It happens a lot. People come into my office requesting I work as hard as I possibly can on them. What they desire, naturally, is more pain on top of their already existing pain. They believe intense pressure, applied to their painful muscles, will get rid of pain.
It’s that old way of thinking… no pain, no gain. It’s ironic.
Yes, effective, deep tissue work requires a certain intensity, but one must remember we bodyworkers are working with “soft tissue” and we want the tissue to return to it’s normal resting length, and suppleness. Pounding on them will only make matters worse.
I usually explain my approach as a deep tissue technician like this: resolving pain patterns in the tissues is not dependent upon intense pressure. It’s about identifying the patterns and understanding what is contributing to the pain. There’s a lot more to it than applying deep pressure in the area that hurts. The whole body is involved. On the other hand, deep tissue work is not the same as a swedish massage which aims to relax the body.
A client might ask for deep pressure, but the pain analyzing system in their body will tell me how deep to go. In other words, muscles guard against pressure, and I must work above the body’s limits in order for change to take place. The path of least resistance yields greater change. A bodywork session should not be all intense for the entire duration of the treatment. If it is, the nervous system will get overwhelmed and the body will move into a fight/flight/freeze response. This is the opposite of true pain relief.
As a massage therapist my goal is to inhibit the stress response and invite the body into a state of ease so that it can repair unhealthy muscle tissue with as little added stress or trauma possible.
But people will still request deep pressure.
And that’s OK.
Lately I’ve been curious. How do people do it? How do people manage to balance everything they’re involved in: family, career, health, social life, hobbies, personal growth and self-care? How do you know when you’re out of balance?
Up until very recently, I found it nearly impossible to feel balanced in my life. I was working a full time job and building a business on the side, which often required 20-30 hours of my time per week on nights and weekends.
Americans are working more than ever right now; more than any other country in the industrialized world. On average, we are working 47 hours per week (which actually seems low). This leaves very little time for all things fun and self-care.
It came to a tipping point when I couldn’t do it anymore. I felt like I was going to explode. (In fact, I did, you can read about my explosion here.) I realized that my sanity was more important. I asked my boss if I could work less at my full-time job. I was astonished that my employer was happy to accommodate my needs, and I was offered the same health benefits as I was receiving at full-time working 24-hours per week. My work load at this job lessened and the amount of stress I experienced was cut in half.
I felt more balanced, less stressed, and more optimistic in general. I continue to re-work my schedule and evaluate my stress levels. In an effort to share what I’ve learned through my own imbalances, I came up with 4 ideas to help you find more balance in your life.
Make a schedule for time off. Maybe you already do this! Or, maybe you only take time off when you’re burned out or sick. Sound familiar? Solution: every 3 months, take 5 days off in-a-row. This would equal 4 vacations per year or 1 month off per year. Place as much importance on your time away from the office as your time in the office. That’s how we create a balance.
Take care of yourself every single day. Start by doing one small thing everyday that helps you relax, re-center and lighten your mood. Imagine how great your life could be? Beyond what you can do each day, what could you do each week, month, and year that would help? For example, maybe once a year you take a new class that inspires your creativity. Maybe each month you get a massage, and once a week you go for a hike. Think of what makes you happiest and plug those happy experiences into your daily life. Balance work with play and place a higher importance on self-care.
Reflect. Journaling is a powerful tool to create change. I highly recommend taking notes on how you’re feeling, what’s contributing to your happiness, and what’s contributing to your stress. Hand writing is cathartic so it helps relieve stress right then and there. I use writing as a way to release; an outlet to discharge thoughts I no longer want to control my mood. It’s the cheapest therapy there is.
Put the phone away. Turn it off. Delete the dreaded facebook app from your phone. Ask yourself with love, is my relationship with my phone balanced? Is it stressing me out? I suggest taking phone breaks. Just like vacation, we need time away. If the phone isn’t an issue, look to see if there’s another gadget or behavior that is subtly impacting your life. I take social media breaks often, put my phone away when I’m with friends, and turn it off from time to time ;). It’s so freeing!
How do you do it? How do you find balance? I’d love to hear from you!
Lots of love,
This past weekend I attended a Russian Sports Massage training. Maybe you’re wondering, what the heck is Russian Sports Massage? What makes it Russian? I had similar questions before signing up for this workshop, believe me. I thought I knew what sports massage was, but after this weekend I realized, I had no clue! The workshop was lead by Oleg Bouimer, a very well known sports massage therapist in the LA area. He was born in Russia, but has lived in the States for many, many years. He has practiced massage therapy for 35 years. (Wow!)
He’s quite the character. He saw 10 clients until 12am the evening before our two-day workshop. Then he drove to Tucson from 1am-8am. No sleep involved. After the first day of our training, he stayed up editing our worksheets to better reflect the information he taught us during the day, and then blasted the TV as loud as he could (he loved the excitement of it) and ate a bunch of ice cream. He said he slept from 2-6am. He called this a “celebration of life”. All of us “students” joked with him because we didn’t understand how he could function, and function quite well on little to no sleep. He’s superhuman, we concluded.
One of his life philosophies had to do with energy. The energy you give out, you receive back 10-fold. Oleg’s stories and vibrant energy inspired me. When he showed us how to knead the tissue, I saw how gracefully he moved his body to create an effect in the nervous and muscular systems of the person he was working on. I saw how much his energy controlled the outcome of the receiver.
