Three great ancient healing techniques combined

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Are you a fan of Shiatsu but also would like a massage with oil once in a while? Would you like to immerse yourself into the melting feeling of a hot stones treatment? Or maybe just want to try something new and unique? Then this may well be for you – you can now have all three treatments in one session! Find out more …

Massage for a Good Night’s Sleep

Good night s sleep

Although most of us recognise the importance of a good night’s sleep, we may not be fully aware of quite how crucial a regular and deep sleeping pattern is to our overall health and well being. On a physical level, sleep gives our body a chance to ‘rest & repair’, it enables tissue regeneration and cellular growth to occur as well as the cleansing and elimination of toxins. Effects of poor sleep can include accelerating ageing, memory loss, weakening of the immune system, and it can also be a contributing factor towards weight gain. Clearly, sleep is a very important ingredient for our overall health. It is also well known that sleep and stress are inversely related. Also, they tend to reinforce each other in a vicious cycle. The worse we sleep, the more likely we are to become stressed, and the more stressed we become, the more difficult we will find it to sleep! Thankfully, as we will see, massage can help us deal with both problems together. Stress affects the body and mind and some outward signs of stress include tense muscles and poor posture. So, if stress and tension are the reasons why you are not sleeping very well, you might be relieved to know that some of the benefits of massage are the relaxing of muscles, improved posture and improved sleep patterns. Also, positive feelings and mood may be enhanced. When you have a massage, the parasympathetic nervous system is activated, and this allows your body to relax. Of course, there are other causes of poor sleep in addition to stress. A very common sleep disorder is that of insomnia. The consequences of insomnia on your health include loss of concentration and decision-making abilities. It can cause irritability and emotional instability. Insomnia is often associated with a lack of serotonin. Serotonin is our ‘happy hormone’ which influences our well being. Serotonin plays a role in mood, behaviour, body temperature, physical coordination, appetite and sleep. One study has shown that massage therapy can help to boost serotonin levels by up to up 28 per cent. In addition, massage can trigger melatonin, our ‘sleep-inducing hormone’ which increases with the darkness of the night. Here is an interesting article about the efficiency of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (including massage) in treating sleep disturbances. Overall then, one can say that massage is an excellent natural remedy that helps restore balance so that the rhythms of your life ebb and flow in a more natural pattern. Of course, massage alone may not be the only answer to finding a good night’s sleep. For a handy list of Top Tips For Good Sleep head over to the website of nutritional therapist and health coach Clare Shepherd (Note, the post says top tips for a good sleep during menopause but actually most of the tips hold good for anyone!) In addition to those tips you might also wish to explore the practise of Yoga Nidra, translated as Yogic Sleep. This is a form of deep, guided relaxation and though ideally you shouldn’t fall asleep during the practise itself, it can help to prepare you for a good night of sleep as this article reveals. Here is a nice Yoga Nidra recorded by Jo of Yoga Nature Sheffield: If you are interested in finding out more about what sleep is good for and how massage, breathing and other things can help with sleep, come along to one of our Sleep Well workshops at The Therapy Room…

