Massage is a natural healing technique with over 200 varieties of application. Only a few are discussed here. In general, massage is rubbing, kneading, tapping or otherwise manipulating the soft body tissue with the hands or with some instrument designed for this purpose in efforts of increasing blood circulation, relaxing tense muscles, easing stress, inducing sleep and alleviating pain. In a sense, massage removes impurities from the body - making an outlet for stress, worry, fatigue, lactic acid (causes muscle soreness), etc. It is important to know where masses of muscles can be found, so suggested reading is The Skeleton System and The Muscle System.

(Some) Types of Massage

Sweedish massage ~The most popular method of massage, and the focus of these pages. It involves long soothing strokes, kneading and tapping of the muscles and soft tissue to work the entire body, relieving muscle tension and loosening sore joints. Swedish massage consists of five basic strokes: effleurage (stroking); petrissage (muscles are lightly grabbed and lifted); friction (thumbs and fingertips work in deep circles into the thickest part of muscles; tapotement (chopping, beating, and tapping strokes); and vibration (fingers are pressed or flattened firmly on a muscle, then the area is shaken rapidly for a few seconds).

Acupressure ~ Acupuncture performed without the use of needles. Instead, it's administered by using the pressure of the fingertips and thumbs applied to certain acupoints along meridians of the body. Acupressure promotes the life energy to circulate through the body's channels, increasing health and harmony. Certain acupoints are associated with relieving ailments in specific areas of the body.

Shiatsu ~ A derivative of acupressure, but instead of just the fingertips, the pressure may be applied using hands, knees, elbows or feet. Shiatsu is given on the ground on a futon, which makes the application physically strenuous for the therapist.

Reflexology ~ AKA "Zone Therapy" uses pressure points in the hands and feet which are thought to be linked to other areas and organs of the body within the same zone. For example, an individual who is worrying over something, may be seen wringing their hands together. Although unconscious and easily mistook for nervousness, it is an excellent illustration of Reflexology.

Rolfing ~ Seeks to realign and strengthen the body by working the connective tissues that surround muscles and hold the body together. This is a more painful form of massage, although the effects are long term. Throughout our lives, our muscles fight the pull of gravity and for Most, it becomes easier, more natural to slouch which forces organs to compress. Rolfing helps create better posture.

Deep Tissue ~ Targets chronic tension in muscles that lie far below the surface of the body. For example, the back has five layers of muscles, and while Swedish massage may help the first couple of layers, it won't do much directly for the muscle underneath. Deep muscle techniques usually involve slow strokes, direct pressure or friction movements that go across the grain of the muscles.

Sports Massage ~ Designed to help physically active individuals train and perform better. The techniques are similar to those in Swedish and deep tissue massage, but has been adapted to meet the athlete's special needs. Pre-event massage can help warm up muscles and improve circulation before competition, but it can also energize or relax an athlete and help him focus on the competition. Post-event massage can push waste products out of the body and improve recovery.

Craniosacral Therapy ~ Focuses on the skull and spinal column, using very gentle pressure, no more than the weight of a silver bit to massage the bones, membranes and fluids that support and bathe the skull and spinal column.

Preparing For A Massage

Whether for sensual or therapeutic purposes, it is important that the atmosphere allows the individual to relax and receive the full benefit of the massage. The following are good ideas on creating the right ambiance.

  • Remove Distractions ~ Send slaves on errands, lock the door, hang a "DND" sign on the door, etc. Do what is necessary to ensure You will have the minimal amount of interruptions possible.
  • Plan for Time ~ A massage is not an experience to be rushed, although there may be instances where time prohibits a full session.
  • Lighting ~ The lighting should be soft and indirect. Candlelight is perfect. Even natural sunlight shining through a window in the afternoon is terrific.
  • Sound ~ Make it quiet. Much of the day is spent around the clamor of beasts or the bustle of the City. If these noises can't be shut out, drown them out with soft music.
  • Temperature ~ The temperature of the room and Your hands should be warm. Ideally, the individual will be (semi-)nude and cold hands can make it uncomfortable.
  • Scent / Aroma ~ During a massage is a good opportunity to incorporate aroma therapy. Candles, fresh flowers/petals, incense, etc., can be used to this effect. Try to choose a scent that is appealing to the individual.
  • Prepare a Comfortable Place to Lay ~ Massage should be on a flat, firm surface - either a table, or couch, or pillows on the floor, work well.
  • Prepare the Person ~ While You are setting up the last minute details, the Person to be massaged should change or strip clothes, bathe if possible, making sure the day's toil as well as make-up or other grime is removed from the skin. Preparation should include brushing teeth, etc. as sleep may be an inevitable conclusion.

Tips of Massaging

Your goal in a massage is to put the individual in a state of relaxation; if you are scared or worried, it is very easy to read from your body language. Start slowly, be sensitive to the person's response and adapt your technique accordingly. Make sure to listen to the individual's breathing, it is an excellent indication of how He/She is responding to the massage. There is no road map on the body as each person is different and enjoys different stimulation.

  • Keep Contact ~ The whole concept of massage is built around being touched, so try to keep contact with the individual. As you move to different areas of the body do so in a continuous manner. Keeping contact helps the massage flow smoothly and increases intimacy. Keep the movements rhythmic, even, and symmetric. By following smooth patterns the individual understand what is happening and will relax more deeply.
  • Use Oils / Lotions ~ Allows hands to glide smoothly over flesh. As You move to a new area, begin by spreading warm oil. It is an effective, and delicious, prelude to a massage.
  • Work Slowly ~ Take your time. Relax and work slowly. Listen to the individual and let His/Her responses tell You how much pressure to use.
  • Using Hands ~ There is no right or wrong method. Generally, start softly and progressively massage deeper, carefully monitoring the individual's breathing and adapting your technique according to His/Her responses. Use fingertips softly in softer and more sensitive areas. Use full hand, especially thumbs, in large, commonly sore, muscle areas like the outer thighs and shoulders.
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