The Spa Approach: Can Massage or Aromatherapy Help You Relax?

To relax is to release the grip. When a person actually relaxes, blood pressure lowers, breathing becomes even and heart rate goes down. Muscles stop clenching. Smooth organs in the body function better. The mind clears of intrusive thoughts. Relaxation is a desirable and necessary state of being. Many factorscan promote relaxation. It’s healthier to start with the most gentle and natural therapies to address stress and anxiety before seeking a medical doctor in search of drugs. Consider the benefits of alternative therapies such as massage and aromatherapy.

Massage

Massage is a process in which practitioners uses their own hands, fingers, feet or elbows to move muscle and skin on the client. There are dozens of types of massage, many slow and rhythmic, some focused and intense. The ultimate physical goal of massage is to release muscle tension and improve circulation. Massage is an ancient art and evolved in countries all over the world. There are many varying claims by practitioners. Benefits attributed to massage range from aiding the lymphatic system to helping clients deal with past trauma. The primary reason people use massage, however, is simply to relax the mind and body. The Mayo Clinic has recognized that massage can be helpful for relaxation and reduction of stress and anxiety.

Massage can promote relaxation by:

  • reducing painful muscle tension, which reduces psychological tension
  • inducing more relaxed muscles, associated with a relaxed state
  • increasing blood flow
  • simulating an environment of caring
  • moving lactic acid out of muscles after over-use
  • provide a safe, meditative and self-focused environment

Aromatherapy

Smell is the most associative of all our senses. The olfactory region of the brain, that part in charge of smell, and the limbic system, that part in charge of emotions, are closely associated. A sudden whiff might remind a person of happy times, sad times or a childhood memory. This capacity of the body is exploited by the aromatherapy industry which offers scents which are traditionally associated with positive feelings or which intentionally create positive associations with specific scents.

Aromatherapy is another ancient art. Aromatherapy uses essential oils. Essential oils are derived from plants and have intense odors. Some oils are said to have medicinal properties, but this is largely unproven. Most people would agree, however, that certain scents do elicit specific emotions and many of those are common to most people. The essential oils may be diffused into the air, applied on the skin or offered to the client directly for sniffing.

Aromatherapy can promote relaxation by:

  • creating pleasurable feelings by association
  • promoting muscle relaxation, when used in combination with massage or when essential oils are placed in a warm bath
  • promoting sleep, when used before bed time or when essential oils are placed in the bed or on the pillow
  • promoting relaxation by being presented in a calming and supportive environment

To Spa or Not to Spa

For certain segments of the population, whenever they feel stressed or anxious, they hit the spa. Spas can offer services designed to promote health and feelings of well being. These services often include massage and aromatherapy. Spas often offer a complete service in a clean and calming environment.

Spas can be expensive, thus, it might be worthwhile to try and create a home spa experience every now and then. Ask a partner or friend for an at-home massage. Essential oils are available at retail stores and online. Taking a few hours to spoil yourself in a calming environment, whether it's a warm bath or quiet candlelit room, can yield the desired relaxation.

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