For massage therapists, there is no mistaking the connection between body and mind. It’s evident in each day’s work—from the client who has an emotional release in the middle of a session, to the client who recalls vivid memories as you work his scar tissue from an old injury. Massage therapists know well that the mind is a powerful ally in maintaining health and wellness. The mind is so powerful, in fact, that it can produce its own medicine for the body, and, as with meditation, when we allow the mind to become quiet, true healing can take place.
In our previous column, we discussed the results of several studies from Touch Research Institute (TRI) in Miami, Fla., showing positive effects of massage therapy on immune function, anxiety, and depression in subjects diagnosed with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Similar results have also been documented by TRI researchers for breast cancer patients, expanding the potential application of this modality to support and enhance healing in life-threatening illnesses.
While the U.S. spa industry has consistently struggled with the definition of “spa,” the market continues to expand, explore, and test the boundaries of consumer expectations and demands. Although “mind, body, and soul” is the mantra many spas have used throughout the last decade, the “mind” aspect of the spa movement was rarely a priority until energetic services began to attract clients’ intrigue and dollars.
“I call it my shark bite,” Phyllis says, whose entire left side from breast to lower abdomen has scars from five operations, all of which occurred within one year as the result of migrating cancer and other complications. One-quarter of her lung, four ribs, part of her breast and its surrounding tissue, her uterus, and a segment of her lower intestine were removed.
Long before Therapeutic Touch became a popular adjunct to Western medicine, shamans of the ancient Americas were healing the sick with the laying on of hands. They used their hands to cleanse the body, to remove heavy energy and to restore physical and spiritual balance. They used chants, drumming and singing to align themselves and their patients with the energy spirits of earth and heaven.
In one way or another, cancer has left its mark upon us all. It has touched my own life many times. As I watched friends, family members and clients fight their own intimate battles with the disease, I realized I was being given the opportunity to grow and learn from each experience.