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“I’m SO glad I didn’t cancel my massage and here’s why. HINT: Relaxation Response.” BY Helena Teply-Figman

“I’m SO glad I didn’t cancel my massage and here’s why.  HINT: Relaxation Response.” BY Helena Teply-Figman

SCsunsetRelaxationDear Friend,

As a Massage Therapist and Bodyworker, I’m a pretty big believer in the healing powers of massage and bodywork (duh), but every now and then I’m REALLY reminded.

I’d been coughin’ away for a week with a bronchial infection.  Few things had worked to truly quiet the cough, including a high dose OTC cough syrup.  Yuck.

Before I came down with this nasty infection, I’d scheduled massage and community acupuncture sessions for myself (yay pre-planned self-care!).  I ALMOST cancelled both appointments due to my cough.  How would I be able to relax if I was coughing or worried about coughing?  What would be the point of the session?  How would my therapist feel?

Well, I’m super glad I decided to go anyway.  Armed with cough drops (yes, I kept one in my mouth the entire time), I had an amaaazing session.  And wouldn’t you know, I was able to RELAX.  I was able to lie face down for 30min, and on my back for an additional 45min with only one short-lived coughing bonanza (a huge success in my book).  Even at the end when I had no pillows propping me up, I felt totally well and completely at ease in mind and body; a feeling I’d longed for all week.  I forgot that I was recovering from illness and wasn’t worried at all about coughing.  And even though my cough wasn’t cured in one 75min session, I felt a sense of calm and hope that I WAS healing, and I would be totally healed soon. 

That’s peace of mind.  That’s where you want to be when you want to heal.

What I believe was happening was my body’s “relaxation response” was activated.  My massage therapist was kind, caring, respectful, patient, and not afraid to work with me in my condition and make adjustments to ensure my comfort.  Besides the skilled work she did, her bedside-manner, if you will, was half the goodness: working with a practitioner who cares, who listens, and creates a healing atmosphere makes ALL the difference.

So, what is the “relaxation response?”  It’s your body’s natural self-repair mechanism.  It’s when your parasympatheic nervous system (“rest-and-digest”) is in charge, instead of the sympathetic nervous system (“fight-or-flight”) that’s engaged when your “stress response” is in gear.

The “relaxation response” has been studied by scientists and Dr. Lissa Rankin writes about it in her book, Mind Over Medicine.  I invite you to learn more about this science and how to activate your own “relaxation response” starting with this article  In it, Dr. Rankin lists over a dozen pleasurable and scientifically proven ways to activate your “relaxation response,” which to my delight includes massage : )  I also encourage you to watch the video of her TED talk which goes in to the power of the mind to heal and the occurrence of spontaneous remissions.

As I always like to say…

Never underestimate the power of relaxation to fuel the healing process.

With love + relaxation,

Helena Teply-Figman is a dancer, raw chocolate lover, and Certified Massage Practitioner specializing in Ortho-Bionomy. She gently, skillfully, and intuitively helps facilitators, artists, and sensitive souls of all kinds feel more comfortable, connected, and cared for. She sees clients in San Francisco (and occasionally NYC). Learn more at and join her at Picture © Helena Teply-Figman.

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