Massage is pleasant relaxant, but massage also plays an active role in improving the way our bodies function, working on our muscles, our senses and our brains. It is also an invaluable part of any weight loss plan.
Massage to Restoring Energy
If muscles become stiff due to overproduction of lactic acid or from physical strain or injury, they fail to function as well as they should. A deep massage improves the blood flow to the muscles, invigorates them and makes them capable of producing energy once more.
When muscles go into spasm from fatigue, they present resistance to the millions of tiny capillaries in their tissues. The effect is a sluggish circulation, which causes overall lethargy as oxygen and nutrient supplies to various parts of the body, particularly the brain, are affected. Relieving this spasm is very useful for re-energizing the body.
Different massage techniques can also have specific effects. Scratching the skin gently with the nails, slapping or pummeling, usually stimulates or makes the body more alert, whereas stroking, caressing and gentle squeezing has a relaxing effect.
Massage as Therapy
Massage is not only a pleasurable thing, but is also therapeutic. Massaging tendons or ligaments improves blood flow to them and if they are inflamed this will help them mend. Pressing sore areas sends messages to the brain and draws its attention to the affected area so that the healing powers of the body can focus on them.
Touch in itself is healing. The pleasant sensation achieved after a good session of therapeutic massage is in itself good for the mind and the body, and contributes to the healing or the adjustment towards a harmonious balance.
The skin is full of receptors, which relate to various types of emotions. Stroking the nerve receptors under the arm, on the neck or on the soles of the feet, for instance, can make us giggle or laugh. The receptors on the scalp and the heels can induce sleep. There are erogenous receptors behind the ears, in the groin, on the inner thighs, the lower abdomen, lips, breasts, etc.
Massage is the most efficacious of them all. Healing takes place at the level of the sub-conscious brain, and that this part of the brain receives its blood supply through the vertebral arteries located inside the cervical (or neck) vertebrae. Massaging the neck area improves blood supply to vital parts of the brain that control functions as varied as the immune system, hormones, appetite and the digestive system as well as respiration, temperature control, sexual function, gait, posture and reproduction. Optimizing the blood flow to these nerve or control centres rectifies damage in the body and leads to healing and well-being.
The therapeutic effects of massage were well understood by the ancient Greeks and Romans, whose baths and healing temples had skilled masseurs. Here people did not only get their physical aches and pains relieved but were also healed.
In India, China and other places, massage is used as a powerful form of treat-ment. Ayuvedic panchkarma, for example, uses medicated oils applied with a variety of strokes to impregnate the skin, so that the ingredients in the oils can enter the bloodstream, producing therapeutic effects. Conventional medicine also uses skin absorption – HRT patches work on this basis, for example. Administering medication in this way bypasses the liver, which often neutralizes or destroys many medicines taken orally.
Therapeutic Neck Massage
As part of a weight loss plan, this neck and shoulder massage helps to improve pituitary-hypothalamic functions. The effect of this is to reduce cravings and improve thyroid functions. It can also help to eradicate fluid retention.
This massage sequence is a great reliever of tension. This release of tension will make you feel very relaxed and, with the blood and the cerebrospinal fluid circulation to the brain increased, energized by a feel good factor.
You cannot do this massage on yourself, so these instructions are for a friend or partner to massage you. Prepare yourself by lying face down. with a pillow under your neck and chest. Make sure you are comfortable and that your neck is relaxed and you can still breathe easily (it may help to support your forehead and chin on a rolled towel).
If you have had an injury or operation to the neck, suffer from osteoporosis, disc prolapse or have other problems with this area, massage should only be undertaken by a suitably qualified professional who is aware of your medical history in this respect.
- Use a massage oil to maximize the effect of the massage.
- Place the four fingers of one hand on one side of the neck and your thumb on the other side, just below the ear lobes. (If you can’t reach. you may use the fingers of both hands instead.) You should feel some bony projections on the sides of the neck. These are the sides of the cervical vertebrae that have deep within them the canal through which the vertebral arteries run. Sometimes these can be difficult to feel at first – severe muscle tension or a lot of fatty tissue makes them harder to locate – but you should find them if you use sufficient pressure.
