Take care of yourself

Wellness centers offer variety of techniques for relaxation

By Christa Shephard

As Indiana wakes from its snowy winter, you may find yourself in need of some extra TLC. Here you’ll find five innovative self-care methods to check out this season. As always, consult with your physician before embarking on any treatments and know that reported results may vary.

Subhead: Flotation Therapy

Formerly known as sensory deprivation, flotation therapy is designed to bring you the ultimate sense of relaxation. With an Epsom salt concentration that replicates the waters of the Dead Sea, the flotation therapy water tanks and rooms are set to the average human body temperature.

Ruth Scott, owner and massage therapist at Franklin’s Optimal Health Indy, says these tanks are specifically made to help the body “reset” by stripping away outside stimulants.

“The more you can turn off outside stimulation, the better your body can rest and reset,” she says. “It’s amazing the amount of stress relief you get from that, which, of course, then boosts the immune system.”

Because flotation therapy is designed to truly free your mind and relax your body, the entire room is yours. In each room is a shower, where towels and soaps are provided for you, and then the flotation tanks. The time you paid for is yours. “In the float tank, we tell people that room is your private room. Once you’re in there and that door’s closed, that means that it’s your space, your time,” Scott says. “It’s practically sound-proof for us out here, so whatever you feel comfortable doing in there, go for it.”

If the idea of floating in a pod filled with salted water freaks you out, rest assured, you have total control of your surroundings. As people are constantly bombarded with stimulation 24/7 with phones, television, traffic, work demands and other ongoing noise, Scott understands that completely stripping away stimulation might be a daunting thought.

“We have lights; we have options for music. There’s several different levels for lights you can set for yourself,” she says. “There’s actually a nightlight inside the tank. You can start with that on and then maybe go to having that off.”

Floating can offer more than simple relaxation. Scott says that many clients use flotation for pain management and even for overcoming artist’s block. “Two biggest benefits that I see are lowered stress levels and less pain. Particularly those who deal with chronic pain,” she says. “I’ve actually had several clients give me testimonials of where they’ve floated and afterwards, because they let their brain rest … all the sudden, the answer to a question they’ve been mulling in the back of their brain, they’ll have it, like boom.”

Subhead: Manual cupping and MediCupping

Maybe you like massages, but you want to try having pressure removed rather than added. This is the principle behind cupping, an age-old practice of applying cups that create a vacuum effect, suction and lift the skin and muscles. Cupping therapy was documented in 1550 B.C.E. ― on papyrus, no less. At Greenwood’s Bayberry Spa, you’ll find two formats of cupping: manual cupping and MediCupping. In the case of manual cupping, a practitioner places cups and sets the suction using manual vacuum pistols. By contrast, MediCupping is a trademarked technique, and the practitioner uses a machine that controls the suction of each cup.

“The machine itself that I use allows me to control the suction,” says Jennifer Hagner, massage therapist and owner. “(The suction) can be versatile; it can be very light, gentle, lymphatic work, or it can be more on the deep-tissue side.”

Cupping lifts pressure from the nerves rather than adding it — as would a massage therapist’s hands during a standard massage. Among its claimed benefits are improved blood flow and hydration in the cupped area, calmed muscles and breaking up of scar tissue. Some clients are seeking relief of sciatica, and cupping might also calm areas where nerves may be hypersensitive, Hagner says.

Although manual cupping and MediCupping are never guaranteed to provide results for chronic issues or acute issues, these techniques can be used as a simple self-care method for relaxation.

“Some people do a maintenance routine just because they don’t want to have that (issue) come back or they just really like the way [MediCupping] feels,” says Hagner. “They’ll say the area feels a lot looser, and they just generally feel super relaxed when they leave.”

Subhead: Infrared sauna

For those who might prefer a hands-off, self-care approach, an infrared sauna might be a great option. Infrared saunas use light to generate heat. Whereas a traditional sauna uses heat to warm the air, which then heats your body, an infrared sauna uses light to directly heat your body without warming the air around you.

Infrared saunas can cultivate results at lower temperatures than traditional saunas, which makes them a better option for those who can’t tolerate high temperatures. Cody Adkins, massage therapist and owner of the Art of Healing in Greenwood, says he discovered infrared saunas through one of his favorite celebrities, Lady Gaga, who regularly posted about infrared massage treatments after she was diagnosed with fibromyalgia.

“That actually inspired me to look into it more,” Adkins says. The saunas at Art of Healing incorporate three wavelengths of light: far, mid and near infrared. Additionally, you can choose colors of light in the sauna for chromotherapy, and you can use sound therapy in the saunas.

Because of the heat generated by the wavelengths of light, the body reacts as though it has undergone moderate exercise, with elevated heart rate and sweating. The heat increases blood circulation, which can help with stiffness and soreness as it relaxes muscles.

Adkins says he uses infrared saunas for his multiple sclerosis, as infrared is more accessible for heat-sensitive people. “Normally, they say people with MS shouldn’t do heat,” he says. Rather than a sauna setting, he says, “your body’s absorbing the infrared light down to the cellular level of your body. It’s a completely different type of heat.”

Adkins and his clients report reductions in pain and inflammation because of the infrared sauna.

Subhead: Energy balancing

If winter has had your chi misaligned, energy balancing might be a salve for your spirit. Jill Harding, massage therapist and owner of Daydreams Wellness Studio for Women in Greenwood, calls the energy field within the body the balance between your mind and your body. For Harding, energy balancing is a massage for the psyche.

“It provides a more calming peace of mind,” she says. “Often, people will fall asleep on the table if I’m doing just an energy balancing session on the table.”

Energy balancing is used to unblock channels in the body that may be mental or emotional; think chakras and energy centers. During the sessions, clients lie on a table. The practitioner, in this case Harding, hovers her hands or lightly touches parts of the body. Her clients have experienced emotional release during energy balancing sessions.

“Just opening them up and being able to balance those chakras, it’s such a relief, and it almost releases the emotional, energetic floodgates.”

No matter your reasons for having an energy balancing session, the results are understated and consistent. “(Energy balancing) just allows [clients] to relax completely and just feel maybe new, more positive emotions they hadn’t felt in a while because they’d really just been holding onto something so tightly,” Harding says.

Subhead: Yomassage

If, perhaps, you want something more physically involved in your self-care, Daydreamers Wellness Studio for Women also offers Yomassage, which blends restorative yoga, touch, stretch, breathing exercises and meditation. During a Yomassage session, a participant assumes a sequence of poses, guided by a practitioner. The practitioner gently massages the participant as they hold the pose. Yomassage includes the physical body and the mind, keeping that energy balancing motif throughout the session. “During an entire Yomassage session, you’re getting the equivalent of a full-body massage and also the benefits of the energy work and the stretching,” Harding says.

Many clients leave these sessions reporting a deeper mind-body connection, and relaxation, stress relief and a better night’s sleep are other advantages often seen. Harding says, “I’ve had people that say, ‘I’ve always loved your regular massages, but this just took me to an entirely different level of calm or peace than the regular physical massage did.’”