Your Immune System Loves Relaxation

“Smile, breathe and go slowly.” —Thich Nhat Hanh

by Carl Johns, LMT, Mountain Medicine Integrative Wellness Center

Beautiful advice from our most famous monk of mindfulness. Simple and yet not so simple. Sometimes we need a little help.

From a massage therapist’s perspective, there’s nothing better than a good bodywork session to make you smile, relax and go back into life a little more slowly.

Let’s think about the physiology of that statement.

When life is overly full, and we are running from one thing to the next, under stress, and not getting enough rest and relaxation, we know our health suffers. When we are in this mode, we know our muscles shorten and tighten — they are in a state of constant contraction.

When a muscle is working — contracting — it is using more metabolic energy. Common sense tells us after a long day of physical work, our muscles are tired and we are hungry from spending that metabolic energy.

The thing about stress is when all your muscles tighten, they are working. But now they’re working 24/7. The muscles are our largest energy user, and the body is doing its best to balance itself with a finite amount of energy.

If it has to support a tight, stressed muscular system all the time, it will steal some of the needed energy from other body systems — digestive, respiratory, circulatory or immune.

So when we make an intervention with massage and relax the muscles, less energy is used supporting muscular stress, and then can be used to support all the other systems of the body, including the immune system.

There lies my explanation for the list of effects and benefits of massage therapy — a list that includes enhancement of the function of all body systems, such as digestive, respiratory, circulatory and immune systems.

Relaxation enhances immune health and overall health, and massage is one of the easiest and most pleasant ways of getting there.

So what kind of massage works best for relaxation? The answer is simple; the one that relaxes you the most. Some of us will love to relax into a peaceful acupressure session or the flowing feel of Swedish massage or a more vigorous form like shiatsu or sports massage.

Whatever your pleasure, make it a part of your life — relax, smile, breathe and go a little more slowly.