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Massage has been around for millennium. Some of our most common everyday activities involve massage in one form or another. The reassuring caress of a mother to her baby or how one consoles a troubled friend. Even a big bear hug involves gentle stroking or patting on the back. Only the most cold and isolated of humans can survive devoid of human touch.
Nobody will argue that receiving a massage is one of life’s most pleasurable sensations. However, the familiar singular therapeutic practice that is most common today, massage is a recent phenomenon. In fact, as medical practice, ancient texts reveal massage to have been widely used. Dated circa 1800 BC, a Chinese medical text called Con-Fu of the Toa-Ts describes in detail the purpose and methods of therapeutic massage. Reflexology has been depicted in Egyptian hieroglyphs, while India was developing the philosophy of Ayurveda which is widely practiced today. Moving on to the Greeks and Romans, massage was used widely as sports medicine and joint ailments.
Unfortunately, even in antiquity not all massage practice was “respectable” and the negative implication of massage took a nose dive during the Middle Ages. Behavior considered wanton or depraved were unacceptable and things didn’t improve much until the 19th century. Thanks to a Swede by the name of Pehr Heinrick Ling and his work with athletes, massage regained some of its respectability. Regarded as the “father of modern massage” his techniques are the foundation of European massage practice as we know it today.
Since the early 20th century, massage as physical and rehabilitative therapy has been widely practiced in Australia and is often recommended adjuvant medical therapy. Still, the myriad of massage types available can often seem more confusing than helpful. For the uninformed, a deep tissue massage is more pain than pleasure, while a relaxing aromatherapy massage does little to help severe joint pain.
To help you choose the proper therapist, spa or practice, here is a rundown of the most common forms of massage. And the less common, too.
Swedish – Gentle and soothing using long and smooth strokes. Ideal for relaxation and the best choice for first timers.
Deep Tissue – Widely used for chronically painful or tight muscles, Deep Tissue targets deeper layers of muscle and connective tissue with slower strokes and friction techniques. You might be sore for a day or two afterward.
Shiatsu – A Japanese practice using a rhythmic sequence of localised pressure on acupuncture meridians. Relaxing yet firm without the accompanying soreness of deep tissue.
Reflexology – A complex system of applying pressure to points of the foot which correspond to organs and body systems. Ideal for those who stand on their feet all day or experience pronounced foot pain.
Aromatherapy – Most commonly accompanying Swedish massage, the therapist adds one or more scented plant oils tailored to a client’s need. These essential oils can promote relaxation, relieve stress, promote emotional balance or give a burst of energy.
Hot Stone – By applying heated smooth stones to certain points of the body, muscles can be loosened and energy centres return to a balanced state. Comforting yet therapeutic, it is great for relieving tension with a lighter pressure.
Thai – Combining yoga and gentle pressure point therapy, the practitioner moves and stretches the client to reduce stress and improve flexibility and range of motion. It can be quite energising with many physical benefits.
Sports – Combining rapid strokes with facilitated stretching, Sports Massage is most common among athletes and those who work out often or injured. The attention is on healing, preventing further injury and improving performance. Pregnancy – An increasingly popular practice that requires special certification. Designed to decrease swelling, relieve aches and pains, and relieve anxiety and depression.
For those seeking something a bit out of the ordinary, below are just a few of the wide array of exotic and advanced options available.
Lomi Lomi – A type of Hawaiian massage becoming more widely practiced. Long and fluid strokes emulating gentle ocean waves, Lomi Lomi is performed and intended to release a loving energy and aid emotional release.
Craniosacral Therapy – An extra light touch releases cerebrospinal fluid that surrounds and cushions the brain and spinal cord from skull to sacrum. Migraines and learning disabilities are but a few of the conditions thought to benefit.
Reiki – A Japanese technique based on channeling life force energy to revitalise, heal, and soothe. Accomplished with light or “near” touches to balance energy flow.
Tui Na – Also called Tunia or Tui Na An Mo, a traditional Chinese method to treat illnesses and injuries, even in children. Like other forms of Asian massage, this utilizes life force energy systems of the body.
Watsu – A type of Zen Shiatsu performed in comforting warm water. The water massages and supports the body while the therapist guides you in continuous stretching motions. The warm water helps decrease resistance to the stretches and helps loosen muscles.
Venik- Apparently not for the faint of heart, the Venik (sometimes called Platza) is performed in traditional Russian bathhouses called banyas. With the aid of a leafy birch or oak tree twig, Venik is intended to improve circulation and metabolism, detoxify, and intensify skin capillary activity.
Indulge in an elaborate Moorish hamman or retreat to a Balinese inspired sanctuary. From urban chic wellness clinics and grand European luxury spas, to spas where you could swear you were in a Thai temple. Bookwell is your premier source for locating and booking the massage or treatment that is exactly right for you.