Parts of the following information is what I say to all clients, and esp. those who ask about massage, bodywork and self care. An integral part of my practice is education and self awareness. If you would like to read some more and/or are looking for a specific information, please check the articles and the blog.
How to Get Most Out of Massage
Pelvis_and_stretching on your own
How to Get Most Ouf of Massage
For most people, the most effective bodywork is a kind that stretches joints and connective tissue, and "remodels" i.e. remolds the body. These are the kinds of bodywork I tried personally and highly recommend: thai massage, rolfing, shiatsu with stretching (e.g. ohashiatsu), some forms of orthopedic massage (e.g. Waslaski, Hendrickson). For some issues, like autism, craniosacral therapy will be the best. For some issues, like fibromalgia, hot stones will be the best. Read more about different techniques here.
*However* the name of the bodywork does not matter, in many cases. What matters is the knowledge and the integrity of the practitioner. For example, I have been healed from some major injuries by a reasonably inexpensive Swedish massage therapist with 25 yrs of experience, and I have gone to a rolfer who had no idea what they were doing and I even paid them $90for that - once.
So: when you find a massage therapist or bodyworker, ask before you go for their training, experience, and what kinds of things they do. Explain your problem and ask them if they have worked with similar issues. For example, I have gone to a lomi practitioner who can set dislocated shoulders.
There are many causes for tight areas in the body. Body works in a circular fashion where everything influences everything. Healing the pain requires that the root cause has to be determined and addressed.
Very often, it is rather simple to remedy problems that have baffled us for years. It can be just tight connective tissue! Good HumanRemodelingTM massage will help with that. It gives you a good jump start, and then you need to do daily maintenance. See below.
Proper posture is about having a naturally poised body. Not the forced military "yes sir!" "stand straight!" posture; but one that looks graceful and at ease. Think of a hula dancer, belly dancer, martial artists, or ballroom dancers. That is good posture.
Esther Gokhale has an excellent class and book 8 Steps to Healthy Back that teaches about proper movement in daily life: how to sit, stand, walk, lie down and bend properly. Her work is based on anthropology and how more ancienent cultures keep their bodies in good condition. If you were wondering why Africans or Brazilians or Indians have such gorgeous healthy bodies in spite of heavy physical labor - Ester's work is your answer. Classes are all over the world, and the book is on Amazon. Her classes are to be taken only once and then practiced throughout the day.
Also, check out her stretch cushion for driving in a car or sitting. It works great.
In order to get yourself to a point where you *can* stretch, you might want to first release muscle knots. Massage is helpful, yoga is helpful, and also: Read Trigger point self manual book and get a back buddy, thera cane, or a lomi stick. They sell all kinds of massage and bodywork tools on Amazon.com.
Even better is small styrophorm rollers. Get them at a massage supply store or online.
For more in-depth remodeling work, it is also necessary to do some kind of yoga or stretching, daily. That can be whatever you like to do. Conditions: it has to make you lose your breath and sweat (i.e. cardio); and it has to wiggle your pelvis and the entire spine. See below.
Pelvis and Stretching on your own
Existing knots and tight areas have to be ironed out and stretched. Then keep them away by active stretching. The main thing to be worked on is the pelvis. It needs to become flexible and moving freely. Then the shoulders and neck will automatically adjust.
The very basic tips for maintenance are spelled out in the article on the basic pelvis care. It contains the link to the infamous highly effective pelvic tilt, etc.
The basic tips for emergency sprains, injuries, breaks, and other ways to get into pain are spelled out in the article on sprains, breaks and other pains.
Do you want bad or good news first? Stretching is a must. And, it is fun! So you get two things done at once - getting healthy and having fun. Also, it can be a great social occasion, for example if you take a yoga class and make friends with your classmates.
The best stretching exercises are the ancient ones: tai chi, qi gong, kung fu, belly dance, hula, African dance, yoga, and swimming. Go to a competent yoga class, or swim every day, and you will notice a difference.
There are even some new-fangled exercies that work great. Check out youtube videos on Brain Gym. It works beautifully. And - it is mostly West African dance, minus the pelvic work and minus the rigourous athletics.
Go to the great outdoors, to the wild, natural areas, breathe the fresh air and aid the circulation with oxygen, reconnect with the Earth to recharge your body's electrical system, get some sunlight to perk up the hormonal system, relax in the silence, ... Human are designed to exercise outdoors in fresh air. Yogis say that fresh air and sunlight are food for our cells.
And have some good fun!
How can you make it happen all at once? Go African or hula dancing or "power yoga" or some martial arts outdoors. (Well, when the outdoors is friendly enough. If it is not, bundle up and go walking. Bring a friend along.) In one swoop, you get your community participation, your health, your stretching, aerobic exercise, spiritual activity, and you are in Mother Nature, breathing fresh air and enjoying yourself. Halelujah! Your cells say THANK YOU!
Yoga is very effective.
Kundalini yoga is my favorite kind of yoga, because it works fast! It uses breathing and movement, as well as chanting, to produce a great workout on many levels. Check out his kundalini yoga web site. Notice how the model has perfect skin, no blemishes, and very nice glow. Yes, that's what you get when you practice kundalini yoga. Ravi Singh has great books and DVDs and youtube clips. Check out the youtube clips: AM-PM yoga Navel power yoga
Bikram's yoga is wonderful too. It melts everything that was tight. Caveat: make sure to drink a lot of water, it's hot in there.
Hatha yoga is "stretch and hold for a long time" slow type of yoga. They say it was designed for the aristocracy, because they did not have to work and thus had plenty of time to perfect holding one pose for hours. Kundalini yoga was the working class yoga, designed to get results quickly and help you feel better "before you get kids off to school and yourself to work". Also, it is amazingly dynamic, the movements and the breathing are quite a workout.
I am not familiar with Pilates. I was told it is quite good and that the benefits outnumber the problems it creates. It could be a great thing. However, I am leery of anything "new and phenomenal". Often it is just a fad. Maybe not this time. The idea of "strengthening the core" is an old idea and a very good idea - yoga.
Finally, how do you make it all happen? How does it fit into your lifestyle? It can fit only if you make the time for it. Simplifying lifestyle so that we have enough time to enjoy life is the key. Get rid of all unnecessary stuff. In terms of energetics, and "feng shui" science of how energy flow in the environment affects our health, all clutter in our external lives also becomes stagnation and clutter in our own bodies and psyche. By living in accord with laws of Nature and living respectfully and healthfully, we help heal the planet. The link above shows how our stuff ruins the environment, which eventually ruins our bodies and psyche.