Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Art Of Massage

THE ART OF MASSAGE - By Shari - Bali Advertiser
( First of a series on Massage )
Many people find making a spa appointment to be a daunting experience; unless you’re spa savvy or have some training in the treatments, perusing a spa menu can be confusing. There may be several types of massages on offer, such as body scrubs, body wraps, facials and packages. How do you choose? If you’re lucky the spa receptionist will be well trained and able to explain the different treatments and the benefits. Unfortunately, most spas outside of the five star venues don’t have well trained staff, who are articulate enough to guide you in selecting the best massage for your needs. But not to worry, help is on the way from the spa guru!

Let’s look at the kinds of massage that are commonly found on a menu and the benefits and contraindications that you will experience from them.

Balinese, Indonesian, Traditional or Javanese massage are all names of Indonesian traditional massages that are found virtually everywhere, from a luxury spa, to the beaches or an old man in a small village. These massages are performed with oil, ranging from baby oil to medicinal or delicious smelling aromatherapy oil. The therapist may or may not have any training. Your muscles will be squeezed and stroked either gently or possibly in a painful manner. No pain no gain is a philosophy followed by many local masseuses called tukang pijit. It’s not necessary to inflict pain, a more gentle and repetitious approach is very effective. Generally speaking, this kind of massage is good for reducing stress and alleviating sore or tight muscles, increasing blood and lymph circulation and stimulating digestion. However, this massage usually doesn’t focus much attention on the neck area; so if you are one of the 75% of people who carry their stress in the neck area, this may not be the best choice if your neck is feeling tight. The contraindications are pregnancy in the first trimester, varicose veins, skin diseases and auto immune deficiency diseases, as massage may accelerate these diseases.

Aromatherapy massage can be somewhat similar to traditional massage or it may use some Swedish techniques and acupressure points, but with the use of aromatherapy oil. The focus is on the use of the essential oils, which will have an affect on you according to the blend, which may be relaxing, uplifting, romantic, meditative or helpful for jet-lag just to name a few. The massage oil should be left on following the treatment for a few hours to gain the maximum effect. Generally, an aromatherapy massage is gentler than a Balinese massage. The benefits and contraindications are the same as Balinese massages with the additional effects of the oils.

Swedish massage is considered to be the classic massage found in most western countries. Again, oil is used in combination with classic strokes of effleurage (stroking), petrissage (kneading, squeezing and picking up the skin), wringing (opposite hands squeeze the muscles) friction (deep tissue circles or rubbing) and tapotement (percussion of fingers or hands). The pressure can be gentle or strong depending on the client’s needs and therapist’s techniques. Swedish massage may be a good choice if you want a massage that is more invigorating or you have neck tension. The benefits and contraindications are once again the same as with Balinese massage.

Traditional Thai massage is performed without oil and wearing loose clothing. Finger and palm pressure is used all over the body combined with yoga-type of stretches. This is a very strong massage, sometimes painful. It focuses on the energy lines throughout the body to balance the yin and yang offering some of the benefits of yoga, while also stretching the muscles, keeping them toned and flexible. One of the main benefits of Thai massage is an increase in blood circulation and stress reduction. It is regarded as a healing massage and assists in maintaining one’s youth. Thai massage is a good choice when you want a strong massage and feel like you need some stretching or you’ve been too lazy to do any exercise as this is sometimes called “the lazy man’s yoga”. Contraindications are: osteoporosis, auto-immune diseases and pregnancy. The therapist should be well trained as potential damage may possibly arise from movements not administered correctly. Some people may experience muscle soreness following a treatment caused by the strong stretches.

Shiatsu means “finger pressure” in Japanese. This ancient massage is performed without oil and wearing loose clothing. Pressure is applied to points along the energy meridians throughout the body to balance the yin and yang, thus alleviating imbalances and promoting good health. Shiatsu is often considered painful as many people associate this type of massage with walking on the back. This technique is sometimes used, but it isn’t necessary unless strong pressure is required. Actually inflicting pain on the client isn’t essential to achieve good results. The therapeutic effects of Shiatsu include alleviation of pain, headaches and sore muscles. Blood circulation is also increased to promote healthy skin and muscles. I would choose a Shiatsu massage when I prefer a non-oily massage that is less strenuous than Thai or if I have pain or discomfort in a specific area of my body. Contraindications are the same as Thai massage. A well trained therapist can deliver amazing results in alleviating pain and restoring balance to the body.

