Massage helps reduce muscle tension and stiffness in numerous ways, including increasing blood flow to your muscles. Some research shows that regular massage may also boost immunity by stimulating the production of white blood cells. Massage helps you relax and improve your mental energy. It may also make you more productive at work.
One University of Miami study found that a brief self-massage at work reduced stress and boosted job performance. After a 15-minute massage, workers were more alert and could complete math problems faster and with more accuracy.
Fortunately, you have your very own massage therapist with you at all times — your hands! “Most people practice the art of self-massage without thinking about it, whether they are rubbing their forehead because of a headache, scrubbing themselves with a loofah sponge in the shower, or rubbing their feet after a long day,” says Anna Walsemann, a yoga and Oriental healing instructor at New Age Health Spa in Neversink, New York. “These are all simple and natural self-massage techniques.”
You don’t have to take a class to give yourself a proper rubdown. In this article, you’ll get the advice you need to reduce tension from head to foot — within seconds.
1. Every morning and evening, hammer out the kinks. Using your fists, gently thump the outside of your body, starting with your legs and arms, working from top to bottom. Then move inward to your torso and thump from bottom to top. “Pummeling your muscles and bones will help strengthen the body, stimulate blood circulation, and relax nerve endings,” says Walsemann. When done in the morning, this self-massage technique will waken and prepare your body — and mind — for the day ahead. When done before bed, it calms down the mind and beats out the stress and tension of the day. One warning: If you’re taking any kind of blood thinner, such as Coumadin (warfarin), avoid this one; you could wind up with bruising.
2. Rub your belly after every meal. Most of us do this instinctively, especially after overeating. Place one or both palms on your abdomen and rub it in clockwise circles. This is the same direction food naturally moves through your intestine, so your circular massage will help to stimulate digestion.
3. Rub yourself down before and after exercise. Massaging your body before your stretching, cardio, or strength training increases blood flow to the muscles. Massaging your muscles after exercise may help encourage waste removal and speed muscle recovery. Before exercise, use a pummeling motion with your fists to bring blood flow to your leg and arm muscles. After exercise, rub along your muscles with your palm or fist, moving in the direction of your heart.
4. Give your hands a massage every day — whenever you put on lotion. Start with the bottoms of your palms by clasping your fingers and rubbing the heels of your palms together in a circular motion. Then, with your hands still clasped, take one thumb and massage the area just below your other thumb in circular motions, moving outward to the center of the palm. Repeat with the other hand. Then release your fingers and use your thumbs and index fingers to knead your palms, wrists, and the webbing between your fingers. With one hand, gently pull each finger of the other hand. Finish by using your thumb and index finger to pinch the webbing between your other thumb and index finger.
5. Roll on a tennis ball whenever you feel tight. If your foot feels tense, stand with one hand on a wall for support and place the arch of one foot on top of the ball. Gradually add more body weight over the foot, allowing the ball to press into your arch. Begin to slowly move your foot, allowing the ball to massage your heel, forefoot, and toes. Note: If the tennis ball seems too big for your foot, try a golf ball instead.
You can also lie on the ball to get at that hard-to-reach spot between the shoulder blades or to soothe tension in your low back. For tight hips, sit on the ball, wiggling your booty around and holding it in any spot that feels particularly good.
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