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Jul 7, 2011

Achieving Energy, Health and Presence | Yoga and Self Care for Massage Therapists

Take a deep breath.  Relaxed, open body.  Peaceful, calm mind.  Less tension, more ease.  Energized yet focused.  This is what clients of massage therapy leave with after they get off your table.  This is why we love the work that we do.  Then why should we, the massage therapists, feel less like these descriptions after a long day of giving massage?

How do we provide this for ourselves?  How can we get some of this everyday?  It is important for us to practice proper body mechanics and make sure we receive massage as well, but one answer has been around for over two thousand years.  Yoga!

There are at least as many different types of yoga as there are massage modalities.  And, like with massage modalities, different styles of yoga have similar benefits which directly improve your ability to provide high quality massage therapy for the length of your career.  Self care is of utmost importance if you want to help your clients- both by maintaining your ability to give massage and also in your aptitude to be an example of health in your client’s lives.  Yoga and Body Mechanics

Yoga Inversion

Yoga: Inversion Pose from

Yoga focuses on developing strength and flexibility by moving mindfully through a series of poses, called asanas, which serve to not only keep our body resilient but also to develop a deeper awareness of our movements.  This translates into your massage therapy practice as an increased stamina of maintaining good posture and practicing optimal body mechanics.

Yoga and Joint Health

An occpuational concern for some massage therapists is repetitive stress injuries from overuse of thumbs, hands, wrists, elbows and shoulders.  How can we provide relief of pain for others when we ourselves are afflicted?  Yoga works to counteract the stresses by building balanced strength in the muscles which support these joints and maintaining flexibility of tendons and joint structures.  Yoga may also work to break up adhesion within our tissues and improve joint lubrication.  Yoga moves our blood, giving renewed oxygen and nutrients to these areas, and also warms our fascia which can free the body to develop more functional movement patterns.  In a way, yoga may be like giving yourself a massage. 

Yoga and Presence

All forms of yoga emphasize breath and a meditative quality.  It focuses and calms the mind through slowing our breath, and slowing our thoughts.  This allows us the mental and energetic space to be present during the massage.  Being present helps you deliver quality massage sessions, whereas scattered and poor quality massage sessions can result when our minds are elsewhere; when our energy is scattered.  Not only does the mindfulness from yoga help you to be a more effective massage therapist, it also gives you practice in allowing the stresses of your practice to naturally fall away as you leave your office for the day.  This kind of presence in turn gives you the space that you need to fully recharge.

Yoga Om

Yoga: Om illustration, by Chris Macivor, from the book The Key Muscles of Yoga