Why Well Done Massage Has Greater Benefits Than Empty Sex
Over the years of practicing massage I’ve observed that a large proportion of western men still doesn’t see the importance and benefits of massage. Although I fully understand that this may be due to social conditioning and the impact of the euphemism for unrelated activities that the word massagehas unfortunately become, I’m determined to educate these men about the tremendous benefits and anassuming, understated, yet immensely powerful intimacy of the beautiful art of massage.
Massage is one of the most powerful forms of physical contact whether in the context of intimacy or therapy. If done with essential oils, it is by far the most important application in aromatherapy, allying the therapeutic power of touch with the properties of the essential oils chosen for a particular person at a specific time.
Massage – with or without essential oils – can be described as a formalization of a very primitive instinct. If a child falls over, his mother will ‘rub better’ his bumped knee. If we trip over and bruise ourselves, our unthinking first reaction will be to rub the painful area. If we find a friend in a state of distress, we’ll offer a reassuring hug. All these are forms of healing, whether on a physical or emotional level. The simple action of rubbing a painful part of the body encourages an increased flow of blood in the tiny capillaries just below the surface of the skin and this helps to ease the pain. A hug is a nonverbal way of communicating our sympathy and love that we may not be able to put into words in a crisis.
Both of these kinds of healing enter into massage. The masseur performs a variety of strokes which are designed to relieve pain, ease tense tight muscles, increase circulation, or benefit the physical body in other ways. These strokes are applied to those muscles visible below the surface of the skin, but the effects also benefit the deeper layers of muscle and possibly the underlying organs. Some forms of massage aim to benefit only the physical body in this way, but even so a general feeling of wellbeing will result and enhance the degree of relaxation experienced after a massage. Renewed energy and vigour will follow this deep relaxation. The benefit of massage is cumulative: although the recipient will almost always feel good for some hours after a massage, regular massage will prolong the feeling of wellbeing for increasing periods after each treatment.
As well as releasing tight muscles during the treatment massage can also act as a form of reeducation helping us to become aware of tensing certain muscles unnecessarily and to feel the difference between a tight/contracted and a relaxed muscle. Very often we do not recognize the fact that we are tightening certain groups of muscles until we experience those muscles in a relaxed state during and after a massage. Although it is a perfectly normal reaction to tense muscles when we feel mentally tense, it is important to be able to let go of this physical tension before the tight muscles convey a sense of discomfort and unease to the mind, thus setting up a vicious circle of tension. This is one of the ways in which mental stress can lead to real physical symptoms, but massage can break this chain of events, especially when we work with essential oils that have a calming, soothing, or uplifting effect on the mind as well as on the body.
Some systems of massage, such as the Eastern massage and various kinds of intuitive massage developed in the past 40 years, take this link between body and mind further and aim to work mainly on the connection between the mental and physical states of the recipient of massage. Letting go of physical tensions often leads to a release of emotions. This can relate to the present situation of the person involved or to something that has been ‘stored’ in the body for a very long time. Clearly a relationship of great trust and sympathy between the masseur and the recipient must be built up before such catharsis can take place, and this building lasts over a number of treatments. One of the ideas inherent in Eastern massage is that by gently working on the physical surface tensions deeper tensions will be enabled to come to the surface and eventually be released.
The variety of techniques used in massage is enormous, but I believe that it doesn’t matter too much which technique is used, provided that the masseur uses it with a caring and nurturing attitude towards the recipient.
Massage is vital to aromatherapy, because it provides us with the most effective way of introducing essential oils to the body. The skin absorbs these oils very readily and when the whole body is massaged a useful amount of essential oil is taken into the bloodstream in a fairly short time. The oils are diluted in carrier oils. If it isn’t possible to carry out a massage of the whole body, a back massage offers the next best possibility of getting sufficient essential oil into the body to have a therapeutic effect, since the back presents the single largest expanse of skin of any area of the body.
The benefits of massage go even further. I’ve described the four less obvious ones in this entry.
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