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Ask A Therapist! What does my breathing have to do with my massage?

heather Aug 18, 2013

Everyone has experienced it.  You are laying on the table, letting the massage work it's way into your muscles.  You can feel each sore spot as their hands glide over them, the lighter techniques allow you to sink into that touch.  The deeper techniques catch your breath, that one spot nearly painful.

You wince, you flinch, or you hold your breath, trying to just bare through it.

Your therapist stills, and eases up, telling you to breathe deeply and let it out slowly.  Suddenly, the pain isn't as intense and they can glide over it with only an echo of the discomfort you had before.  

Neat trick, eh?

Breathing is an important part of your massage experience.  One that will help you to get the best results from your session.

Breathing during a massage does a few things for you.  Firstly, it brings oxygen into the bloodstream, with then can be transported to the muscle cells.  Oxygen is very important in the healthy working of muscles.  When muscles are overworked, they have run out of oxygen.  This produces lactic acid and we all know how achy muscles can be when they are full of this lovely little toxin.  Taking slow, deep breaths allows your body to replace the oxygen it has lost, and that allows your muscles to produce more energy, and less lactic acid.  If your muscles are not straining under the load of too much lactic acid, they will be able to continue to contract and relax as they need to.  Secondly, breathing slows down your heart rate, allowing you to achieve a deeper state of relaxation.  Breathing is the best way to affect your heart rate.  During times of stress and frustration, breathing deeply helps to keep you focused and calm.  Lastly, when you hold your breath, it means you are tensing all those muscles around your ribcage up, making the therapist work over contracted tissue, which is painful.  Letting that tissue relax will allow them work work the affected area without having to fight the muscles themselves.

Controlling your breathing has been a part of many relaxation techniques.  If your therapist notices that you are tensing, the first thing they should do is ease up on the pressure, check in with you and your comfort level, and then remind you gently to continue taking slow deep breaths as they address the area.

So take a moment to breathe deeply right now.  Your muscles will thank you!

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