Massage is one of the oldest and longest running forms of physical therapy in the world - harking back at least 4000 years – and is now an increasingly popular way of treating a wide range of conditions and ailments, such as sore muscles, back strains and bodily injuries. Many countries around the world (e.g., India, Egypt, Turkey, and Greece) have their own legacy of massage, each with their own unique style and philosophy. However, Japanese massage therapies are the most popular schools of massage currently being practiced around the world, and for good reason: these modalities have a great track record in providing the relief and relaxation demanded by millions around the world, and is a serious professional avenue for increasing numbers of healers in the both the East and West.
It's difficult to discuss Japanese massage without discussing Chinese massage. The active exchange of knowledge helped both cultures massage grow together. At least in the Chinese context, massage has been used as a method of treatment for a wide range of conditions and relaxation for at least 2000 years, perhaps more. Many of the different types of Asian massage (e.g., Shiatsu and Reflexology) stem from earlier techniques taught and practiced throughout China, but have evolved along different paths throughout the centuries. As with all types of massage, most Chinese and japanese massages consist of manipulating bodily tissue and the musculature system to achieve positive health benefits, and overall relaxation.
According to the basic philosophy that underpins most of the different forms of Japanese massage (namely, Reflexology and Shiatsu), the body has it’s own life force, or Qi (pronounced “chi” or “key”) which can sometimes become out of balance. This, according to philosophy, is the cause for many ailments and conditions (as well as general pain) found in the human body. As such, Asian massage seeks to balance and restore the body’s Qi for optimal functioning through gentle – and sometimes – strenuous physical manipulation, using a combination of hands, fingers and the occasional foot and elbow.
Currently, there are many styles of massage in practice today: for example, Ayurvedic, Qigong and Thai. Each has their own unique treatment philosophy, and method and legions of dedicated adherents. However, by far, two of the most popular forms of Asian massage today are Shiatsu and Reflexology. Both Japanese modalities can provide the therapeutic relief and relaxation needed to restore the body to optimum levels of health and well-being.
Shiatsu is a traditional Japanese style of massage that consists of applying finger and palm pressure to the body’s musculature system – as well as stretches and other massage techniques – to promote healing, blood circulation and general well-being. Sometimes the practitioner’s knees, elbows and feet are also used during the treatment session. Shiatsu works on the principle of energy meridians, and embraces the concept of Yin and Yang. Being a “hands-on” form of therapy, Shiatsu can help patients with a wide range of health conditions, from specific ailments like arthritis and fibromyalgia, to muscle and joint pain. It can also be used as an effective form of bodily maintenance and help reduce stress, aid in relaxation, and help patients get a good night’s sleep. Whether or not the particular philosophy is subscribed to, strong research has proven time and time again that Shiatsu is an effective form of treatment and relaxation for millions around the world.
Reflexology is a natural healing approach that can relieve bodily tension and pain, improve circulation, and promote general healthy functioning throughout the human body. It’s a popular form of alternative therapy in much of the world (in Denmark alone, 21.4 per cent of the Danish population had used reflexology at least once in their life according to a national survey in 2005) and its popularity is only set to grow in the coming years. Growing research has shown that this form of Asian massage to be effective in treating various health conditions, including Cancer and Diabetes Type II.
This style of massage focuses on applying localised pressure to the feet, hands or ears using the practitioner’s fingers, thumbs and hands to bring about general well being and pain relief to different parts of the body. Oil is sometimes used to aid in these efforts, but in general, pressure is applied dry. The basic philosophy behind this form of Asian massage is that different zones on the foot, hands and ears correspond to different parts of the human body, and that pressure applied to these zones can effect corresponding change(s) in the different glands, organs and areas of the body. Reflexologists work with the body’s energy field, or Qi to bring about this positive change.