Take a moment to check in with your body. How is it feeling? What have you been doing with it today? Is there anywhere that you’re holding some tension? Is there anything really nice that you could do for your body right now? You may already know exactly what your body needs, and if that’s true, skip the rest of this article and go do that right now! Many of us think that we need someone else to tell us how to use our own bodies, but most of the time, if we listen well, our bodies will do a great job of telling us all by themselves.
However, if your body would like some extra suggestions for techniques you might use to help it feel great and function at its best, I’ve put together a list of some of my favorite simple techniques which I often recommend to my friends and clients. My invitation to you is for you to try any or all of them, adapt them to your own comfort, and enjoy yourself while you’re at it!
1. I love to give myself an ear massage. I use this technique on clients too, but it works just as well if you do it on yourself. Gently pinch your earlobes between your thumb and index finger. Give a couple slight (but not painful!) tugs. Move up along the edge of your ear, tugging again at each spot. Continue all the way around your ear. This can be very relaxing and can help with your physical and mental senses of balance!
2. Ongoing tension in a particular area, such as stiff neck or cramped thighs, can be relieved with a little DIY hydrotherapy. In the shower, stand or sit with the troublesome area directly under the warm water flow, and let the tension release!
3. We know it stresses our arms to sit at a desk all day, and as you might imagine, it stresses our chests, too. One way to relieve this is to stand in a doorway with your hands on either side, and use the resistance of the doorframe to stretch your chest muscles. This will help with upper back tightness, too.
4. Our nervous system is an integral part of the connection between our minds and bodies. You can support your nervous system by giving it positive stimulation — in other words, touch yourself in ways that feel nice! Try running your hands lightly over your body, stimulating the nerves beneath your skin. Experiment with lighter or firmer pressure to find what feels best!
5. Pillows can be friends or enemies. Experiment with sleeping with more or fewer pillows. If you’re a side sleeper (like me!), a pillow between your thighs can help your hips’ alignment — I sleep so much better now! Back sleepers can place a pillow under the knees to relieve pressure from the lower back. A small pillow, strategically positioned, can put your arm in a position where it won’t cramp, or hold your breasts in a more comfortable spot. Try out different positions and see what feels good for you!
6. There’s always time to practice deep breathing! Even just a minute or two can be a great boost, any time of day. There are oodles of techniques out there that you can read up on, if you don’t already have a favorite. If I have a few minutes to wait for my dinner in the microwave or the pump at the gas station, that’s a good time for me to do a few rounds of deep breathing in rhythm with the timer.
7. Let your hair down! If you wear it up all day, your scalp will thank you for a break every so often. Untying your hair your hair for a few minutes during the day can relieve physical and mental stress, taking the pressure off your head. If you wear your hair in a style that can’t easily be untied, such as tight braids or cornrows, you can give yourself a nice head massage, working your fingers around your scalp so the muscles can move around and let go of as much tension as possible.
8. Your back may get tense around your spine if you sit at a desk or drive for long hours. You can create the reverse position by rolling a towel, placing it on the floor, and laying top of it so it’s directly underneath your spine. You may find that this improves your posture quite a bit, if done regularly! My friend Kat, also a massage therapist, recommends that you do this for 3-5 minutes daily.
9. One of the oft-neglected muscles in our bodies is located just under the chin. If you regularly shave your face, you exercise this muscle every time you shave! As we age, this muscle (like any other) may begin to sag and lose elasticity over time, so you may want to give it some exercise if you’re not a face-shaver. You can do that by tilting your head back and massaging that area of your neck and chin, just as if you were going to shave it.
10. Take a few minutes to give each of your fingers a gentle tug. Move each in a circle a couple times in each direction. Rotate it back and forth by holding it at the tip, then twisting back and forth a little like you’re wiggling a key in a lock. Press your thumb into the opposite palm and roll it around in circles all around the front and back of your hand. Ta-da! Free hand massage! If you’re on your feet all day, or if you just need a little extra self-love, do the same thing on your toes and feet.
11. Drink water! One of the best things I ever did for my own health was to get a water bottle and carry it with me all the time. Drink water every time you think about water — if you wait till you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. Add a splash of lemon or lime to your water if you need more flavor to enjoy it. Drinking water flushes toxins out of our system, so consuming it regularly keeps things moving all throughout the day. Every single one of your bodily systems will function better if you drink more water! You will find this means that you need to pee more often, but when you know that means your body is getting rid of waste more effectively, it’s a good thing to do often!
This article was recently published in The Easy Vegan, in print and available now at Miss Muffcake’s Lost and Found. Kudos to Kat M at LMT or Bust, the awesome friend and newly minted massage therapist who helped with this piece.