The Relaxation Response

The Relaxation Response

Image showing inhale and exhale

Does your massage therapist ever help you achieve complete exhalation of breath by compressing your chest while lying prone (face-down)? Doesn’t that feel extra wonderful? Why is that?

The key benefit of most types of massage (with the exception of some sports and training massages) is relaxation. The out-breath is a natural state of relaxation and creates the subconscious relaxation response. This is the body’s rejuvenation time and the National Institute of Health recognizes it as having broad health benefits, including reduction of pain and restoration of sleep. Along with quality of touch and certain Swedish massage techniques, the out-breath assists in bringing about the parasympathetic response of the autonomic nervous system – rest and digest. We simply don’t do enough attentive breathing (or massage) in these high-stress times, as relaxation is the antidote to stress.

 

Think of it literally – the breath is inspiration and expiration – and you will see the Latin root of the word ‘spirit’.  Our very spirit is inherent in our breathing. Meditation is breathing, relaxation & yoga is all about breathing and  the advice to ‘Take ten deep breaths’ to calm someone down is wise and effective indeed.

 

The relaxation response can increase energy, decrease fatigue and blood pressure, increase motivation, productivity, sex-drive and decision-making ability. Many self-taught relaxation response techniques are available online, but if you’d rather leave that up to someone else, a really great massage could be indicated.

Image showing relax button

Your massage therapist should be encouraging you to breathe throughout the session, especially if complete relaxation is the goal. Then again, a more aggressive deep massage will often require ‘breathing into’ the pain of working out a knotted muscle or cross-fiber-stroking a tender muscle tendon needing to be stretched. If using range-of-motion enhancement techniques, a deep breath will often be taken before a good exhale  at which time the therapist will take the limb beyond its previous tolerance.

Image showing relaxation book

For great advice on self-help breathing and stress-reduction techniques, visit http://www.mindtools.com/smpage.html