The Dueling Forces of Flexibility & Stability

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Life is about balancing the dueling forces of the universe.  Good vs. evil, Batman vs. Superman, moving forward vs. staying still.  The forces of flexibility and stability must be balanced to create and maintain healthy body mechanics, healthy finances, healthy boundaries and relationships.  Some things must be stabilized or shored up, while others must remain flexible.

It’s easy to see how having any one of these dynamics out of balance can cause some real havoc.  For a physical example, if one were to stabilize every joint in the body you’d be stuck without much room for change or movement.   You may find yourself to be very strong and sturdy, just like the Tin Man from “The Wizard of Oz”. You’d also have a problem. You’d be just like the Tin Man!  You’d be very stiff and stuck, with limited range of motion in your neck, arms, back or hips. As in his case, your jaw may be very stiff, limiting chewing, or even your speech.  When experiencing maximum stability, flexibility is compromised. How would you propose to move through your day if all the joints in your body were resisting all movement? It would certainly make life difficult.

Now take the other extreme.  If you had maximum flexibility in every joint, you wouldn’t feel any stiffness at all.  You’d be able to move fluidly through every situation, taking life as it comes. However, you’d also probably find it hard to stand, or move against gravity through space.  Walking, running, even sitting would be very difficult. You’d slide right off your chair! Going back to “The Wizard of Oz” we have the example of the Scarecrow. He has no stability in his joints after spending so much time hung up in the field.  All of his muscles have atrophied and at first he cannot walk at all, instead he ends up crumpling to the ground.

Humans need stability.  We need to know, with some measure of probability, what we can reasonably expect from life.  However, life is rarely consistently predictable, and thus we also need to be flexible, bending to what comes.  

If your body has stopped bending to what comes, we may be able to help.  Come into Mantis and let your therapist know what has become stiff and immobile.  We’ll do what we can to get you moving again. After the massage, you will likely feel much looser than you’ve been for awhile.  At this time, it’s good to stop, slow down, and take a few deep breaths, grounding yourself before moving on with your day.

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Feeling Overwhelmed by the Little Things

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It's important to take time out for yourself in life. Sometimes we feel like we can't do this because there are just too many things to get done.  Sometimes just stopping to breathe can feel like it takes up too much time in our day. As it turns out breathing is not only super important, but also can be accomplished literally in only a matter of seconds.  And while it is important not to shirk your responsibilities, taking a little pause for yourself can often give you that extra little boost of strength/courage/energy that you needed to tackle all of the tasks in your life.  As an added bonus, once you’ve accomplished all of the “little” things, and then you'll have more strength/energy/courage to tackle the big things.

Stopping to take time for yourself can be very grounding, helping to clear your mind and accurately prioritize your to-do list.  You may even find that not everything on your to-do list is even necessarily worth doing. Taking a moment to breathe can help you reevaluate the way you spend the precious time that makes up your day.   

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Massage is a great way to take time out for yourself and do some deep breathing.  Not only is massage super beneficial for your physical and psychological well-being, it's also just really enjoyable.  And what's more, because massage sessions are scheduled in advance and limited to a predetermined amount of time, they are an indulgence that won't wreck your schedule.

So, next time you feel overwhelmed by all the little things on your to do list (or even the big things) consider taking some time out for yourself first.  It may be just what you need to help you seize the day.



Possum Wisdom

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Sometimes when you’re feeling indecisive about something, the best decision is not to make a decision at all, and instead come in for a massage.

Humans are excellent problem solvers.  Sometimes though we come across a problem so big, that our brains simply can’t compute.   Our brains start out going through all the possibilities and they circle round and round the problem until they forget which solutions have already been discounted and mistake them for new ideas.  Sometimes we just can’t think our way out of a problem.

The wisdom of the possum tells us that sometimes when you don’t know what to do, the best option is to do nothing at all. When faced with an insurmountable threat, a possum will shut down it’s nervous system and collapse into a coma like state.  By “playing dead” the threat or predator is fooled into being uninterested in the possum and it will leave. The possum is then free to “come back to life” and go about living as it was before.

Now, I am not suggesting that you will your body into a coma on the massage table! However, the relaxation derived from a massage session can often help to work not unlike a coma, shutting off your brain temporarily with the sure knowledge that you will return to it later.  

Sometimes this “brain vacation” is all you need to stop the frenzied circling and open up your brain to fresh new ideas, as well as fresh blood from improved circulation and the calm that comes from relaxation and tension relief.  

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So next time you find yourself working through a seemingly insurmountable problem, think like a possum and make the decision of making no decision at all.

