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Massage Today
June, 2008, Vol. 08, Issue 06

More Than Just a Pretty Face

By Rita Woods, LMT

As many of you know by now, I teach a two-day certification class covering a rejuvenating facelift massage technique. I admit that anti-aging and "facelift massage" work is not an area in which I ever thought I would be working.

Like many of you out there, I used to think it was a bunch of fluff with no guts. However, I also know that nothing comes to us by accident, so I was well-aware that my life would be changing when I bought the business. My journey into this field has, quite frankly, surprised me in that it has reconnected me with my roots in stress management.

We are all aware of the relaxation response our clients can experience during a massage. This is not a new concept. It was taught to us early in our careers and then reinforced through experience. We also learned that the mental and emotional state of the therapist directly impacts the client and the ultimate outcome of the session. Depending on your massage textbook and instructors in massage school, you may have been introduced to something called entrainment. Entrainment, used in this instance, describes the synchronization between the therapist and the client. As you know, being "in sync" usually produces better results. We also can refer to this as being "on the same wavelength" because from an electromagnetic perspective, you are. This happens between people, with our animals and even between various organ systems within our own body.

Thanks to research, we now know that 15 minutes of compassionate touch can positively affect the physiology of the body for several hours. We also have learned that positive emotions, such as gratitude, have a positive affect on our physiology. This type of research continues at a rapid pace, and new methods of collecting and quantifying the data are being developed and perfected. Tools to measure these shifts and changes within the individual are vital to our profession. They provide the proof needed by the medical community to accept the technique as having true value. We need that acceptance in order to move viable complementary medicine into its rightful place in mainstream health care.

Now that you have a little background, I want to share with you what I first experienced at a spa show in New York City last fall. I went there to volunteer my time and services at the "Sanctuary." You'll find it at massage and some spa trade shows. You get a 10-15 minute session for around $10. All of that money is donated to touch research. (For more information about the Sanctuary, see "For the Good of the Profession" in this issue.) The Sanctuary was the brain child of Angie Patrick, who, after giving birth to a special-needs baby, saw firsthand how important healing touch was in her daughter's early months. If no research had been done, we would not have known to offer compassionate touch to this baby.

During my 15-minute facelift massage mini-sessions, I noticed clients were drifting into a deeply relaxed state in a short period of time. It soon became apparent that whatever I was doing - acupressure points, small deliberate strokes, specific muscle work, who knows what else - was eliciting a dramatic relaxation response from the client. It probably helps that the client doesn't talk while you're working on the face! My interest was piqued. What was happening? Was it possible to get a relaxation response similar to a full-body massage just from working on the face? Anecdotal feedback from the clients supported this theory, so I had some of my own research to do.

I have used specific mind/heart techniques to entrain my heart and brain centers to act as one coherent unit for a couple of years. Part of this work includes using equipment that gauges changes in the autonomic nervous system. It basically tells you when you have everything in sync. When you do, some very important things happen. First, your immune system gets a boost with an increase of IgA antibodies; then your aging process slows with an increase in DHEA production. There are lots of other positive effects, but you get the idea. I hooked my research clients up to the equipment before and after their facelift massage session. There it was - a dramatic increase in coherent synchronization within their body. I realized the work I was doing on the face had much farther-reaching implications than just making the face look better.

Our face usually is the first thing we look at in the mirror, and the image we have of ourselves is based partly on what we see in the mirror. By the same token, the image we leave with others is based partly on what they see. I know it sounds vain, but it's true. When you look good, you feel good. And when you're deeply relaxed and become internally synchronized, you literally change more than 1,200 chemicals in the body that support healthy function, repair and youth.

There are a lot of benefits of a good facelift massage. Some important benefits are:

  • releases muscular adhesions that form as we age;
  • tones weak muscles that provide tighter facial contours;
  • increases circulation;
  • re-educates muscles for proper positioning;
  • lessens wrinkles and expression lines;
  • aids in stress reduction and relaxation;
  • relieves headaches, eyestrain and stress-related symptoms;
  • tones and improves the complexion; and
  • promotes a feeling of well-being.

I guess what I'm really trying to say is this: Sometimes our direction in life changes. To make the most of it, we need to be open-minded. As always, remember there is more to the story than we see at first glance. Next month, we'll talk in more detail about facial massage. So, in the meantime, get out there and get involved in some research! And if you are in Florida for the FSMTA Convention in July, come by the Sanctuary, make a donation and let me work on your face!

Click here for previous articles by Rita Woods, LMT.


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