Massage: What is it? Why choose it?

Massage Therapy is the manipulation of soft tissue for therapeutic purposes and may include, but is not limited to effleurage, petrissage, tapotement, compression, vibration, friction, nerve strokes and other Swedish Movements, either by hand or with mechanical or electrical apparatus for the purpose of body massage. This may include the use of oil, salt glows, hot and cold packs and other recognized forms of Massage Therapy.
Far beyond simply "feeling good," massage has an impressive range of therapeutic effects and benefits, many of which have been documented in research studies conducted in the US., Europe and Asia.
With a variety of hands-on methods, a skilled massage therapist not only stretches and loosens muscle and connective tissue, but also greatly improves blood flow to the heart and the movement of lymph fluid throughout the body.
The therapist's hands speed the removal of metabolic waste products resulting from exercise or inactivity, allowing more oxygen and nutrients to reach the cells and tissues. Sensory receptors in skin and muscles "wake up," bringing new awareness to areas that have felt "cut off" by chronic tension patterns.
The release of muscular tension also helps to unblock and balance the overall flow of life energy throughout the body (known in different cultures as vital force, bio-energy, chi, prana, ki, mana, etc.) In addition, massage can stimulate the release of endorphins - the body's natural painkillers - into the brain and nervous system. All this translates into an amazing number of possible tangible results.

PHYSICAL LEVEL
- Deep relaxation and stress reduction
- Relief of muscle tension and stiffness
- Reduced muscle spasm and tension
- Greater joint flexibility and range of motion
- Increased ease and efficiency of movement
- Better circulation of body blood and lymph fluids
- Reduced blood pressure
- Relief of tension-related headaches, eye-strain
- Healthier, better nourished skin
- Improved posture
- Faster healing time from pulled muscles and sprained ligaments; reduced    spasm, pain and swelling; reduced formation of scar tissue
- Strengthened immune system and disease prevention
- Health maintenance

MENTAL LEVEL
- Relaxed state of alertness
- Reduced mental stress; a calmer mind
- Greater ability to monitor stress signals and respond appropriately
- Increased capacity for clearer thinking

EMOTIONAL LEVEL
- Satisfying the need for caring and nurturing touch
- Feeling of well-being
- Greater ease of emotional expression
- Enhanced self-image
- Reduced levels of anxiety
- Increased awareness of the mind-body connection

There is more than one way to massage a person. These are the most common styles:
- SWEDISH MASSAGE - what probably comes to mind when thinking massage. The masseur/masseuse uses oil in his or her hands to help them glide over the skin as the masseur/masseuse remains in total contact with the client. Its' flowing strokes can soothe or stimulate depending upon the pressure used. Swedish Massage is the most conventional, using the strokes of effleurage, petrissage, tapotement, Its' sole purpose is relaxation.
- SHIATSU - Japanese acupressure massage. The practitioner's thumb and fingertips stimulate pressure points along acupuncture meridians; going up & down the body in lines to open up the channels of the meridians through sequences of massage along the meridians. The massage is energizing, and can be painful where muscles are really tight. It restores balance between blood vessels along the meridians at pressure points which are crossroads where blood vessel & nerve intersect. This is done by applying pressure on the tight muscle for 3 breaths, then on the opposing muscle for 3, or more rapid pressure movements to create a balance between tight & lax muscles. It is very good for people who need to be alert - very awakening. It stimulates the functioning of the organs and the glands.
- SPORTS MASSAGE - for athletes before competitions, to loosen them up and prepare them for play, and afterward, to work kinks out of muscles, alleviate aches and pains and reduce the effects of wear and tear. It draws on the wisdom of Shiatsu, using various techniques to strengthen & exercise muscles.
- DEEP-TISSUE MASSAGE - by identifying areas of chronic tension, this form of massage seeks to eliminate them by altering muscular structure at a deep level. The practitioner probes deeply into muscle and connective tissue, which can create some discomfort, but it produces more effective and long-lasting results than superficial forms of massage.
- POLARITY - similar to Shiatsu involves specific ways of touching areas of the body. This is supposed to balance energy fields in a manner similar to those described by acupuncture theory. The balance is achieved through a light touch on specific meridian points which links and connects various parts of the body.
- ROLFING - a deep-tissue form of massage that keys on connective tissue, known as fascia, to realign bodily structure and function. It can hurt but most people who've been Rolfed say "it hurts so good." The massage starts at the spine & works outwards to re-structure the fascia tissue which is underneath the muscles. The purpose of rolfing is to repair structural function. Specific breathing techniques during the session assist the practitioner to use fingertips & complete the strokes for the structural shifts.
- REFLEXOLOGY - the underlying theory is that there are pressure points in the feet which correspond to every major area and organ of the body. Massaging those points in the feet affects those body areas in a beneficial way. The practitioner applies pressure to crystallized areas on the foot which stimulates & balances the organ being treated. Therapists can diagnose exactly where the problem lies and can use this information to encouraging healing.
- HUNA KANE - a preventative, restorative body massage and healing system that makes a direct correlation between how emotional pain, when repressed, causes body pain, burnout & disease, which can be resolved and healed. Negative thoughts and emotional trauma are believed to lodge in the body as tight masses of constricted tissue. This was the body's way of telling its' owner what was emotionally out of balance so the person will make the changes needed. Huna Kane incorporates all types of massage, many forms of polarity, shiatsu. It clears aura & chakras. It also has the benefit of a trance state induction which helps to process at a deep level. It is a passive way to release the body of old baggage. The massage feels like a gentle rocking, relaxing painful spots in the body as the person breathes deeply. New ideas of a more appropriate way for the body to feel are offered to the client . There is an actual map that shows where specific emotions are held. Through these sessions, another way to feel, based on love for self and others balances the feelings inside, which, in turn, relaxes and detoxifies the body. The immune system's own intelligence is activated.

Applied Kinesiology (muscle testing) is used by all therapists to find the weak points in the body. It strokes and cleanses the auric field of the body.

Sources: 
Applications of Therapeutic Massage, American Massage Therapy Association, 1986
A Guide to Massage Therapy in America - 1989, American Massage Therapy Association
Nicki Farnsworth - Hawaiian Medicine Woman & Metaphysician

Massage Therapists at Holistic Practitioners' Network:

Monique in Winnipeg, Canada (Huna Kane)