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Getting the Most Out of Massage Print E-mail
Georgina Guedes   
Thursday, 29 January 2009
Getting The Most Out of MassageGoing for a massage is a treat you enjoy, but sometimes the list of options on the menu can be daunting. Rather than sticking to a half-hour back and neck rub, swot up on these different types of massage to ensure that your next therapeutic adventure is different and satisfying.

Deep Tissue
As the name implies, this is a massage that works deep into the muscles in troubled or knotted areas with palms and fingers. It can bring incredible relief, but be sure to tell the massage therapist if she’s working the area too hard – there’s no point in coming away with more pain than you started with.

Swedish massage has longer strokes than deep tissue massage, but a similar philosophy, also targeting troubled areas. The intention of the massage is to bring mobility into the joints as well as relieving muscle tension.


Scented oils combine beautifully with massage to bring on an even deeper state of relaxation. A qualified aromatherapist will make sure that she selects the right oils for you in line with your needs at the time of consultation – be they for relaxation, rejuvenation, energy, stress relief or even healing from some medical condition. Chances are that you’ll go home with oil in your hair, so best scheduled for when you can follow the session up with a shower.

Indian Head
The origins of this type of massage are simply that Indian families would relax together by massaging oils into each other’s heads. A specific style has evolved out of this for a spine-tinglingly pleasant massage experience.

In Thailand, massages are abundant and cheap. Businessmen might pop into a massage parlour on their way to work in the mornings for a quick working over – done fully clothed by applying pressure to the body’s meridians while putting the limbs or back in a yoga position to derive the full benefits. In the country of origin, you might find your massage accompanied by conversation, loud radio or the starting of motorbikes, but at Thai spas in South Africa, relaxation is paramount. Don’t be put off by the yoga positions either – most of these are lying or sitting postures and you won’t be pushed further than your body can comfortably go.  

Ka Huna

Ka Huna massage is a Hawaiian treatment that works on the principle of releasing toxins by the stirring up of the body’s waters. The massage therapist keeps her patient well lubricated with oils, and moves her hands and forearms like powerful serpents over the surface of the whole body. It’s a very active, swirling massage, which can be as hard or as gentle as you like. It is usually accompanied by beautiful music, as the movements of the therapist are almost like a dance, and it’s incredibly relaxing.

Hot Stone
Volcanic rock has an incredible ability to hold warmth, so this massage is done by placing heated stones along certain meridians on the body and using them to work away tension with heat. This is very soothing massage style, and it’s important to communicate with your therapist if you feel that the stones are too hot.

This is a Japanese technique for restoring energy, causing relaxation and promoting healing. You receive Reiki fully clothed, while the therapist places hands on or above certain meridians on your body to tap into your life energy. Whether this is successful, or whether you open yourself to deep relaxation and meditation through the process, Reiki can cause incredible personal revelations as well as healing.

Reflexology works on the principle that the human body is mapped out on the feet and that by stimulating certain areas, relief will be given. Reflexology has an amazing ability to diagnose problems, and it improves circulation, releases tension and restores energy as well. Some therapists work quite deeply into the foot, so this isn’t always the most relaxing therapy at the time, although the benefits after the fact make it worthwhile.

A form of acupressure, Shiatsu involves locating trouble areas by differences in skin and muscle texture and body heat and then working to restore the “Ki” which is Japanese for life force through pressure, rubbing and poking.

The chakras are seven points on the body from which our life energy flows and is absorbed from the universe. The chakras can be accessed in different ways – through colour, oils, meditation and even dance. Chakra massage takes into account the condition of the patient at the time of treatment to see which chakras need to be brought into alignment. This is done through a combination of massage, aromatherapy and often music as well.

Choosing a Therapist
Many spas offer a variety of massage treatments or one particular style. It’s always worth asking if the person giving the massage is a trained therapist, or just someone who has learnt one particular style, especially if you have any medical conditions that could be aggravated by an untrained hand.

Proper massage training involves modules in counselling and anatomy, not just the practical steps of giving the massage, so your benefit is increased considerably by finding a qualified therapist. But if you’re going for a package treatment at a spa, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying the therapy on offer for what it is.

Ultimately, massage is a very personal experience, and while someone might like almost-bruising pressure, another person might prefer to be gently stroked. Never be afraid to communicate your preferences to the massage therapist upfront. It’s also worth developing a relationship with a specific therapist who can grow to understand your preferences and be aware of the changes in your health to assist you in deriving the full benefits from your treatments.

Georgina Guedes is the editor of Harmonious Living.
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