How much time to you spend thinking about your body? Are they positive thoughts or negative? Body image is a complex topic that dates back to the early 1960s. However, it has come to the forefront of research since the 1990s as several researchers have studied the mind-body connection as it relates to body image. It has been suggested that touch is a powerful method of communication as well as an important foundation in developing our sense of self.
Can massage on regular basis improve your body image? Researcher Thomas Pruzinsky in his body Image: A Handbook of Theory, Research, and Clinical Practice, writes that massage therapy is a somatic (bodily) approach that is helpful in positively affecting body image “by helping the client reconnect to the body in a very concrete manner.”
As we develop a professional relationship with a massage therapist, we can experience the sensation of touch in a non-threatening manner. Regular massage encourages body awareness as it allows our mind to reconnect to our bodies. Massage also enhances our ability to relax our mind as well as our bodies. Through massage, we can release physical and mental tension, enhancing our ability to experience our bodies as acceptable, regardless of their shape or size. Caring touch also communicates safety and approval, boosting self-esteem and inner peace.
Dr. Marcia Hutchinson, author of Transforming Body Image, suggests body image has little to do with the physical body. Dr. Hutchinson says, “Image and reality are separate.” Therefore if body image is a product of the imagination, Hutchinson proposes that it can also be changed using the imagination.
Hutchinson describes an exercise called “imaginal massage” in which you visualize a massage occurring allowing the hands of the massage therapist to transfer healing to your body-mind allowing acceptance of your body. This visualization can also be performed during actual massage sessions.
“Healing is about learning, so trust your body’s signals and find out what works for you,” writes Susan Mumford in Healing Massage. Learn to listen to your body-mind is telling you and then ask your massage therapist for what is most helpful to you. Your massage therapist should be there to serve you so don’t be afraid to make requests.
Accepting your body and what it has to say to you is a journey that will you’re your life time and regular massage is a way to practice body reverence. Use your massage (or other bodywork) sessions to nurture the connection between your mind and your body. Experience complete acceptance of yourself exactly as you are. It will increase your self-esteem, inner peace and body image