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Touch is vital to life - so much so, that an infant literally cannot survive without it. We, too, need hugs and can benefit greatly from regular bodywork such as massage. II you've ever had a really good massage, you'll know what a powerful method it is for relaxing, destressing and bringing you back into balance.

Why It's Good

Releases stored tension

All the negative feelings and unresolved tensions in our minds are stored as physical tension in the body. Different parts of the body store different kinds of tension. For example, tension from all the responsibilities you carry settles on the upper back and shoulders - and it can feel like the weight of the world. The chest area is where your sentiments and sadness lodge - those love affairs that didn't work out. 'Deep-tissue' massage can release these stored feelings and help you let go and move on.

Instant relaxation

The natural response to massage is to let go, to feel safe and cared for. This produces an instant relaxation response. In the same way that we hold our children when they are upset, we can 'hold' our friends and partners by giving them a massage, and having one in return.

Energy exchange

Massage also allows you to connect with another person without words and without obligations or sexual connotations. This has a very powerful healing effect. Good massage therapists consciously send you good energy while they work. This might sound like hocus-pocus, but it isn't. In Japan, a highly successful 'healing exchange' called johrei is now being used in offices. This simple exercise involves nothing more than two people taking a few minutes each day to send energy to each other. Proper medical research has proven that this increases T-cell counts, an objective measure of immunity. Heart specialist Dr Mehmet Oz has also reported amazing results with regular massage for his patients after open heart surgery in his book, Healing from (he Heart.

Massage is there, both for the giving and receiving. Whether you are giving or receiving, it is good to breathe deeply and consciously, for example by practising Diakath Breathing . If you are giving a massage, imagine you are taking in vital energy when you breathe in and, on the outbreath, that you are passing this energy into your partner. If you are receiving a massage, be open to receiving your partner's benevolent energy. Giving a massage in this way can be almost as relaxing as receiving one.