Detox and cleanse from the inside out: Strategies for general health

The silent system blog post

I first came across the lymph system when I studying Anatomy, Physiology and Pathology in 2006. Quite frankly, it drove me to despair. The more I read about it, the more complicated it seemed to get! That’s probably what’s driven me to wanting to understand more about it, and to eventually learn a massage technique called “manual lymphatic drainage”. Here’s an attempt to describe the lymph system and the benefit of manual lymphatic drainage as simply as I can: All of our body systems are equally important, but whilst most people know about the cardiovascular system, the nervous, immune or the digestive system, there is one that is very little known and seems to be going a little bit in and out of fashion. The lymph system is an amazingly complex system,  that quietly works away in the background. It is intricately linked with every other body system:  Along with the circulatory system, it forms part of the cardiovascular system. You may be aware that we are about 60% watery fluid (this varies depending on age, gender, height to weight ratio, and so on) – what’s blood in the blood vessels, is very similar to the interstitial fluid that bathes cells outside blood vessels, and to the lymph inside the lymph vessels. It’s where the fluid is, and also some key components, what determines the name of this constantly circulated and recycled fluid. In the case of lymph, there is a high number of different types of lymphocytes –natural  killer cells, T-cells and B-cells (lymphocytes are also found in blood, where they are part of the “white blood cells”). The cleansing and filtering of lymph is mainly done in the lymph nodes. The lymph nodes will also produce more lymphocytes when viruses, bacteria and foreign invaders are detected – this is when lymph nodes (also called lymph glands) swell up. In this way, the lymph system is the first line of defense of the body. The lymph system can be found everywhere, starting with the tiniest vessels starting directly under the skin, to larger lymph vessels and ducts in the body, as well as comprising organs like the thymus gland, tonsils, and spleen.  There are even lymph vessels that help drain the brain –the brain needs clearing and cleansing just as the rest of our body, and the network of lymph vessels in the meninges has been termed “glymphatic” system. As we’ve said above, its main task is to cleanse the body of, so-called “toxins” (often just bi-products of cell life), and proteins which are too big to be picked up by the venous system. This means that, when it works efficiently, the tissues which are bathed in interstitial fluid get an optimum of nutrients and oxygen (the “good stuff”) and what’s not needed, gets transported away. It is also crucial for the balance of body fluids. If this system is not working properly or gets blocked, this means also that nutrients and oxygen brought by the blood vessels does not get to the cells quite so easily, there is a murky concoction of stuff that should not be there in the first place. Imagine you are swimming or rowing to an island in the middle of a lake filled with rubbish, debris and algae– that will take a little while longer than making your way through nice, clear, oxygenated water, apart from being a whole lot more unpleasant. You can imagine what effect this can have on the body in terms of lack of energy and fatigue. Certain types of headaches and migraines, sinus problems, general muscles soreness, fibromyalgia and ME, skin problems and susceptibility to colds, and many more conditions and symptoms are being attributed to a clogged up lymph system. This is not surprising, as it is nowadays thought that inflammation is the cause of many conditions. With the lymph system playing a crucial role in combating inflammation, it makes sense to look after it. Swelling in pregnancy, and after injury or surgery, and lymphoedema can  be attributed to sluggishness, overload, or in the case of lymphoedema, to an impaired lymph system. There are many different ways to support the lymphatic system. The most important one is movement – immobility is the worst for the lymph system, because the lymph vessels mainly rely on muscle action to squeeze them and thus pump lymph fluid. Deep diaphragmatic breathing helps as well, by creating what is called “Venturi effect”, where changes in intra-thoracic pressure help draw lymph through the vessels. Rebounding is an excellent way to get the lymph going, especially the phase where you are suspended in the air!  You will be glad to hear that sleep is important too for the cleansing of the brain and growth of “synaptic pruning”.  In terms of massage, manual lymph drainage is geared solely to accelerate the “lymph pump” on all parts of the body. Manual Lymphatic Drainage: The gentle giant of therapies Less is more when it comes to the gentlest of therapies, manual lymphatic drainage (MLD). Yes, the name is not terribly enticing and people often think it’s forceful, invasive or somehow related to plumbing. The latter is not so far fetched, but  MLD is so gentle, that one client has likened it to “butterfly kisses” which is much nicer. The therapist uses gentle, rhythmical strokes, which are applied directly on dry skin (ie no oils are used), to increase the speed and flow of lymph fluid. This is done by opening up the initial lymphatic vessels which are under the skin and constitute 60% of lymphatic vessels. Once the fluid is in there, it pushes into the bigger vessels and enters a one-way, valve protected system. Too much pressure closes the initial lymph vessels, hence why it has to be very gentle. The strokes are quite specific and in the direction of lymph nodes, which all have their own areas that the lymph drains to. That is why a therapist needs to work within so-called “watersheds” to efficiently …