Where You Start May Not Be Where You’ll End

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Life is constantly changing, and massage is no exception to that rule.  A little bit of adaptability can go a long way in helping us humans to cope with the many changes in our lives.  

It happens all the time that at the start of a session, a client may say, “It’s just my shoulder, that’s the only thing that’s bothering me,” and while this IS true at the start of the session, it may actually change as the session progresses.  

What humans and other creatures experience as pain sensation is physically a nerve signal that travels from the area of pain to the brain.  Because of something called Gate Control Theory, only the loudest pain signals will get through at any given time. Also, activation of nerves which do not transmit pain signals, such as those for touch, pressure, and vibration can interfere with signals from pain fibers, thereby inhibiting pain.

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This of course, is where the massage comes in.  As Massage Therapists, we are taking control of the gate, inhibiting the pain signals from reaching your brain and instead letting in the friendly signals, the ones that don’t want to hurt you.  What also happens is that sometimes clients will start to feel pain elsewhere in the body, someplace that they have been ignoring. The signal wasn’t loud enough before, and it couldn’t get through the gate.  

So while at the start of the massage it was all about the shoulder, after spending some time on the table you may find that there are other areas that also need to be addressed.  Maybe you started out wanting just a relaxation massage, and then changed your mind mid-way through. Or maybe the opposite is true. You thought you booked your appointment for some real deep body work, but then life happened and day of you really just need to zen out.  And that’s OK! We are happy to be flexible with you and help you help your body figure out what it needs.

And that might change!  Because where you start may not be where you’ll end up.  

 

Sleep as Self-Care

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Did you know that as infants, it is recommended that we sleep up to 17 hours a day!?  Healthy adults need 7 to 10 hours, but as Americans, we rarely seem to get it. According to a 2013 Gallup poll, Americans are practicing an average of 6.8 hours of sleep per night.  And we’ve been trending towards less sleep. In 1942 the average was 7.9 hours.

There are lots of reasons for this, and we won’t go into them here.  Instead, this week we’re going to talk about what you can do to make sure you’re getting enough shut eye - and why it matters.  

How much sleep we get affects our performance, mood, stress levels and overall health and well-being.  An ongoing lack of sleep can lead to excessive daytime sleepiness, emotional difficulties, poor job performance, obesity, a lowered perception of quality of life as well as a higher risk of premature death.  NOT ideal.

So what can you do to improve your sleep practice? Well, first of all, see what I did there?  By thinking about your sleep as a daily practice, instead of just something that does or doesn’t happen, it puts you back in the driver’s seat.  And also, it takes practice! Your body responds very well to routines, and getting enough sleep also means that you are more likely to get tired at the appropriate times, which in turn makes it easier to get enough sleep and so on.  

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PLAN

And on that note, make a plan!  Just thinking you want to get more sleep and then barreling full speed ahead without making a plan is a great way to crash and burn.  Take some time to think about a sleep goal. How much sleep you need depends on your level of daily activity, whether or not you’re pregnant, and even your gender.  According the the National Sleep Foundation, women (on average) need 20 minutes more sleep than men do.

Once you know your sleep quantity goal, you can start thinking about what timing works best for your schedule, and then try to stick to your new sleep schedule, even if your work/life happens at a different time every day.  Establishing a regular routine helps your body tune its natural circadian rhythm.

LIMIT YOUR SCREEN TIME

If possible, try to separate your screen time from your relaxation time.  This means turning off Netflix, putting away Candy Crush and finishing reading these (fantastic) blog posts at least 2 hours before your planned snooze time.  Even though it feels like you’re relaxing while you watch GOT, you’re brain is still working out, worrying about undead dragons and whether or not you’re going to enjoy your new [can we call it life?!] as a White Walker.  

MASSAGE

One of the excellent benefits of massage is that it can improve the quality of your sleep.  The reason for this is that massage helps to activate the parasympathetic nervous system. This is the part of your body’s regulatory system that can only function optimally once the fight or flight question has been answered.  When you are constantly making stressful decisions, i.e. Life, your body stays in sympathetic mode, and all the other stuff gets sent to the back burner. Sleep is not something that is easy to do while you are in the midst of fighting or flying.  Massage helps signal to your body that the danger has passed, and that it’s ok to start attending to the rest of your body’s needs, like breathing and digestion. Deep breathing and proper digestion help to make your sleep deeper and more productive.  

