In this current time, during the crisis imposed by COVID-19, we find it imperative to discuss the proverbial elephant in the room in our space and industry: the concept of touch.
Our world has endured much in this global pandemic and it has caused many to retreat to home for remote work, learning, and shelter-in-place restrictions.
This limited access to community has put us in a mental, physical, and emotional state of yearning for more interaction; this overwhelming need for interpersonal connection has us figuratively starved in many ways that we may not have quite experienced before.
Having arrived here, let’s consider how we can address and restore comfortability and relief in experiencing healing touch for the purposes of our collective wellbeing.
It is a journey and process.
To start, we must understand that in these very new circumstances, our approach to becoming more comfortable with outside interactions and experiences will be a process and unique personal journey.
It is certainly not a race to normalcy, especially right now; nothing is normal about any of our routines. We must revisit the concept of learning to crawl before we can walk and then run again.
Physiologically, our central nervous system must acclimate to the understandable, reasonable stress of this time.
We have resorted to our most critical routines and behaviors and have not necessarily considered those things that we must do to support our health and wellness needs.
In our personal lives, we’re all finding ways to balance and acclimate in our behaviors. Evaluating reasonable risks against our individual need to stay safe, while also satisfying our holistic needs, is indeed the new-normal. We are all learning how to do this without compromising ourselves and our close-knit communities. There is no right or wrong in how we do this, and it will work differently for everyone.
There are wellness benefits in healing touch.
We believe that healing touch is vital to our wellbeing, and that belief is the core and mission of what drives our existence and who we are at Osmosis.
We also understand how delicate the balance of revisiting our, or any, wellness spa can be against shared, new realities.
In recent months, we’ve heard from all over just how much people are missing their wellness interactions and how they are slowly integrating their yesteryear spa routines back during this time. From physical therapy and rehabilitation to massage treatments, the nurture and healing benefits of touch should not be underestimated—nor should they be considered luxury.
In fact, California has recently approved indoor massage as an essential service when prescribed by a doctor. Massage offers relief for patients struggling with any of the following conditions, which may include chronic stress, anxiety, insomnia, sports injuries, arthritis, soft tissue injuries or strain, headaches, digestive disorders, and more.
Both indoor or outdoor massage at Osmosis may be covered by your Health Savings Account (HSA), Flexible Savings Account (FSA), workers compensation, or private insurance. Prior approval from your insurance company is recommended and a reimbursement would follow your submission of a receipt from Osmosis. We believe that our massage treatment is beneficial for both health and wellness.
Wellness is a lifestyle and way of living.
Currently, we are observing a notable resurgence in priority of care and wellness during the pandemic. It is becoming a way of life, more than ever now, to make every intentional effort to create the moments of peace and space that refuel us in our daily lives.
From home to work, and everything in between, we support our existing and growing community of guests and patrons in their discovery and balancing of wellness in the face of adversity. Sometimes we all wonder what true wellness should look like, but the truth is there are no hard-and-fast rules or rigidity to what wellness is; but instead simply learning to navigate the flexibility required to be well in mind, body, and spirit—especially now.
Stay well, friends. And do your intentional best to not make concessions on your wellness needs, whatever they may positively be. May the gift of healing touch continue to nurture us along the way. All our love and support to you and your community as we all get through a truly pivotal time. We are here to serve our community, now more than ever, in providing a sanctuary for healing and peace.
In our busy lives it can be hard to find time to connect with our partner in ways that strengthen our relationship and create more intimacy. Giving your partner a simple at-home massage can be a great way to boost intimacy and help your partner feel nurtured. You don’t need to be a professional; all you need is some great massage oil (we recommend Kate’s Magik Aphrodisian Fire Body Oil), relaxing music, a bed, and your own two hands. With Valentine’s season upon us, it’s a great time to light some candles, turn up the heater, and pamper your partner using these easy to follow steps for a simple whole body massage. No experience necessary!
About Kate’s Magik Aphrodisian Fire Body Oil: Alluring and sensual, aphrodisian fire enhances romance and excites the senses. Evoking Aphrodite, this exotic blend highlights wood and flower notes. Sandalwood and patchouli are deep and sensual, while sultry rose and flowery ylang ylang instill a sense of passion and romance.
