Massage & Bodywork

JULY | AUGUST 2021

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A 44 m a s s a g e & b o d y wo r k j u l y/a u g u s t 2 0 2 1 TENDING TO OUR HANDS EXERCISES TO STRENGTHEN, STRETCH, AND ACTIVATE By Heath and Nicole Reed As massage therapists, our hands are one of our most valuable, powerful, and utilized tools. Our hands are our emissaries of touch as we press, pull, squeeze, discover, dissipate, and soothe. In every touch, we have the potential to convey and circulate kindness, care, trust, and hope. And with our hands, we can embody our capacity to give and receive by infusing our breath and mindful movements with every touch. As touch therapists, hands are essential to not only our livelihoods, but also to our lifestyle. How we eat, drink, dress, wash, travel, text, and perform a multitude of other daily tasks relies on the performance and versatility of our hands. If you've ever gotten a paper cut or hangnail, you might recall how distractingly uncomfortable basic tasks are and how much of your day revolves around your hands. Because our hands contain some of the highest proportion of sensory neurons compared to other body parts, they are highly sensitive to pain. Conversely, they are also a supersized gateway to the relaxation response. Indeed, our hands are more represented in our brain than any other single part of the body. Likewise, behavioral researchers are finding that "using our hands stimulates brain activity, promotes mental health, and relieves stress." 1 And yet, we often take our hands for granted, not giving them the attention and care they deserve and need. As therapists, it's paramount that we lovingly tend to our hands, fingers, thumbs, and wrists to prevent injury and sustain a thriving practice. Here are some hand exercises to help you warm up before a session, awaken your senses, tune into your energy, activate your coordination, release tension, stretch your tools, and cool down post-session. "Your hand opens and closes and opens and closes . . . Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding, the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated as bird wings." —Rumi WENDY WEI/PEXELS.COM

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