When calling around for a massage treatment, how do you know which one to choose? The facts are exposed here:
Swedish Massage was developed by the Swede Pir Henrik Ling. He used the knowledge of physiology to develop a system of treatment combining massage with physical exercise. This became known as Swedish massage. Its aim is to restore good health by a careful manipulation of muscles and joints.
Manual Lymphatic Drainage [MLD] was developed by the Danish therapist, Dr. Emil Vodder and his wife Estrid in the 1930s. They discovered that gently palpating and moving the skin could stimulate the lymphatic system and improve congestive conditions. This led them to develop a system of treatment of the whole body. It has many implications, from self-help for minor swellings to professional treatment of chronic oedema.
The lymphatic system picks up debris and waste products from the body’s connective tissue. It consists of a series of lymph nodes connected by lymph vessels. The nodes occur in clusters, mainly around the neck, armpits and groin; they contain white blood cells that help to fight infection by filtering out bacteria, as the lymph, a watery fluid, passes through the nodes.
Healthy connective tissue nourishes every cell of the body, but when it is congested, cell nutrition and the flow of waste products to the bloodstream slow down.
When the lymph system is stimulated by MLD, the stagnation is reversed, the body functions more healthily, and the immune system is strengthened.
Traditional Eastern medicine is based on the belief that life energy flows along channels, or meridians, of the body. In traditional Chinese medicine, this energy is known as qi, and the aim of all treatments, including massage, is to create an unobstructed flow of qi in the body, thus promoting harmony and wellbeing.
There are 12 regular meridians, each one influencing a major organ and its associated functions. Another two meridians trace the midline of the front of the body, Ren (Conception vessel) and the back of the body, Du (Governing vessel). In a healthy person, qi is balanced between the opposite but complementary qualities, yin and yang. Yin signifies darkness, cold, and passivity; yang signifies light, warmth, and activity. Yin meridians run along the front of the body, the abdomen and the insides of the arms and legs, and yang meridians run mainly on the back and the outsides of the arms and legs. A massage will aim to balance the left and right sides, the top and bottom, and the front and back into a cohesive, energetic whole.
The major traditional healing systems in India are Ayurveda and Unani. Both consider massage a vital part of life; a means of preventing illness, improving circulation, and attaining physical and spiritual harmony. According to both systems, all living organisms are defined by fluctuating vital energies known as humours. Each humour is made up of a combination of five essential elements: ether, air, fire, water and earth. The purpose of all therapeutic treatments, including massage, is to bring these life forces into harmony. If the humours are out of balance, the flow of prana, an invisible life energy that enters the body through food and breath, is also believed to be disrupted.
Most Indian massage includes work on pressure points. There’re said to be 107 points on the body. Stimulating these points with various massage techniques is believed to affect the body’s internal organs and systems, a concept similar to that of Thai massage and Shiatsu.
Good health depends on a balanced flow of life energy, called prana, through an invisible network of channels in the body. These channels are called sen lines and can be likened to the Chinese meridians. Out of 72,000 sen lines in the body, there’re ten that are considered to be the most important in Thai massage.
A Thai masseur tries to achieve perfect energy balancing by stretching the sen lines and by using the hands, feet, and elbows to apply pressure to key points along them. The belief is that the physical body is the vehicle through which the emotional or psychic body can be reached. The masseur traditionally performs the massage in a meditative mood, beginning with a prayer and working with full awareness and ‘mindfulness’.
Eastern Head Massage is extremely popular throughout the East. In India, China, Singapore and Turkey, most barbers and hairdressers will automatically offer a scalp massage. In fact, the word ‘shampoo’ derives from the Hindi word capna, meaning “to press” or “rub”. This ten-minute massage is quite energetic and is done on dry, rather than wet hair, to avoid stretching the hair.
Shiatsu literally translated as “finger pressure”, evolved in Japan and has its origins in traditional Chinese medicine. It is based on the Eastern principle that energy of life (ki in Japanese, qi in Chinese) flows through longitudinal meridians in the body. The aim is to apply pressure along these meridians to influence the flow of ki and maintain harmony and good health.
Reflexology is based on the theory that applying pressure to specific areas of the feet and, less commonly, of the hands and ears can affect internal organs and body systems and therefore promote good health. It evolved from the work of Dr. William H. Fitzgerald, an American ear, nose and throat surgeon who was interested in the theory of energy lines, or meridians, and developed “zone therapy” in about 1913. A reflexology treatment tends to be extremely relaxing. Not only do most people enjoy having their feet massaged, but also stimulating the extensive nerve endings in the feet is beneficial in itself and can have profound effects throughout the body.
Sarawak Massage is a sequence of gentle kneading movements designed to send waves of relaxation through the body.
Moroccan Massage of the full body can be performed in just 15 minutes and consists mainly of fast stroking. The vigour of the strokes forces the body and mind to let go and is useful for revitalizing rushed and hyperactive people.
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