Prepare your massage space
Cover your bed with an old towel or blanket that you don’t mind getting oily. Have one or two pillows on hand to make your partner more comfortable. If you’d like warm oil, you can fill a large bowl with hot water and place the oil bottle in it. Have an extra towel on hand to clean up any messes.
Your partner may be more comfortable lying face down with a pillow under their chest, then they can turn their head to one side. Have your partner put their arms along their side, with palms up.
When your partner turns face up, they may want a pillow under their knees or head.
Use your whole hand while massaging, palm and underside of fingers will be touching your partner’s skin.
Keep your back straight while massaging and use the weight of your body to put pressure, rather than just your hands.
Before you start, place your hands on your partner’s back, and take several deep breaths together. Set an intention to be the giver, and honor the gift you are about to give your partner.
Massaging in the Back
Sit at your partner’s head, preferably in a kneeling position. Sit on a pillow for extra knee support. Rub a few squirts of oil between your hands. Place your hands, palm down, at the base of your partner’s neck, with the spine between your thumbs.
Glide your hands down your partner’s back, staying next to the spine. At the top of the buttocks, glide your hands out to the top of your partner’s hips, then slide your hands up their sides and onto their shoulder blades.
Make several circles with your whole palms over the shoulder blades.
Starting with hands-on their shoulder blades, glide your hands down their back with your hands moving toward each other so they come together over the top of your partner’s buttocks. Again, glide over the top of their hips, then slide your hands back together over their low back.
Slide your hands up their back with the spine between your thumb edges.
At the top of the shoulders, slide your hands out over the tops of their shoulders and then slide them back together to the base of your partner’s neck. Repeat 3 – 5 times.
Starting at the base of the neck, slide your palms out over the tops of your partner’s shoulders. Slide onto their very upper arm and then slide each palm all the way down their arms, onto their hands and then slide off their hands with your fingers going between theirs.
Repeat these strokes 3 – 5 times, varying direction and combining them as you like. Use more oil as needed.
Massaging Back of Legs
Sit at the outside edge of your partner’s lower leg. Rub some oil into your hands. Start with your hands, palm down, on either side of your partner’s ankle.
Glide your hands up the sides of your partner’s leg, all the way to their hip and inner thigh. Bring your hands together at the top of the thigh and slide your hands all the way down to their heel. Repeat 3 – 5 times, applying more oil as needed.
Now slide your way up the back of your partner’s leg making circles with each palm in an alternating pattern. (right-hand circles over middle and side of leg, left hand circles over the middle leg and inner calf/thigh, move up a few inches and repeat). Go back down the leg with the same pattern, alternating the direction of your circles.
Repeat on the second leg.
Massaging Neck and Arms
Turn your partner face up and sit above their head. Rub some oil on your hands. Place your palms at the base of your partner’s neck, with fingers facing your partner’s upper back and palms against the base of the neck where it meets the shoulders. Glide your hands out to the tops of your partner’s arms, then glide down over the outside of their arms down to the elbow. Slide your hands under their arms and then glide back up under their arms, under their upper back and up to the base of their skull. Repeat 3 – 5 times.
With your fingertips at the base of the skull, on either side of the spine, make small circles, letting the fingers move the muscles slightly. Check-in with your partner about pressure, the more you press your fingers up, the more pressure they will feel. Continue making small circles on the neck muscles, moving downward toward the upper back.
Slide your hands under your partner’s upper back, with your fingers on the muscles between the shoulder blades and spine. Glide your hands up to the base of the skull. Repeat 3 times.
Sit at your partner’s side near their hand. With oil on your hands, place one hand on your partner’s wrist. Slide that hand up their arm to the shoulder, followed immediately by your second hand. Slide one hand under their shoulder and keep the other hand over the front of the upper arm. Slide both hands down the arm to the hand while squeezing your hands slightly to create pressure. Repeat 3 – 5 times.
Repeat on the second arm.