SLEEP ON YOUR BACK

Remember that position that we had you in during the massage where you were flat on your back, with a bolster or pillow underneath your knees? We do this because it is the optimal position that takes pressure off of your spine and doesn’t put unnecessary pressure on your shoulder joints. If you just can’t fall asleep on your back (the struggle is real!) sleep on your side with a soft yet supportive pillow between your knees, and a pillow for your head that is high enough and supportive enough so you’re not collapsing onto your shoulder. And please, please, please don’t sleep on your stomach. Unless of course you have a perfectly aligned headrest hanging off the side of your bed. There just isn’t a good way to sleep on your stomach without stressing the joints and muscles of the neck. That is of course, if you also intend to breathe while sleeping. Which. We. Consider. Important.

DREAMING

Once you’ve got a good sleep practice going, you are that much more likely to spend at least 2 hours a night experiencing dreams.  Although we may or may not remember our dreams, these unconscious adventures help us to improve learning and memory, and even help us to process our emotions.  Emotional balance helps reduce stress, which makes sleep easier, which means more dreams, which helps us process emotions and reduce stress and...now I’ve put you to sleep :)

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Less Stress = Better Massage

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Adulting is hard.  Life can be stressful at times (or let’s be honest, all the time!), because there are seemingly always more things that are constantly demanding our attention beyond the task at hand.  While our initial instinct may be to simply avoid all of the things in our lives that are causing us stress, this can start to be a problem when it becomes necessary to leave the house.  (This is why in my next life I’m coming back as a house cat!)

So unless your new hobby is learning how to be a hermit (and you’re lucky enough to have someone shop your Fancy Feast for you), learning how to deal with stress is a must.  As we mentioned in a previous post, while a single massage is great for reducing stress and increasing general well-being, whatever part of your lifestyle created the tension in your body to begin with may still be waiting for you after you leave your session.  Incorporating regular massage sessions into your routine is a great addition to your zen toolbox.  And your sessions will be even more beneficial if they are joined by several other stress management techniques.  

FIRST OF ALL, BREATHE.

Yes, it seems like it should be second nature.  And it is, at a bare minimum.  But if you take a little bit of space in your mind to just notice your breathing, it’s amazing how often we’re not really doing it.  Sometimes, you may notice that you’re actually holding your breath without even realizing it.  Long, slow, deep breaths are a great way to calm the body and the mind.  And it takes less time than refilling your cup of coffee.  

INERTIA.

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A body in motion stays in motion, and a body at rest stays at rest.  For some people, this means that they tend to flit like a hummingbird from task to task, while for others this means that once you sit down to work on that important project you just don’t get up until quitin’ time.  Both have their occasional benefits, but the body works best when in balance.  If your life requires you to spend a lot of time in stillness, a few minutes of movement every hour can help keep away brain fog and increase your breathing.  If your lifestyle involves constant movement, even a few minutes to stop, stay still and take in your surroundings can do wonders for your blood pressure.  Personally, I use my dog for this because well, she’s gorgeous.  Every time we go for a walk, I make her sit for a few minutes at this one intersection before we cross the street.  And I just look at her, sitting peacefully, ready to attend to the next task as it comes along.

GET YOUR HANDS DIRTY.

Humans are a tremendously creative species.  We are not about sticking to the status quo, and are constantly exploring new ways of doing things.  This is why I am using a keyboard to type out a message to send out to all of you on the interwebs.  That creativity can take an abundance of forms, but research has shown that working with your hands makes you feel good.  Check out this great read from the Guardian on how (not) to become a stonemason.  From knitting to making music to building tacos, whatever hobby gives you the feels, working with your hands can help clear your mind and give you a boost of confidence and purpose.  Hint: This is part of why I became a massage therapist in the first place...

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Preparation for Massage First-Timers:

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Art by fernando vincente

So, your body is feeling sore and achy.  You want to feel better (feeling better just, feels better, doesn’t it?!) and your friend or co-worker who gets massages allllll the time asks you everyday if you’ve gotten your massage yet.  You’ve had a friend rub your shoulders once or twice.  And it felt amazing!  But here’s the thing, you’ve never ever gotten even one professional massage before.  Ever.  And you don’t know if you know how.  

That’s where we come in!  Lots of people have never had a massage before, you’re not alone!  At Mantis, we’re all about spreading the joy of massage.  We KNOW how good it feels.  We know about the multitude of benefits that your body will experience, from one session, and especially from a regular regime of adding massage to your newfound health and wellness lifestyle.  

We want you to be as comfortable as possible, so that you can get the most out of your session.  This is YOUR massage, and it’s all about your comfort level.  One of the most widespread and beneficial effects of massage is stress reduction and relaxation.  Stress is no joke, and the buildup of stress over time is toxic to your body.  So PLEASE, don’t stress about how to get a massage.  We’ve done all the research for you (srsly I get a massage monthly, at a minimum!), and here’s what you gotta do:

Before:

No, you don’t have to shave your legs.  

