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 Welcome Necessary, Healing Touch—The Gift of Massage 
The following is one in an ongoing series of columns entitled Simply Well by . View all columns in series

As a form of nurturance and rebalancing, and as an aid to healing, massage is hard to beat. Besides, it’s nonfattening, and if you do it yourself, it’s free. Some positive results of massage include:

    * relief of pain and tension
    * improved muscle tone
    * a healthy complexion
    * the release of emotional blocks caused by trauma and repression
    * increased blood flow and electrical energy to "wake up" your tired body parts
    * pleasure
    * a general balancing of right and left, and upper and lower parts of your body
Begin with Self-Massage
Self-massage is a type of self-care—a way to heal, increase self-awareness, and build self-appreciation. Besides, it feels great and it’s easy to do. You simply put your hands on your body and start moving them. Lotions, special techniques, and formal training can certainly enhance the experience, but they can also lead you to believe that you need them to do massage "right." Not true. As you massage yourself, listen with your hands and let them accept feedback from your body and respond accordingly. The more you can quiet the chatter and judgment in your mind and allow your hands to move intuitively, the more creative, relaxed, and enjoyable the results will be.

Try a Head Massage

  1. Remove any glasses or contact lenses and turn down any bright lights. Rub your hands together to warm them. Slightly cup your palms, fingers together, and place them on your face. Hold them there for thirty seconds or so while you relax.
  2. When ready, let your hands move over your face in a variety of slow or rhythmic movements, as you like: Make circular moves with fingertips, follow the contours of your face with finger pressure, knead your skin, and so on. Take your time.
  3. Move your fingertips onto your skull and through your hair. Press all over. Try tapping or rubbing your scalp, or even grasping and firmly pulling your hair for additional stimulation. Explore other options for yourself. Be creative.
  4. Stroke your head and face smoothly and gently all over, soothing your eyes, ears, lips, and throat. Say nice things to yourself as you do this.
  5. Using your fingertips, massage your gums by feeling them through your cheeks.
  6. Gently and sensuously wash your face, or apply warm towels to it. Splash your face with cold water to conclude, and apply some natural oil or lotion for a moisture treatment.
And a Foot Massage
The rubbing of tired feet is an age-old practice. In Oriental medicine, body energy, or chi, is believed to flow lengthwise along energy meridians that end in our feet. Several contemporary therapeutic approaches, like zone therapy and foot reflexology, suggest that there are points on your feet that correspond to every part of your body, such as endocrine glands or the spinal column. Thus working on your feet is comparable to massaging your entire body. Practitioners of foot reflexology believe that pressure or massage to the feet can break up energy blockages and recharge the corresponding segment of your body. While many of these claims are not yet fully scientifically verified, the value of foot massage as a simple, loving, and therefore healing tool is undisputed by anyone who has ever received one.
  1. Position yourself so you can comfortably hold one of your feet in both hands.
  2. Using massage oil or lotion, if you wish, rub your feet and ankles all over. Massage your heel, the areas between your toes, the top as well as the bottom of your foot, and your arch. Generally, wake your foot up.
  3. With specific pressure from your thumb pad or the knuckle of your index finger, explore your toes and feet for areas of soreness and sensitivity. Gently massage those areas, using a smooth, circular motion for fifteen seconds or less. Then move on to another area.
  4. When you are finished, rub your foot all over as if you were smoothing the skin. Stretch your toes and rotate your ankle. Then begin on your other foot.
Massage for Pain Relief
While severe or long-term pain should always be checked out by a health professional, you can help yourself with everyday pains and aches. If you can reach the part your body that is in pain, you may be able to relieve the ache. Using both hands if possible, cup them slightly and lay them over the painful area. Now begin to breathe slowly and deeply. Imagine that you are breathing warmth and energy through your hands into your body at that point. Imagine that this warmth and energy flows into you through the top of your head and flows out through your hands. Imagine the pain and tension melting away under your hands.
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 About The Author
John W. Travis, MD, MPH, is the creator of the Wellness Inventory and its parent, the Wellness Index. He is the founder and co-director of ...moreJohn Travis MD, MPH
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