Nina's Massage's Blog

Aromatherapy and Massage A Partnership Born of the Senses

October 31st, 2011 • Posted by Nina Grenfell • Permalink

Aromatherapy and Massage A Partnership Born of the Senses

Powerful Scent The amounts of essential oils housed in the cells and tissues of plants is minute. Here are some of the numbers: - 2,000 rose petals produce 1 drop of rose attar oil. - 150 to 250 pounds of lavender tops produce 1 pound of lavender oil. - 1,000 to 1,500 pounds of cam-omile heads produce 1 pound of chamomile oil. 

Aromatherapy, a process utilizing the purest essence of a plant, is a 4,000-year-old technique that has enhanced the health of everyone from modern-day pop divas to the scholars of ancient Greece. The art of massage has its own deeply rich roots, with even Plato and Socrates touting the value of hands-on bodywork for good health. Separately, these two therapeutic traditions hold individual prowess in the realm of personal health and well-being. Together, however, they become a formidable health alliance that can address not only a person's physical health, but the health of the mind and spirit as well.

A Natural Complement Our senses were designed to work best in conjunction with one another. Our sense of taste would not be as acute without our nose lending its support to the process. Our auditory senses might seem hollow if we weren't gifted with sight as well. Indeed, there exists a quiet partnership between all our five senses that's built on synergy.

Balancing oils Bay Laurel Cedarwood Geranium Myrrh Clarifying oils Cypress Juniper Lemon Peppermint Comforting oils Bergamot Frankincense Melissa Rose Energizing oils Eucalyptus Grapefruit Lemongrass Rosemary Focusing oils Angelica Basil, sweet Jasmine Samboc Lime Sedating oils Chamomile Clary Sage Marjoram Patchouli Uplifting oils Lavender Orange/Mandarin Pine Tea Tree And so it is with touch and smell. This is why aromatherapy is such a natural complement to massage and why more and more therapists are pairing the two as they see how the partnership nurtures body, mind, and spirit.

Let's see how it works. Essential oils are extracted from herbs, flowers, and plants with the intent to improve a person's health and well-being. Addressing everything from arthritis to whooping cough, effects of the approximate 3,000 oils found globally can range from sedative to stimulating and antibacterial to antispasmodic. The benefits derived from aromatherapy during a massage come in part from the contact the essential oil has on our skin, but even more so how it affects us when it's inhaled and absorbed through the soft-tissue linings of our nose and mouth.

The scientific explanation suggests that the essential oil's molecules, when inhaled, lock onto receptor cells at the back of the nose, sending an electrochemical message to the brain's limbic system.

This message appears to trigger memory and emotional responses, causing messages to be sent to other parts of the brain and body. "In this way," says aromatherapist Danila Mansfield, "the production of euphoric, relaxing, sedative, or stimulating neurochemicals is stimulated." Judith Fitzsimmons and Paula Bousquet, authors of , say the use of essential oils creates a multitherapeutic effect: "The real beauty of aromatherapy is that it works on a cellular and physical level and also in the emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and aesthetic areas of your life."

It's really quite amazing when you think about it. Imagine an area the size of a small apricot pit, a 1-inch square area, filled with millions of sensory neurons that can capture, process, and store 10,000 odors. This is our olfactory system at work, and part of its job is to create a personal history for us based on scent, says clinical aromatherapist va-Marie Lind-Shiveley. "None of our other senses so well establishes a memory database." She says our response to scent is both physiological and psychosomatic. "Within an instant of smelling an aroma, we can be sent back to the first moment we were introduced to it." By enabling us to recognize, revisit, and/or reclaim these various emotions and memories, aroma-therapy allows another avenue of access for healing during a bodywork session. It creates a path through which the somatic experience can find its full strength.

When the powerful effects of aromatherapy are combined with massage, it can take us to another level, says aromatherapy educators Shirley and Len Price. "When, during a massage, the touch of the therapist is combined with the mental and physical effects of the essential oils, the client is helped to achieve a temporary separation from worldly worries, somewhat akin to a meditative state." Helping clients reach this level of relaxation is a primary goal of massage therapists and aromatherapists alike, so it makes sense that a partnership could beautifully exist. A Scent Journey Scent is not simplistic," Lind-Shiveley says. "It is voluminous." She illustrates this point with a quote from Helen Keller: "Smell is a potent wizard that transports us across thousands of miles and all the years we have lived. The odors of fruits waft me to my Southern home, to my childhood frolics in the peach orchard. Other odors, instantaneous and fleeting, cause my heart to dilate joyously or contract with remembered grief."

