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4 Ways that massage benefits competitive runners:
THE POWER OF TOUCH
When we put our hands on each other,
we're tapping into deep associations between touch and emotion that are kindled
at the dawn of life. We can close our eyes or plug our ears to imagine losing
sight or hearing, but it's hard to imagine losing the ability to feel. It's
thought to be the first sense that we develop in the womb. Depriving newborns
of touch is a disaster — growth is slowed, and serious cognitive and behavioral
disorders emerge that can persist into adulthood.
skin is our largest sensory interface with the world. And it's always on.
Nonsexual social touch connects people in the community and in the workplace,
fostering gratitude, sympathy and trust. A touch session such as massage,
holding or cuddling helps us return to the real world, stress-free and buzzing
on megadoses of oxytocin and seratonin.
David Linden is a professor of neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University and the author of Touch: The Science of Hand, Heart and Mind. Martha Thomas is a writer based in Baltimore.
It might be the most essential and least appreciated sense. Are you getting
by David Linden and Martha Thomas, AARP The Magazine, December 2015/January
Being touched can bring endless health benefits. — Henry Leutwyler
En español |
She hates climbing into a cold bed. Beverly Herzog has been widowed for 21
years, but she still can't get used to this absence. She married at 18, and
every night for 49 years, her husband, Bernard, was snuggled up next to her.
"I miss that terribly," she says.
She bought a
body pillow, which helps a little. But it's not the same. The truth is, there's
no replacement for human contact, even if — maybe especially if — you're 88.
"I like being touched, being stroked, being held," says Herzog, who
lives in the Hebrew Home at Riverdale, a skilled nursing facility in New York.
"Anyone who says they don't isn't telling the truth. You feel abandoned if
you haven't been touched. We all need somebody."
latest tips on protecting your health — AARP Health Newsletter
Home has put an unusual emphasis on that idea. Staff here are encouraged to
hold residents' hands and offer gentle caresses. Beauticians are trained to
massage the feet during pedicures, as well as the scalp and neck during
shampoos. And intimate relations between residents are not discouraged — a
rarity in long-term care. Since she moved here almost three years ago, Herzog
hasn't fully taken advantage of this groundbreaking policy, but she's been able
to enjoy the company of "a few gentlemen," she says — though their
dates sound as chaste as those of mid-century teenagers. "I won't be
intimate with just a Johnny-come-lately who walks off the street," she
says. "But I'm in favor of people being close. People like to feel alive.
How do you feel alive? Being close to somebody."
younger, it might be easy to take touch for granted. The skin is our largest
sensory interface with the world. And it's always on. We can close our eyes or
plug our ears to imagine losing sight or hearing, but it's hard to imagine
losing the ability to feel. It's thought to be the first sense that we develop
in the womb. Depriving newborns of touch is a disaster — growth is slowed, and
serious cognitive and behavioral disorders emerge that can persist into
adulthood. Touch is crucial for forging that first emotional bond with a parent
and for creating the unique human experience. "Seeing's Believing,"
wrote the 18th-century English physician Thomas Fuller, "but Feeling's the
adults holding hands
Aging people are less sensitive to touch yet they are the ones who need to be
touched the most. — Henry Leutwyler
essentiality of touch endures as we age: It is the social glue that binds
parents with children, and sexual partners into lasting couples. Nonsexual
social touch connects people in the community and in the workplace, fostering
gratitude, sympathy and trust. Doctors who touch their patients are not only
considered more caring — their patients have better outcomes. One study showed
that basketball teams that engage in more celebratory touch, such as high fives
and chest bumps, play more cooperatively and win more games.
When we grow
older, our sense of touch degrades. At about age 20, we start to lose nerve
endings in skin at a rate of about 1 percent each year. On average, an
80-year-old has just one-quarter of the touch receptors of a 20-year-old. The
loss is so gradual that we might not even notice, but the muting of our sense
of touch over time can take a corresponding toll on quality of life. The cruel
irony, of course, is that as sensitivity fades, the more we need to be touched
— but the opportunity to experience touch often diminishes as well. "Aging
people get touched less," says Tiffany Field, author of the book Touch and
the founder and director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of
Miami Miller School of Medicine. "Their grandchildren aren't nearby; their
spouses die. It's very unfortunate."
when we are touched
changed Julia Wilcox's life. Not one she received but one she performed. This
was two decades ago, when she accompanied her mother, then in her 60s, on a
wellness retreat for stroke survivors and their caregivers. Free massages were
on offer to all guests, so she signed up her mom and herself. Her mother, who
also had diabetes and suffered from nerve damage in her legs and hands, climbed
up on the table. The massage seemed to offer nearly instant relief. "She
just melted," Wilcox, now 57, recalls.
therapist, sensing her interest, invited Wilcox to help him rub her mother's
back and legs. "We mirrored each other's strokes," she says.
