Contact Counts: 3 Benefits of Baby Massage

Massage of footsI have been doing pregnancy massage and postnatal massage in Berkley and Oakland as part of my holistic healing work for several years now. But recently, I decided to branch out from simply working with adults to expand my maternity care healing services. When, a little more than a year ago, I signed up for a baby massage course, I was surprised to find that massaging babies was way more than just squeezing their cute little baby fat rolls and rubbing baby oil on their tiny precious bodies.

As a therapeutic body worker, I have always been very aware of the impact that healing touch has on our nervous systems, connective tissue, muscles, mental states and how it satisfies a part of our deep human need to feel cared for and loved. But I was inspired in a new and profound way when I learned about the impact that loving touch has on babies and their fundamental development. Below are just a few examples and fabulous reasons to start massaging your little ones today.

Awakening Love
When mothers touch their infants in a soothing and comforting way, the love hormone oxytocin is released in both of them, thus awakening the biologic capacity to bond. It also lowers cortisol levels which increases immunity and supports the optimal physiological development of the baby.

Shaping the Brain
Babies’ nervous systems are developing and highly adaptive. Each tactile, sensory and relational experience provides the stimuli for specific neural pathways to develop and to create healthy or unhealthy ‘brain templates’. As a result of this, caring, loving and responsive touch is essential for the healthy organization of their nervous systems.

Affirming Secure Attachment
‘Secure attachment’ is the hip term in psychotherapy circles these days. It seems to be your stamped visa on the way to psychological health and an ability to have lasting healthy loving relationships. There are many definitions of this term. But it kind of just means that your mother really loved you and was attuned to your cues and needs when you were little. In this way, hugs, cuddles, smiles, loving baby massages (and all the nurturing ways in which the cuteness of a baby inspires most healthy people to react) are all translated in the baby’s brain into patterned neural activity which positively influences its development.

There is so much more to be said about the significance of mindful, loving touch and its importance, especially with infants. It is important at any age. But I am excited to have this new insight about how the types of touch we receive, especially at an early age, play such an essential role in the architecture of our brains and therefore our lives.

Why Technology Might Be Ruining Your Life

On our recent journey back to the Bay Area from our holiday vacation, I made a sad discovery.  It was an incredibly early flight- the kind in which you find yourself continually fantasizing about being in your warm bed instead. But rather than being cozy, sleepy, dreamy and present in these wee hours, I noticed that probably more that 70% of our fellow airplane travelers were looking at the screen of their smart phones, tablets, computers etc. And then I thought about it. This not only happens in airports and airplanes but everywhere I go!  How many people at any given time and place are plugged into their iphones, ipads, kindles and laptops? The gym, the grocery store- it’s everywhere!  It’s the way our culture is now, especially in Oakland and Berkeley.

I am aware that we need to engage with all these things in order to smoothly operate in society. It’s an easy and convenient way to communicate with work colleagues and loved ones alike. But for too many of us, technology becomes an incredible time-suck- an alienation from the ‘real’ world and real people. It’s an easy way to dissociate from our life, a perfect way to kill time rather than live time, a fake way to feel connected, and the best way to bypass our essential and precious human solitude.

I understand the irony, given that you are probably reading this on your computer. Here I am writing a blog, sending emails for hours on end, and wanting as many likes as possible on my Facebook page.  And yet, I am one of those people that resists technology ’till the very end, (if you could see my prehistoric phone you would know what mean!) I have always resented having to be plugged in all the time which is one of the main reasons why my chosen profession is healing bodywork.  This work keeps me present, tuned in to myself and others and makes me feel like my healing touch is making a positive impact.

To my own relief, I recently I learned that in 2009 the Unplugging Movement was born in San Francisco.  No wonder I live here- sign me up!  Well, actually, I have been one of them all along!  The movement began with families wanting to deliberately stay away from social media and technological devices to slow down their lives thereby having more time for creativity, time to be out doors, cook meals with friends, play with the kids and connect with actual human beings. To this list I personally have to add:  going to yoga class, and of course, regular therapeutic massage. Being touched is a wonderful way to be present. (And touch screens don’t count!)

In other words, what the unpluggers are trying to do is reclaim their lives, from cyberspace back to planet Earth and back to their hearts and bodies.  I invite you to dedicate some time this week to consciously creating an unplugging ritual. Take some deliberate time away from email, Facebook, your phone, your online calendar and your twitter account. Stop texting, stop posting and start breathing, stretching and singing.  Come back from the cyber-universe, from being crouched over your computer and gone, to your own embodied, breath-full, pulsing, loving self. Trust me, your body will thank you!


How Esalen Massage Has Changed My Sessions

esalen massage flowerWhenever my birthday, Christmas, my own made up self-love day, or any other great excuse for a “give-me-a-gift moment” comes around, I know what I want: a massage!

For me every massage is not only an act of self-care, but a celebration of my own embodiment. And, as a massage therapist in Berkeley, it’s the best way for me to learn about the body. Lately, I have immersed myself in Esalen Massage. I was lucky enough to attend a training at the Esalen Institute last year. It is basically the most magical place on earth, to study, eat marvelous food, soak in the hot springs and take in the utter beauty of Earth; and my healing bodywork has not been the same since. It’s not that I now do Esalen Massage but the beauty of the approach has subtly seeped more and more into my work. It’s like slowly learning a love poem you are deeply moved by.

The signature long and lyrical strokes of Esalen Massage create a soothing sense of whole- body connection. This fluid nature of Esalen bodywork blends well with other massage modalities, so for me, incorporating aspects of it into my own work has me intentionally becoming a more graceful, artful and present therapist. Embodying presence and awareness as we touch, is an elemental premise of Esalen Massage and holistic healing. Thus the quality of the practitioner’s touch becomes an invitation to a deeper connection with our own somatic awareness and a call to deliciously abide in our bodies. I am thankful for this method and the ability to incorporate its principals into my therapeutic massage treatments in Oakland.