What is Massage Therapy?
Massage Therapy has been used for thousands of years to restore health to the physical body. It has many positive effects on mood and perception as well, due to the ways that mind and body interact.
Massage Therapy is centered on manually manipulating muscles and soft connective tissues, ligaments, and tendons. Massage Therapy methods of different kinds exist in every healing tradition from around the world.
Massage Therapy benefits all levels and layers of us, but its point of entry is through the physiology, and the ways that human touch helps restore us to health and happiness.
While Massage Therapy can be safely applied in a range of settings, we use it at Villa Kali Ma specifically to help women return to an experience of basic wellbeing at every level of her consciousness. Massage Therapy helps the body feel relaxed, safe, balanced, and connected to all of life again, and when we feel good in our bodies, it is easier to feel good in our minds and emotions as well.
All effective healing therapies stimulate one or more aspects of the human experience, with the aim of affecting all levels and layers. This works because of the complexity of the human being, in which our modes of experiencing life are all interrelated. Our core beliefs affect our bodies, our bodies shape our emotions, our emotions are connected to images in our psyches, our images relate to our core spiritual blueprint, which is in turn affected by our biology, and so on.
Therefore Massage Therapy is a deep modality that can be effectively employed not just to create pleasant sensations of safety, warmth, and peace in the body, but to work through blockages, psychological wounding, and inner disconnection that affects our mind and soul.
How does Massage Therapy help?
Massage therapy helps the body, mind, and soul by manually working with our physical bodies, specifically our musculature and soft body tissues to remove restrictions, knots, and patterns of constriction.
Manual stimulation of our muscles causes blood, oxygen, and other important nutrients to flow into the area that has been stimulated, similar to the way that squeezing out a sponge not only removes unwanted material but also makes it possible for fresh water to flow into the sponge again.
The body usually likes the effects of massage and often registers the stimulation itself as pleasurable. Even in the case where the stimulation has some pain to it, as when a particularly tough knot in our musculature is being worked, the body responds afterwards with endorphins and rewards us with feelings of relaxation, and greater wellbeing at the body level.
These effects also flow upwards to positive emotions and thoughts. The body is arguably the most basic form of our experience, and when the body is happy at the creature, animal level, we typically feel all right enough at the other levels of our being, as well. Even when suffering a serious loss or going through important psychological and developmental challenges, supporting the body will make these experiences more tolerable. When we take care of our bodies, we receive benefits in turn from our bodies, who hold and support our life experiences.
Recognizing how much the body generally likes massage, provided it is safe and appropriate, is reason enough to include massage therapy in any treatment package.
The body has been a place of violation and the creation of much trauma, through physical and sexual abuse as well as through neglect. Likewise, it has likely been affected by medical procedures and the bombardment of harmful electromagnetic frequencies. So just having a safe experience of receiving beneficial touch that not only creates no harm, but brings goodness into the body, is not to be underemphasized.
Massage Therapy has even further dimensions, however, which can be helpful to understand when pondering how and why it may be an important piece in your healing journey. Villa Kali Ma includes Massage Therapy in our treatment programs for women recovering from mental health problems, trauma, and/or substance abuse disorders because it has benefits that reach far beyond creating pleasant sensations in the body.
While human physiology is universal in that we are all given the same basic muscular and skeletal pattern upon birth, each person’s unique life experiences shape how we end up holding our muscles. This is why people have different postures, and why the older we get, the more our character and experiences may be detectable in how we breathe, move, and hold ourselves.
Our core life wounds are protected and reflected in our musculature. Those who have been hurt in their heart area, or the place where we process emotions related to connecting with others or not being able to do so, typically have a collapsed muscular structure over the heart area. The rest of the body then adapts to this requirement to keep the heart area protected through the musculature, which has knock on effects all the way down to our feet.
Through this example, you can see that working with a Massage Therapist to open up areas of the musculature that have closed down, rigidified, or are holding a protective posture which is causing problems for us, has deep emotional impacts as well.
In other words, Massage Therapy is a powerful tool for working with every aspect of our being, not only our muscles and tissues but also the very essence and core of our spirit.
The benefits of Massage Therapy during recovery
Massage Therapy offers many benefits to the recovery process, be that recovery from substance abuse, mental health problems, trauma, or any combination of these.
One of these benefits comes from the fact that Massage Therapy is a powerful vehicle for improving the body’s natural ability to detoxify.
In the case of addiction, there is significant chemical residue from psychoactive substances left in the body that usually requires some support to exit the body.
During initial, acute phases of withdrawal, Massage Therapy can help reduce pain and assist in the greater release of harmful chemicals. Longer term, as the body adapts and corrects its patterns of processing neurotransmitters and hormones, detoxification also takes place. Waste that needs to be cleared from the body is created as deep neurochemical and body system changes take place.
Massage Therapy is a valuable assist in creating a greater circulation of purifying oxygen and blood throughout the entire body system, affecting lymphatic systems and other aspects of the body intelligence that are in charge of eliminating poisons from the body.
Massage Therapy is also an important tool when processing emotional pain, and releasing the impacts of trauma. Trauma is generally cleared from one’s experience through supporting the brain and nervous system to safely, consciously recall and appropriately process traumatic events.
This state of being able to consciously witness one’s traumatizing experiences without becoming triggered by them during the act of remembering requires a high degree of body safety, and grounding into physical body experiences, something that’s typically a challenge when we have a good reason for dissociating and repressing our scary, overwhelming experiences.
Touch is a powerful vehicle for creating safety in the body, and for communicating that although the body is currently experiencing overwhelming sensations, it is safe to allow these sensations to exit the body and be completed, they do not have to be “encoded forever” in the brain as a way to stay vigilant against the scary things happening again.
Massage Therapy also just generally creates positive feelings for the body, which has upward-flowing effects on emotions and mood, making it more possible to have optimism, which is important during any recovery process.
Massage Therapy options
At Villa Kali Ma, Massage Therapy is integrated into our holistic treatment program for women recovering from mental health problems, trauma, addiction, and any combination of these. Massage Therapy is part of our residential treatment program, and is also integrated into our outpatient services.
If you are looking for support through Massage Therapy specifically because you are facing addiction, mental health challenges, and/or trauma, we do recommend that you also receive psychotherapeutic support as well.
Massage Therapy works beautifully as a standalone modality, to restore deep feelings of peace and balance, and its positive impacts affect all levels of one’s being.
And, its benefits are greatly enhanced when used in combination with treatment that directly targets the mental-emotional components of suffering as well. This is because recovering from a strong pattern of suffering usually requires some level of conscious awareness and insight into the contents of our minds.
Generally speaking, in order to recover we must learn to correctly attribute the emotions and physical body sensations we have in any given moment to their appropriate cause, which in the case of trauma and suffering, is almost always somewhere in our past, or at least in our deep subconscious ways of interpreting our experiences.
Massage Therapy can provide us with the deep sensations of body safety, and helps us repattern ways that the body releases, reorganizes, remembers, and reinterprets troublesome experiences we have been holding onto without realizing it. So we do recommend also the inverse, that if you are already in psychotherapeutic treatment, that you consider Massage Therapy as a support for making your learnings more real and permanent in the body.
You very likely can find some form of Massage Therapy in your community, as it is a widely offered modality. When selecting a Massage Therapy practitioner, let your body tell you whether this person is good for you or not. Body knows best when it comes to help for the body, especially when direct touch is involved. Pay attention to subtle cues from your body and follow your gut feeling over your head when it comes to deciding whether someone’s Massage Therapy style is a good fit for you personally.