No matter where you fall on the spectrum of gender and the feminine, there will ALWAYS be people with legs hairier than yours.  And our therapists DON’T CARE if your legs are hairy.   

If you do a workout before your massage, it’s important that you leave about an hour between the end of your workout and the start of your session.  Putting pressure on muscles that have just finished a workout can throw them into spasm, which hurts!  Incidentally this also should be just enough time for a quick shower, or at least give time for your sweat to dry.  Every treatment room is equipped with essential oils, if deodorant just isn’t your thing.  

KEEP CALM AND TAKE DEEP BREATHS

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If it’s your first appointment with us, we have a super simple, stress free, one-pager for you to fill out so that we can get to know you better.  We also have a cozy, wonderful smelling  lounge-y lobby, with filtered water and hot tea available.  

Massage with a full bladder is no bueno.  We recommend trying to use our restroom before your massage, however if you do find that you need to relieve yourself during a session, just let your therapist know.  We have a cozy bathrobe you can wear while you sprint to the potty.  

Once your therapist has introduced herself, she’ll invite you into the treatment room to discuss any particulars about how your body is feeling.  Sometimes the thing that was hurting last week when you made the appointment isn’t hurting anymore, and there’s this new thing that hurts.  That’s totally fine.  At Mantis, we meet you where you’re at in the present moment, and address whatever needs you may currently have.  

After a brief chat, your therapist will exit the room, allowing you a few minutes to undress and get settled.  No, you don’t have to get naked.  Once again, this is YOUR massage, and it’s all about your comfort level.  Take off as much clothing as you feel comfortable.  For most people, this will mean skimming down to your undies or getting naked.  Either way, your special parts will be covered THE ENTIRE TIME.  You’ll be under a sheet and a blanket, and our therapists are experts at moving around your limbs and tucking the sheet “just so” so that coverage is constant and secure.  If you need to leave a bra on, do it.  We’ll adjust.  

During:

SPEAK UP

I cannot emphasize it enough, communication is sooooo important.  Maybe the bolster is uncomfortable, maybe the table is too warm, the music too loud, or you’re just not a fan of essential oils (or you’re a super fan!).  While our therapists will do their best to ask all the right questions, we too are human and may have overlooked something.  If there is any kind of adjustment that will make you more comfortable and reduce your stress, please let us know.  We’re not mind readers (and most of us wouldn’t want to be anyway!).  The same goes for pressure.  PLEASE let us know if you would like more or less pressure.  We won’t be offended!  Every person’s body is different and the experience of pressure is totally subjective.

A NOTE ABOUT PRESSURE

At Mantis Massage, we specialize in Deep Tissue.  But that doesn’t mean that’s the only thing we know how to do.  Maybe you usually like deeper pressure, but this week you’re recovering from the flu (Flupocalypse 2018 anybody?) we can adjust accordingly and give you a nice relaxing massage to bring you back to yourself again.  

Pressure is, again, totally subjective.  I usually offer my clients a menu of pressure choices that go in order of intensity from Light to Medium to Firm to Deep.  No matter what’s happening, if you don’t like it, please, please, please tell us.  

Bodies are super interesting and another crazy thing that happens is that some parts of our bodies can handle more pressure than others.  Pressure feels great on your shoulders, but your hamstrings are super sensitive?  Let us know! We’ll adjust accordingly.  

After:

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DRINK. LOTS. OF. WATER.

Hydration is the key to most things in life, and massage is no exception.  Massage is like a passive workout for your body.  During your session we’ve increased blood circulation, improved your range of motion, and increased your breathing.  All of these things take water to accomplish.  Your body needs more of it.  Drink more water!

If this is your first massage, and especially if you asked us for deep pressure, you may find that you have some soreness after your massage.  This is totally normal, and should not be a cause for concern.  There are a few easy things that you can do to alleviate any soreness.  

Take an Epsom Salt bath.  

Stir 2 cups of Epsom Salt (can be found in most grocery stores) into a hot bath.  Sit and relax for at least 20 minutes to feel the benefits of reduced inflammation.  

Take Vitamin C.  

This great vitamin has a host of health benefits including improved mood and reduced pain.  

Sleep on your back.

Remember that position that we had you in where you were flat on your back, with a bolster or pillow underneath your knees?  We do this because it is the optimal position that takes pressure off of your spine and doesn’t put unnecessary pressure on your shoulder joints.

REBOOK.