Massaging Legs and Feet
Sit at your partner’s side near their ankle. With oil on your hands, place your palms and fingers on either side of your partner’s ankle. Slide your hands up the sides of their leg to the upper thigh/outer hip.
Bring your thumb edges together at the middle of the upper thigh, with your palms and other fingers resting on the sides of the upper thigh. Slide your hands away from each other toward the sides of the leg. Move your hands down a few inches and slide your hands away from each other again. Continue this down the leg to the ankle, watching out not to press on the knee bone or the shin bone.
Repeat these two steps 3 – 5 times, using more oil as needed.
Place hands on foot, with one palm on top of the foot and other on the bottom. Slide your hands up and down your partner’s foot, from toes to heel/ankle, pressing your hands toward each other. Repeat several times.
Using fingers, make circles around the ankle bones. Rub your palm in a circular motion over the front of the ankle. Finish by rubbing your palm in a circular motion over the bottom of the foot, from toes to heel and back again. Use a loose fist to make circles if your partner wants more pressure.
Repeat on the second leg and foot.
When you’ve finished massaging your partner, place your palms on the bottom of their feet and take several deep breaths together. Take some time to snuggle up with your partner and let them give you some appreciation, in whatever form it comes. Enjoy the time you’ve spent together, even if you stumbled through, and know that moments like these are precious. And make sure to find a time when your partner can take a turn as the giver too!
Heather Bishop is the Massage Therapy Supervisor at Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary. She has been practicing massage and bodywork for over 17 years and performs a wide variety of modalities, specializing in deep tissue and east-west fusion massage. In addition to massage, Heather is also a Registered Yoga Teacher of 15 years and teaches at Soulstice in Santa Rosa. She loves having daily opportunities to help others and is a proud member of the Osmosis team.
Massage is often viewed as a luxury, a pampering or self-indulgent extravagance. Research shows that while massage is definitely a “feel good” experience, it has numerous mental and emotional benefits linked to neurotransmitters and hormones released through therapeutic touch. Yes, we all know massage can increase muscle flexibility, blood circulation and our joints’ range of motion. But massage can do more than that. Massage can reduce stress, elevate our mood, help with depression and anxiety, improve our sleep and increase our sociability.
Five Neurochemical Benefits of Massage, all Improving Your Mental-Emotional Well-Being
Seratonin and Dopamine
While anyone who has experienced massage knows that it is a relaxing experience, few understand the neurochemical changes produced by therapeutic touch, all of which can increase our feelings of emotional well-being. One study published in the International Journal of Neuroscience found that massage recipients measure a 28% averaged increase of serotonin and a 31% averaged increase in of dopamine in the bloodstream, following massage therapy. Serotonin helps to regulate mood, appetite and digestion. Synthesized in the brain and intestines, it is theorized that low serotonin levels contribute to depression and anxiety. Its close relative, dopamine, is associated with the reward centers of the brain. Low dopamine levels are associated with lack of motivation, low energy and the inability to focus, all symptoms linked to depression. The increased levels of these neurotransmitters produced by massage can regulate, even elevate your mood, energy, motivation and mental focus, all improving your emotional state.
Research also shows an increase in endorphins resulting from massage, as much as 16% more found in volunteers tested after connective tissue massage. Endorphins are the neurotransmitters produced to relieve pain and improve mood. They are your body’s natural narcotic. In fact, the chemical structure of endorphins resembles that of opiate pain-relieving drugs that are derived from the poppy plant. Most people associate elevated endorphins with exercise, such as the “runner’s high,” but endorphins are also produced by laughter, dark chocolate (yes!) and of course, massage.
Additionally, massage and other forms of touch, such as a hug or embrace, have been shown through numerous studies to increase the neurotransmitter and hormone of oxytocin. Oxytocin is known as the “love hormone.” It increases feelings of bonding and belonging, a sense of stability and trust, and enhances our sociability. Research has shown that this hormone can relieve social anxiety, depression and stress, while increasing empathy, generosity, self-esteem, and optimism.
