Monday, 16 June 2008

The Mystique of Massage

On the one hand, massage is simplicity itself - what could be simpler and more rewarding than touching someone to make them feel better? On the other hand, it is a highly developed skill that has evolved over many centuries into one of the most popular complementary therapies. The good news is that you don't have to be a qualified massage therapist to give a good massage; all you need is someone to practise on and a willingness to learn. Before I go into how you do it, I would like to start with some background information on the history and development of massage as a healing and relaxing therapy.

What is massage?

Probably one of the oldest healing therapies known to man, massage is an extension of a basic instinct seen in animals and humans alike: apes groom each other, animals lick their wounds, humans rub away their aches and pains. The basis of massage is touch - the most fundamental of human needs; in fact, touch is so important that if it is absent or withdrawn it can lead to all sorts of problems, ranging from failure to thrive in babies, irritability and bad behavior in children, and depression in adults.

The profound effects

Massage relaxes, stimulates, comforts, soothes, shows caring and empathy, relieves stress, anxiety, and depression, alleviates pain, reduces symptoms of minor illnesses, and improves emotional and physical well-being.

The important thing about massage is that anybody can do it, anybody can have it done, there are no side effects, it can be adapted to individual needs, and most importantly, it makes both the receiver and the giver feel good.

Linguistic origins

There is evidence of massage in ancient and more recent cultures. The fact that it has survived for so long and evolved into different branches reinforces its reputation as a universal panacea. However, the actual word "massage" is relatively new, but no one is sure about its derivation. It may originate from the Arabic word masah, meaning "to stroke with the hand"; or the Greek word massein, "to knead"; the Latin root massa has the same meaning as the Greek; a French word masser, "to shampoo"; and there's a Sanskrit word makeh, which means "to press softly."

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