If you decide to do some personal exploration into the world of scent therapy, proceed with due caution in both the quality of the oils you buy and how you dose and administer them. There is a dichotic nature inherent in aromatherapy. It is gentle, yet powerful, subtle, yet intense. There are essential oils strong enough to cause miscarriage, but there also are many oils safe enough to use on infants. The key is knowing how to utilize nature's gifts to provide the best, most effective therapeutic collaboration possible. Talk with your massage therapist about incorporating the science of aromatherapy into your sessions or if she can refer you to an aromatherapist in your area.


Breathe Into Your Massage

October 31st, 2011 • Posted by Nina Grenfell • Permalink

Breathe Into Your Massage

Mindful Breathing Enhances Bodywork Benefits

During her massage, Elaine was having trouble relaxing, continually talking about all of the stress in her life. I took a deep breath and asked her to do the same. Suddenly, her body relaxed and I finally felt her respond to the work I was doing.So, what shifted with that simple suggestion?

In The Moment: Elaine was thinking about the stresses in her life instead of where she was at the moment. She was in a safe space, receiving gentle, supportive bodywork. And yet she couldn't relax. By simply asking her to be mindful of her breath, she immediately felt her body and became present with me in that space. Many meditation traditions use the breath to quiet the mind. With mindful breathing, we're suddenly thrust into an awareness of our inner spaces and a feeling that we actually do live in a body.

Reduce Pain: One of the first things expectant mothers learn in natural childbirth classes is breathing techniques to help control labor pain. By consciously breathing during contractions, they learn to shift the feeling of pain to just sensation. Elaine came to see me because she had chronic pain in her foot, knee, and hip. Often chronic pain sets up as a vicious cycle of muscle tightness, impaired blood flow, and more pain, even in areas distant from the original problem. When I asked Elaine to send her breath to the foot, she changed her feeling of pain to simply sensation and this opened a door that allowed me to change the holding pattern in her tissue. Of course she couldn't physically breathe into her foot, but the imagery of sending warm, healing breath into her foot from the inside while I worked on it from the outside changed her relationship to the pain.

Try this simple technique yourself. As you tune into your breath, notice your body. Is there discomfort or pain? Breathe in, and think of filling your lungs with healing oxygen. Now breathe out, and imagine sending this warm, healing oxygen directly to the place that hurts. Continue gently breathing into the area for a few minutes. What does it feel like now?

Relieve Stress: When I worked with Elaine, I noticed that the more she talked about her stressful life, the shallower her breath became. She was breathing high in her chest in short, rapid breaths. Her mind had transported her back to her stressful life, even though she was in a place where she was supported and encouraged to take a break from that stress, putting her body into a fight-or-flight response. One clear manifestation of this is rapid, shallow breathing. While stress can produce this breathing pattern, the good news is that we can consciously change the breathing pattern and reduce the stress. It works both ways.

As I asked Elaine to slow her breathing and take deeper breaths, the tension in her face softened. Her body relaxed on the table as if she were sinking into the padding. Her feet became warmer, a sure sign that her circulation had changed and that her nervous system had switched from fight or flight to the calming mode of rest and digest. Try this for yourself.

The next time you're feeling stressed, stop for a moment and notice how you're breathing. Is your breath high in your chest? Is it fast and shallow? Now, gently invite your breath to slow down. Start to pull breath into your lungs by letting your belly relax and expand as you inhale. Spend a few moments with yourself and your breath and look at the stressful situation again. Does it seem so bad now?