This mantra translates not only to how I work as a massage therapist and the energy I bring to my clients, but speaks to all aspects of life.
How am I showing up in the world? What am I putting out there, and what am I getting in return? Constantly becoming more and more aware of my energy, my mood, my actions so that I can better serve not only my clients, but ultimately myself.
Now if you wanted to know or experience more about what I learned…I will begin to offer sports massage therapy in my private practice. Not an athlete? Not a problem. I will incorporate some of my new skills into deep tissue and swedish treatments.
The next time you find yourself in a “negative” circumstance, say to yourself, “this is the best thing that could EVER happen to me!” and see how your energy changes. 🙂
Thanks Oleg for your energy, your wisdom, and your passion for massage therapy!
To learn more about Russian Sports Massage check back often – I will add info on my Bodywork page.
Myofascial Release (MFR) is one of my favorite bodywork techniques because of it’s effectiveness in relieving pain. MFR is a manual therapy effecting change of superficial and deep fascia. Fascia is the all-encompassing connective tissue that encapsulates each muscle fiber and cell of our body on a deep level, and each skeletal muscle, vein, artery, organ, bone, etc. on a superficial level. It’s like plastic wrap for our muscles.
Fascial restrictions can occur from injury, immobilization, aging, faulty body mechanics and improper alignment.
MFR seeks to stretch the fascia and restore tissue mobility. You might feel a bit taller after a myofascial treatment because your tissues are literally being stretched and lengthened.
This type of bodywork is based on the principles of tensegrity and encourages movement and circulation of the fascial network, thus restoring normal functions of the body. MFR treatments are far different than traditional massage therapy sessions. There is little to no use of oil or lotion, and techniques include skin and muscle rolling or pressure applied at a restricted area for upwards of several minutes.
Who will benefit from MFR?
After talking with a friend today, I decided to come out of the closet about something. I’ve worked in the field of eating disorders for nearly 6 years, and in those short 6 years I’ve seen a rise in exercise addiction and exercise resistance in women and men with eating disorders. Almost every client who comes through our facility doors has an (unhealthy) relationship with exercise. My passion and specialty at this facility is to support this aspect of their recovery, as I was in their shoes not too long ago. I struggled with compulsive over-exercise and disordered eating for nearly 10 years. My exercise behavior was supported and encouraged by most because they didn’t realize I had a problem (or that exercise could be a problem). To them I appeared healthy, strong and fit. Inside, I was suffering big time.
Our culture is becoming more and more obsessed with being fit, staying active, + losing weight. This seems to be motivated by a fear of becoming fat. We have become fat phobic, and deem the size of our bodies as fit or unfit. I see this especially on social media. Before and after pics. I was fat (bad) then, now I’m thin (good). We talk about our bodies in an odd way.
The other side of this seemingly positive movement is the rise in eating disorders, excessive exercise and body shaming.
I’ve become increasingly curious about how I can help people who struggle with something I have worked very hard to overcome because I have lived on both sides of the spectrum. I intend to put myself out there in a way that is supportive and use my story and experiences for the greater good of our society.
So I begin today, simply by writing about it and getting the conversation started.
Some questions to ponder…
How can we find a balance between nourishing our bodies, moving our bodies, and loving our bodies without finding it necessary to change how they look? What is a healthy amount of exercise? How do you know if you’re exercising too much or too little? Can you be healthy or fit at any size? Who decides if you’re healthy or not?
Questions or comments? Leave them below or email me email@example.com.
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You already know that incorporating relaxation into your day is important, but perhaps you’re unsure how to do it. On top of this uncertainty, every time you try to relax, you feel guilty or fear that you’ll become so lazy you’ll never get up again. Rest is part of life. Without proper rest we’d be dead a heck of a lot sooner. When you’re an athlete and you don’t rest the proper amount, you’re more prone to injury. Sitting on the sidelines of life is not fun.
My perspective on relaxation is based on my own struggles to truly enjoy my downtime, or to make rest and relaxation a priority. I have more success and joy in my life when I incorporate small amounts of rest and relaxation into each and everyday.
Relaxation is accessible to you at any moment. All it comes down to is this, how do you want to live? You can live a life that is full of stress and anxiety, or you can learn how to relax and enjoy the ride. It’s up to you!
I find that being grounded and connected to reality is a moment-to-moment practice. I’m a daily meditator because I’m a chronic worrier and negative self-talker. If I don’t meditate, practice yoga, receive bodywork, etc. my worrying and stress levels sky rocket. When I’m worried or stressed I feel like I’m living amongst the stars, I literally feel and act like a space cadet. My thoughts become irrational, I talk to myself negatively, and I isolate. No wonder they created that phrase.
The opposite of spacey is grounded. I strive to live a more grounded life, and relinquish irrational thoughts and negative self talk.
Since meditation helps me release my worries and stress, I wanted to share a very simple technique that I use to ground. Use this when you want to reconnect with yourself, with the present moment and/or tap into the everlasting support available to you anytime, anywhere.
This meditation will leave you feeling more connected, supported and guided throughout your day. It takes very little time to come back to Earth.
What I want to know is this… can you meet yourself (with this pain) where you are right now? Can you acknowledge with integrity a story you’ve created about your pain that keeps your pain alive? How does that story truly help you in your healing? What happens to your physical pain when you release all of your resistance to it?