A massage not only feels good, but it can also provide the body any number of valuable benefits, including stress-relief, release of knotted muscles, preparation for and recovery from athletic activity and a smooth pregnancy, among others. They key to benefitting most from the massages you receive is identifying exactly which type of bodywork provides you the therapy you most need at the time. Below, we’ve listed six of the most common types of massage we offer at Vasaio Life Spa and the primary differences between them.
When most people think of massage, it’s the Swedish technique they’re thinking about, whether they realize it or not. Swedish bodywork is a relaxing, stress-relieving form of bodywork that releases tense or cramped muscles. Unlike the Eastern bodywork methods formed around the energy centers of the body, Swedish bodywork is rooted firmly in Western comprehension of basic human anatomy and physiology. The Swedish method is the perfect form to receive as one’s introduction to bodywork therapy, and it lends well to couples sessions as well.
The Swedish method is comprised of a combination of three essential bodywork techniques, applied with oil or lotion:
- Effleurage – long, smooth strokes performed usually at the beginning and end of a session
- Petrissage – the kneading and rolling of muscles, not unlike kneading dough, as well as lifting motions
- Friction – deep, firm pressure applied usually in a circular or wringing motion to particular spots on the body using the fingertips, knuckles or thumb.
Older forms of the Swedish method also incorporated a fourth technique, called tapotement. These were rapid, percussive movements, including pounding on the muscles. Tapotement has fallen into relative disuse over time given that it isn’t a particularly relaxing sensation to experience during an otherwise relaxing session. Swedish bodywork may also include vibration techniques like the gentle rocking or shaking of various limbs or body parts.
Swedish bodywork sessions often begin with long, sweeping movements across the whole body, slowly refining themselves as the session proceeds to specific problem areas.
Sports bodywork is very focused work that combines whatever techniques are necessary in order to achieve the desired goal, usually to prepare an athlete for peak performance or to help an athlete to recover post-performance. This includes helping to both prevent and treat injuries in a non-invasive and non-debilitating manner. Sports masseuses combine Swedish, Deep Tissue, Reflexology, Shiatsu and any other techniques they may need to get the job done.
A more intense bodywork method for more severe situations, deep tissue work digs in deeply to release knotted muscles. In deep tissue work, a masseuse uses his or her knuckles to literally strip muscles smooth and straight as close to the bone as he or she can get. As a result, while other forms of bodywork may leave you feeling relaxed, a deep tissue session may well leave you feeling a bit sore.
In reflexology, masseuses focus their attention exclusively on the hands and feet. Based on the belief that the hands and feet serve as a sort of microcosmic map of the whole human body, reflexologists apply very focused finger, thumb and hand techniques to the hands and feet with the goal of affecting these other body parts, regions or systems. Reflexology techniques are mostly gentle and painless and are applied without the use of any oil or lotion.
If you’re pregnant and seeking bodywork, then pre-natal work is what you’re looking for. Pre-natal bodywork is gentle yet effective spa work that protects the health and safety of both you and your baby, while providing you both a more nurturing and supportive shared physical environment.
In a hot stone bodywork session, the masseuse weighs down parts of the body with flat stones warmed over a fire as well as massages the body with them. This type of bodywork is slightly more invigorating than standard massage. Being that it draws attention and focus to the body, preventing the mind from trancing out or wandering too far astray, many people find it useful as a centering tool. It’s also helpful for releasing extremely tight muscles.
By knowing the type of experience you wish to have and the results you wish to achieve, you can use the differences outlined here to choose the best type of bodywork for your goals and needs.