"That was it for me." For Wilcox, who lives in West Bloomfield,
Michigan, the experience launched a new career: In addition to signing up her
mom for monthly massages, she left her job in information technology and became
a full-time massage therapist.
is going on under the skin when we are touched? The cascade of physical effects
is surprisingly complex: The sense of touch is formed by an array of sensors
embedded in the nerve endings of our skin, each a beautiful, specialized
micromachine that extracts information about the tactile world. There's one
sensor for texture, another for vibration, yet another for pressure. Therapeutic
touch lowers levels of the stress hormone cortisol and increases the amount of
oxytocin, the so-called love hormone, which is credited with mother-and-child
bonding, among other things. When we put our hands on each other, we're tapping
into deep associations between touch and emotion that are kindled at the dawn
The good news is that there are all kinds of ways to harness this power. Even
just rubbing your own skin in the shower can be therapeutic, Field says — it
increases activity along the vagus nerve that runs from the brain stem to the
abdomen. Stimulating it can offer various benefits throughout the body, from
improved digestion to a jolt of the mood-boosting neurotransmitter serotonin.
"It's the body's natural antidepressant," she says.
comes to touch, giving can be even better than receiving: In one study, Field
had a group of volunteers with an average age of 70 get massages three times a
week. Then the same volunteers massaged infants in a shelter for three weeks.
Both activities produced benefits, but after massaging the babies, the group
reported lower levels of stress hormones, took fewer trips to the doctor and
had higher levels of social interactions.
Reingold, president and CEO of RiverSpring Health, which operates the Hebrew
Home, has seen how therapeutic touch can improve the lives of residents.
"It may be that the sense of touch diminishes with age, but I'd argue that
the impact of touch increases," he says. He's found that residents with
cognitive issues who received a combination of massage, yoga and physical
interactions with therapy pets slept better and experienced a host of
behavioral improvements, compared with residents on traditional medications.
Other studies report a slew of benefits associated with massage, for conditions
ranging from arthritis to voice disorders: One showed that older adults with
dementia were more likely to eat nutritious food when gentle touch accompanied
traces its roots to the 1970s, when Daley and a massage- therapist friend came
up with the idea of Hugs and Cuddles events, where attendees could meet to give
and receive nonsexual caresses. In 2004, a pair of New York massage therapists,
Reid Mihalko and Marcia Baczynski, revived the idea and established a framework
of rules and principles for structured events. A website — and a movement — was
born: Today there are more than 100 trained Cuddle Party facilitators
organizing gatherings worldwide. A handful of other groups promote similar
events, and there are even brick-and-mortar "cuddle shops," which
offer paid by-the-hour cuddling services.
the name might suggest, Cuddle Parties are scrupulously nonsexual, Daley
insists. Each event opens with an hour-long orientation and workshop led by the
facilitator to make sure attendees understand the rules — for example, before
you touch anyone else you have to receive explicit verbal consent. Many
attendees change into pajamas, but they must be chaste and nonrevealing —
"flannel, not lace," Daley says, and clothes stay on at all times.
After orientation, participants can start cuddling — or not. "People ask
for what they want," Daley explains. "Sometimes it's as simple as
conversation; sometimes, it's lying on the floor and embracing. Or it's a
drawerful of spoons in a long line, or shoulder-rub chains."
later, attendees get back into street clothes and return to the real world,
stress-free and buzzing on megadoses of oxytocin. Cuddle Parties are usually
mixed-gender, intergenerational events, but organizers have arranged parties
for diverse groups. Some have only same-sex or LGBT participants; other events
are geared specifically to college-age or older cuddlers. "My mother is 91
— she goes to Cuddle Parties and loves them," Daley says.
touch-hungry times, do we really need to invite strangers over for group back
rubs to satisfy our human need for connection? Daley thinks it might not be a
bad idea: "Thirty years from now, the cuddle business will become
medicalized — there will be bonding clinics. It's ahead of its time. The whole
culture would turn around."
David Linden is a professor of neuroscience at Johns Hopkins
University and the author of Touch: The Science of Hand, Heart and Mind. Martha
Thomas is a writer based in Baltimore.
Five Ways Coconut Oil Can Heal Your Skin
At PURE Relaxation Massage, we use cold pressed extra virgin coconut oil from fresh coconut meat, (not copra) as a lubricant. There are no solvents used in this process.
It is becoming increasingly well known that raw organic, extra-virgin coconut oil is one of the healthiest foods you can add to your diet. There is no reason to fear the fact that it’s composed of mainly saturated fats—unlike others, these are healthy fats that support the function of all of your body’s systems. The benefits of coconut oil are multifaceted and continue to surprise us as new ones are discovered. In particular, coconut oil is just darn good for your skin. Some cultures that have been using it for thousands of years can testify by their wrinkle-free, healthy skin. Many will tell you it’s because they use coconut oil on their skin every day.
