Massage and Yoga and “Medical Gymnastics”

By David Lauterstein

Why is it that massage and yoga have become part of the lives of millions of people? This is certainly one of the best pieces of good news in our troubled time!

Slow touch, slow movement, and care of the therapist for the client, care of the yoga student for themselves, are primary elements in freeing the body and the mind!

Massage is a form of manual yoga.

How Massage Supports Yoga

When you stretch in yoga, you get greater length in those places capable of lengthening. But many times the places of most tension, of knots, adhesions, and other connective tissue restrictions, will not lengthen through stretching. This is what a good massage will do.

Massage manually opens up places where one muscle’s connective tissue is stuck to another. Therapists will do cross-fiber to coax apart adhesions within the individual muscles. They will “melt” into trigger points that hold chronic muscle tension. Massage is the best method for finding and relieving the “tightenings” that we cannot voluntary relax or exercise away.

massage and yoga

How Yoga Supports Massage

Yoga is in turn, in many respects, a form of self-massage.

First of all, since yoga explicitly involves breathing deeply while one moves, the movement of one’s diaphragm literally massages the internal organs below it. Yoga also involves not only lengthening, but also isometrically contracting and strengthening muscles. Both the lengthening and broadening of muscles, have similar effects to the kneading of muscle through massage.

What Does Gymnastics Have to Do With It?

Western massage was first systematized by physiotherapists in Sweden who specialized in rehabilitative exercises – which they called “gymnastics.” Massage was then used as a substitute for exercise with patients who were too injured or sick to do their own movements – it was then called not “massage” but “remedial gymnastics!”

No doubt yoga as well can be considered a form remedial gymnastics!

As late as the beginning of the 20th century, these therapists called themselves “Doctors of Medical Gymnastics.”

Why Massage and Yoga Work for the Body

Both massage and yoga are inherently holistic because each aims at relaxation through the nervous system.

It is a great blessing of our age that yoga and massage trainings have vastly spread the word and the positive effects of passive and active exercise on mind, body and spirit.

Research and common sense tells us that muscles don’t let go until the nervous system tells them too. Our tension is something created and sustained by the nervous system. The compassion and care manifest through massage and through yoga relax the fight-flight-freeze response in the nervous system. The effects of that, like light, radiates out from the source as greater health in every system of the body and mind.

We regularly offer workshops designed that beneficial to a variety of healers – including yogis. Check out our current continuing education offerings for those that apply to yoga and massage practitioners, alike.