Some forms of massage therapy are better at promoting a relaxed mind-body state than others. These types of massage are great for helping to ease mental and physical stress that might be hindering your sleep.
Swedish massage:Â This form of massage is relaxation-focused, using a sequence of long, gliding kneads, strokes, and circular motions to erase shallow tensions in your muscles. Swedish massage helps to reduce superficial muscle tension, while boosting circulation throughout the body.
Hot stone massage:Â A masseuse uses hot, smooth stones typically placed on your back to relax and invigorate your body. The heat helps to release tension built up in your shoulders and back, allowing the therapist to more easily reach areas of muscle ache.
Massage for Pain and Specific Conditions
Other forms of massage are designed to relieve specific types of pain. The cause of the pain isnâ€™t important. As long as you feel certain that the pain is caused by soft tissue damage or inflammation (as opposed to joint or bone problems), these types of massage can help.
Deep-tissue massage:Â The practitioner utilizes techniques designed to get beyond the superficial layers of the muscle. If your pain is longstanding or comes back even after repeated Swedish massages, this can help get at its core. These massages can be more painful than relaxation massages, but they can also bring more relief.
Trigger point massage:Â This type of massage utilizes trigger points to release tension in the muscles. By placing pressure on the point, the muscle is triggered to relax and lengthen, rather than remain short and tight.
Rejuvenating Massage and General Health
Finally, some forms of massage work to relieve specific ailments or help the body find or retain health. These practitioners usually focus on pressure points believed to run along the bodyâ€™s energy meridians. Massaging these points can help relieve pain and enable the body to become healthier.
Shiatsu massage:Â A Shiatsu practitioner uses his or her hands, elbow, feet, etc. to place pressure on traditional Japanese pressure points throughout the body. The practitioner also focuses on stretching and rotating limbs in order to free blocked energy so that the body can function as it was designed to.
Reflexology:Â This form of massage focuses on trigger points in the hands and feet. Each point corresponds to a part of the body or a specific organ. Regular massage of the points associated with a part of the body is said to bring healing and health to that part.
Massage and Serotonin
Serotonin is essential for good sleep, though researchers have not yet pinpointed exactly what it does to facilitate falling asleep and/or staying asleep. However, when serotonin production is halted using medication, subjects cannot sleep at all.
Scientists do know that an area of the brain called the raphe nuclei somehow mediates sleep. The neurons in this area specifically use serotonin to communicate with each other, so they hypothesize that serotonin somehow helps the brain communicate that itâ€™s time to sleep.
Serotonin is also a precursor to the production of melatonin. This chemical helps regulate the bodyâ€™s sleep/wake cycles, or its circadian rhythms. The body produces melatonin when itâ€™s time to fall asleep and reduces it when itâ€™s time to wake up. Thus, having more serotonin could help your body produce the melatonin it needs in order to fall asleep at the right time.
All of this ties into massage becauseÂ massage can lead to higher levels of serotonin. Again, science has not discovered the exact mechanism by which this happens. For the insomniac, though, HOW massage helps them sleep is likely less important than the fact that it DOES help them sleep.
Massage and the Vagus Nerve
In addition to the serotonin-melatonin connection,Â massage also stimulates the vagus nerve. This is the major parasympathetic nerve in the body. When it is stimulated, it tells the entire body to relax. This can lead to lower heart rate, lower blood pressure, relaxed facial muscles, and increased gut function.
Stimulation of the vagus nerve also leads to lower cortisol levels. Cortisol is the major stress hormone. When its levels are too high in the body, the body is stressed out. Over time, this leads to fatigue. However, if the cortisol levels arenâ€™t lowered, the body canâ€™t rest well. Stimulating the vagus nerve reduces the cortisol, allowing the body to rest as it should.
Massage and Hyperarousal
There is some evidence thatÂ insomnia is tied to hyperarousal. This is basically the state of being â€śalways on.â€ť If you feel like you can never relax, if you lie down and think about all the things that went wrong today and all that could go on tomorrow, you may suffer from this condition. It can lead to long-term health problems, of which insomnia is one.
Hyperarousal is a bad cycle for the body. It often starts with a stressful event, one that truly requires the system to be aroused. However, it continues when we worry, when we canâ€™t relax after something bad happens, or when our bodies continue to struggle with low levels of pain because of an accident or an illness. Pain can also come when we canâ€™t relax. We continue the cycle of arousal, which makes us more stressed out, etc.
Massage can help break this cycle. It can actually force the body to relax, pulling muscles smooth and long again and causing an increase in blood circulation. These send signals to the brain that tell it to relax. Over time, massage can intervene in this cycle and end hyperarousal, allowing us to sleep well again.
Winter is the toughest season for your skin. Between blustery wind, low temperatures outside, and heated indoors, your skin is prone to significant dryness no matter where you are. Battle the cold and treat your skin right by following Natural Body Spaâ€™s 4 Ways to Winter-Proof Your Skin!
