One thing we do know is that if executed with precision and attentiveness massage therapy relaxes you. Relaxation is something if implemented with purpose in our lives it can help us to be better people. After a bout of relaxation we are able to be more engaged with our lives. We are able to think clearer, be more productive and focused, and really overall enhance all the facets of life.
You might ask why is this? Why does the simple practice of one human layering together different sequences of movements on another human create relaxation? One human system comes to mind when asking these questions to reveal the answer and that is the Nervous System. When we take a closer look at the nervous system it can reveal a lot to us about how massage therapy directly affects this system and just how profound this affect is. Below is a crash course on the nervous system and what its functions are.
The Nervous system is comprised into different divisions. There is the Central Nervous System which essentially is the control center of the body providing processing, memory, and regulation systems. The CNS gains information from sensory information and makes decisions on what subconscious or conscious actions to take with that information.
Then we have the Peripheral Nervous system. This system is comprised of all the parts outside of the brain and spinal cord which includes: Spinal nerves, ganglia, and sensory receptors.
The Somatic nervous system is a division within the PNS. It includes all of the voluntary efferent neurons which are motor neurons that carry neural impulses away from the CNS to our muscles to induce voluntary movement.
The Autonomic nervous system is another division within the PNS. This system controls all involuntary subconscious action done by visceral muscle tissue, cardiac muscle tissue, and glandular tissue. There also happen to be two divisions within the Autonomic nervous system.
- Sympathetic: This division houses our body’s “fight or flight” response to stress, danger, excitement, exercise, emotions, and embarrassment. This division increases respiration and heart rate, releases adrenaline, and other stress hormones while decreasing digestion to cope with these situations.
- Parasympathetic- This division forms the body’s “rest and digest” response when the body is relaxed, resting, or eating. This division is also responsible for undoing the taxing work the sympathetic division had to do during “fight or flight” situations.
And then there is the Enteric Nervous system which is part of the ANS and is responsible for regulating digestion and the function of the digestive organs.
As we can see from the information above the Nervous system is very sensitive, highly aware, and more or less drives the ability to relax and let go or react and make a split decision in a matter of seconds.
Massage directly taps into our parasympathetic division to create a space for us to recalibrate our minds and bodies and immediately eradicate stress. This is important because stress not only can exacerbate physical and mental health problems but it can also cause them.
During massage our brains and bodies slow down to a place of calm and serenity reaching sometimes a theta brain state (meditative state). It can be difficult sometimes for people to be able to reach that theta/parasympathetic state on their own because of the nature of our fast paced lives.
When life is busy and stressful and there never seems to be time to relax and let go massage can provide this opportunity immediately for you. Preventative health care is the way of the future and massage therapy is a pillar of this health care movement.