Your Massage: Receiving a massage does involve participation on the client's part. While the practitioner is the expert on the bodywork, the clients are the experts on their bodies. In our culture, the client/therapist relationship is often a check-your-body-at-the-door affair. But so much more can happen when the client works with the therapist. The next time you go for a massage, try these suggestions to achieve mindful breathing and enhance the benefits of your session: - As you settle onto the table, feel the weight of your body on the table and begin to notice your breath. - Feel your breath moving of its own accord. Where is it most noticeable? Bring into the spaces that feel less full (without effort--just invite). - When your therapist starts working, notice the pressure and rhythm. When your practitioner lets up on the pressure, breathe in. When she/he applies pressure, breathe out. - If your practitioner comes to a tender area, pay special attention to your breath. Work with the tenderness on the exhale, imagining that you're breathing out the pain. - As your therapist works on different areas, imagine your breath moving there to meet her. Send your breath wherever she is working. Let her work on the outside, you work on the inside. - Notice the changes as the massage progresses. Notice your thought patterns. Notice your comfort level. Notice your stress (and how it melts) as you send breath to the various areas of your body. - When your session is complete and you sit up, notice how your breath feels. What do you notice about your body, the room, the light? Why not use the lifegiving force of breath to make your next massage an even more beneficial experience. Just breathe.


Giving the Gift of Massage : Way Beyond Pampering

October 31st, 2011 • Posted by Nina Grenfell • Permalink

The Benefits Of Massage

What exactly are the benefits of receiving massage or bodywork treatments? Useful for all of the conditions listed below and more, massage can:

Alleviate low-back pain and improve range of motion.

Assist with shorter, easier labor for expectant mothers and shorten maternity hospital stays.

Ease medication dependence.

Enhance immunity by stimulating lymph flow—the body’s natural defense system.

Exercise and stretch weak, tight, or atrophied muscles.

Help athletes of any level prepare for, and recover from, strenuous workouts.

Improve the condition of the body’s largest organ—the skin.

Increase joint flexibility.

Lessen depression and anxiety.

Promote tissue regeneration, reducing scar tissue and stretch marks.

Pump oxygen and nutrients into tissues and vital organs, improving circulation.

Reduce postsurgery adhesions and swelling. Reduce spasms and cramping.

Relax and soften injured, tired, and overused muscles.

Release endorphins—amino acids that work as the body’s natural painkiller.

Relieve migraine pain. A Powerful Ally There’s no denying the power of bodywork.

Regardless of the adjectives we assign to it (pampering, rejuvenating, therapeutic) or the reasons we seek it out (a luxurious treat, stress relief, pain management), massage therapy can be a powerful ally in your healthcare regimen. Experts estimate that upwards of ninety percent of disease is stress related. And perhaps nothing ages us faster, internally and externally, than high stress.

While eliminating anxiety and pressure altogether in this fast-paced world may be idealistic, massage can, without a doubt, help manage stress. This translates into: Decreased anxiety. Enhanced sleep quality. Greater energy. Improved concentration. Increased circulation. Reduced fatigue. Furthermore, clients often report a sense of perspective and clarity after receiving a massage. The emotional balance bodywork provides can often be just as vital and valuable as the more tangible physical benefits. Profound Effects In response to massage, specific physiological and chemical changes cascade throughout the body, with profound effects.

Research shows that with massage: Arthritis sufferers note fewer aches and less stiffness and pain. Asthmatic children show better pulmonary function and increased peak air flow. Burn injury patients report reduced pain, itching, and anxiety. High blood pressure patients demonstrate lower diastolic blood pressure, anxiety, and stress hormones. Premenstrual syndrome sufferers have decreased water retention and cramping. Preterm infants have improved weight gain. Research continues to show the enormous benefits of touch—which range from treating chronic diseases, neurological disorders, and injuries, to alleviating the tensions of modern lifestyles. Consequently, the medical community is actively embracing bodywork, and massage is becoming an integral part of hospice care and neonatal intensive care units. Many hospitals are also incorporating on-site massage practitioners and even spas to treat postsurgery or pain patients as part of the recovery process.

Increase the Benefits with Frequent Visits Getting a massage can do you a world of good. And getting massage frequently can do even more. This is the beauty of bodywork. Taking part in this form of regularly scheduled self-care can play a huge part in how healthy you’ll be and how youthful you’ll remain with each passing year. Budgeting time and money for bodywork at consistent intervals is truly an investment in your health. And remember: just because massage feels like a pampering treat doesn’t mean it is any less therapeutic. Consider massage appointments a necessary piece of your health and wellness plan, and work with your practitioner to establish a treatment schedule that best meets your needs.