I often hear people say ‘I’ll treat myself to a massage’…..I think massages can be incredibly pampering. I remember having a full body Ayurvedic Massage which took 2 hours and that was a truly memorable experience! That said, not all massages are the same. There are, what I would call, more ritualistic massages where many ingredients are added to the massage itself to provide an overall experience of escape and feelings of luxury- music, precious oils, fluffy robes, flowered water, candles, exotic decor. From my point of view, these massages definitely transport me to another world- a bit like a mini holiday to somewhere exotic. The process is generally one of disconnecting, floating away and then coming back to reality.
There are massage treatments where ingredients and/ or methods used are specially selected to deliver specific benefits and in this category, I would include procedures which are regarded as ‘non-surgical cosmetic procedures’. I think ‘treatments’ is broad category and it is often offered as part of the menu of massages alongside ritualistic ones as well as delivered as medical interventions such as massage as part of physiotherapy or osteopathy. Treatments such as skin rejuvenation or reduction in cellulite can be regarded as a treat or they can be regarded as therapeutic. In either case, massage in this context becomes goal-oriented: From aged skin to younger skin or taking inches of my waistline (I used this type of treatment in a panic before my wedding because I hadn’t lost enough weight to fit into THE DRESS). In other words, massage, when seen as a treatment contains an expected and definable correction from undesirable to desirable that is a bit more than a nice experience. The process involved here is changing from state A to state B through the application of massage techniques, methods or ‘prescriptions’.
Then there are holistic massages where the massage acts as a gateway to connect, to learn, to develop and grow. Resolution/ integration/ healing/ well-being/ being well all happens within a uniquely open yet closed world. Biodynamic Massage Therapy is in this category and further differentiates by describing the massage as ‘psychotherapeutic’ (http://www.abmt.org.uk/about-biodynamic-massage.html). In this context, massage is a form of non-verbal dialogue where the person and the massage therapist are both involved in connecting with what’s happening at the skin boundaries and beyond. The person receiving the massage is a world in his/ her own right and that world is one that contains known and unknown, familiar and unfamiliar aspects. The use of massage in this context is not confined to the relief of symptoms or change from one state to another- it always makes available, multiple layers of possibilities, discoveries and insights. Exactly how the massage unfolds depends on the interests, curiosity and awareness of the person and for the therapist, the added dimensions of attunement and sensitivity. Choice of techniques and methods is guided by intention and awareness of how things unfold in real time and could involve the person in conscious decision-making from time to time in real time. If we take ‘stress’ as an example, there are many directions and potential needs (conscious and unconscious) that could be attended to such as: the type of touch (or contact), expressed and unexpressed needs, areas where stress is carried, ease of processing of stress, energetic distribution and relationship with physiological functioning/ availability, relationships between different parts of the body, psychological-emotional-physiological-spiritual connections, meaning of holding and release, patterns of holding and release, relationships with past experiences and so on—-as we can see, the potential for understanding ourselves beyond symptom relief is infinite. In this context, a way of thinking about this type of massage is like gym membership- a one-off run on the treadmill will not address years of inactivity. Similarly, years of dealing with the very stuff of life in our own unique and autonomous ways will take more than a one-off treat for us to appreciate how we have lived, the impact of that way of living on our state of being and how we can tune in to other ways of living that are more in-tune with our nature.