Who doesn’t love a massage?
I do. Why? For so many reasons, the main one being that physical massage is a very simple but effective way to calm the neuromuscular system and induce deep relaxation. I love how the gentle, rhythmic kneading away of my muscle tension helps bring my awareness to how my body is really feeling. Which bits are tight? Which bits are good? But I love a holistic approach even better because it’s more specialised and incorporates other techniques such as reflex and acupressure point palpation on the feet, head and face, and/or balancing techniques that assess energy flow and correct it. I’m talking Reiki here.
Why is it termed ‘holistic’?
The understanding that underlies this more esoteric style of massage is recognising that various energy centres in the body 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. When you have a therapist who understands all this, they can 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. I always prefer a deeply grounding blend of essential oils but maybe you’re someone who’d prefer something more uplifting—it depends on how you want to feel emotionally and physically.
Some therapists may also 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, but in Australia and NZ, these include the English ‘Bach Flower’ range, the Australian Bush Flower essences, the Desert Alchemy range or the globally devised White Light Essences. If this sings to you then ask your therapist what they offer at your next session.
Me? I tend to stick to aromatherapy oils myself as I love the extra layer of relaxation they bring to me via my sense of smell—something earthy, a wood oil, maybe a hint of balsam or orange. These are my ‘go-to’ essences.
What to expect during your massage
Just like any oil-based massage therapy, a holistic massage 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. But don’t worry! 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. If you are someone, like me, who gets cold easily, make sure you tell your therapist that an extra covering is required to keep you snug!
Essential oils are then 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—this has always been the case but especially nowadays with COVID-19 an additional concern. Your therapist may need (or choose) to be masked depending upon restrictions too.
I also like to listen to spa-like music. I don’t want to talk. But you should feel free to do so if you wish, and certainly let the therapist know if the pressure is right or too deep for you—they want to know.
It’s not a deep-tissue style of massage
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, 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. I’m noting this so your expectations match the likely offering—it’s not uncommon for people to want deep-tissue work but that’s not what this style of massage is about. But, even more subtle approaches can have long-standing benefits so don’t underestimate the power of even a more gentle style of massage that uses points and oils.
Contraindications and cautions of massage
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 their situation with your chosen therapist before making a booking.
Also, 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, you are on the mend, and you have the ‘all-clear’ from your healthcare practitioner).
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.
So next time you feel like a massage—consider something more holistic and look after your inner realm as well as your physical self.