Lomi Lomi means massage in the Hawaiian language. It uses long flowing strokes with the hands and the sliding of the forearms over the back and legs. The rhythmic dance-like movements of the hula are used to remove blockages in energy flow and bring great relaxation. Lomi Lomi is a good choice when you want a soothing massage.The benefits and contraindications are the same as with Balinese massage.

Warm Stone massage has several variations. Some spas use a few warm stones placed over the chakras along the back and other locations of the body. Others use more stones to actually massage the muscles with the hot stones and place them on various parts of the body. These massages use the heat of the stones to relax the muscles and induce a deep state of relaxation. However, I consider it best to use both hot and cold stones, which is more therapeutic because it stimulates the blood and lymph circulation bringing fresh blood for healing the body. The cold stones are great for treating inflammation and pain. Some of the benefits are: total relaxation, the therapist is able to work at a deeper level of the muscles, increase in blood and lymph circulation, energising and balancing. It’s also great for very tight muscles on the shoulders. Contraindications are: skin rashes, high blood pressure and heart problems, pregnancy, recent surgery where nerves have been cut, acute asthma, taking medication that is heat affected and varicose veins.

Lymphatic drainage massage is performed with oil using Swedish techniques but focuses on draining the lymph nodes of toxins stored in the body. This is generally a gentle massage that is good for eliminating toxins when you are following a detoxification program. The benefits and contraindications are the same as with Balinese massage.

Tui Na or Chinese massage is part of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). It uses techniques of brushing, rolling, kneading and pressing between the areas of the joints called the eight gates to get energy or Chi moving in meridians and muscles. Stimulating acupressure points is also included It’s a strong and therapeutic massage, good for chronic stressed muscles. The benefits and contraindications are the same as Balinese massage.

Shirodhara or Indian head massage uses warm oil that is poured over the third eye in a slow steady stream. It usually includes massage to the neck and shoulders. The benefits are: it increases blood circulation to the head, relaxing muscles and nerves and relieving fatigue, increasing oxygen to the brain, boosting life force energy in the body, nourishing hair and scalp and relieving mental stress and promoting sleep. Many people find Shirodhara an extremely relaxing massage.

Abhyanga or Ayuvedic body massage is part of Ayurvedic medicine, which dates back 5000 years to India and is the oldest medicine in the world. It uses warm medicated oils to balance the three doshas, which according to Ayurvedic medicine govern the health. The doshas, which are called Vata, Pitta and Kapha, represent typical characteristics of a person. Generally a dosha test is given to a guest prior to a treatment to determine their dosha type so that correct oils and movements are given to balance the doshas. The benefits are that it rejuvenates the skin, tones muscles, eliminates toxins, improves blood circulation, improves digestion, strengthens the muscles and promotes youthfulness.

The “Four Hand” massage is performed by two therapists, who ideally work in synchronized harmony. This is considered more of a pampering type of treatment as it makes you feel like royalty and it is very soothing. However, if the therapists aren’t in harmony the effect is disconcerting to the senses. The benefits and contraindications are the same as with Balinese massage.

Reflexology or foot massage dates back 5000 years to a treatment of pressure points in India and China. There is also a painting from ancient Egypt dating back to 2330 BC showing a foot and hand massage being performed. The foot is divided into five zones, which act like a mirror representing the entire body. By applying pressure to areas of the foot, the mirrored part of the body is affected. There are different styles employed in reflexology. Chinese and Javanese foot massage tends to be very painful because the masseuse generally believes that strong pressure is required to correct the imbalance in the body part. The International style used in many spas is much gentler although just as effective as a painful treatment. It’s not necessary to inflict pain to get results. The benefits are that it alleviates problems in mirrored in parts of the body, such as the lungs if you are a smoker by breaking down toxic crystals which accumulate in the feet so that they can be eliminated and promoting general health and well being.

Our bodies change and so do our needs for treatments. Maybe you woke up with a stiff neck or your muscles are sore after joining the gym or you took a tumble off your motorbike or you just need to relax. The next time you walk into a new spa to have a look at the spa menu you’ll have the confidence to make the right choice for the massage that will best serve your needs. Massage can be addictive, but it’s the best addiction that I know of.

If you have any questions about massage email me at
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