Locking in moisture to your skin is crucial during the winter months, when youâ€™re especially prone to dryness. Once you leave the shower or bath (make it a warm one, not hot â€“ that just robs your skin of necessary oils), make sure to apply a rich moisturizing lotion while you are still a little damp. Natural Body Spa can assist you in choosing the correct moisturizer for your skin type, with a fragrance you prefer – but generally a thicker body butter on your hands, elbows, and other trouble spots will diminish moisture loss while you sleep.
Shop Natural Body Spaâ€™s selection of organic and natural skin care moisturizers which help combat winter dryness â€“ our experts are happy to make suggestions!
2. Invest in a Humidifier
In addition to moisturizing before bed, you may want to run a humidifier during the night. Humidifiers put moisture back into the air and prevents dry skin from cracking during the night. Humid air can also prevent your lips from becoming chapped, and reduces the ability of airborne viruses to cause infection. Since your home is most likely warmed by dry heat produced by a furnace, running a humidifier overnight will allow you to remain comfortable and keep the air moist.
Dead skin cells are constantly accumulating, and it accelerates during the winter due to dryness, particularly on the hands and face. Itâ€™s important to exfoliate to clear away those skin cells. Moisture canâ€™t be absorbed into the skin if there are layers of dead cells above it, so be sure to add exfoliation to your routine â€“ twice a week should be sufficient.
Exfoliation also help improve the performance of moisturizers. In the harsh winter weather, youâ€™ll want your skin care products to work in harmony with one another. Moisturizing after exfoliation is a great way to lock in hydration for your skin.
4. Cool Off
In the coldest winter months, a hot shower can be the most relaxing part of your day. But donâ€™t linger too long â€“ hot showers can dry out your skin. Extremely hot water will strip away your skinâ€™s natural oils which lock in moisture, resulting in dry skin after drying off. For better skin throughout the winter, try a lukewarm shower between 10-15 minutes. Gently pat yourself dry after every shower and donâ€™t forget the moisturizing cream!
As always, the friendly professionals at Natural Body Spa are happy to recommend organic skincare and body care products specifically designed to combat winter dryness. Stop by one of our locations today and browse health and beauty products which help you stay moisturized all winter long!
A spa gift certificate fromÂ Natural BodyÂ opens up a bounty of options for that special someone who receives it. More than ever, people are seeking experiences that make us feel better and touch us (literally) in ways that
These are so simple, you have probably thought of them yourself – or maybe you have just temporarily forgotten them. Sometimes you have to be reminded of the most basic things. If it helps, we suggestÂ set a reminder in your phone calendar, to prompt you.
Do you have a New Year detox or cleanse planned? Not so fast. The beginning of a new year seems like the best time to turn over a new leaf and purge all of those holiday indulgences that may have left you feeling tired and sluggish.
But before you gear up to do a New Year detox itâ€™s worth considering that this time of year may not be ideal for a full body cleanse. The reality is that cleanses are taxing on the system. The body has to work hard to remove toxins that are deeply embedded in the tissues and organs.
Once these impurities are released, the lymphatic system sweeps the cells to remove them from the body. This is a big job! Additionally, cleanses can also result in unpleasant symptoms like congestion, runny nose and sore throat.
Instead of embarking on a New Year detox, consider taking some time to rest and recover. Focus on eating healthful foods that support the body. Soups made with fresh vegetables and homemade broth give powerful support to the immune system while providing the body with nutrients that are needed for high energy and radiant skin.
It’s also important to slow down and create space to relax and nourish your body. Committing to simple relaxation rituals is essential for releasing stored tension and promoting feelings of well being. One way to kick off your commitment to relax in 2016 is with the Natural Body Series of affordable commitments. Here are just a few offerings:
Essential oils are combined with cinnamon and applied to the body to re-mineralize and deeply nourish the skin. Cinnamon is an anti-inflammatory widely known for its health benefits. It improves blood circulation, alleviates symptoms associated with respiratory infections, regulates blood sugar and helps to reduce high cholesterol.
This hydrating therapy also combines the technique of dry brushing to exfoliate and encourage skin cell turnover. During the exfoliation Narayan Oil is used to release tension and soothe muscles. This oil combines essential oils of Clove, Eucalyptus and Peppermint for a cooling sensation that also enlivens the senses.
A 75-minute session is just $135
Relax, rest and recover with a comforting sleep massage with Kneipp Massage Oil. Valerian and Hops are botanical extracts that encourage deep, rejuvenating sleep which is essential for the body to function at an optimal level. This massage will leave you feeling well-rested and completely renewed.
The winter season is the perfect time to rest and recharge in preparation for the increased activity that always comes in the spring. Commitment to simple relaxation rituals not only relieves stress, but it also rejuvenates the mind. Take advantage of this time to pamper yourself and prepare for an incredible year!
Erica Jones is a natural and organic beauty educator, co-founder of Designer Health Centers and creator of www.truebeautyyou.com.
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