Sports injury: To train or not to train is the question

Athlete running road silhouette

If your chosen activity causes pain and injury, is it better to not do anything – and not get injured? This is a question that we are being sometimes asked by clients who come in with an injury caused by their chosen sport – running, cycling, swimming, climbing and such like. Although it can be frustrating to feel that one has to start from scratch after an injury or period of inactivity, there are also opportunities in terms of learning how to optimize and prevent injury. Learning about limitations and perceived limitations, and new possibilities of where you can take your fitness if you manage your physical and mental wellbeing, can be quite an exciting journey. Which also includes recovery and rest, an area often underestimated. What is certainly true is that sports bring out imbalances in the body, but there are ways to keep them in check – for example through targeted exercises, diversification of activity, diet and bodywork/therapy. Not doing anything is definitely more perilous than being active, in terms of a host of diseases which affect us not only physically, but also on a mental and cognitive level (for more information, click here). And there are some serious downsides associated with stopping training or becoming less active, as functional fitness coach Emma Oko points out in her little article “What happens when we stop training“. What’s best is definitely to be active – and not get injured! Or at least return to fitness as quickly as possible. And if you feel you cannot even do any sports because of pain, it may be an idea to tackle those issues so that you can start being active. Often, it is the fear of pain that holds us back, rather than the pain itself. Guided stretching and strengthening can help discover what you can actually do – often quite surprisingly – and also help to get back to fitness, and health, step by step. Here’s what Paul Smith, sports massage therapist and sports rehabilitator here at Therapy Room Sheffield, says about running (but this can be equally applied to other sports): Runners’ Injuries Running, like any other activity or sport, is good for our fitness, wellbeing and mood enhancement. Unfortunately injuries are part and parcel of any sport and activity, running being no exception. For runners, injuries take generalised forms such as musculoskeletal sprains and strains, joint injuries, and low back pain, but other more unique type injuries can be as common. In my experience plantar fasciitis, ilio-tibial band syndrome, achilles tendonitis, and muscle imbalance, tend to be injuries that bring runners to a full stop. They are often symptoms of an accumulation of issues that have arisen over time. “Where the pain is, the problem is not”, said Ida Rolf, a pioneer in the field of musculoskeletal work, in the last century. This certainly holds true! To get to the bottom of the underlying causes is the challenge and prerequisite for getting better and avoiding re-injury. Part of my remit as Sports Therapist at Therapy Room Sheffield is to diagnose, treat, and rehabilitate such injuries. But I’m also passionate about putting strategies in place for individuals to reduce the incidence of these injuries occurring, enabling the runner to prepare for events and competition, or for the jogger to carry on enjoy their running. I believe that regular maintenance is key to identifying and reducing possible future injuries through a variety of techniques, of which massage is one element. Pre-event and post-event massage prepares the runner for the race or event on the day, but it’s the preparation in ensuring the body is ready in the weeks and months before the event, for me is the key element. Maintenance of the musculoskeletal system is as important as training in running, as in all sports. So keep running injury free. Paul Smith

What is Ayurveda?

An arrangement of spice, oil and massaging tools used in Ayurved

So what is Ayurveda? Well, originating thousands of years ago, Ayurveda is the ancient Indian health system that provides the means of attaining our own optimal health and wellbeing.   It is one of the most comprehensive healing systems, focusing, but not solely, on the prevention from disease of both the mind and body, it treats the whole person holistically combining diet/nutrition, herbal remedies, meditation, philosophy, yoga, Massage and therapies. If we were to transport ourselves back to India around 4000 years ago, we would understand that people lived in a world of rituals, they lived close to the cycles of nature, they were dependant on good harvests and rivers and their survival could be severely compromised by the negative powers of nature.  Legend has it that around this time a group of Rishis/wise men travelled to the foothills of the Himalayas to look for alternative health and wellbeing procedures, as without good health ones full potential cannot be realised, what emerged was Ayurveda. Ayurveda is based on the principle that everything in the universe, including the human being, is made up of the ‘5 great elements of nature’ known in sanskrit as the panchamahabhutas, these are: Air Earth Fire Water Space Each person consists of these elements in varying degrees making up one’s constitution, this  governs an individuals physical, mental and emotional characteristics.  One’s natural constitution is known as Prakruti and is determined at conception, remaining essentially the same throughout life.  Ayurveda talks about living in harmony with our natural constitution, as internal and external factors will disturb the balance, and when this imbalance occurs, as it almost always will to some degree, it can lead to ill heath.  An imbalanced constitution is referred to as the Vikruiti (manufactured/current state) If your current condition matches your birth condition you will be pretty healthy – if not you may have some challenges to overcome. So while the structural aspect of the body is made up of the 5 great elements, the functional aspects of the body are governed by a combination of the 3 doshas: Vata that represents air and space, Pitta being fire and water and Kapha which is earth and water. See what your Vikruti is by taking this quiz. Karyn Morgan, Ayurvedic Massage Practitioner