This is generally a lymphatic drainage form of massage, using long, gentle, sweeping strokes over the entire body, the main aim being to introduce the essential oils, blended with a very light vegetable oil into the recipient’s body via the capillaries.
Chinese massage therapy
This is becoming more widely utilized in the West. Chinese practitioners spend at least three years in training at specialist centers. The treatment is both preventative and curative and well worth experiencing. The system focuses greatly on movement of negative energy out of the meridians, so positive chi can flow freely to create balance throughout the body. The various methods of creating this balance include thumb-and-finger techniques like acupressure, firm pushing out of energy strokes and invigorating light frisking movements, for example on the top of the head, to release stress and awaken you.
‘Holistic’ is a term used to describe considering the person as a whole rather than a range of conditions. All aspects of the client are weighed and examined, including any emotional upsets and physical ailments. Holistic massage will generally follow a format that starts with the back and back of legs and ends with the client lying on their back receiving long strokes from head to foot to aid relaxation, grounding and a sense of being back in the world after the treatment. The massage strokes themselves will be adapted to suit the needs of the individual, whether by deepening or lightening the stroking movements, for example, or spending more time on healing, holding or gentle rocking. The massage will involve many long connective strokes between the body parts being worked on and a treatment usually lasts 1 hour.
Hot stone massage
Heated smooth stones (usually basalt, which absorbs and retains deep heat naturally) are placed along the spine and other areas of the back and shoulders, and, sometimes, too, on the hands and feet. This soothes and relaxes in preparation for a Holistic or Swedish type massage. The heat helps tight muscles relax, but cold stones may be used if there is inflammation or muscle injury. Invented in 1993 by Mary Hannigan of Tucson, Arizona, hot stone massage has been trademarked as La Stone Therapy. Now, there are many versions practiced in spas and natural health clinics all over the world.
Indian head massage
This places its emphasis on stimulating the muscles and lymphatic drainage system, and alleviates anxiety and depression, migraines and sinus problems, to name but a few. It has been around for thousands of years and uses a variety of circular movements and rubbing motions around the hairline, which will make the recipient feel as though they are floating.
Kahi loa and Kahuna (Hawaiian massage)
These wonderful hands-on therapies are becoming very popular in the West. They have a deeply spiritual side, making them totally holistic and healing. Kahi loa was created by Hawaii’s Master Healers and is based on the ancient Hawaiian philosophy of healing through connecting with nature. After a discussion with the therapist regarding the reason for seeking treatment, the client receives a gentle massage, fully clothed, while the therapist guides them in a visualization of nature where healing can take place.
Kahuna body work originated in the ancient temples of Hawaii, where it featured as a part of a rite of passage, and the movements are derived from an ancient Hawaiian martial art and dance. It has been adapted to suit Western criteria of acceptability and palatability, but is still a transitional experience for people wishing to overcome emotional problems. The stimulation of your body permits a physical, emotional and spiritual release. Sessions usually last two hours and for this treatment you do remove your clothing. The therapist uses his or her whole arm in treatment (as opposed to primarily the hands used in Western forms of massage).
Manual lymph drainage (MLD)
Specialized training is required to master this extremely light, hands-on massage treatment, which moves the skin across and along the lymph pathways in specific directions. Although extremely gentle, it is an amazingly powerful treatment, good for anyone congested by a bad diet, a sedentary lifestyle and exposure to pollutants. It increases the movement of the lymphatic system of the body, throwing its powers of cleansing, regeneration and healing into top gear. It also affects the nervous system by instigating a change from the normal stressed ‘daytime’ (sympathetic system) state to the ‘night-time’ (parasympathetic system) state we use when we are asleep. This has the effect of strengthening the immune system and as it stimulates the lymph system it relaxes and refreshes you.
