Many of us are feeling over stressed all too often. According to a recent survey by Forth, over a third (37%) of British residents feel stressed for at least one full day per week. Making time and space for regular treatments is an amazing way to support your mind, body and spirit during stressful times.
Throughout Stress Awareness Month we will catch up with triyoga therapists on ways to tackle stress. In the first part of this three-part series, we focus on mindful massage with Belinda Freeman.
Mindful massage offers a pause from our crazy, amazing, overwhelming addictive world. This evidence-based practice transforms the impact of negative stress reactions, including insomnia, anxiety and stress related dis-ease.
It’s poetically been described as ‘an hour-long treatment guiding your body into an ocean of physical and mental tranquility’ that helps you ‘ride the waves of life’s delights and difficulties, like a skillful surfer’.
What is mindful massage?
Mindful massage is a unique blend of calming, gentle, yet firm, intuitive, aromatherapy and therapeutic massage techniques combined with guided mindfulness-based stress reduction meditation.
Mindfulness meditation and massage are ancient and evidence-based practices that calm mind and body and cultivates equanimity. It’s a powerful way of attending to the body and embodying the mind.
The science behind mindful stress reduction
Mindfulness meditation and mindful massage create deep relaxation, perspective and time to reflect on life’s choices. This relaxation calms our sympathetic nervous system, communicating that there is no threat to life. This reduces or switches off production of cortisol, often known as the fight-flight or freeze-stress hormone.
By paying attention to our experience of our body and our breath we focus on being rather than striving, thinking or surviving. This awareness and attention engage the parasympathetic nervous system and produces the calming, relaxing hormones such as oxytocin (calming, compassionate, connecting, loving and healing hormones) and endorphins (natural pain killers and mood elevators) neurotransmitters – dopamines.
This focus on presence allows our breathing to naturally slow down, blood pressure to lower, heartbeat to slow, and our digestion immune system to stabilise. An awareness of pleasant events and sensations arise, distracting us from thought and allowing us to rest in being, resting with ease in the present moment breath-by-breath, moment-by-moment, meditating.
What to expect during a mindful massage
Each treatment focuses on drawing attention away from thinking and resting awareness on the experience of pleasant body sensations, breathing, sounds, and touch.
Each massage attunes to your muscles, joint, myo-fascial softening and relaxation needs. The touch is deep yet gentle, comforting and safe. Organic essential oils may add to the therapeutic harmony of this treatment.
I recommend 1.5 hour sessions or one-hour introduction to begin. A one-off treatment or eight-week training programme gives you a good start on cultivating your new best friend and life skill – mindfulness meditation.
Belinda Freeman offers mindfulness massage at triyoga Soho. Each treatment is unique and based on your present moment needs and energy.