Physical and Mental Health Benefits of Massage
Physical and Mental Health Benefits of an Asian Massage – If you asked any person what they know about the benefits of getting a massage, they’ll probably answer somewhere along the lines of “it makes you feel relaxed.” They’re right, of course, but the truth is much more complicated.
Not only does massage therapy provide a wide variety of advantages and natural treatments that can improve mental health and physical wellbeing in many different ways, but there is also a multitude of different branches of massage that focus on different parts of the body (or the soul) to improve overall health in different ways. We’ve provided this guide to some of the most well-known types of massage to some lesser-known massage styles in an effort to describe the various health benefits of massage therapy.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the different variations of massage. Remember that there are many subcategories for each of the following branches, so if you’re curious, there is plenty more research you can do!
European massage was developed later than Asian massage, but has steadily become one of the most popular massage styles not just in Europe but in many parts of the Western world including the United State and Canada. There are a couple different types of massages that have their origins in Europe, and each is administered to the client to their unclothed skin.
Don’t get confused by the name! This massage practice is believed to have its roots in the Netherlands, where the names for a variety of massage strokes and pressures were translated from French. However, this technique was eventually conflated with Peter Ling’s Swedish Movement System, which is why American ended up referring to this massage as “Swedish.” However, in Europe (and the rest of the world, really) this is simply referred to as “Classic” or perhaps “European” massage. This style of massage combines smooth, gliding strokes with more localized kneading and rubbing. Swedish massage is a great “starter” massage for people who are just getting used to having massages, as well as for athletes with tense or knotted muscles.
The health benefits of Swedish massage are pretty standard for most massages.
Mentally, the repetitive and smooth motions guide clients into a reprieve from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Swedish massage is therefore hailed as one that leaves clients with long-lasting feelings of relaxation and rejuvenation. The physical health benefits are also fairly straightforward, as clients can expect a relief from tension, soreness, and strain, as well as improved circulation of blood and bodily fluids that should lead to improved breathing and even increased flexibility.
Turkish Hammam Baths
Few people realize that classic/Swedish massage is not the only type of this therapeutic style that has its roots in Europe! You might have heard of Greek or Roman baths, with some being public and a small number being exclusive to the court members. However, the Ottomans of Turkey built magnificent bathhouses in the capital, Constantinople (now Istanbul), in the fifteenth century. While many of the classic baths have been shut down or preserved as museums, there are a few that are still fully operating even today, and they remain a huge tourist attraction as well as a source of inspiration for hotels, spas, and salons across the world to examine the branch of hydrotherapy.
If you have the chance to visit an authentic Hammam in Turkey, you will be dressed in a traditional cotton wrap, heat your body in a sauna, and then receive a hand scrubbing so your body is completely clean before the actual massage. The massage strokes can vary but are known to be very different from classic European massage and involve such pressure as attendants walking across your back and pulling on parts of your body.
It’s probably no surprise that bath-type massages are thought to be extremely beneficial for the skin, as the water is thought to purify and cleanse the body. Similarly, this massage is thought to offer a type of mental cleansing, where clients can enjoy this restful yet somewhat interactive experience as an opportunity to re-center themselves.
There are many types of Asian massage, and in most places they are equally as popular as classic European massage. Asian massage employs a slightly different set of principles. While the classic European philosophy focuses on the anatomy of the body, the Asian massage philosophy is centered on restoration of energy balance through chakras or chi. Asian massage is believed to have originated in China as early as the 6-7th century, making it the oldest known massage style in the world.
Chinese massage is thought to have originated from holy monks, many of whom acted as local healers. The prevailing mindset at the time was that any physical ailment was a result of a lack of spiritual harmony, and rubbing the body along invisible energy lines could help restore that balance. While there are variations, the most popular kind of Chinese massage is called Tui Na (sometimes spelled as just one word, Tuina), and employs a method of pushing and grasping strokes to restore internal balance and treat specific injuries or strains. This ancient practice is believed to be ideal for athletes. Another kind is called Amno, which focuses on a broader rejuvenation of the entire body through rubbing, pressing strokes. Older Chinese traditions administered the strokes right on the skin, but nowadays many Asian massage practices are delivered over the clothes.
Physically, the benefits of Chinese massage might seem similar to the Swedish techniques we have already discussed, but the mental aspect of Chinese massage is much deeper. Rather than clients simply feeling relaxed or rejuvenated, Chinese massage digs deeper into the spiritual balance of each client, and the success of a session depends on the spiritual compatibility and connection between the client and the massage therapist.
