By Diane E. Grussing, MT, NMT
It is usual for massage therapists to instruct their clients to take a deep breath at the beginning of a massage session. The first moments of a session with the focus on deep breathing helps to bring both therapist and client into alignment with the intention of giving and receiving. Intentional deep belly breathing facilitates relaxation of the nervous system. When the nervous system calms, muscles are able to relax and receive massage strokes and direct pressure with ease. Using the in-breath when applying pressure or going into a stretch actually helps muscles to relax while using the out-breath aids in releasing muscle tension.
In this fast paced world that places many demands on our attention and time, focusing on intentional breathing may not be a priority. When we are faced with a crisis or pain consumes us shallow breathing can become the norm. Shallow breathing and holding our breath restrict release of emotions while encouraging muscle tension which can increase anxiety, elevate blood pressure and increase muscle tension. This can be changed by learning and practicing relaxed deep belly breathing. The breath does not have to be forced, only deep enough for the belly to swell and forceful enough to see the rise and fall of the chest. There are many situations where relaxed belly breathing can be helpful; driving, stopped in heavy traffic, physical and emotional incidents and preparing for any situation that causes anxiety. Not only will you feel better with increased oxygen intake, but as your nervous system responds a sense of well being happens. The practice of intentional breathing has many health benefits, costs nothing and can be used continually throughout your life.
As clients, we can passively participate in each massage session by using intentional breathing. Intentional breathing brings us into the present while increasing our awareness of the massage session.
The breath of life is a simple and profound statement. The first action we take when we come into this world is a deep breath. The last action we take as we depart this world is a final breath. Let’s take intentional belly breaths followed by deep exhalation as we trod this path called life… our one sacred beautiful life.