Long hours, stressed-out clients, back-to-back sessions and lots of repetitive movement—the practice of massage can lead to both physical and emotional imbalances in massage therapists. Fortunately, massage therapists can be helped by yoga in a variety of ways.
Yoga is the 6,000-year-old secret to health and vitality. Yoga can be considered technology for getting back in touch with our true essence and ourselves. It is a way of remembering the health and wholeness that is our natural state of being.
Yoga, when broken down to its most simple form, is breathing and feeling. Through this breathing and feeling, we learn to control our reactions to events and people. It is not the events and people in our lives that give us stress, but the way we react to them.
What makes yoga unique in terms of stress reduction is its multifaceted approach. By working at the physical and psychological levels concurrently, yoga reduces stress at each level—and this reduction in stress is supported by the work done at other levels. Yoga postures combined with deep breathing facilitate deep relaxation that combats stress.
Physically, massage therapists suffer from tight trapezius muscles and low-back issues from too much forward flexion. They often have overuse issues in their shoulder and deltoids. Yoga provides an ideal way for massage therapists to balance their bodies from the work they do for long hours at a time.
Yoga massages the skeletal system, which supports bone mass and growth, while taking the stress away from the supporting muscles and tendons. Yoga mechanically removes tension from the muscles through stretching.
The steady, even yoga breathing reduces stress levels in the body; stress response is typically accompanied by rapid, shallow breathing. Yoga encourages deep, diaphragmatic breathing, activating a relaxation response. Yoga also massages the internal organs, reducing high blood pressure, stress in the cardiovascular system at the level of the heart, arteries and blood. The nerves are massaged and stretched through yoga, conducting messages throughout the body.
Emotionally and energetically, massage therapists take on a lot of their clients’ energy. Yoga helps clear the energy and let things go. Emotionally, the body believes what the mind believes. Affirmations about peace, calm and tranquility, along with positive imagery, are conveyed to the nervous system. Yoga brings greater relationships with others, life and us. As we begin to explore these relationships more, we see which interactions genuinely support us in moving toward calmness.
As we become more relaxed through yoga and stress-management classes, we release addictive behaviors, which are often used to relieve stress. Yoga brings awareness to the emotional blocks that limit our experience of life.
Our perception of life has been conditioned by our experiences and sometimes we close ourselves off from feelings and emotions. Through yoga, we learn to bring awareness to all parts of ourselves with the understanding that through integration, we come to a natural place of balance. Many of our stressful habit patterns are conditioned. Yoga teaches a whole set of patterns that are helpful in reducing stress in massage therapists.
Read “YogaFit Postures for Massage Therapists,” .
Beth Shaw, E-R.Y.T., C.M.T., is a licensed massage therapist as well as president and founder of YogaFit®, the leader in mind-body fitness education. Shaw is an internationally known yoga expert and author of Beth Shaw’s YogaFit (Human Kinetics 2009). She is the innovative educator, entrepreneur and visionary for YogaFit®, YogaButt, YogaStrength, YogaCore, YogaLean and countless other yoga-fitness combinations. She has more than 30 DVDs and CDs on the market and is widely recognized as the premier yoga fitness trainer in the industry. Shaw has been showcased in various print and television programs, such as CNBC, CNN, NBC, CBS, E! Style Channel, O, The Oprah Magazine, TIME, More, Entrepreneur and Yoga Journal. For more information, visit www.yogafit.com.