Massage – it’s all about muscles and pressure points, right? It sure is, but it’s also a whole lot more. There’s at least thirty-four recognised versions of massage, from the classics such as Remedial, Swedish and Sports to the culturally diverse – including Shiatzu, Watsu, Kum Nye and Tantric. You can have it with hot or cold stones, showers, lotions and cremes. You can be massaged lying down, standing up and sitting on a chair. In reality, massage is pretty much anything you want it to be.
The thing is, most massage therapies usually go about achieving the same result – which is reducing muscle tension through muscle or musculoskeletal manipulation. Massage can be vigorous with lots of elbows or even feet pushing at knotted muscles, it can be vibrations and shaking, it can be quiet and meditative and it can be about getting the body to start healing itself.
Thai Massage (Nuad Boran) for example puts a lot of effort into improving blood flow and lymph drainage in the body – encouraging the lymphatic system to work more efficiently and keeping the muscles fed with fresh nutrients. And it does this with almost no pain. Tibetan Kum Nye – which means massage of the subtle body relies on relaxation techniques similar to yoga to bring rest to the body and reduce its energetic state.
Now compare that with Sports Massage where kneading, muscle and joint manipulation – while effective – works in ways where pain often comes before any sense of relief – yet the end result is still usually a state of relaxation…or even a sense of exhaustion. Shiatsu, which is Japanese for finger pressure, dates from 1919 and relies on finger and palm pressure plus stretches to unblock the body. Stone massage uses cold or water-heated stones to apply pressure to points of the body. Another well known variety in the western world is Swedish, a technique using sliding, kneading, rhythmic tapping, friction and shaking moves to loosen the muscles – although in Sweden this style of massage is actually known as classic massage and dates back to the Ancient Greeks and Romans.
As you can see, in this day and age there’s obviously a lot of different choices to achieve pretty similar things. Your choices will probably be more about personal taste than which type is more effective. In the end, what works for you is probably more important than working those muscles versus meditation relaxation.
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