These massage practitioners, experts and educators open the door to their self-care techniques, and some of them might not look like what you’d expect.
The takeaway? Self-care can be fun, inspiring and surprisingly simple. Practices ranging from napping to self-massage to firearms (and more) help these people feel happy, relaxed and ready to tackle each day as a massage professional.
I started doing yoga seriously about three years ago, at age 67. I had just finished 10 years of kung fu and tai chi study, getting my second-degree black belt in kung fu. I loved doing martial arts, but had gotten tired of memorizing more-and-more complicated movement sequences.
My wife had been doing yoga for years and finally convinced me to try a yoga class here in Austin, Texas, at her favorite place, Dharma Yoga. I found they did a wonderful job in their classes of integrating Buddhist philosophy, meditation and hatha yoga. Now we go there three or more times each week.
My body feels like it never has been stronger, and my occasional back pain has greatly lessened. My stress is much reduced, and my wife and I have something we share that brings us even closer.
A year and half ago, I decided to take Dharma Yoga’s 200-hour yoga teaching training program. It was, physically and mentally, the most challenging training I’ve completed in years. I now teach yoga only occasionally, but the philosophy, meditation and physical grace I learned has profoundly affected my writing, teaching, and practice of deep massage and Zero Balancing—really, it’s affected my whole life.
Snap Up a Nap
Sleep is nature’s premier restorative tool. Sleep repairs everything in the body. This is why my favorite self-care is a nap.
Instead of reaching for coffee, I nap. Just 10 minutes of being horizontal, and my spine and I feel much better. Even if can’t actually sleep, I get out of gravity for a few minutes and my hips and feet can rest.
When I used to work in a big office, I would find an empty conference room and lie down briefly during lunch hour. Now that I’m retired, I have been fortunate to have the spare time to raise napping to a lofty status.
Luxurious naps, short naps (snaps), long naps, naps while reading (oops)—and when I can catch my husband in a moment, naps for two.
Massage therapists have the greatest tool, nice and handy for a nap, the massage table—in a spare moment, of course. Take that little bit of time and lie down.
I am a huge fan of working on myself at the most convenient time—while taking a shower. I have to undress and I have a built-in lubricant with shower gels or soaps, so it just seems to be a logical place for self-care. I can do a form of lymphatic drainage with my hands or a natural sponge, or with a soft silicone cup. I can also park the cup on a stubborn knot and stretch the tissue gently under the vacuum.
One of my favorite self-care treatments is to use a small face-cup that looks like a traffic cone, or witch’s hat, to drain my face, tighten sags and bags, and relieve any sinus pressure in the face and ears. This drainage and massage can also be done with the hands, a natural sponge or with rollers made for the face.
Simply stretching and doing basic range-of-motion movements along with massage strokes to drain stagnant lymph takes just a few minutes, with or without a cup. The heat from the shower helps soften lymphatic congestion and muscle tissue, so everything works together to provide a quick and convenient opportunity to take care of myself.
Work it Out
Although it might feel like a workout at times, giving massage is not the same as working out. When I was first in practice, another therapist told me how important it was to get regular exercise outside of the treatment room.
After more than 23 years in this profession, I wholeheartedly agree. Not only is exercise important to maintain my weight, strength and flexibility, it energizes and renews me on all levels. When I am doing a more challenging activity, like weight training, running or swimming, I’m focused on the activity instead of my stress. Thus, I can usually let go of whatever problems or concerns might be on my mind, at least enough so I can’t really think about them. Instead, those problems float away from me as I huff and puff through the next set, mile or lap.
Much like massage, exercise is a sort of moving meditation for me, which keeps my body healthy, mind clear and spirit joyful. It also helps me set a good example for my clients, and gives me one more great reason to get more massage, my favorite self-care tool.
Move to Maui
We have come to rely on our daily self-care practice as a nutrient—like air or water—essential to our success. Otherwise, we fall into the trap of giving until it hurts. To prevent trouble before it arises, we want to share one of our favorite healing moves with you: 10 Minutes to Instant Maui. This easy practice refreshes our minds and releases our backs.
