Introduction to holistic massage therapy

by | Jul 3, 2012 | Body

man being massaged

Physical massage is a very simple but effective therapy to calm the neuromuscular system and induce deep relaxation. The gentle, rhythmic kneading away of tension increases circulation to the muscles whilst bringing your awareness to your body. Holistic massage therapy is a more specialised approach incorporating other techniques such as the activation of reflex and acupressure points on the feet, head and face, and/or balancing techniques that assess energy flow and correct it such as Reiki.

The understanding that forms the basis of this more esoteric style of massage is the recognition that there are various energy centres in the body that integrate with the physical self. Muscular tension may inhibit the free flow of energy and obstructed energy flow equally inhibits the optimal function of the physical body. The therapist seeks to enhance optimal energy flow and thus allow the inner self to restore harmony. This style of holistic massage therapy is a deeply calming and balancing experience that takes relaxation to another level on its own; however, the addition of a suitable vibrational essence or a blend of professional quality aromatherapy oils may also be used to enhance the therapeutic process even further.

Some therapists may use a blend of personally and intuitively selected flower essences that can be added to your massage oils. These vibrational remedies have been used by people for subtle emotional support since the 1930s and add a different aspect to your therapy. There are currently many essence ranges to choose from in Australia including the English ‘Bach Flower’ range, the Australian Bush Flower essences, the Desert Alchemy range or the globally devised White Light Essences, so ask your therapist if this is something you would like to try at your next session.

What to expect during your massage

Massage therapy is typically carried out lying on a massage table in a comfortably warmed room, as you will be required to disrobe down to your underwear. In order to retain your modesty and enhance your comfort, you should be covered at all times using fluffy towels or lighter sheets depending upon the ambient temperature. Essential oils are added to a base or ‘carrier’ oil for skin application. Different carrier oils may be used on the body and feet than for the face, and none are usually used upon the scalp, though there are Ayurvedic therapies found in spas that may use this approach. The therapist’s hands should be cleansed before the session, as it is important that strict hygiene protocols are adhered to.

Massages are usually full-body therapies and so may include the back, legs, arms, feet, head and face, and may also include the abdominal region. You should advise the therapist if you wish to have an area avoided, for any reason, and your therapist should respect this. Alternately, if you do not want a particular essential oil to be used for personal reasons, then this should also be disclosed to the therapist so that a different selection can be made instead.

Holistic massages are more relaxing by nature and are not trigger point or very deep-tissue remedial-style massage.  If ‘knots’ are discovered then these may receive some attention depending upon the therapists level of training or they may refer you to a musculoskeletal specialist for myofascial dry-needling, specific remedial massage, or more comprehensive osteopathic support.

Contraindications and cautions

As tree nut and seed oils may be used during massage therapy as carrier oils, those with severe nut or seed allergies (e.g. anaphylaxis) are advised to discuss your situation with your chosen therapist before making a booking.

Please note that massage is contraindicated in situations where you are acutely unwell or have a fever, however, it can be useful to promote lymphatic drainage and support the immune system once you are getting better (that is, once the fever has passed). In addition, it is inadvisable to have a massage directly after a large meal or whilst under the influence of alcohol, as the former may result in discomfort such as indigestion and the latter puts undesirable additional pressure onto the subtle detoxification processes that massage promotes. In all cases, it is recommended that you consume plenty of fresh, spring water after your treatment to hydrate and support the body’s inherent detoxification pathways.

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