Taking a breath is a natural reflex every human needs for survival. We can survive a few days without food and water, but without air, our body systems will start to shut down. When we breathe, oxygen rushes into the lungs where it is exchanged for wasteful carbon dioxide and taken into the bloodstream. From here it replenishes our organs and cells with fresh oxygen, helping them to recharge and function optimally.
When you go for a massage, you are most-likely feeling stressed and suffering from stiff and tense muscles. Because of our chaotic modern day living, most of us suffer almost chronically from these problems. It keeps the body in ‘fight-or-flight’ mode, and this can cause our muscles to contract, raise blood pressure and cause more shallow breathing. A massage is there to help counter and release the physical effects of stress. Breathing deeply will help to encourage healing and let you gain the optimal benefits of your massage.
6 Reasons why your massage therapist is asking you to breathe deeply
- Balance your nervous system
Deep breathing tells the brain that you are starting to relax and allows it to turn off the ‘fight-and-flight’ stress response modulated by the sympathetic nervous system. It in turn stimulates the parasympathetic system, turning on your ‘rest-and-digest’ mode. Deep breathing can make your blood pressure decrease, drop your pulse rate and allow for better blood flow and oxygenation of your organs and muscles.
- Induce a relaxed and meditative state
When you focus on your breathing during a massage session, it can help declutter and calm an overactive and stressed mind. It creates a state of mindfulness where you only focus on the present moment, allowing your mind and thoughts to take a breather too.
- Increases oxygenation for tissue repair
Shallow and chesty breathing will not allow for enough oxygen to circulate in the bloodstream. This means that many tissues and tense muscles are depleted from oxygen and cannot function optimally. Deep diaphragmic breathing during a massage session can almost double the amount of oxygen flowing to these damaged tissues, and with the massage movements, can immediately start to repair damaged tissues and release tense muscles.
- Refreshes the neuro pathways
Hypertonic muscles are the cause of many problems. The muscles become overactive because of impaired messages between the brain, spine and muscles. By breathing deeply into the affected area, while the massage applies pressure, can increase the brain’s awareness to the area and after a few sessions it will be retrained to ‘turn off’ the muscle.
- Encourages better breathing and strengthens the diaphragm
Deep breathing means breathing through the abdomen and letting the lungs and chest expand. This allows the muscles around the belly and chest to relax and stretch. Practicing deep breathing also helps to strengthen the diaphragm and can help to train the lungs to breathe deeper, leading to better oxygenation.
- Hits that sweet spot
Deep breathing can help to indicate to a massage therapist which applied pressure is optimal for your problem areas, getting it just right and hitting that sweet spot between the correct pressure and relaxation.