Massage is a very fundamental, instinctive and primitive form of healing through communication between human beings: whether it may be a reassuring hug between friends or a mother’s rubbing her child better when they fall over. They all form healing on a physical and emotional level. Massage strokes can benefit the superficial and deep muscles and may also affect the organs underneath, but even when massage aims to give physical benefits, there is usually a general feeling of well-being that results and lasts over a period of time. When one person touches another in a loving way, there is a release of the hormone oxytocin (in both people). This is the hormone released in breast-feeding mothers, it is the hormone that ensures the bond with and love for the infant is secured. When released through touch in both men and women, in gives us a feeling of well-being and of being nurtured.
Massage treats the whole person, communicating a sense of peace and tranquillity, and developing a feeling of being in touch with our inner selves and an inner contentment. Often after a number of massages people find that they are more aware of their bodies and more able to relax, switch off from their thoughts and retreat from the stress of their day, relieving mental and emotional tension that frequently manifests as muscle tension.
Massage is a fundamental part of aromatherapy practice, and aromatherapy massage techniques that I have been taught are a combination of many different types of massage: Swedish (soft tissue) massage, shiatsu (acupressure) massage, Indian head massage, manual lymph drainage, holistic and therapeutic touch.
Relaxation can take many forms; a warm bath, a stroll in the country, yoga, a sauna, reading a good book, meditation, breathing exercises and, of course, massage. Through the act of relaxation we stimulate a part of the brain (the parasympathetic nervous system) that slows down the heart rate, the rate of breathing, lowers blood pressure and stimulates digestion and immunity.
Massage can be one of the most effective ways to learn how to relax. To switch off, unwind from the overwork, rush and worries that can overtake us, to be encouraged to breathe easily and slowly, to have the tension eased out of muscles to slow the heart rate and lower blood pressure.
Swedish massage: This consists of:
Effleurage- the application of both superficial and deep pressures
Petrissage- kneading (intermittent pressure using one or both hands, which help to increase circulation and produce a toning effect on muscle tissue), friction (concentrated movements that exert a controlled pressed over a small area) and vibration (fine trembling movements to stimulate the nerve pathways). Hacking andcuppingactions can also be used to make this a stimulating and invigorating massage.
Shiatsu massage: The word shiatsucomes from the Japanese shi, finger, and atsu, pressure, and is applied using the principles of Chiand yin/yang, by affecting the energy flow of the meridians. There are two ways of applying pressure, either simple pressure with the thumbs most often, or with small circular movements Aromatherapy makes use of certain acupressure points, but the specific points used tend to vary from one practitioner to another.
Indian head massage: This is one of the oldest known therapies, having been in use for around 4,000 years: it was originally practised in India on the head and hair, but has come to encompass the neck, shoulders, upper arms, face and ears, and incorporates Ayurvedic elements of chakra energy balancing. It focuses on the Heart Chakra and Upper Chakras. The actual strokes used are the same as in Swedish along with cupping, hacking and champi, which I often incorporate in my massage if I feel it is necessary on the upper back.
Each therapist tends to use their own individual style, and there are overlaps between each technique used. Therapists use intuition, care and a nurturing approach, and the trusting relationship that exists between therapist and client is often what facilitates the healing process at whatever level.
Often it doesn’t actually matter which techniques are used, far more important is that the therapist uses a holistic approach and takes into account the whole person: mind, body and spirit.
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Davis, P., 1999. Aromatherapy, an A – Z.Essex: The C.W. Daniel Company Limited.
Hoare, J., 2010.The Complete Aromatherapy Tutor.NY: Octopus Publishing Co.
Mehta, N., 1999.Indian head Massage: discover the power of touchThorsons, London.
Tisserand, R., 1985. The Art of Aromatherapy(revised edition) Essex: The C.W. Daniel Company Limited.