The aim of commercial massage therapy centers around relieving energy blocks in the positive and negative poles to liberate the body from physical pain. Oil massage as a whole is believed to have beneficial effects on nerve endings, penetrates the skin, relaxes the body and increases circulation.
The Swedish massage is a significant component of the commercial massage therapy. “The Swedish massage drains out the lymphatic fluid in the muscles, helps break fat and liberates the body muscles from stress”, stated masseur J. Bharadwaj.
Unlike the massage provided in akhadas (wrestling schools in India), which is not as systematic, and aims only at building muscle power, Swedish massage is gentler, very slow and pressure is applied only at certain places.
The strokes in Swedish massage are given in a clockwise upward movement. This ensures that the skin doesn’t become loose and that the blood circulation is pushed towards the heart.
The masseur will use his hand, thumb, palm, fist or elbow, with a lot of pulling or squeezing movements, depending on the requirement. The neck, feet and hands are usually the tension sites and a masseur concentrates mostly on these places during the massage. Some people may not like to take a head massage or the full body massage. That’s when a neck massage is given instead.
The amount of pressure that is applied varies from area to area. Gentle strokes and stimulation of pressure points highlight a facial massage covering the face, neck and shoulders.
“How often the client goes in for a massage is also important. If the frequency is say, once a week, then more pressure may be used”, revealed masseur Anisa Qureshi.
The Swedish massage therapy is said to be a very deep massage. “As men and women have a different physical structure and constitution, the strokes and the pressure applied in certain places are bound to differ”, she asserts. Most of the time, a good masseur can feel the tension in muscles with his hand and release it. Around the shoulders where muscles are bigger, harder pressure is applied on the front and the back.
The Swedish massage is sometimes combined with an eastern application technique called the Shanghai massage. This therapy is also popularly known as ‘Stress buster’, as it is specially beneficial in relieving pain in the neck, shoulders and joints. The Shanghai massage involves pressing with fingers at pressure points as well as the general massage, when the masseur may use his/her hand, feet, even hip and legs (thighs). “Mostly, either sesame oil or Johnson & Johnson oil or olive oil may be used. Almond oil is also used, but since it’s very expensive, we use it only when a client specifically asks for it”, asserted masseur Anisa. In essence, oil is used because it is easy to push, moreover it makes the skin smooth.
Coconut oil is cool and is used for head massage, while sesame oil is only good for body massage. As heat increases the power of the oils, these are warmed before use. “It is advantageous to let the oil remain on your body for at least half–an–hour afterwards and not apply soap immediately. A steam bath after the massage is very good ”, she informed.
Some people who are sensitive to oil or have lot of hair on their body (in the case of men for instance) or others who do not have time to shower, may like to take a powder massage. For the powder massage, any talcum powder could be used in the Shiatsu technique (Japanese acupressure) or reflexology which is quite relaxing, disclosed masseur Bharadwaj.
Reflexology is also applied with oil. “Since the effect of massage is felt in the head, an appropriately proportionate concentration is given to the feet with the help of reflexology”, explained masseur Anisa. Although it is akin to acupressure, reflexology concerns itself more with nerve endings in the palm and feet soles. It is considered to be more effective when applied to the feet than the palm.
“Foreigners who come to us are aware of what suits them, because they have tried the various oils and may ask for aromatherapy or an ayurvedic massage instead”, revealed masseur Bharadwaj. The basic ingredients in an ayurvedic massage are oils extracted from flowers and leaves of plants and herbs. Since the extracts are of hard temperament, these are mixed in 10:90 proportions with warm ordinary oil, before massaging with the hand using plain strokes. Nowadays, Indians have become increasingly aware about the therapy. “With more usage, Indians will also learn about the benefits of aromatherapy”, he affirmed. One massage session could last for up to an hour depending on the client’s particular preference or complaint(s).
Guarding the privacy of the client (especially, in the case of ladies) during the therapy is essential, so that clients feel no discomfort and are able to relax totally. “A masseur–client relationship resembles the bond between the patient and his doctor. This is a form of therapy, wherein clients come back if they are satisfied”, maintained masseur Bharadwaj.
During the therapy, the client’s eyes and body remain covered (with an eye pack or cotton pack and a towel, respectively ). Only those areas, which need to be given a massage are exposed. Ideally, the massage room must have normal room temperature, must be dimly lit and the bed must not be too high.
In the West, as well as in some countries in the East, men and women prefer taking massage from people of the opposite sex. Sounding a note of caution, masseur Qureshi says, “It is not good to go in for massage therapy before 30 years of age (especially for girls), because the muscles are not yet fully developed.”
A person who is trying the therapy for the first time, unless he has some specific pain or choice, the combination most suitable to him or her, can only be ascertained by trial and error.
Does the therapy have any side–effects? States masseur Bharadwaj, “Any type of manipulative therapy can manifest certain side–effects, when used or practiced in the wrong manner. If the massage is not given properly using the right strokes, it is likely that the client may develop muscular pain or some other muscular problem.”
So, in the ultimate analysis, the proof of the pudding does lie in its eating!