Self-massage and meditation are two of my favorite everyday habits to combine. One of the main reasons why is that these two things are great ways to achieve deep relaxations of the body, mind and heart. Another big reason is that both meditation and self-massage are independent from other people and external factors, everything is literally in your own hands. Which also means that how deep and far you’re willing to go in your relaxation depends entirely on you.
Like most things in life it is good to do things in the right order, this is certainly case for relaxation as well. I’ve found that there are different levels or layers where relaxation can take place in us humans. The most palpable level is the body and the physical. In this level, just by the virtue of being alive we carry within us innumerable tense points. However when this tension in the body becomes too dominant we end up getting limited and inhibited in our physical expressions. These tense points in the body may have resulted from a variety of different things, ranging from specific thought patterns and bad physical habits to traumas we may have gone through in our past or just a bad case of chronic stress. Whatever the cause or case, self-massage can work wonders. Through self-massage you get to know your physical self so much more intuitively than you would through mere learning and study about different body parts.
Meditation on the other hand is more aimed at relaxing the mind and its intricate workings, and when doing so meditation manages to relax both the mind and the body. The mind is a complex phenomena. Think about it. How thoughts come and go, why they arise in the manner and order they do, how you as a person react to each thought, why some thoughts can wreak havoc on your wellbeing while other thoughts barely get noticed. Meditation is essentially a way to create a space between you as a subjective observer and the ever-changing content of your mind and body, a space where you can breathe and stay put as you are. This ‘detachment’ allows for a deeper understanding of yourself because you’re allowed to take a step back and look again upon that which you were just now knees deep in.
Though meditation gradually leads to relaxation of the body, mainly by addressing the source of most of the bodily tensions (mental habits, thought-patterns, the psychological ego-mind), it could be wise to approach this tension in your consciousness from both sides, that is self-massage for the body and meditation for the mind. If you’re looking to reach a state of full and deep relaxation sooner rather than later, then we recommend that you combine self-massage and meditation to create a super-practice that will lead you to living a life that is a little bit lighter and little bit happier.
So then, let us begin!
Which to do first?
We mentioned doing things in the right order, though the right order can be quite complicated when it comes to certain things. Personally, my best experiences has come through an experimentation when it comes to the order of doing self-massage and meditation. Though sometimes I start with meditation, for the most part I start with massage. Thus my main recommendation would be to start with relaxing the body first, i.e. self-massage. When you’ve softened and loosened up your body, relaxed the tense spots in your body as much as you can and also dedicated yourself to your biological temple, then can you start transitioning to the meditative stage.
How to self-massage and meditate
In case you’re not that familiar with self-massage or meditation, here are some tips to help you get started.
Before you begin with either the self-massage or the meditation, you need a space of some sort. A space that is conducive to the self-massage and meditation practice. For self-massage it’s ideal to wear little to no clothes, this is because you want as much skin as possible to be exposed to work with (with your hands). I usually go with underwear and comfy shorts. Lighting a candle rarely goes wrong when it comes to ambience and atmosphere. Lastly, for self-massage you could use essential oils if you like but doing it completely natural works just as well in most cases.
There are many techniques of self-massage to try out, ranging from lighter ones like feathering and deep strokes to more advanced ones like kneading and pressures. I recommend that you apply 2-3 of these techniques each self-massaging session. The goal with the massage is to relax the body by stimulating the nerve-endings, relieving tense spots and increasing blood flow etc. The benefits of massage are numerous and in some cases self-massage even more.
When combining self-massage with meditation I recommend two techniques, namely deep strokes and kneading, have a look at those pages and get back to this page when you’ve got a sense of how to perform them when it’s time.
When you’re done with the self-massage lie down on your mat for a brief moment to pause from all activity and intention. After a minute or two, rise up and proceed to the next stage, the meditation stage.
There are just as many if not more meditation techniques out, yet I feel that the goal of most of them is one and the same, which is to move into presence instead of being caught into personal storyline and narration that is taking place in your head. When it comes to combining meditation with self-massage, I’ve found awareness of breath during sitting meditation to be my go-to choice, I feel it’s the smoothest and most natural way to combine with massage.
In that case a meditation cushion, bench or floor chair would be a great tool to boost your sitting meditation session. If you’re too distracted by external factors, which in this case includes bodily discomforts, you might get less out of the meditation than you need and deserve. Luckily the self-massage session that took place before the meditation should prime your body to feel relaxed, comfortable and yet fully vibrant and alive.
Here is a meditation technique focused on the breath that I’ve found to be especially useful after a self-massage.
- Sit down somewhere comfy, preferably on a meditation cushion. Also try to keep a meditation shawl near.
- Settle down into a lotus or half-lotus position.
- Notice the vibrancy and buzzing feeling of the body, due to the self-massage.
- Shift your attention gradually to the breath.
- Inhale and exhale from the nose only.
- Place your full attention and aware on the breath.
- Notice the nuances and the details of the breath.
- Keep your attention on the breath and notice how it gives you life each and every moment.
- If random, nonsense thoughts arise, simply allow them to appear but keep focus on the breath.
- if you get cold, because remember that you’re almost naked, wrap the meditation shawl around yourself.
- Continue until you sense that you’re finished.
Being able to consciously induce relaxation in both the body and the mind is somewhat of a superpower in this hectic day and age. In fact this was perhaps the main reason that I started with this blog, namely to empower the individual, to provide tools for you to relax consciously, through wisdom, insight, meditation and healthy living.
Daniel Seeker is a wandering dervish and lifelong student of the past, present and future. He realized deep relaxations of the psyche when meditating in his hermit cave on the island of Gotland. His writings are mostly a reflection of that realizaton. Daniel currently studies history and philosophy at Uppsala Universitet, as he is currently writing his B.A. thesis in history which explores how Buddhist and Hindu texts were first properly translated and introduced to the western world in the late 18th and 19th century.