POSTED ON JANUARY 14, 2009:
The Golden Touch
Hallelujah! Massage therapy puts health benefits within your reach
Good Clean Fun. While there may be a stigma about unprofessional massage parlors and the misconception of a "happy ending," the vast majority of spas and practitioners are licensed massage therapists and therefore practice the therapy as a doctor would.
The idea of achieving a healthier lifestyle is an idea that seems to permeate every news program and media outlet in some form. To me, the promotion of a healthy lifestyle is parallel to America's idea about promoting abstinence. Our country ignores the touchy topic of educating teens about sex; we ignore the touchy topic of 47 million Americans without health insurance by promoting changes in a healthy lifestyle. And both ploys seem to fall on deaf ears. A recent study indicates that students who take vows of abstinence have unsafe sex and the United States is one of the unhealthiest countries in the world.
Telling people to "get healthy" is a broad declaration. There's an overwhelming list of things we're supposed to stop doing, things we should stop eating and actions we should perform that would make your eyes cross and cause you to give up before you've even begun. While there are certainly those who enjoy hitting the gym and prefer low caloric intake, the majority of people want to watch TV marathons more than they want to participate in a real life marathon and would rather grab something deep fried than organically grown.
Being lazy and grabbing fast food is easier than exerting energy for the healthier options. And let's face it -- more enjoyable. People would participate in those activities if they were more enjoyable. But there's a reason why the word healthy begins with "hell."
But there are activities a person can participate in that result in health and beauty and, most importantly, ones that people would want to do. They will significantly lower your blood pressure, remove inches from your waist and increase the functioning of your internal organs. They will energize you and get you out of the house and out of those drive-through lines. I found out that taking these actions has a ton health benefits without visiting a doctor's office or a gym.
Want to get healthy? Get yourself to a spa for a massage.
Massage therapy is a practice that has been around for thousands of years and was popular throughout all early civilizations as a form of health care. It has held a long popularity in the United States as an alternative medicine. And what is it exactly? Massage, as stated on massagetheraphy.com is "defined as the application of various techniques to the muscular structure and soft tissues of the human body."
With that definition, you'd be led to believe that massage works solely on the muscles, but Massagetherapy.com has a list as long as my arm of the health benefits of this so-called "pampering" practice. The benefits include, but are certainly not limited to: "enhances immunity by stimulating lymph flow, relieves migraine pain, increases joint flexibility, improves skin, alleviate low-back pain, promotes tissue regeneration that reduces scar tissue and stretch marks and pumps oxygen and nutrients into tissues and vital organs that improves circulation." Massage therapy also effectively achieves "decreased anxiety, enhanced sleep quality, greater energy, improved concentration, increased circulation, and reduced fatigue."
Even with all of these health benefits and the overall good feeling that a massage elicits, many people don't take advantage of massage therapy. One reason, I would imagine, is cost and because it is a procedure that occurs in a spa. A spa treatment is considered a luxury and therefore something in which people should rarely indulge. Considering massage to be a procedure that has health benefits should eliminate the guilt factor. It is a luxury that feels good but does good.
Many people may shy away from massage because it puts you in a vulnerable place. There's the discomfort a person might feel about being nearly nude. Most massages are performed with participants only wearing underpants, although people choose to be entirely nude. Massage therapists step out of the room to allow you to undress and lay under the sheet; they will always knock before re-entering the room to ensure that you are under the sheet when they return.
Modesty is continued throughout the massage and a level of professionalism is always in place. While there may be a stigma about unprofessional massage parlors and the misconception of a "happy ending," the vast majority of spas and practitioners are licensed massage therapists and therefore practice the therapy as a doctor would.
Even with the utmost in professionalism, one of the massage's main goals is to relax the recipient. In this case, participants may be embarrassed about falling asleep or getting an erection. Professionals are used to these reactions. Don't let these potential outcomes deter you from getting a massage or, if it happens, prevent you from getting future massages. Additionally, don't be afraid to speak up about what makes you uncomfortable. Although a massage may be intense, talk with the massage therapist if something becomes painful. If there are areas of your body that you would prefer a therapist not work, speak up. Whether due to body acne, body hair or excess weight, you don't need to be embarrassed about your body.
Can't Touch This
There are other options for those that are concerned about expense or self-conscious about the information stated above, places like the Planet Beach Contempo Spa, 6628 South Memorial. This franchise boasts of "the services of a day spa ... performed via automated equipment. Members don't have to worry about having to feel uncomfortable in the presence of others in order to receive the benefits of massages..."
These 20-minute sessions include aqua massage, hydro massage, therasage, as well as spa procedures that also increase health like UV Therapy (which research has shown helps ward off "diabetes, hypertension, multiple sclerosis, depression and certain cancers) and hydro-derma fusion. These procedures, performed in a tanning bed-like pod are ideal for touch-me-not types and those who don't feel comfortable enough with themselves to be worked by a person.
To find out more information about the services Planet Beach Contempo Spa performs, visit the national web site www.planetbeach.com or call 250-4772 to find out information specific to the location on Memorial.
If you do opt for the traditional touch method, you may feel overwhelmed thinking about what you want and/or need from the massage. The types of massage are varied, with some massage groups claiming there are 80 types while others suggesting there are as many as 250 massage therapies available. These are divided by the areas of the body on which massage is performed, the techniques involved (the incorporation of hot stones for instance or if the touch is light or deep) and the intended outcome of the therapy.
If you're interested in slowly immersing yourself into the massage culture, lessen the dizzying confusion between Swedish massage and Thai massage by first finding a spa or licensed massage therapist who makes you feel comfortable. Many local salons have spas; if your salon doesn't, they may be able to suggest a licensed professional. Once you have found a location, have a brief discussion as to what you're expecting from the massage. Most therapists are trained to perform massages that loosen of muscle tension and assist in relaxation, reducing anxiety. If you're looking for a massage that is more obscure than the traditional aims, you'll need to do further research.
No matter what type of massage you receive, remember two things: Load up on water after your appointment. The massage releases toxins throughout the body and it's important to flush them out of your system. It's recommended, but it won't kill you if you forget to hydrate post-rubdown. Also, be prepared for sore muscles that day and for a few days afterward. This is especially true for those who are stressed or people who have never had a massage before. That pain lessens when massages are had on a regular basis.
While massage therapy isn't like a tent revival preacher -- you won't be touched and healed -- these treatments will do more than you'd imagine in furthering good health. And good health that actually makes you feel good is a nice change.
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