So you want a “relaxing massage”? That is in no way a trivial outcome!

Have you ever wondered why a massage is relaxing?

Physical Relaxation

On a physical level, many people find the stretching of muscles helps them relax, and that massage can stretch muscles at oblique angles that self-stretching may not. In fact, when we have tight muscles the brain will adjust and make the most of available resources, and we may not even be aware of the muscle tightness.  One of the valuable things about having a therapist working with you is that they will challenge your muscles in ways that you would not consider, and expose hidden dysfunction to release.

But why limit massage therapy to just the physical level? Traditional folk medicines sometimes feature the patient entering an altered state of consciousness for the healing process to activate. Massage can be accompanied by a soporific “hypnagogic” state where people relax into the realm halfway between wakefulness and sleep.

This hypnagogic state may be incredibly useful!

We all know the “stress response” where our Sympathetic Nervous System helps us concentrate – to meet that deadline, to beat the competition, to get away from that tiger. Less encouraged in society is the Parasympathetic Nervous System, which stimulates the rest and recovery state to help us get over the stress.

In New Scientist Magazine this week there was a fascinating article on the benefits of daydreaming for creativity (see below for citation). After describing a number of research studies, the author concludes: “The message is that as you drift off into memories, thoughts of food or plans for your holiday, your brain is busily mulling over potential solutions for whatever problem you are trying to solve.” He goes on “Instead of forcing yourself to concentrate, the best approach when a deadline looms may be to loosen your grip and take a quick break.”

We can do a lot of useful therapy and thinking while we are relaxing into a massage!



Richard Fisher (2012) Dream a Little Dream: Concentration is overrated. Let your mind wander to reach new heights of creativity in New Scientist Scientist no. 2869 16 June 2012 pp 34-37 also available at