Parasympathetic and Sympathetic Nervous System
While we see that massage can increase our “feel good” neurotransmitters and hormones, it also helps to reduce those that produce unpleasant experiences associated with the stress hormones. Understand that the autonomic nervous system has two divisions: the parasympathetic and the sympathetic. The latter activates the “fight or flight” response. It can help you respond to a perceived threat and will accelerate the heart rate, contract muscles and increase the rate of your breath, readying your body for action. The parasympathetic, by contrast, is seen as the “rest and digest” mode, characterized by relaxed breathing.
Humans are complex beings. Our sympathetic nervous system isn’t just activated by life-threatening events, but also memories of past traumas or threats, and daily stressors, such as work demands, family dysfunctions or traffic congestion. We can get thrown into, or even stuck in, flight-or-flight mode, resulting in feelings of stress, worry or overwhelm. Any time the sympathetic nervous system is activated, we see an increase in the hormones of adrenaline and norepinephrine, the hormones that enable the body to spring into action. This may have been helpful to our ancestors who perceived the threat of tiger hunting the village. But if your brain is constantly interpreting chronic financial or relationship distress, the physiological response will probably result in continual stress and anxiety.
Massage can be an antidote to an overactive sympathetic nervous system. It can help activate the parasympathetic nervous system, thus reducing levels of adrenaline and norepinephrine, and helping the body to return to it “rest and digest” state.
Stress produces another hormone called cortisol. If chronic stressors in life result in cortisol release over a long amount of time, immune system suppression, increased blood pressure and weight gain can be the results. Research again shows massage as a potential antidote. A study in 2010 found that Swedish massage recipients had lower levels of cortisol and higher counts in white blood cells, after receiving massage.
Human contact, or the touch therapies, are clearly critical to maintaining mental-emotional wellness in our often pace-paced, stressful lives. Not only does massage provide the much-needed relaxation throughout the treatment process, but its neurochemical effects can enhance your mood, relationships, and engagement in life. Schedule a massage today to experience the profound healing massage can provide if you are feeling down, anxious, having difficulty sleeping, feel isolated or just stressed-out.
Osmosis Vital Health Club
As we move into 2019, and you set your goals for better health and self-care, massage can be a profound addition to your regime. Consider the many benefits already proven by neuroscientific medical research on the deep impact massage has on our body-mind connection and health. Sign up for our Vital Health Club membership to build massage into your ongoing health care regime.
Raizelah Bayen is the Spa Services Manager at Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary. She has 25 years in the field of massage, 15 years as a massage and yoga instructor, and is additionally certified in acupressure, herbology and aromatherapy. Her teaching specialties include Eastern Massage Modalities and Acupressure, Body Mechanics for Bodyworkers, and Integrative Wellness workshops, weaving herbs, aromatherapy, self-massage and yoga into a cohesive themed workshop, such as the one above. If you are interested in hosting a workshop, please contact Raizelah at email@example.com. For more information, connect with Raizelah Bayen on LinkedIn.
While massage is becoming more recognized for its therapeutic benefits, any kind of touch including a simple handshake, congratulatory pat on the back, or a warm-hearted hug has the power to transform you both physically and emotionally. Touch triggers the hypothalamus to produce oxytocin, both released into the bloodstream and stored in the brain. This hormone has a range of physiological functions, including reducing stress, lowering blood pressure, increasing pain tolerance and boosting your mood. There have been a range of studies, each with a different population including infants, cancer patients, mental health patients, the elderly, and pregnant women, all of which point to the same conclusion:
Touch not only makes you feel better, it is vital to our emotional and physical health.
Science-Based Benefits of Touch
Edmond Ross found that physical touch activates the brain’s orbitofrontal cortex, linked to feelings of reward and compassion. His studies show that simple touch triggers the release of oxytocin, known as the “love hormone.” This fosters greater trust between individuals and builds stronger teams of people working together. Touch is the foundation for connection and community.
Studies at the Touch Research Institute found that prenatal massage lowers stress hormones and increases serotonin and dopamine, in pregnant women, reducing the incidence of intra-uterine artery resistance, making it easier to deliver oxygen and nutrients to the baby. This means less premature deliveries, and with healthier birth weights. The women in this study also experienced shorter delivery times, and with fewer complications.
