, the massage therapist focuses on tight muscle fibers
that actually are damaged from exertion or tension; Those knots in your
neck, for example, are where muscles have bunched up or adhered to
tissues or bone. Neuro can break this up through slight pressure that
increases the blood flow and oxygen to the area. Pressure on these areas can
eliminate pain-producing spasms by promoting the removal of the pain-creating wastes
congested there. Often the therapist will use a light
lotion or oil to improve friction on contact. (If you prefer no lotion,
or very little, just make your preferences known.)
Shiatsu is a form of acupressure. Although the decision of whether to
wear clothing during a massage or be draped with a fabric is an
individual choice, many choose to wear a loose robe for Shiatsu. This
massage may take place on a kneeling chair or a massage table or futon.
Therapists use hands, elbows, and even knees to apply pressure to
various points down the spine. The therapist rotates your limbs, tilts
your head. This massage uses no oil.
The form of massage most people are familiar with is Swedish massage.
It includes many types of strokes. Some of the basic ones achieve
relaxation using friction, kneading, gliding, and the chopping motion.
Many therapists do not limit themselves to one technique: They use a
combination of Neuromuscular, Shiatsu, Swedish, and other techniques to
work on tight muscles. All styles of massage have the same goal:
Relieve stress, promote circulation, and control pain.
At the end of a massage session, Gaston recommends you come back to
reality slowly. "Savor the last few moments of deep relaxation. Then
take an inventory of your body from the inside out. In your mind, go
over all the areas of your body that felt stressful a short while ago.
Make a note of how they feel now, so that when you start to get stressed
again, you can call up that feeling of rest and relaxation."
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