Here are some reasons why we love coconut oil:
1 Perfect light non-greasy moisturizer, can be used throughout the seasons and blocks about 20 percent of the sun’s harmful rays. In winter, applying a layer to your face and lips before you go outside can protect you from nasty windburn… and also soothe those dry spots when you get home. Keep your skin protected and hydrated—no matter what the season
2 Soothe minor wounds and irritations
Coconut oil has been found to have antiseptic, antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties. Applying a thin layer to canker sores, acne, insect bites, minor burns, and other small wounds and skin irritations may help to heal them up faster, naturally.
Fight skin conditions such as atopic dermatitis and acne
Coconut oil is natural, and that means that not many people want to conduct extensive research into its benefits. However, a study conducted in 2008 at the Skin and Cancer Foundation in the Philippines, compared virgin coconut oil and virgin olive oil in moisturizing dryness and removing bacteria from colonized atopic dermatitis skin. The study, a double-blind controlled trial, found that coconut oil was more effective than olive oil in killing bacteria, mostly because of its lauric acid content.
A 2009 study at the Division of Dermatology, Department of Medicine, University of California, San Diego, looked at the antimicrobial properties of lauric acid and its potential to heal acne. The results were favorable for using lauric acid in place of antibiotics for the treatment of acne.
3 Reduce wrinkles
Not only is coconut oil an amazing moisturizer, but it can also help keep free radicals at bay—you know, those nasty things that promote wrinkles. Coconut oil could just be the perfect anti-aging serum you have been searching for. The anti-inflammatory properties help reduce puffiness while the antioxidants help you maintain that youthful glow you have always wanted. For best results, rub a little bit of coconut oil into the skin day and night.
4 Boost your healthy weight loss efforts
A saturated fat… to help you lose fat? Yup! While you may have heard of this particular benefit of coconut oil before, it’s worth mentioning again. When added to a healthy lifestyle that includes real, nutritious foods and regular exercise, coconut oil can actually help you to lose weight… even those dangerous pounds around your belly.
How does this work? Well, coconut oil is largely composed of medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs). These types of fatty acids are not stored as fat in the body. Rather, they are easily broken down by the liver for energy. This not only gives you the energy you need to have a great workout, it also keeps you feeling fuller for longer—and away from those unhealthy snacks.
What about the belly fat? As you may know, belly fat is especially dangerous because it coats vital organs, and has been linked to inflammation, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. A 2009 study found that women over 40 who ate 2 tablespoons of coconut oil each day for a month showed decreases in belly fat—compared to women who ate 2 tablespoons of soybean oil, and gained belly fat.
Completely transform your meals
When you replace all of the cooking oils in your kitchen with coconut oil, you will not only enhance your nutritional quotient, you’ll also make your meals taste simply delicious. Baked goods, such as your favorite gluten-free breads, desserts made with honey instead of sugar, and casseroles, will shine with the addition of coconut oil.
This oil has a high smoke point, and is also great for sautéing, making organic popcorn, broiling. The light, tropical flavor will make you appreciate your favorite dishes in a whole new way.
5 Enhance the powers of virtually any essential oil
Many essential oils are too potent to be applied to skin on their own. Enter, coconut oil! Diluting your favorite essential oils in a base of coconut oil is a great way to make them gentle enough for your skin—for application to pressure points, joint and muscles, or for a general massage.
Just make sure to ask a natural health professional you trust before using a new essential oil for the first time—for tips on how much to dilute, and safe ways to apply.
BENEFITS ( and different types of) COCONUT OILS:
The Healing Effects of Massage Mind
I used to sit at the edge of the ocean to find my rhythm. When planning my annual vacations, it was the water that called me--not so much to be in it, but to be by it. Maternal and soothing, the comings and goings of the tide was my "reset" button--you know, the one that allows you to deal calmly again with the world. Along came twins, and my exotic vacations were replaced with ventures closer to home. Being in a land-locked state, sitting by the ocean was no longer an option. How was I going to hit my reset button now? The answer was right in front of me--massage.
As a massage enthusiast, I have learned about and tried a great variety of techniques over the years, but some of my most profound and restorative experiences on the massage table have come in the stillness of the moment.
Massage therapist Bruce Hopkins calls this stillness "massage mind," something understood by those who've experienced it, but difficult to explain to those who have not. The easiest analogy for massage mind might be the quiet state the mind enters into the moments before sleep, or the place of stillness one reaches during meditation. "Massage mind is immediately recognized by clients who are experienced meditators," says Hopkins, who works exclusively with cancer patients in his Portland, Maine, massage practice. "It is the same mind-state that is accessed in deep meditation. And, as in meditation, practice makes getting there easier."
