Yoga and self-massage are two great ways of taking care of our wellbeing. In an age where most people routinely sit on rigid chairs for the biggest part of their day, being able to move and to bring comfort to our bodies has become essential to our overall health and wellbeing. Most of us are constantly driven towards a lifestyle that divides the mental from the physical and we often forget to treasure the link between the two. Both yoga and self-massage work on this connection, bringing light and energy to the areas of our bodies where we’re likely to store emotional, physical and mental tension.
While one could think of them as inherently different, the combination of these two practices can bring your awareness to a new level, by relaxing the physical and emotional bodies at once. You won’t need to be an expert to feel the release of tensions, toxins and negativity once you try. In fact, yoga itself is a wonderful way to massage your internal organs by bending, twisting and folding in healthy ways that promote circulation and digestion, granting an overall positive functioning of the whole internal system.
As with most things in life, there’s a whole hidden world just underneath the surface, and that can be applied to what’s under your skin. Through self-massage, you can further connect with yourself, touching the different areas of your body to discover where you are more likely to build up tension and emotional blockages. If you feel confused about whether to perform self-massage before or after yoga, you don’t need to worry: you’ll be able to seize all of the benefits either way. Let’s see how these two practices can be combined, what you’ll need and how you can further seize all the benefits that come with yoga and self-massage.
Self-massage before yoga
By massaging your body before a yoga session, you can improve your whole general mobility and performance. Self-massage can break down the restrictions in the connective tissues, which hold you back from deepening the stretches and holding your asanas for longer. You could find it easier to move, and also less painful to push your body to a deeper stretch. We all want a body that is free from pain, don’t we? By decreasing tension and muscle knots, self-massage can reduce restrictions in your movements, making them feel smoother and lighter. Moreover, the act of rubbing and stroking your skin warms up the entire muscular system, and this means you’ll feel more energetic and ready for the mat, once your yoga session starts. Most athletes are treated with massages before training or games, and that’s because massage has a wide range of positive outcomes on physical performance, while reducing the risk of injuries as your body will already be warm and ready to move.
When it comes to self-massage and yoga, we need to remind that the goal of the performance is to access deeper relaxation and awareness of our physical and mental bodies. When massaging your own body, you’re directing attention towards every cell, every nerve and muscle-end underneath your skin, bringing relief and awareness to them, and thus entering a deeper state of connection, which will make your yoga session even more complete. A clear and stress-free mind is key to enjoy yoga, and self-massage can put you in tune with yourself and encourage a more mindful practice.
Self-massage after yoga
Just as in the case of self-massage before a yoga session, performing it afterwards has a wide range of benefits. First of all, massage is extremely helpful with recovering from the soreness you might experience after a yoga session, since it relaxes muscle joints and nerves. It also improves blood circulation, which in turn helps to flush out toxins from the body. Thus, not only you won’t get sore, but you will also feel more detoxified and oxygenated. Besides the physical benefits, performing self-massage after yoga has a great effect on the mind and soul. After a yoga session, it is often hard to come back to the material realm and to exit the sacred space you found within yourself. Self-massage helps recreate that space, while allowing to reflect on your session and to understand the boundaries of your body. A yogi knows that not all sessions feel the same, and self-massage is a great way to dive deeper into the comprehension of your body limits and blocks, that may have arisen through the practice of yoga.
Remember to be gentle with yourself and not to press hard, but rather to treat your body as the wonderful temple it is. Self-massage is a treat: it releases feel-good hormones which prolong the sensation of wellbeing and relaxation induced by the yoga session, improving its benefits. Some of these include better sleep quality, a decrease in mental and physical tension and a declutter of the mind.
What you’ll need
Whether you choose to start with self-massage or with yoga, make sure the space around you is practical and calm. You don’t need a lot of space, nor fancy zen decorations. However, the space you choose must be calm and suitable for a mindful session of either practices. When performing yoga, you will need a steady mat, and, depending on the yoga practice you are about to do, cushions, belts or blocks, though remember neither of these are one hundred percent necessary: what counts the most is the awareness of your breath moving through your body. When it comes to self-massage, it is easier to wear little to no clothes, so you can have more access to your skin. Wear something comfortable and light, that allows you to relax in, and sit or lay down in a position you feel at ease in.
Tips and tricks
Yoga and self-massage doesn’t really need specific tools, although oils can improve the smoothness of movements and further relax the mind. Some of the best essential oils include
- Lavender essential oil, which is an amazing natural relaxant;
- Ylang ylang essential oil, which filters out negative energy, and
- Rosemary essential oil, which helps to ease anxiety and encourages positive mental activity.
Make sure to mix essential oils with carriers, such as almond oil, coconut oil or olive oil, since essential oils should not be used directly on the skin. For self-massage, it is usually suggested that you spend at least 5 minutes stroking, feathering or kneading (whichever you feel is most suitable to you), in order to dive deeper into awareness.
Lastly, the most important tip concerning both yoga and self-massage is to not push yourself too much. It can bring enormous satisfaction to free muscles from knots and tension, but it’s not always possible to do so in one sitting. Always be patient with yourself and don’t expect to heal all of your blockages at once, as too much pressure can lead to injuries. Focus on the area that you feel needs the most love at the moment, and know that you have all the time in the world to cover all areas of your body. Rome wasn’t built in a day, relax and enjoy the process!
Living in an age where speed and hyperactivity are praised as success, it is becoming increasingly essential to invest in quality time with ourselves. Both self-massage and yoga are great ways to deepen our connection with our bodies and to bring love to areas where we might store tension and stress, and the combination of the two can have amazing positive effects. Whatever yoga practice you want to try, self-massage will increase the benefits and leave you feeling calm and collected for longer.
Paola Perillo is a young old soul based in Rome, passionate about relaxation, meditation, reiki and crystals. She graduated in Psychology and Sociology at the University of Brighton, where she learned to integrate the psychological and the spiritual. Paola is currently working as content writer for different sources.