Japanese massage has its roots in China, and it is believed that a Buddhist monk who spent time studying in China returned to Japan and shared the knowledge of massage, where it was further expanded on in similar yet different ways. The most popular strain of Japanese massage is called Shiatsu, meaning “finger pressure.” There are many variations of Shiatsu, some of which involve acupuncture (using needles) and cupping (placing heated glass cups on a person’s skin to create suction). The main element of Shiatsu is the application of pressure to various parts of the body to restore the balance along energy lines. Amma massage (see the connection to the Chinese Anmo massage?) uses more of a push-pull balance rather than direct application of pressure to stretch and stroke the skin, and practitioners often use their elbows to get a deeper stroke. Japanese massage is thought to fully cleanse the body and soul from imbalances or negative energy, and it is recommended that clients incorporate Amma massage into their routine regularly. In fact, it is believed that Amma massage can be so intense that some clients experience flu-like symptoms after a session, which is an indication of the deep intertwining of the spiritual and physical aspects of massage.
Thai or Yoga Massage
There are not as many historical records of Thai massage as there for Chinese and Japanese massage. Thai massage is one of the only Asian massage techniques that was primarily passed down through generations by word of mouth instead of writing on paper. It is most widely believed that Thai massage was developed by Jivaka, who worked alongside the Buddha and served as a physician and healer to the king of India during the early 500s BC. Thai massage is linked to certain branches of yoga, as both the practitioner and client are more active during this type of massage, so you might not necessarily have that soft, sleepy feeling you would get during a Shiatsu or maybe Swedish massage. Thai massage includes deep tissue stimulation as well as deep stretching, so you can expect to be standing at some parts and having your limbs adjusted. This is a great massage to help you feel more energized rather than relaxed, and is believed to bolster confidence and mental strength in practitioners.
One famous type of massage to emerge from India is called Ayurveda, the only type of Asian massage to focus mainly on the head (with shoulder and hand massages sometimes given in addition to the head massage). Ayurveda, which translates to “knowledge of life,” is thought to explore the deep connections between the spiritual perspective of the soul and the physical nature that is experienced through the brain and eyes. The massage therapist will douse your head in oils as they knead, stroke, and tap against the temples, nape of the neck, even parts of the forehead. This massage is thought to have extremely beneficial effects for the nervous system, and clients who have complained of headaches claim that Ayurveda is their saving grace. Additionally, clients who extremely stressed or suffer from anxiety and worry will likely find some relief in an Ayurveda session.
Native American Massage
Stone and Temperature Massage
You probably have heard of hot stone Asian massages, which have been incorporated into a number of different massage techniques from all over the world, but you probably have no idea that it originates from the Hopi Nation, an indigenous American tribe whose reservation is located near Tucson, Arizona. Stones used in healing and therapeutic practices throughout history can be traced back to about 700 years, making it one of the younger massage practices in the world. Hot stones are common massage practices and even something of a trend as of the late 2010s. However, much of the Hopi practices involves using a variety of different temperature to allow the body to respond in different ways. The use of temperature, hot or cold, is a technique that amplifies the body’s chemical responses to the rest of the massage process.
Cherokee bodywork is an early indigenous system that focuses on breath and energy, altering between an application of heavy pressure and a gentle, rocking “release” period. It is believed that the practitioner’s hands, which are traditionally warmed over hot coals, could brush healing powers across the body as well as sweep away any damaging spiritual energy. Mindful breathing is used to more deeply draw the spirit throughout the tissues of the body, and crystal work has also been incorporated into some of their massage variations. Additionally, the Cherokee tribe is believed to have developed their own style of acupuncture, originally using thorns and porcupine quills to stimulate healing of the body.
So now you can see how there are many different variations of massage practices.
It’s true that the basic premise of massage is pretty similar from one region to another. However, you might not realize that each branch of massage was intricately developed in a different manner, so it is something of an amazing phenomenon for so many of the same principles to overlap. Hopefully, it is now clearer to you that massage is not only good for relaxing and relieving pain from the body but has also been carefully tailored over the years to provide mental fortitude and spiritual fortitude. No matter where you go to receive a massage, try to remember all the centuries that have passed as the original developers of massage therapy worked out all the details.