I went back to yoga class the other day (after a long break!) and couldn’t understand why I felt so stiff, inflexible and downright achy afterwards. But then I remembered how much time I spend sitting down at my desk and how easy it is for the body to tighten up. Our muscles are affected by so many things in our day-to-day lives and not just by sitting down for too long. Money worries and other anxieties can be felt physically in knotted shoulders; worry over a loved one or work can lead to tension throughout your whole body.
Have you noticed how often we find ourselves fighting our way through life? Maybe standing your ground in relationships, tensions at work or even fighting a negative internal dialogue with yourself. A constant state of tension and anxiety can pass to the physical body, translating as tense, tight muscles and knotted shoulders. Massage with aromatherapy can help to ease the muscles and unlock stiffness. Oils such as chamomile, lavender, geranium, frankincense and neroli can help to reduce feelings of anxiety and fear. For sore, tense muscles try a softening, caring essential oil such as eucalyptus, lavender, lemon and rosemary.
This link between body and soul is one of the reasons I love massage so much. To me, massage doesn’t just work on the physical level; it can also help you to unwind, de-stress and just take a breather. As the tension is worked out of my muscles, I can feel myself unwinding and growing calmer. I always feel more in control after a good massage, and often find it helps me to think more clearly too.
Emotions aside, the physical benefits of a massage are abundant. It can ease pain, increase flexibility and reduce cramping. And we’re not just talking about muscle pain; massage helps to release endorphins that act as a natural pain killer, so it’s been found to help with migraine pain, for example.
Massage also helps to condition the skin, leaving it nourished and better able to regenerate and heal itself. It boosts circulation and may even improve immune defences.
I love treating myself to a professional massage, but the therapist has to be just right; I need to feel completely comfortable with her, or him. I need the room to be dimmed, peaceful and quiet. I find little joy in mini-massages in the back room of a department store, with the hubbub leaking through the walls.
There’s a lot to be said for a massage at home too. You might not get a skilled masseur, but you can light your own candles or oil burners, play your own music and choose the right massage oil. There’s also a lot to be said for not having to get dressed afterwards, or venture into the cold and have all the good work undone by rush hour traffic!
For an at-home massage, I choose a body oil that best meets my mood and needs that day. Frankincense and Myrrh Body Oil is warming and comforting. It leaves my skin feeling nourished and hydrated. The Lavender and Geranium Body Oil gives me softer skin, and the scent is incredibly relaxing – ideal if I need to de-stress or unwind. If I feel the need to mentally escape, I reach for the Island Flower Body Oil, which lets me daydream of exotic climates, warm sand and cocktails. When I’m having a morning massage and need waking up, the Kalahari Watermelon Body Oil works to reinvigorate me and leave my skin looking brighter and healthier.
Apricot kernel is ideal if my skin is feeling really dry, although sweet almond and coconut oil are some of my other favourites. I like to have some essential oils burning when I’m having a massage. Again, the oil I choose does depend on what I need it to do. Ylang ylang works wonders if I need to unwind, as does a combination of geranium and lavender. Citrus oils like sweet orange and lemon are very uplifting and refreshing, lavender and lemon blend beautifully.
Whether you need to unwind, destress or just relax, few things can beat a good massage for the feel good factor.
ps. If you’re prone to feeling a bit achy (like me!) after some intensive sports, like the gym or a long hike I can highly recommend organic arnica oil. Simply massage some into your muscles before and after to keep your muscles warm.