Scheduling a Massage for Your Brain

woman stressed

The Moment It Made Sense To Me 

A few memorable experiences in my life inspired me to become a massage therapist. I remember going to my favorite Naturopath years ago, complaining that I felt like I was in a brain fog, like I couldn’t think straight, my thoughts were all running together and spinning in dizzy circles. I couldn’t focus, and I was craving sugar and caffeine to maintain some sense of having it together mentally. Sound like 3PM at your desk? She worked out tension in my neck and shoulders, and then applied some manual traction and gave me a range-of-motion adjustment. If you’ve ever heard those lovely cracks and pops as pressure releases under the touch of competent and nurturing hands, you know what sweet music it can be. After I stood up from her massage table, I noticed that I felt as though my brain had been rewired. I felt alert, balanced, and clear. I told her as I was leaving the office, “I actually feel like I can think better”, to which she replied, “Well of course, you actually can.”

 East Meets West

She gave me both the Western and the Eastern reasons behind her answer. When the muscles around the shoulders and neck are constricted, tense, and tight, blood flow is reduced to the brain, and your brain doesn’t function so well with lower levels of oxygen. The muscular tension may also pull cervical vertebra out of proper alignment, causing imbalance in the spine itself and putting pressure on the nerves. In Eastern medicine, we find an additional reason: the fluid that surrounds the spine, cerebrospinal fluid, is one of the major conductors (and storehouses) of life force energy or “prana” that flows into the body on the breath, in the foods we eat, and through sunlight. This fluid flows within and around the brain and spinal cord within a three layered “Saran Wrap” like covering called the meninges. If there are blockages or constriction in the meninges, the flow of this life force will be limited.

Taking Care of Your Body and Mind is Not a Luxury 

Next time you are reaching for your 3pm cup of Joe, do yourself a favor and take care of your body holistically. If you can’t schedule a massage at that particular moment, get up and move around to get your blood flowing again. Try a brisk walk, followed by the yoga pose, uttanasana, which is just a standing forward fold. Let your head dangle and nod “yes” gently back and forth.

Everyone gets stressed, and stress always has an effect on your body. However, if you’re like most people, you become numb to the stress and tend not to notice the effects until they get really bad. The good news though is that you can stay in control and learn to be more mindful of what’s happening in your body before it gets to that point. Regular massage can help with that. In addition to boosting your immune system, releasing endorphins, and relieving tension, massage can also make you smarter. Well, maybe not literally, but it can increase mental clarity, reduce mental stress, promote better sleep and relaxation, and heighten your sense of being “present” in the moment whether you are at work or at play. Do your brain a favor; get a massage at least once a month. Cheers to clear thinking and a healthy body free of painful distractions!