Find a chair or end of a couch where you can rest your calves at a 90-degree angle with your back on the floor. Be sure your knees are bent, so they rest directly over your hips. Set your timer for 10 minutes of non-doing and let gravity do all the work.
There’s no agenda for these 10 minutes. Until the timer goes off, meditate, nap or just give your body and mind an opportunity to rest and reset. Feel your back release gently onto the floor and your hips relax. When your 10 minutes are up, roll to your side and gently push yourself back up.
We feel like we just went on a mini vacation after giving ourselves the gift of 10 minutes of non-doing. But don’t believe us—try it out for yourself. Watch a video of 10 Minutes to Instant Maui.
Hit the Trail
I am an avid backpacker! When I have two or three days available, there is nothing better than getting completely off of the grid and getting out into the forest with everything I need loaded in my pack.
What makes the experience enjoyable for me is how I approach it. I was a member of the Explorers when I was a kid, and learned how to navigate, get a fire going without a lighter or match, basic survival and a little bush-crafting.
When I am out there in the forest, problem-solving and awareness make the experience completely enjoyable for me.
Roll it Out
I was born with my legs backward and didn’t walk for several years, so the fascia was twisted on my body and I’ve lived with pain my entire life. Self-care is not a luxury for me; it is a daily requirement in order to stay ahead of the curve, for pain management.
First thing in the morning and right before bed, I always take 30 to 60 seconds to roll the bottoms of my feet with a BodyworksBall. During the day, between clients, I take one to two minutes to roll away aches and pains. During each break I focus on a different body part while rolling against the wall.
Even on days when my schedule is relentless, without fail I work my shoulders and upper back, with a focus on rhomboids; glutes, with a focus on piriformis; and feet, hands and wrists.
During these mobility breaks, I also focus my attention on my breath and do mini mindful-meditation breathing techniques to help reset my mind while I do self-massage to reset my body.
These breaks make a huge difference in keeping my body and mind feeling energized and restored throughout the day.
Take it to the Mat
A cherished self-care activity of mine is to receive Thai yoga massage. As an ancient therapeutic art originating more than 2,500 years ago, Thai yoga massage is an expression of mettā, a Pāli word meaning loving-kindness.
Compassion—for both self and others—is the guiding principle for the practice of Thai massage. As the recipient, I enter a relaxed and meditative space grounded in the concept of mettā. During my sessions, I have heightened body awareness and focus my attention to receiving the bodywork with ease—noticing where tension, weakness and soreness are present in my body, and bringing relaxation to these areas.
Since learning about this concept as the essence of the practices and process of Thai bodywork, I have also discovered a host of guided mettā meditations (a favorite resource is Tara Brach’s website), which I practice regularly between sessions.
Altogether, the techniques effectively remove embodied negativity and awaken a great sense of vitality, balance and harmony in my body and mind.
Get Some Zs
The single most important thing I do to take care of myself is sleep. Quality sleep makes a huge difference in stamina, resilience and the ability to be productive. I need between eight and nine hours of sleep a night.
I get up once or twice in the night to use the restroom, so I have had to train myself to fall back to sleep right away. I have also learned to get up when I wake up about 6:30 a.m., even if I have time to snooze, because I feel stiff and sluggish if I stay in bed. I have also learned to go to bed when I start to fall asleep in a chair at night.
I have a busy brain, so controlling thought patterns as I fall asleep can be a challenge. I have a little mind ritual, similar to counting sheep, that helps. I make sure the bedroom is cool and dark. If I have an aching spot—and I have a few—I will put ice on the area. Also, my feet need to be warm so I usually go to bed with a warm seed bag by my feet.
Good sleep is good for you.
Shoot & Reload
Since I grew up in the Midwest, firearms are a kind of maturation into becoming a young adult. My stepdad let me shoot his 12-gauge shotgun at 10 years of age, and since then firearms and recreational shooting has become a beloved passion of mine.
The smell of gunpowder, recoil hitting my shoulder, and all the precise measurements, calculations and form that go into hitting the target every time equals pure ammo therapy!
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