The Power of Touch – Why Massage Isn’t an Indulgance

At some point in our lives we’ve all heard about the benefits of massage. I don’t believe I’ve ever heard someone counter with any detriments to your health or risks. That being said, the most common misconception is that massage isn’t a necessity – that touch isn’t a necessity.

Massage therapy has been labeled by some as an unnecessary indulgence, an uncomfortable hour, not meant for those who aren’t “touchy feely,” something that can be replaced by other methods of healing.

That’s where Gina Gurski comes in.

Gina, a massage therapist with nearly two decades of experience in the field, believes in the power of touch. Spend just a few hours with her and you will be moved by her passion for sharing her knowledge.

And with Valentine’s Day coming up, whether you have a significant other or not, it’s time that we all acknowledge the power of touch.

Over a few cups coffee and slices of quiche I listened intently to Gina as she launched into a passionate speech about massage and touch in general. Her interest in massage began after a bad experience with a physical therapist in the early ‘90s after ACL surgery. A spark was lit as Gina asked herself, “there has to be a another avenue for healing.” So she left her job of three years in foreclosure with Bank of America and enrolled in the Massage Therapy Program at Missouri College in St. Louis.

“Lots of clients on their client health intake forms do not fill them out honestly, she said. “They assume the ankle they broke when they were six doesn’t relate to the hip pain or low back pain they are experiencing today.”

Gina noted that the body tends to remember trauma longer than the mind, explaining that the body needs balance and care to recover. “Bodywork is the tool that helps the body reach homeostasis.”

The message Gina spreads to her clients and the city of Chicago is that the power of touch is not only “nice,” it’s a necessity built deep within us that’s forgotten as we age.

“Animals and children, they innately ask for what they need. Dogs roll over to get you to rub their belly. When a child is scared, stressed, or tired, they look to their parents to pick them up, to hold them,” she said.

But as adults, Gina said, humans stop asking to be touched. 

“Think about rush hour on the Red Line: it’s the quietest hour of your day,” she said. “We can’t even sit next to each other on the train let alone give a comforting touch to even our closest friends.”

Besides the known benefits for sore muscles and relaxation, massage has so many more benefits that we could all use in our lives. According to the Mayo Clinic, massage can help in the healing and treatment of anxiety, digestive disorders, fibromyalgia, headaches, insomnia related to stress, myofascial pain syndrome, soft tissue strains or injuries, sports injuries.

And more meaningful breathing is also a result.

“Breathing, for instance, is not only for carbon dioxide release and oxygen intake,” Gina explained. “Deep diaphragmatic breathing initiates the parasympathetic nervous system which is responsible for your rest and digest.”

According to Gina, unless you’ve been trained to breathe properly, your breathing is likely limited, while “Diaphragmatic breathing is belly breathing or abdominal breathing which utilizes your diaphragm in fills your total lung capacity.”

Gina has seen her fair share of reactions to massage in the past.

Gina said that many adults ignore the “message that their bellies” are sending them, but it hasn’t always been that way.

“Your Hara or emotional center is held in your abdomen – look at a child when they are sad – they hold their bellies or rub their bellies; the posture is crouched over protecting that belly,” she said.  

According to Gina, “abdominal massage comes with a price.” During an abdominal massage, “crying is natural” but emotions, she says, will always make their way out.

“The more you try to hide things, the more they try to come out – what you resist will persist,” Gina said. 

Without investing in massage, can you bring the power of touch into everyday life?

In a romantic relationship, initiating that intimacy can be as simple as asking for a shoulder rub. It teaches us to communicate what we need, not only in the form of touch but in other facets of our relationships. It can also promote active listening between couples.

And outside of romantic relationships, you can start as simple as hugs. The magic number according to Gina? Eight! Gina believes that eight hugs a day is the magic number for good mental health. And once you’ve mastered those hugs, you can visit Gina and BodyRox, Inc., and see what the power of touch is all about.

“The bottomline,” as Gina said, “No one is perfect, and you deserve to live the best life you can.  It’s your body and it’s the most amazing place you will ever live. Learn it, love it and let it live!”

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About Lauren Lehocky

Lauren grew up in the northern suburbs of Chicago and attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where she earned her degree in Health Communication. She is a NASM-certified personal trainer, blogger, and Community Manager at lululemon athletica on Rush Street. When she isn't writing about her latest restaurant adventures on i had a big lunch you can catch her teaching HIIT classes at Sweat Chicago. She loves to run along the Lakefront, explore the different neighborhoods in Chicago, and meet up with The November Project on Friday mornings for a killer sunrise workout at The Bean.

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