For several decades now, the Mayo Clinic has been offering a Massage Therapy Program in order to improve the health of many of their patients. Massage/Bodywork/Healing Touch has been shown to reduce both physical and emotional pain, enhance sleep, raise overall energy, support healthy immune system, improve digestion, enhance endocrine system function, increase athletic endurance, flexibility and strength, relieve harmful effects of physical, emotional and mental stress, relieve side effects of loneliness, shift heart rate, lower blood pressure, soothe skin issues, promote a sense of overall well-being, and for some massage may even offer a connection to spirituality.
There are a zillion reasons these various benefits may be available through massage, but most certainly one of them is the simple effect of human touch. We know that human touch alone can bring about many of the above listed effects, and we know that these effects are needed by us all! For those of my readers who are caregivers, I want to take this opportunity to remind you that when you touch those you care for, you are offering a moment of potential grace of one sort or another. You may not know which of the positive effects of touch is required - or being transmitted - in that moment, but you can know that your touch has an effect. And if you are aware of this, perhaps you will touch with even more of your heart present; you are offering a gift.
But Ohhhhhh dear caregivers!! Remember also that as a giver, you enhance what you offer by also seeking to RECEIVE! Whether you are a professional caregiver, a caregiver to one in need in your home, or simply give because you are human - YOU TOO, DESERVE THE BENEFITS AND NOURISHMENT OF BEING TOUCHED!
All that said. . .
It is also important to lift up that if you are a recipient of touch you have the right to dictate WHEN, WHERE AND HOW you are touched. Even if you are being touched with caring grace and kindness - - if you do not welcome that touch, you may decline it! And whether you are being touched for a procedure or a kindness, you still have the right to declare the way in which you wish to be touched. If you are uncomfortable in any way, you may say so. No matter what age or stage of living or dying, no matter what the social status of the person touching you is ("doctor, lawyer, beggar, thief", as they say. . .), YOU are the director of YOUR body's handling! There may be any number of reasons a person does NOT want to be touched - from pain level, to a sense of personal space, to neuro-diversity or disease that makes one hyper-sensitive to sensation - you are the gatekeeper of your own boundaries, and it falls to caregivers to respect your choices.
However, IF you are able to welcome and to receive loving touch, here is my firm but loving reminder to:
GET A MASSAGE or other HEALING BODYWORK AS OFTEN AS YOU CAN!
Massage can be done with our without clothing, it can be whole-body or just, say, shoulders, neck and head, or just a back massage, or just calves and feet, or just feet and hands (you might be surprised how deeply relaxing a hand massage can be!!) or even just a gentle face massage. Bodywork can be deep and strong for the well-used muscles of an athlete, or soft and gentle specifically for relaxation. If you are new to body work, you may wonder about your privacy; all professional body work maintains your modesty, even if you are getting a full-body, no-clothing massage. Draping with sheets or towels will keep your personal parts safe and private. Many types of bodywork can be done fully clothed, and this is suggested for anyone who has experienced any sort of abuse, or who simply feels uncomfortable removing clothing. Some therapies do not even involve actual physical touch, but rather offer "energy" healing (but that is a topic for another post!)
As one of my life-path incarnations some time ago, I was a licensed, working massage therapist and bodywork practitioner for many years; I still offer gentle healing bodywork in my private practice, and make referrals to other practitioners that might be a good fit for whomever is seeking healing or relaxing bodywork. Wherever you choose to receive the many benefits of professional human healing hands, I want to urge you - especially in these long, cold, body-stiffening months of winter in the Northern Hemisphere - to find a practitioner you feel safe with (or even just trade touch with a friend or trusted family member), and give yourself and those you care for the gift of massage. Received on a regular basis starting now, I can almost promise that you will see measurable benefits before spring!
As always, you can visit my scheduling portal; if you are seeking a referral, please click the first option (free 15 Minute Exploration Session):
Whatever or wherever you choose,
and a Lovely Winter to All.
CLICK links for more:
Mayo Clinic, Benefits of Massage
National University of Health Sciences
American Massage Therapy Association
Harvard Medical School - Health Publishing
Importance of Touch for Elders (but really for us ALL)
More on Touch for Elders
(As you can see, there is a LOT of info out there. . . let's all be conscious of the importance of touch and make sure we touch others with kindness and intention, and receive the touch we all deserve for best quality of living and dying!)
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Rev. Maya Massar