A touch of tenderness: The bliss of self-massage

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20 March 2022

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Treat yourself to some self-massage, suggests Izzy Holder, as a nurturing gesture of gratitude that connects mind and body.

Your loving touch is a powerful healer, and self-massage is a deeply restorative way to show compassion to your body for all its tireless work. This meditative style of practice involves using visualisation and gratitude in harmony with massage, connecting the mind and the body, to foster a more appreciative relationship between the two. So often we focus on how our bodies disappoint us, on areas that we perceive as not being good enough, and we forget the wonder of the world beneath our skin.

Find some self-care time in your week for self-massage. However long you can manage is long enough. In a private, undisturbed space, create a warm, beautiful atmosphere. Light a candle, burn incense or sprinkle essential oils, and put on your favourite relaxing album. Nourish your senses and leave your clothes out of this – your skin is a wonderful garment. Sit somewhere soft and cosy with your favourite oil or lotion handy, and close your eyes. Take a few deep breaths to bring your full attention to this moment. Consciously relax your muscles with each breath, from your forehead down to your toes.

Begin by rubbing your hands together, building up heat between them. Focus on the sensations of your palms and fingers, and feel how your whole body moves. Once your hands feel vibrant and warm, inhale fully and, as you exhale, simply place your hands over your face. Feel their warmth and gentle pressure. Rub your face and all around your head in slow, circular motions, focusing on each part of your head as you touch. Notice every texture and sensation. As you massage an area, think about everything this part of your body does for you, including everything that works without your conscious effort. Visualise your anatomy, from the skin to the muscles, organs, bones, blood vessels and nerves. Allow yourself to feel in awe of the marvellous complexity that is you.

Express a statement of gratitude, such as, “I appreciate this part of my body for every incredible thing it does, and I accept it exactly the way it is.” Repeating a mantra like this helps you to stay focused on the intention of your touch, especially as your mind wanders or if self-judgemental thoughts arise. Be specific as you name what you are grateful to your body for; the list can truly be endless.

Continue massaging the rest of your body with the same approach of recognition, gratitude and acceptance. Wherever you feel any pain or even shame, bring an extra measure of compassion through your touch. Breathe deeply, and tenderly acknowledge any pain that this part of you has experienced. Using this practice, you can nurture your ability to give yourself healing amid stressful times. And with this same approach, your touch and intention can help loved ones, reminding them of the wonder they are too.

Music and Massage

For a relaxing album, try Rest by Clem Leek or Element Series: Air by Peter Kater.

For an excellent homemade massage oil try coconut oil infused with kawakawa, calendula and lavender.

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