Ask the expert: how to practice self-massage
Whether it’s sitting at a desk all day, bending over in the garden or even staring at our smartphones, we put a lot of pressure on our bodies to support us.
Whilst hands on therapies from professional therapists are unavailable at the moment, there are some practices you can take home with you and reap the benefits. Massage’s body balancing power encourages muscle relaxation, improved circulation, skin nourishment and waste removal. And self-massage encompasses these well-being benefits, which you can enjoy in the comfort of your own home. This simple practice is a handy stress reliever to work into your self-care routine.
To help us navigate self-massage, internationally-acclaimed massage expert, Beata Aleksandrowicz walks us through how to practice self-massage at times of heightened stress, and details the incredible power of touch.
What are the benefits of self-massage?
Massage is essential for our well-being. It literally works on each system of the body simultaneously. However, we don’t always have time to book treatments, and now we simply can’t do that. This doesn’t mean that we’re vulnerable and without solutions to ease our aches and pains, instead you can use self-massage techniques on a regular basis to help prevent tension from accumulating. This also gives us an incredible opportunity to slow down and connect with ourselves
How exactly does self-massage work?
You don’t need any experience in massage to provide yourself with some good, effective techniques. You just need clear, quality, straightforward guidance. The most important thing is to make sure that you don’t apply too much pressure, that you apply each stroke slowly, and you breathe during each step of the technique. The key here is to stay in the moment, be present and connect with yourself.
How can massage treat specific tension in the body?
Tension headaches will affect different parts of the body: shoulders, neck, scalp, temples, sometimes even in the middle of the back. Why? Because we’re connected through connective tissues. Every muscle and organ is wrapped in connective tissue, so any tension in the upper body will impact the lower body as well.
It's important to understand the reason for your tension headaches. Are they regular? Do you notice when they occur? Are they related to your stress levels, or maybe to the tension in your shoulders? Is it emotional as much as physical? How do you feel generally right now? This will all impact how you feel and will manifest in your body. So ensure you give yourself space and time when you massage.
Try freshening up your room, maybe light some candles or burn incense. Make it special. With tension headaches you will need to address your scalp, forehead, temples, neck and shoulders and if you really want to feel a difference, combine massage with breathing and meditation. We are complex creatures; a combination of mind, body and soul, so each of these aspects needs to be addressed.
Massage for stress in the shoulders
For dealing with stress specifically in your shoulders, you’ll need to go for relaxation first and then address the knots and specific tension spots. Use the palms of your hands, your thumbs and even your knuckles - the latter can be used nice and gently. Again the body is connected – remember that. So it’s important to massage shoulders if you have issues in your lower back and vise versa.
Tension in your hands and feet
We use our hands so much, so naturally they store a lot of tension. But we need flexibility and strength. Hand massage is fantastic! It brings much more flexibility and strength in the joints, smooths skin and gives an amazing feeling of relaxation and care.
The same with the feet. 30% of all our joints are in our feet, it’s an important yet often neglected part of the body. Our feet keep us in balance, carry our weight and make every movement possible. I'd recommend regular foot massages, but also walking barefoot at home if possible. This allows the feet to rest and re-align.
Can we include other self-care practices into self-massage?
The tempo of massage is so important for its effectiveness. Generally, we are looking for slow and intentional strokes. To be slow and intentional we need to bring ourselves to the present moment. This is the only place from where we can experience the positive effect of massage. Starting with the breath, make sure you provide yourself with enough oxygen as this will increase the benefits of the massage. Meditation will help you to stay in the ‘here and now’, so you'll experience every step of self-massage with total awareness. I always start my live classes with breathing and meditation.
What is your favourite massage treatment and could we adapt this for self-massage?
I like deep, thorough and meaningful massage that acknowledges that I am a combination of my mind, body and my spirituality. This is how I designed all my treatments; at the base of each massage is a deep tissue technique, combined with energy work and lymphatic drainage.
And you can definitely use these techniques in self-massage. The practice needs to be carried out wisely, ensuring the sequences support physiological knowledge of the body, and address the emotional aspect of our being.
Beata Aleksandrowicz is an author, wellness speaker and advocate for the power or touch and deep-healing therapy. She founded the Aleksandrowicz System and teaches her 12 Principles of Massage masterclass in spas across the globe. You can now access her latest Face Massage classes via her online portal.
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