Friday, 13 June 2008

Types of Massage

Massage can be roughly divided into two kinds- one that emanates from the east and one from the west.

Eastern massage

Eastern massage is based on the premise in traditional Chinese medicine that the body is made up of vertical lines or meridians though which life energy flows. Disease is the manifestation of a disrupted or blocked flow of energy, and massage works by restoring the movement and thus relieves symptoms. Many varieties of massage follow this basic principle, for example Chinese massage, reflexology, and shiatsu.

Western massage

The type a massage used in the West das its roots in anatomy and physiology, and is usually based loosely on Swedish massage. Simply speaking, the theory is that stroking, pressing, and squeezing the flesh stimulates the circulation, therefore supplying more blood to the muscles and removing waste products of metabolism more effectively to prevent or remove a buildup.

What the experts say

Here is an explanation of what happens to us during a massage from Dr Candace Pert, a neurochemist from the US: "When people feel pleasure, as they usually do during a massage, they focus on the present moment rather than staying involved with worries and preoccupations. An interesting scientific fact is that there are neurons containing peptides in every organ and throughout the body. One end of these cells is heading into the central nervous system, leading to the brain. The other end is located in the skin ­when you manipulate skin, the peptides are released; you are programming the whole body - not so much just the brain area."

Cultural differences

There is no doubt that touch is a very touchy subject! There are striking differences in the way different cultures touch one another; in some countries it is even taboo. People from lands in the northern hemisphere are far less touchy-feely than people from warmer climes; however, they are more likely to cuddle and stroke their cats, dogs, and horses. So it seems that touching is such an overriding human need that if you can't touch other people you'll find touching an animal is a fine substitute.

Why don't you carry out your own research and people-watch? See how many times different groups of people, for example couples, mothers, and siblings, touch each other. The point I'm trying to make is that massage is a form of touch and if you have a problem with touching people per se, you need to overcome this to reap the benefits of massage. I think these social inhibitions are due to a confusion between sensuality and sexuality, and as a result we have formalized touch. Massage can remove the taboos of touching, and allow people to touch in a positive way.

A final note

In the frantic, materialistic, and technological age in which we now live, many people have lost touch with their inner feelings and in particular how to feel good about themselves. Massage is an excellent way of rediscovering yourself- so next time you feel you need some retail therapy, try having a massage instead. That item you left in the shop will soon be forgotten, but the feel-good factor from the massage will last a long time.

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