MLD is an excellent preventative and natural non-intrusive treatment that will increase resistance to colds, infections and ‘flu. It can also firm and improve the look of the skin – it has become a very popular beauty treatment as a ‘natural face-lift’ – and can treat and prevent water retention anywhere in the body – cellulite, swollen ankles, legs and eyes can be successfully treated, as can pre-menstrual swelling and discomfort. MLD works also on the skeletal muscles, which is helpful for those who often feel stiff after exercise. It can also lead to fast removal of the lactic acids that form in the muscle tissue, causing a rapid and pain-free regeneration of the muscle fibers.
This is becoming more popular as a way to experience the benefits of massage without removing any clothing and without having to devote more than 15-20 minutes of your time. This technique, which can be received at home or in office, is based around acupressure points, focusing on the head, neck, shoulders, spine, lower back and arms. It induces deep relaxation and relief from stress, and culminates with a brusque set of movements to perk you up so that you are ready to return to work relaxed yet invigorated.
This was developed by Wilhelm Reich, a follower of Freud. Reich discovered that when working with his patients using a variety of physical contact techniques this enabled them to release energetic blocks and emotions held within those blocks. This belief system has been developed and is now more commonly known as ‘bioenergetic therapy’. It is generally utilized by those who are also qualified therapists, as they are the best able to deal with often very strong emotions that can surface in the client.
Also known as ‘structural integration’, this is a method of deep massage that was developed by Dr Ida Rolf, a biochemist with a background in osteopathy and yoga. Its purpose Is to realign the muscular and connective tissue, achieved by the application of extremely heavy and concentrated pressure for several seconds at a time with one knuckle, elbow or sometimes even the knuckles of a fist, often on a single point on a subject’s body. The results can be startling, completely reshaping the body’s physical posture.
Being rolfed is quite different from receiving a relaxing holistic massage. The sensation can be very strong, with momentary pain and exhilaration being experienced simultaneously. The ‘pain’ will only last as long as the pressure is being applied, about two or three seconds, and immense relief is felt instantly when the rolfer’s hand is moved away. Strong emotions are often felt and people have been known to experience amazing psychological changes as well. More energy is felt when the body is correctly aligned, as the release from physical tension held in the body is eliminated.
Although nothing can really take the place of a full body massage given by a qualified professional, in time of need we can do a lot for ourselves. Learning the basic strokes of holistic or Swedish massage is very useful, but specific techniques – often employed with stretches – can go a long way towards reducing stress and helping you to develop a better relationship with yourself by putting the gift of nurturing in your own hands. There are many good books on the subject.
This is a Japanese massage therapy practiced widely there and growing steadily in popularity in the West. The word shiatsu means ‘finger pressure’ and the therapy was at on time practiced almost entirely with the balls of thumbs, applying pressure to any or all of the hundreds of points located along the meridians (energy pathways) for several seconds at a time. Shiatsu is a form of acupuncture without needles, stimulating the points with the fingertips and even the elbows. There is also a general stroking over parts of the body to stimulate a harmonious flow of energy throughout the body. The practitioner may also use gentle manipulation to stretch the meridians and to loosen joints to encourage healthy flow of energy. This helps tone up the body’s energy, releasing lots of stress and tension and helping to alleviate countless symptoms and prevent many conditions.
With the increased interest in exercise, sports massage has become an ingredient of many avid exercisers’ health programs. It differs from physiotherapy in that it incorporates many of the techniques of Swedish and holistic massage and so aims to induce relaxation. The differences will be apparent when an injury is present; for example, torn hamstrings through over exercising or incorrect exercising. In such cases, specific techniques are performed to enhance healing in the injured areas and exercises may be given for strengthening the surrounding areas or to reduce the risk of loss of mobility from lack of movement while healing.
In this type of therapy, talcum power is often used instead of oil, as a firmer grip is required. The practitioner will follow a specific routine, using invigoration movements, such as cupping and hacking, and rotation stretches, for example on the shoulders and hip joints. It is more exhilarating than holistic massage and, although relaxing and equally beneficial, is less meditation enhancing.