Massage involves stroking and kneading the soft tissues, muscles, and skin of the body using varying pressure. It has been practiced in many traditional healing systems around the world, like Chinese Medicine and Indian Ayurveda. The practitioners of modern systems of alternative therapies, such as reflexology and aromatherapy also use a variety of techniques. It is known for alleviating psychological problems like anxiety and stress.
Given below are some of the most popular massage techniques:
In the U.S., this is the most popular type. More often, it is just called massage therapy. In this system, the therapist uses smooth, long strokes and circular, kneading movements on the superficial muscle layers, using oil or lotion. This can be very relaxing and gentle. If you have never experienced being massaged before, this one is a good option to begin with.
Deep Tissue Massage
In this method, deeper layers of connective tissue and muscle are targeted. The therapist massages across the grain of the muscle using friction techniques and slower strokes. Deep tissue massage is enormously beneficial for chronically painful or tight muscles, postural problems, when recovering from an injury, or when the body experiences repetitive strain. Being a stronger massaging technique, it may result in a little soreness for a day or two after the session.
Here,one or more aromatic oils, also known as essential oils, are used according to specific needs. The essential oils used are selected because of their energizing, relaxing, balancing, and stress-reducing characteristics. The aroma of the oils helps in calming emotions. Lavender and sage are two of the common essential oils used in aromatherapy. Usually, a few drops of essential oil is mixed with a base oil, which when massaged on the body allows the essential oil to be absorbed by the skin.
Hot Stone Massage
In this, smooth stones that are heated are placed on various points of the body. The warmth of the stones helps to loosen tightened muscles and stimulates the centers of energy in the body. The therapist may also apply gentle pressure on the stones to enhance the sensation. This massaging technique is beneficial for people who have tense muscles but would prefer a gentler massage.
This is a Japanese massaging technique wherein pressure is applied with the fingers, in a rhythmic order, on the acupuncture points. At each point, pressure is held for 2 - 8 seconds, which increases the flow of energy, thus, helping the body regain its balance. Usually, when people try out this massage for the first time, they are pleasantly surprised. This is because, although the pressure applied is quite firm, it is immensely relaxing, plus there is no post-massage soreness.
Here, gentle pressure is applied on specific points of the body in order to align the body's energies, including stretches and compression. Unlike the other systems of massage, you don't merely lie down there. The therapist stretches and moves your body in a sequence of postures, much like yoga, except that you don't have to make the effort of getting into the postures. It also improves range of movement and flexibility. Compared to other forms, Thai massage is more energizing.
One of the areas of the body that is most adversely affected by a modern sedentary lifestyle, which usually involves poor posture, is the back and nape of the neck. A 30 - 40-minute back massage can relieve tensions in that area and also ease aches. If a massage clinic does not advertise a back massage specifically, you can book a session and ask the therapist to focus on your back.
This type of massage is designed specifically for people involved in sports. It can also be used by those who workout regularly or are physically active. This method focuses more on preventing or treating an injury and increasing athletic performance. Here,a combination of various techniques is used, with the massaging strokes being generally quicker than those used in Swedish massage. A common technique used is facilitated stretches, and it helps in increasing flexibility and loosening muscles.
The sense of well-being and relaxation that a massage creates is due to the nervous system being affected, because the nerve endings in the skin get stimulated, which helps to release endorphins that are the natural 'feel good' chemicals of the body. It is these endorphins that are responsible for relieving ache, pain, stress, and anxiety, because they reduce the stress hormones, like noradrenaline and cortisol.
The damaging effects of stress are reversed because high blood pressure is lowered, and metabolism, respiration, and heart rate are also slowed down. A more forceful massage improves blood circulation, which in turn results in the body tissues getting a better supply of nutrients and oxygen and also stimulates the lymphatic system to clear away toxic waste products. It helps in easing stiff and knotted joints and muscles, thus, improving flexibility and mobility.
Disclaimer: This HolisticZine article is for informative purposes only and does not in any way attempt to replace the advice offered by an expert on the subject.