It is known that stress is a contributing factor to almost everything that ails modern man. On its simplest level, a little tension leaves you with butterflies in the tummy as the only physical sign. At the other end of the scale, when you suffer from constant, long-term stress and mental anxiety, you can end up with headaches, insomnia, loss of appetite, high blood pressure, nausea, loss of libido, low resistance, even a heart attack.
However, stress in itself is not a bad thing without it, we would not strive quite so hard or aim quite so high. It is how we react to stress that makes it have a good or bad effect on our bodies. As even the most serious attack of stress can be instantly relieved the second we relax, the best way to react to it is to have a massage.
Massage works by relaxing the muscular tension that builds up to cause more serious symptoms. The hand stroking simply rubs it away. It also relaxes an over-anxious mind by slowing the heartbeat and lowering blood pressure the way yoga, for instance, does. So you feel better both physically and mentally in one go. As there is less and less time in life for leisure, hobbies and sports, massage is even more important as a way to relax – it is quick, simple and needs no fancy equipment or membership fees. Also, it is just about impossible to injure yourself. If you have regular relaxing massages, you will never be tense and will be healthier and happier throughout your life.
How to Do a Bodyworks Massage
TO do a full body massage properly takes an hour, but this one can be done in 30 minutes since it concentrates only on the areas where tension hits worse. It uses a series of presses, stretches and deep strokes, as these are the best instant tension busters. However, the more you repeat strokes the better it feels, so extend it as much as time allows. The massage is meant to relax, so help as much as possible. Keep the room dimly lit, warm and quiet and use plenty of pillows, blankets and oil.
- For steps one, two and three, the person being massaged should lie face down, and for steps four onwards, she should lie face up. Start at the feet, placing your hands, palms down, for a firm, slow full body stroke up the calves, thighs, over the buttocks, up each side of the back to the top of the shoulders, then stroking down the arms to the palms of the hands. Repeat. Next make firm circular strokes in unison up the legs, with your left hand anti-clockwise and right hand clockwise. Cover the lower body with blankets. Move up to the waist and do side stroking. Tuck your fingers down under the hip and pull one hand after the other upwards in a smooth, flowing motion. Take several minutes to work up to the top of the waist, then repeat on the other side.
- First stretch the back: place both hands, palms down, over the spine in the middle of the back and pull your hands in opposite directions so that one ends on the tailbone and the other at the nape of the neck. Concentrate on stretching the body and not pressing down. Repeat. Then spend a long time kneading all over the back, pinching and squeezing the flesh between thumb and fingers of both hands, from the buttocks to shoulder tops, avoiding bony areas.
- Pummel the middle and upper back, using the base of loose fists for several minutes. Avoid kidneys and spine. The person being massaged should now turn face up. Cover the upper body. Place the palms over the top of each foot, fingers pointing upwards, and stroke firmly several times from ankle to knee. Repeat the stroke from the upper knee to thigh top, using a firmer pressure. Then place the thumbs on one side of the thigh, fingers on the other and knead. Do a fast friction rub all over the thigh, then repeat on the other thigh.
- Repeat the full body stroke from step one, but on the front. This time end by pressing the heels of your hands for a count of ten where the arms join the chest. Push gently for a count of five over biceps, elbow creases, wrists and palms. Then, with her palms down, hold one of her forearms with one hand. Place the other hand over the wrist, then push up, pressing lightly, to the shoulder. Repeat several times on both arms.
- Cover the body to keep it warm. Pick up one hand of the person being massaged and, supporting it with your left palm under the wrist, gently push her fingers up with the palm of your right hand to stretch the hand backwards. Hold for a count of six, then relax. Turn her hand palm up and place it in the palm of your right hand, using your straight fingers to support it as you make firm strokes with your thumb from her wrist to her fingers. Finish by grasping each finger between your thumb and index finger as you pull from the base to the tip, twisting round in a corkscrew motion. Repeat all of the strokes on the other hand.
- Now work on the feet. First massage the sole of the left foot with your thumbs, supporting the foot with your fingers wrapped round the instep. Make firm strokes (under the arch and toes) and circles (from heels up to toes) all over the sole of the foot. Then sandwich the foot between the palms of your hands at the ankle and pull firmly as you draw your hands back off the tips of the toes. Repeat this pull several times in a smooth, flowing stroke. Hold each toe between your thumb and index finger and twist round as you pull from the base to the tip. Repeat all strokes on the other foot.
- Cover the whole body and move up to stand at the head. Place one hand, palm up, under the back between the shoulder blades and draw it firmly up the neck to the base of the skull, keeping your fingers outstretched and slightly arching the neck. Repeat using the other hand and continue as a flowing stroke. Then, with palms flat, stroke from the top of the arm up the side of the neck, one hand following the other. Repeat on the other side. With stiff, bent fingers, rake the same area from arm to neck, making firm, fast strokes with both hands working together, one on each shoulder.
- Placing your fingers together, use palms and fingers to ‘cat’ stroke up the sides of the neck. ‘Cat’ stroke means stroking with your fingers curved in a convex direction. Place palms down over each shoulder top and push down. Hold for a count of 15, then relax. Use the sides of your thumbs to make slow circles in a clockwise direction over each temple for two minutes. Then lightly press your fingertips over the eyes for a count of 20. Use the tips of both index fingers, one after the other, to do the gentlest stroke up between the eyebrows for two minutes. Then use the palms of your hands, one after the other, to do a firm stroke from brows to crown. With stiff fingers, press into the scalp and make small circles with the fingertips all over the head. Place your left hand, palm up, under the nape of the neck across the skull and your right hand, palm down, on the forehead. Press in firmly with both hands for a count of ten. Relax and repeat.