The Art and Science of Massage

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Anyone who wants to train to be a massage practitioner should first look into the laws, rules and regulations for massage training and licensing in their area. There are different restrictions for who can call themselves a massage therapist in, for example, the USA, Canada, the UK and Australia. Check out whether you need to take a certain number of hours of massage training classes, and whether the massage training school needs government accreditation. The rules can even be different from state to state or province to province.

You may find that there are different kinds of bodywork or massage certificates or licenses available from the various massage education or massage therapist training schools in your area.

It is easy to be confused by the myriad of bodywork and massage modalities that are being practiced today. Some (and this is certainly not an all-inclusive list) are Swedish, Thai, Hawaiian (lomi-lomi), Chinese (tianu), Indian (Ayuervedic) Shiatsu, Reflexology, Craniosacral, Acupressure, Esalen and the Rosen Method. And let’s not even get into the other kinds of bodywork, such as tantric, erotic and sensual massage.

Some of the benefits attributed to the various massage modalities are that they can improve health and well-being by relieving stress, improving circulation, helping to cleanse toxins out of the body and lymph system drainage. A more esoteric claim is that the body has an invisible energy that is called by different names in different cultures. For example, in Chinese it is called “chi” and in Hindi it is known as “prana.” A good definition in English would be “life force.” No matter by what name it is called, it is believed that for optimum health to be achieved, this energy must circulate freely throughout the body. But many factors, such as physical and emotional stress, can lead to blockages that prevent its free flow. Failure to clear the energy blockages, it is said, may result in disease.

No matter what kind of massage is being performed, the majority of the modalities require the person receiving the massage to undress, either partially or completely, and lie on a massage table. Most often, the massage practitioner then covers the massagee with a towel. In the case of in-office massages, many times the masseuse or masseur will use a massage chair, and the client will remain completely clothed. In some Asian countries, such as India and Malaysia, it is not unusual to see street vendors offering to massage the tired legs and feet of passers-by. In these massage sessions, only the shoes and socks are removed, although the legs of the trousers may be partially rolled up.

To reduce friction between the hands of the massage therapist and the skin of the client, a lubricant such as massage oil (sometimes scented with aromatic or aromatherapy essential oils) is often applied.

In the USA, especially in urban centers, it is becoming increasingly popular to give massage gift certificates, good for a therapeutic or simply a relaxing treatment at a local spa or beauty salon. And whereas massage salons and spas were once only frequented by women, in the 21st century it is growing less unusual to see men also enjoying a massage treatment.

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