I went to a massage school that was very good, but it only taught a minimal amount of hours. Therefore, I did not learn a lot about proper body mechanics next to the table.
I learned later that, when I strained my lower back, I was twisting while applying pressure. I felt stiff and old even though I was in my early 20s. My back locked up on me, and I knew that I needed to do something.
I had to find some way that would help me so I could continue to do what I love and help others.
I discovered yoga and kickboxing as a way to rehab, release dysfunctional patterns, and maintain flexibility. I woke up every morning and prepared my body with yoga, went to kickboxing after work, and then before I went to bed, I did more yoga.
I noticed that if I did not do yoga that day my body would be sore and tight. I knew that I had to maintain my body with yoga every day especially the days that I performed massage.
I say to this day that yoga is my medicine for many reasons. I continue to utilize yoga to balance my mind, body, spirit and to help withstand the physical aspect of massage therapy so I can resume my bodywork practice of 20 years.
I have always used yoga as a tool for injury prevention. Yoga helps with physical preparation of the body, during performance and as aftercare to maintain my body
Yoga is about personal practice, self-care and self-exploration.
Yoga asanas, or poses, pave the way to relaxing the physical body to quiet the mind. Today, yoga has become more physical, and sometimes competitive, causing it to veer from its original purpose of achieving a meditative mindset.
Thinking in a competitive or in a purely physical way could contribute to an injury.
In this article, I will focus on how to use yoga as a means of self-care and how it keeps your physical body healthy.
I want to share with you how I use yoga daily for maintenance and self-care and you will see just how easy it can be.
- Increases strength, tone and flexibility
- Increases lubrication to joints, ligaments and tendons
- Reduces likelihood of burnout and injury
- Brings awareness to and corrects alignment
- Improves posture
- Improves spinal stability
- Improves breathing and lung capacity
- Increases endurance
- Reduces pain and tension
Yoga is an all-star when it comes to self-care for the massage therapist.
On the physical level, it warms the body up pre-performance, keeps awareness on body positioning while performing massage, and cools the body down after a day of practicing massage. Yoga also helps keep the mind clear, increases intuition and supports your focus on the breath.
You can use yoga to prepare your body for a day of doing massage.
An athlete would not perform their sport with the body not properly warmed up. If they did, their likelihood of injury could rise considerably.
I would like you to put yourself in the frame of mind of an athlete.
Start the day by doing a five- to 15-minute walk or jog to get the blood and oxygen circulating and then take another 15 minutes to move the entire body. An example would be to flow with some yoga postures such as Sun Salutation and then include specific stretches to open and warm up the chest, shoulders, neck, arms, and hands.
This type of warm-up would be a great way to prepare your body.
During performance, yoga brings a lot to the table.
Awareness is one of the most important aspects that can carry over from your yoga practice. While practicing massage, you could recognize and bring awareness to how your body is positioned, bring attentiveness to your breath, and cultivate mindfulness of your body in the present moment.
You could use Archer Stance as an example because it is very similar to Warrior II pose. You can recreate Warrior II while you are working the body by bringing awareness to body stance and weight shift, and utilize lines of energy.
You will start observing that some parts of your body feel vital and strong and other parts feel fatigued and blocked energetically. If you can learn to feel the lines of energy while your body is in motion, then alignment will automatically happen.
This alignment will bring about increased strength. This fact helps you to work less hard and more efficiently.
It also helps you reduce the likelihood of injury.
Do not get me wrong; injury in this field is a possibility with the repetitive nature of the work, but if mindfulness is brought to the table then chances of injury are less likely.
Self-care during performance means transferring body weight efficiently.
It is necessary to honor your body while you work, just like you would when you are on your mat. This means that you would not perform a stroke that would be uncomfortable for you just because you think it would feel good to your client.
It means doing yoga stretches for the shoulders, arms, and hands between clients or sitting down while working the client’s feet or head to give your legs a break.
Yoga can be utilized to cool down, revitalize and repair the body after a long day of executing massage. After work, it is important to release tension accumulated during the day and help set the body up to repair itself before the next day of work.
I would suggest a forward bend to release the lower back and lessen tension in the legs. Other areas that could use stretching post-massage would be the neck muscles, rotator cuff muscles, and the forearm flexors and extensors.
Savasana, or corpse pose, would be a great pose to let go of any remaining tension and prepare for a final relaxation.
Yoga is a known to be a great cross-training exercise that can have benefits for massage therapists.
Practicing yoga on a regular basis will help you maintain flexibility and strength. It also boosts your endurance so you can work more effectively and efficiently. It is important to elongate fascia and muscles, increase blood flow, and keep grounded to the earth.
Yoga does all of this and much more.
Whether you are new to yoga or a seasoned practitioner, you can fit yoga into your daily routine.
How do you take yoga off the mat and translate it into your practice?
First, you create a safe and sacred space for your personal practice. Choose some time to practice daily. Check in with your body and scan to see how you feel physically, mentally, and energetically. Be in the present moment and breathe
You should try to create a 5- to 10-minute routine and perform it every day for a month.
Notice how it changes your life and practice.
Wake up, choose an intention for the day, and move through some asanas for 5 to 10 minutes. Finish with some rounds of breathing or a short meditation. Keep it simple and you will notice that you are more grounded, flexible and alive.
Yoga is the ultimate self-care tool for all facets of your practice.
It can be used in many different ways to help balance your physical body and counteract the effects of long, physical hours of repetitive movements. Whether it is Hatha Vinyasa Flow, Pranayama Breathwork or a simple meditation, yoga can cultivate a keen awareness that will help you care for and nurture your body so you can have a long, healthy and happy career.
Karina Braun, L.M.T., E.-R.Y.T., is author of Creating Peace with Your Hands and Create Peace Yoga for Massage Therapists and Bodyworkers. She is owner of Get In Touch EDU and offers live seminars and home study courses to keep therapists healthy and help them prevent injuries.