Body Sense

WINTER | 2017

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6 Body Sense As a longtime massage therapist, I've come to think of myself as a sculptor. When clients come in, I observe their patterns of movement and encourage their bodies to mold into new patterns. Massage therapists are trained to know where muscles connect and how they function, so when something is "off," we attempt to guide the body back to a healthier pattern. The thing about patterns is they are not easy to permanently change. Just like any habit or pattern, consistent awareness and practice of a new way of being and moving are essential for lasting effects. This is why you might feel more mobile and pain-free right after a massage, but the old, tight, painful patterns return in a few days. It is vital that clients are involved in an ongoing process if the change is going to stick. SUPPORT YOUR MT's WORK Some of the ways a massage therapist supports a client into a healthy, pain- free pattern of movement are warming up the tissues with massage strokes, passively moving joints within their range of motion, and breaking up built-up connective (scar) tissue through directional pressure and friction in areas that are stuck. Once areas are freed up, unless the new movement patterns are consistently supported, they will return to their less-than-functional state of being. This is why stretches and exercises are essential for clients to perform between sessions for optimal results. A Massage Therapist's 10 Favorite Stretches By Cindy Williams, LMT Tight, stuck areas can only stay supple and free if they are kept moving. Following are ways to stretch each area of the body and support your massage therapist's work between sessions. Each stretch targets common areas of pain and stress, and is easy to perform. But first, a few things to keep in mind before you start: • It is safer to stretch muscles when they are warm. Support your muscles by warming up your body before stretches. Even a 5-minute brisk walk will do the trick. • Your muscles are governed by your nervous system. A calm, focused system will more readily allow tight muscles to release and weak areas to engage. While stretching, inhale just before the stretch, then exhale as you stretch. As you hold the stretch, inhale and exhale slowly and deliberately. Even let out a sigh! Let your system slow down. Breathing brings you into the present moment with your body. • Stretch until you feel resistance, then stop and breathe. That edge of resistance will likely melt a bit, so you can exhale and stretch a little further after a few breaths. Coax your body instead of forcing it. This brings more responsiveness. • Slightly pull in your belly in every stretch. Your core is your stabilizing center. It protects your low back and spine, no matter what movement you are performing—bending, lifting, twisting, or simply standing.

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