Whether you’ve vowed to make 2018 the year of #SelfCare or you just need to loosen up your tense winter-weather muscles, self-massages are a perfect (and free!) way to sneak in some R&R. With these simple techniques you can do at work, in the car, or on your lunch break, you'll be able to release some tension throughout your day and feel more relaxed and productive.
Of course, these mini massages may not measure up to your favorite spa package. “There is a different kind of sensory input when you are being touched by someone versus when you are the one massaging yourself,” says Angie Parris-Raney, a massage therapist for 17 years and the director of communications at the Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals. “But there are basic techniques that can still help you relax.”
Treat Your Feet
If you find yourself with sore feet from running around or standing all day, here's one way to help soothe them. “Put a small ball under your foot, just under the arch or indentation. Then, roll your foot around on the ball in one direction, then the other," says licensed massage therapist and founder of two studios in Brooklyn and New Jersey, Darcy Stockton. This simple massage not only stimulates the foot muscles but also improves circulation and reduces pain. You can do it seated in a chair, with or without socks, for a few minutes on each foot. “I tell a lot of people to do it before bed,” says Stockton. “There are a lot of pressure points in the foot, so this can easily help you feel more relaxed."
Unwind Your Wrists
If you’re typing at a computer for the majority of your day, you’re no stranger to sore and stiff wrists. Parris-Raney suggests this simple stretch you can do right at your desk (though taking a break to walk around is nice, too!) Start by holding your left hand in front of you with your palm facing upwards. Using your other hand, gently bend each finger inwards towards your palm as if making a fist. Then, make a fist with the same extended hand, fingers facing down. Use your other hand to gently bend your fist backwards towards you. Switch hands. Remembering to stretch our your wrists once in a while can help improve their flexibility, strength, and also prevent injurues like carpel tunnel.
Sweet (Sweet) Back Relief
Got a tense trapezius? For many people, when this broad triangular back muscle is tight, you can feel stress and pain in your neck, shoulders, back, and even through tension headaches. To loosen everything up -- you'll be thanking us later -- Jason Orrell, a yoga instructor at Bend + Bloom in Brooklyn who teaches an alignment class with massage balls, recommends these two exercises. First, give yourself a few hugs (literally!). Start by wrapping your arms around yourself, as if reaching for opposite shoulders, and pull gently feeling a nice stretch across your upper back. Switch arms. Next, take a small rubber ball and find a wall. Standing with your back against the wall and your knees slightly bent, place the ball along the top of your left shoulder blade. You should feel it rest between the blade and your spine. Lean into the ball to apply gentle pressure, then slowly roll up and down against the wall. The ball should be rolling along your shoulder blade. After 2-3 minutes, switch sides to your right shoulder blade.
Make Migraines Disappear
You may not always realize your facial muscles are clenched after a stressful day, but with 42 different muscles in the face alone, consider trying a few facial flexes every once in a while. For example, Orrell suggests one move you can practice any time, anywhere: interlace your fingers prayer-style with your thumbs sticking up. Rest the bridge of your nose on your thumbs, letting the weight of your head fall on your thumbs. You should feel a gentle pressure. Hold for 30 seconds to a minute. Another way to help release tension in the head, especially during a headache or migraine, is massaging your temples lightly with your fingers in circular motions. If you notice you clench your jaw often during stress, try this: place your thumbs, one on each side of your jaw, just under your earlobes. Run your thumbs in a downward motion along the bottom of your jawline until they meet in under your chin. Do this a few times to help relieve stress and jaw tension.
Consistency is Key
Whichever massage you make part of your daily routine, our experts says the most important part of this method for stress relief is to make it a routine. To reap the most benefits, Parris-Raney reminds us: “You don’t need to take a whole hour. Just a few minutes every day is enough and can make more of a difference than one hour every few weeks.”
Like anything, our experts remind us that moderation is also key when stretching or self-massaging. “Always be careful to never hold a stretch for too long,” says Parris-Raney. “Your muscles will naturally begin to contract in order to protect your joints so over stretching can actually become counterproductive.” The same goes for applying pressure. Too much pressure could put you at risk of injuries. Lastly, however long you have for your mini-massage, always always remember to breathe. “Most importantly, take some time to fill yourself up with oxygen and get that fresh oxygen out to your muscles!”