For Hopkins, helping his clients reach massage mind is paramount to his work. "When I am working, I am coaxing the mind to go deeper and deeper," he says. "The music I choose reinforces the work: no melody, no loud passages, always changing, no repetition, interesting, but ultimately boring." The massage itself mimics the music criteria, all with the intent of lulling the mind. Any deep-tissue work or range-of-motion tests, for example, would interfere with that sedative space, he says. "I want it all to be seamless and mindless. I don't want anything to cause the mind to stop and say, "What is that?'"
But what can reaching the quiet stillness of massage mind actually do for clients? Plenty. "When the brain is in this meditative state, it is able to sort through the clutter and focus on any areas that need it, allowing healing to occur at the cellular level," says Pat Crozier, a massage educator and therapist in Chandler, Arizona. "I honestly believe that in those quiet, restorative moments, the brain has 'all power' and can hugely impact the massage experience. The meditative mind is a wonderful place to hang out. It's calming, strengthening, restorative, and clearing."
Quieting The Mind
In Buddhist tradition, the phrase "monkey mind" refers to the chatter that often goes on in the personal dialog we undertake with ourselves every day, every moment. Like a monkey jumping from limb to limb, monkey mind is the process of jumping from thought to thought without a singular focus. When our busy mind can do nothing but be chaotic, stressed, and scattered, it is in the throes of monkey mind. Calming the monkey mind, and realizing instead the massage mind, can have profound effects.
Many massage therapists say that some of the most therapeutic work that happens on the massage table is when the mind "gets out of the way." Hopkins says that's exactly his goal when working with the cancer patients who come to him for massage. "The mind has a profound effect on all physiological processes," he says. In fact, when you can get the mind to quiet itself, Hopkins says the body will heal faster on its own. His clients affirm that notion every day. "I have cancer patients coming from extreme stress who have broken down in tears of joy after the massage is done. They may remember it for a long time as the day life changed dramatically."
Hopkins has had many of his clients report the life-changing effects they found after an hour on his table: "Because of massage, I've come to be at peace with my mastectomy," "I'm not quite sure where I was, but I didn't want to come back," "It's a vacation from cancer," "I felt an overwhelming sense of peace," "The euphoria of the mind during my sessions transcended the quiet horror of cancer."
Now, after seven years working with cancer patients, Hopkins says to heal the body, ideally you want the mind going in the same direction that the body goes; if that's not working, then it's time to turn the mind off. He offers this bit of advice for clients who have a hard time getting there: "If the client is not letting go, I encourage them to focus on my hands. My hands become their mantra. I tell them that when their mind grabs something and tries to run with it, focus instead on my hands, where they are, and what they are doing at the moment."
This "between-the-ears" massage, as Hopkins calls it, is simply a traditional Swedish massage sequence of strokes that offers non-intrusive, gentle therapy. "It's a vehicle to lull the mind to go where I want it to go," he says, adding that most types of relaxation massage provide a framework within which clients can reach this quiet state. "Unwind the mind and the body unwinds on its own."
Sometimes, by reaching the stillness of massage mind during your session, you might venture to a place you've never been before. If you've long ago buried emotional issues or traumatic experiences (whether it's the physiological impact of a car crash or the psychological turmoil of a parent's dying days), they might decide to rear up in these quiet moments. It's OK, and it's normal. Don't be afraid to venture along the path and address these challenges head-on.
During the process, if you find yourself unexplainably in tears while on the massage table, don't fret. Tears have been spilled there before and certainly will be spilled there again. Even if you don't feel like you're carrying emotional baggage, massage can sometimes unleash buried obstacles and ask you to address them if you're ready. "It is [the massage therapist's] job to get the body into a parasympathetic state to allow calm and clarity of mind," Crozier says. This is where massage mind lives. Once there, the healing begins on so many other levels. "Some clients will experience emotional release--being able to let go of baggage that is cluttering the mind and that they are sometimes not even aware of--and feel 'many pounds lighter' after the experience." Crozier says it's important to note that an emotional release will never happen without permission from the mind first. As the obstacles/traumas relinquish their hold, the body finds a clearer path toward wholeness and health.
It's Good For You
If you have already found your path to massage mind, then I'm preaching to the choir, but if not, ask your therapist to help you get there next time. Even if you see it as nothing more than giving your mind a one-hour vacation from the chaos of your day, or putting your worries aside for a few moments, accessing this place of therapeutic stillness is good for you.
Massage can be a journey in many ways and it can take you along a restorative path, both physically and mentally. That hour, when the sounds of the world surrender to the breath of client and therapist and the music lulls you into a meditative state, see if you can access your massage mind. In finding that place of therapeutic stillness, you too can reclaim your own rhythm, and hit "reset" without needing to find an ocean to do so. Karrie Osborn is senior editor for Associated Bodywork Massage Professionals. Contact her at [email protected]