Infants and Touch
And how does loving touch affect the babies? A study carried out by Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Children’s Hospital measured the brain responses of 125 infants and showed that a baby’s earliest experiences of touch have lasting effects on the way the young brains respond to gentle touch. Preemies that spent more time in gentle contact with their parents and healthcare providers, had a stronger brain response to touch than those who were in incubators. Preterm babies who receive positive supportive touch, such as skin-to-skin care by parents, have brain response to touch similar to those babies who experienced an entire pregnancy inside mother’s womb.
Dr. Ruth Feldman carried out a 10-year study which shows the lifetime impacts of physical contact with preterm babies. “In this decade-long study, we showed for the first time that providing maternal-newborn skin-to-skin contact to premature infants in the neonatal period improves children’s functioning 10 years later…” said Dr. Feldman. Compared against standard incubator care, the baby held skin-to-skin against the chest of an adult, showed better cognitive and executive skills in repeated testing from 6 months to 10 years of age, such as more regular sleep patterns, better neuroendocrine response to stress, a mature functioning of the nervous system, and better overall cognitive performance.
Hospice Patients and Touch
Kutner’s research on the effects of touch on 380 hospice patients, half of which received regularly scheduled massage and half of which received a simple untrained touch from hospice volunteers, gave us evidence that while massage is extremely beneficial, untrained touch is also helpful. Both the patients who received massage and those who received untrained touch all reported decrease in pain, and elevated mood and quality of life. The patients who received massage reported those results more immediately than those who received untrained touch, showing us that all is helpful.
Dr. Tiffany Field, Director of Research at the University of Miami Medical School says,”Moderate pressure massage has a huge variety of benefits because it stimulates the vagus nerve, which has branches all over your body, so for example, it slows the heart rate and relaxes your nervous system.” This is huge. The vagus nerve interfaces with our parasympathetic control of the heart, lungs and digestive tract, so can lower blood pressure and reduce digestive or respiratory stress.
Mental Health and Touch
Several studies show that touch therapy can be helpful to people who suffer from mental health issues such as eating disorders, anxiety or depression, or physical pain. Why? Massage can reduce levels of stress hormones like cortisol while simultaneously increasing levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that fights depression and pain. Serotonin is a natural way to reduce physical discomfort and uplift the mood.
Six Facts Why Simple Touch or Professional Massage will Benefit your Well-Being:
Neuroscientists now know that physical touch is processed by the reward center in the central nervous system, and is thus vital to your emotional health.
Psychologists explain that simple touch stimulates receptors under the skin that lower cortisol levels, reducing stress and lowering blood pressure.
The Thymus gland, which regulates your body’s production of white blood cells, strengthening the body’s immune system and helping to maintain optimal health is stimulated through touch.
The Hippocampus, an area of the brain that is central to memory, is also stimulated.
Touch can, of course, rub away tension, and when administered by a trained massage therapist, can increase the range of motion and circulation while reducing pain or spasm.
Finally, all touch including professional massage releases endorphins in the body to reduce pain and elevate mood.
Healing touch has become a widely respected way to prevent and ease health issues. Doctors of all kinds recommend massage to their patients to ease both emotional and physical symptoms of dis-ease.
Raizelah Bayen is a California Certified Massage Therapist, currently employed as the Spa Services Manager at Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary in Freestone, California. She has been practicing massage for over 25 years and teaching T’ui Na, Acupressure, Sports and Pregnancy Massage in massage certification programs for 15 years. Raizelah is an approved CEU Instructor by the National Certification Board of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB), offering training in Freestone, California and on-site training at your massage school or spa. For more information, connect with Raizelah Bayen on LinkedIn.
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for information on upcoming training in T’ui Na, Shiatsu, Thai Massage, Foot Reflexology, and Body Mechanics for Bodyworkers scheduled in Sebastopol, California. Or book Raizelah for an on-site training in your massage school or spa in T’ui Na, Shiatsu, Thai Massage, Foot Reflexology or Body Mechanics for Bodyworkers.