Relaxation Response

Taking it Easy

Taking It Easy

We are fortunate to provide massage services in beautiful Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Unlike summers, when visitors are here to experience the National Parks of Teton and Yellowstone, in winter they’re here primarily for skiing. And it just so happens that Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is one of the gnarliest ski mountains there is – in terms of steeps, difficulties and oodles of snow.

Image showing map of Jackson Hole

 

From a massage perspective – this is good for us – people come here, ski hard and then are in dire need of massage. Sounds simple enough – but this post comes as a note of caution. Hey – don’t get me wrong – I’ll take the massage clients as it’s what I do for a living…but can I really make people better? Am I really the answer to what ails them after a hard day of skiing?

Jackson Hole has recently been graded as number 1 in ‘SKI’ magazine – and so folks flock here to ski. Even if they just ski for that one week or two per year – they choose this challenging mountain to do so. Skiing at Jackson consists of long, hard days using muscles that are not in shape.

 

As a long-time skier, having lived in Vail, Colorado for twenty years, and Jackson Hole for thirteen – I can opine that skiers should pick their terrain according to their ability. Perhaps the first good thing they can do for their bodies (prevention is better than cure), is choose a ski area where there is much more intermediate terrain – like Vail – because let’s face it – if you only ski once per year – you’re probably intermediate. At least your muscles are. And you’ll have a better time as ego creeps in as you master those easier slopes with ease. (I’m just talking about ski terrain here – Vail itself – well – I left there for a reason. Jackson and its environs are fantastic – but the skiing – is hard on the body.)

Massage – seekers come to me and ask if I can fix their considerable pain (usually lower-back) so that they might ski (hard) again tomorrow. I’m as fanatic a skier as the next guy – but whoa – there comes a time when it just makes sense to take the day off. No matter how good a massage therapist might be – there’s nothing that can be done for all the over-use of those hip-rotators, glutes, hamstrings, quads, erectors – and just about every other muscle in your body. Sometimes I have to even turn people away, saying that massage may hurt their (acute) problem even further. The muscle spasm in the lower back is a natural splinting mechanism that is in place specifically to protect the body from further harm – and massage can be contra-indicated.

Take a day or two off skiing. Visit the hot tub, relax in bed, go shopping, read a book, veg in front of the TV, call your Mom, BREATHE. Sometimes massage isn’t the answer to everything.

 

Be well,

 

Hamish and Rochelle

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