Massage, emotion and the body

Massage therapist Lara Ozturk on the potential for massage to be a tool for self care in the modern world

When you’re sad, where do you feel it?

In your heart? Throat?

When you’re anxious where does it manifest in your body?

Stomach? Joints? Neck? Numbness?

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When we go through something that is a stressor for us, be it deadlines, family issues, mental health problems or simply a crap day, we can feel it in our body. You might read this and be thinking “uh.. no I don’t”, but we rarely stop in those moments and think “this moment is stressful, I can feel a tightening in my stomach and a seizing in my breath”. Those moments of “fight or flight” are a relic of times when we had to run away from a predator to protect ourselves, as useful as they were then they are (mostly) useless now.

So going back to times when we feel stress, let’s say at work. Perhaps you have a stressful journey to work crammed on the tube; your boss pushing for more paperwork on top of deadlines; it may be an important meeting you don’t feel ready for, or shameful feelings because you cannot stay on top of your workload.

This list can be endless and cyclical. With each of these stressors prompting emotional reactions, which then translate into our body, it’s no wonder we can end up so “clam-like”, as one of my clients put it. These days can stack up into weeks, months and years of deepening the groove of stressful cycles and, like limescale in the shower, it builds up in the body. This build up can develop into postural problems, chronic pain etc, in return we get stressed and upset about this pain as it impairs our movement and day-to-day life, deepening our stressful cycle even more!

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With all of that said there are ways to break this cycle; having a treatment, doing yoga, cardio or even meditation brings us back to the body, we can begin to soothe our over-stimulated nervous system. We bring in a sense of space and perspective to all the zipping thoughts and emotions whilst also allowing those tightened areas in our body to soften and “let go” of the need to be prepped and ready for “running away”.

It’s all too often in treatments that clients find themselves overwhelmed with emotion and may begin to cry when a lot of muscular release is happening. I try to welcome this reaction for the clients as a way to say to themselves “okay...I have to take care of myself”, it’s nothing to ashamed of but a gentle invitation to turn towards more self care.

Self care is not a luxury, especially not in the rush of the modern world.