Massage is best experienced as an addition to your health and wellness routine.  No therapist can get all the knots out in a single session, and whatever part of your lifestyle created the tension in the first place will probably still be waiting for you after you leave (unless you change it of course!  More on that in a future post!).  Massage has the added benefit of having a cumulative effect on the body, so the more you come, the more effective each session will be.  Coming more often will help optimize your body to heal whatever muscle ache ails you.  Once we’ve gotten you to full zen, you can space out your appointments and come in for regular body maintenance, just like you do with your car or bicycle.  

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QUESTIONS?

Call us!  If you have a question that wasn’t answered here, give us a call and ask away.  Lindsay, our Office Superhero, knows all about receiving massage.  Not sure which therapist to choose?  Lindsay has gotten work done by all of our therapists.  She can help you choose the right gal for the job.  

 

Emma's Playlist

Myth - Beach House

All I Know - Washed Out

Ali Farka - Afel Bocoum

Mon Enfant - M83

Swingset Chain - Loquat

Mangla Express - The Unseen Guest

Pete Standing Alone - Boards of Canada

Talisman - Air

Les Nuits - Nightmares on Wax

Tokyo Ghost Stories - Arovane

Midnight Feast - Mr Scruff

In honor of our therapist Emma returning to the fold, check out her playlist here! It's packed with some seriously ethereal jams, perfect for massages or conjuring spirits with your gals pals.

Drunk Anatomy

 

...Hey. So...this is awkward. I know I haven't been around much lately and that is due in equal parts to forgetting and being a garbage pail. I wanna make up for it, though!!! As they say on Tumblr, it's garbage can, not garbage cannot.

I am making a TENTATIVE pledge that will likely be abandoned to post a Drunk Anatomy every day of the music festival portion of SXSW. (Because I will be in attendance! I have a wristband! From my boss! Because she's the best! Let's call her my bost- get it?) But TENTATIVELY. Like, it's very up in the air as to whether or not I will honor this pledge. Just stay tuned, my dearest darlings.

Also, I got a dog a couple weeks back!!!!!!! His name is Hunx and it's like "Halo" is playing every time I look at his little face. The vet at Emancipet exclaimed, "I have never seen a dog like that before--oh my god, are you a fairy?" when I took him to get a booster shot. You get it.

Is this a blog about anatomy or your livejournal?

Touché. The muscle of this post is the palmaris longis!

Oooooh. Aaaaaah. Wowwwwwww. Geeee willllikers.

Seems like it'd be in your hand based on the name, huh? Well, it's not because that would be too easy.

It's near the hand, though, it's not like a butt muscle with some outlandish explanation like, "It's the palm of the butt" or what have you. The palmaris longis is located along the edge of the forearm along the pinky finger side. PRETTY FASCINATING FACT: the pl is missing in 14% of the population. How? What? Why? Etc?

Wanna know if you have one? Touch your pinky to your thumb and if you do, then a tendon will rise in your wrist. I did it and I honestly can't tell.

This leads me to believe the palmaris longis is not a terribly important muscle, no offense palmaris enthusiasts! Please don't drag me for this observation. I know you probably thought, "Finally, some recognition for the unsung hero of the forearm" and now I'm just letting you down all over the place. Well, I'm used to being the source of disappointment so let's move onward and upward! Or just laterally!

The shape of the pl is just your run of the mill long, thin strip formation. Before I started doing this, I guess I thought muscles came in an assortment of shapes, but that's really not the case.

So if you don't even automatically come equipped with a palmaris longis, does it really even do anything?

Sensing a lot of hostility in this question and I am not here for it. AT ALL. The palmaris longis may not be as exciting as the glutes or the delts but it takes all kinds, okay? The palmaris longis is actually a special snowflake! It may or may not exist, its attributes are not uniform: it might be muscular in some areas and more tendon-y in others, the muscle also just might not be then and it's just all tendon. SPECIAL.

Its function is a wrist flexor. So. It flexes the wrist. When you're messing around with a Wii, that's the pl! When you gesticulate and your wrist goes limp, that's the pl! When you "talk to the hand," that's the pl!

Let's stretch this basically useless muscle!

How would you strain it enough to need to stretch it? I have NO IDEA, but let's indulge this absurd proposal.

I call this stetch: lemme see them love lines.

Step one: hold one arm out in front of you, Macarena-style.

Step two: with your opposite arm, grasp your fingers on the first arm. Or hand. Fingers are generally attached to hands.

Step three: pull those fingers down and back.

Step four: feel that stretch and reveal those love lines.

Lindsay is the Office Superhero (check the business cards) at Mantis Massage. She knows essentially zilch about massage therapy other than that it feels real nice. Outside of random trivia, she has retained nothing from talking with the therapists re: anatomy. Lindsay might maybe possibly definitely be inebriated for these discussions, but who's to say?