- Start massaging these protrusions in a rotatory fashion, and step down one vertebra at a time until you reach the last one above the shoulder. One or two protrusions may feel sore; these are the ones that have got out of alignment. Usually, it is the third cervical vertebra which is misaligned either to the left or right. Massage for five minutes or so, paying particular attention to these sore areas.
- Next, keep your fingers on one side of the neck and your thumb on the other, but position them a little further in (by 2 cm or so) towards the central axis. Now you will feel cords of muscles. Massage these from the skull downwards. Some muscles will be sore. Start massaging them gently at first, and after a few strokes increase the pressure.
- After a few minutes, position your fingers further inwards again. You will find some more muscles here. Massage them in the same way.
- Then massage the nape of the neck, pinching with the thumb and the four fingers.
- Next, massage the area of the occiput (the back of the skull), where the muscles of the neck are attached. This is usually above the hairline. You will feel that these are strong tendons and they can be very sore, especially when the neck muscles are tensed.
- After doing this for a few minutes, take a firm hold on the muscles on top of the shoulder. Work on one shoulder at a time and use both hands to grasp the band of muscle, with your thumb on top and your fingers underneath. Massage both shoulders thoroughly, squeezing and kneading them. These are the trapezius muscles and are often very sore.
- Finally, use your thumb and fingers to massage the jaw muscles on either side. Finish by massaging the jaw line and the temples as well.
Massaging away Cellulite
Body builds up deposits of white fat (cellulite) in specific areas of the body where it serves no useful function, forming insulation or cushioning, and does not interfere with the working of the body. This fat does not respond as well to diet or exercises as yellow fat, which derives from what we eat. Massage, surgery and liposuction become the only option for getting rid of cellulite. I do not recommend the latter two unless obesity is such that walking becomes almost impossible, there is a threat to the joints, and so on. Even then, diet, exercise and massage, as well as real motivation, have to come first or the fat that is removed will soon be replaced.
The areas that respond best to treatment are where cellulite tends to amass: the sides of the thighs, the upper arms, below the navel and across the lower abdomen, around the hips and over the buttocks, and on the breasts.
It you have cellulite deposits in several areas, treat just one or two at a time, so that you can give each a period of concentrated attention. The following day, move on to another area as the original one will be sore, and work round the affected areas of your body in a cycle, massaging each area in turn. If you have only one area that needs treating, allow a gap of a couple of days between massage sessions, more if you need it.
Massaging away cellulite is a very vigorous form of massage. Remember you are trying to break up fat, so it will necessarily involve some pain and bruising later. Any technique that breaks up fat mechanically is likely to bruise, but this is only tissue bruising and should not cause concern.
Do not treat any areas that are affected by thread veins or varicose veins – or vulnerable areas around recent scar tissue or open sores.
- Apply massage oil to your hands, rub your palms together to warm it up and potentize (energize) it.
- Rub the oil into the area you are working on until it is fully absorbed by the skin. After that, knead the area by pinching and lifting the fat and skin folds between the thumbs and four fingers. Continue this for about five minutes. Do it gently at first and then apply more pressure as you get used to it.
- It is beneficial to put hot towels on the area that you have worked on. Leave them in place for five minutes or so. This helps the absorbed oil to work better. After kneading the skin, you can warm up the tissue with friction, by rubbing the area briskly with the palm of your hand.
Massage Oil for Weight Loss
Any pleasant oil. such as almond, will facilitate massaging, but an oil specifically formulated for treating cellulite has added benefits. These oils contain ingredi¬ents such as mustard and ginger oils, which have a heating effect that is quite noticeable. This draws blood to the tissue being massaged and so improves the potency of the treatment. Two high-quality oils, kalonji (black cumin) and mustard, to be a particularly powerful combination and have synergistic effect as cellulite oil, along with other ingredients such as ginger oil and saffron.
Because of the sometimes quite intense warming effect of cellulite oils, it is better not to treat yourself last thing at night, just before going to bed.
Not all the oil will be absorbed. Half an hour or so after massaging, wipe away the excess oil with surgical spirit, which will also assist in removing grease and moisture from the cellulite deposits, helping to reduce their mass. [Wear gloves for this or the spirit will remove moisture from your fingers as well.