Massage has been used as a remedial measure from centuries. Massaging causes various physiological effects which comfort the body. Manually kneading or manipulating the soft tissues to relieve pain, discomfort, stress and to promote health and wellness is called as ‘massage’. The techniques of massage to promote health and wellness are called “Massage Therapy”. The American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) defines Massage therapy as “a profession in which the practitioner applies manual techniques, and may apply adjunctive therapies, with the intention of positively affecting the health and well-being of the client.”
Massage therapy (abhyanga) is recommended in ayurveda in the course of treating several diseases. It plays a great role in body detoxification process (Panchakarma) before starting the core treatment.
Usually, ayurvedic herbal oils or aromatic oils are used during massage. The oils are selected according to the condition and objective of massage.
Types of Body massage
Different kinds of body massage are adopted after analyzing the cause and location of discomfort. The following are the various kinds of body massage .
•Face and Head Massage,
•Arms and Hand Massage,
•Legs and Feet Massage,
•Neck and Shoulder Massage,
•Massage for babies and children
•Massage during pregnancy.
Techniques of massage:
A massage therapist uses ‘Strokes’ and ‘Pressure’ while massaging. Effleurage, Petrisage, Percussion, Friction and Vibration are 5 different strokes used while massaging.
Effleurage strokes are long, gliding and soothing .These strokes are made with flat surface of hands. Effleurage strokes increase the circulation and depth of relaxation.
Petrissage strokes resemble kneading. These strokes are recommended to massage children and elderly people. Skin and muscle surface are rolled or squeezed, gently and firmly by grasping them between thumb and fingers.
Percussion is done using both hands. In this stroke both hands move rapidly and alternatively stimulating the muscles. Percussion can be done with finger tips (tapping), chopping movement of stretched fingers (hacking), cupped hands (cupping), flat opened palms (slapping), and using both fists (pounding).
Friction: These strokes are used to treat joints and surrounding areas. Friction breaks adhesions, remove wastes and clean up congestion. Long, slow, firm strokes or circular movements of hand are used to move superficial tissues over the deep underlying tissues.
Vibrations : These strokes stimulate nerves. Hands or fingers are moved back and forth rapidly on soft tissues to shake them. Vibrations are used on buttocks, thighs, upper back etc.
Mild, moderate or heavy Pressure is applied during massage, depending upon the part to be massaged and the aim of massage.
The texts of ayurveda illustrate different types of massages for different conditions. They are
Udvarthana : Massaging body in opposite direction (According to ayurvedic texts,starting the massage from the head and proceeding downwards is considered conventional.Hence,massages that proceed from palm to shoulder or Feet to thighs or hips to neck are opposite in direction.) These massages are performed by exerting little pressure using dry herbs. This kind of massage exfoliates skin, enhances its glow and gives healthy look. It also helps to reduce bad odor which is caused due to sweat. This type of massage increases fat metabolism and recommended in weight loss therapy
Mardana : Massaging the whole body exerting more pressure is called Mardana. This is usually done for persons who indulge in enhanced physical work e.g. athletes, sports persons, Wrestlers etc.
Paadaghata : Padaaghata means massaging using the feet, Trampling the body with required pressure is called padaghata.
Benefits of massage Therapy:
1.Massage increases the circulation in tissues, releases muscle spasms and stimulates the nervous system or sedates it. Increased circulation pumps more oxygen and nutrients to tissues.
2.It shortens the recovery period of illness or injury.
3.A good massage helps the release of endorphins (natural pain killers in body) and also stimulates lymphatic system, boosting body immunity.
4.It helps relieve muscle tension, stiffness, pain and reduces swelling. Healing process becomes faster and excess formation of scar tissue is reduced.
5.It increases athletic performance and provides greater joint flexibility.
6.Massage helps reduce discomforts caused due to stress related conditions like migraine, tension headaches, body pain, tiredness, anxiety, depression, insomnia (sleeplessness) etc .It helps lower the levels of stress hormones like cortisol .
7.It improves the ability to handle stressful situations calmly and efficiently. Massage also enhances thinking and creative abilities.
8.Massage therapy promotes the feeling of wellbeing.
According to ayurveda massaging body daily with ayurvedic herbal oil has innumerable benefits. This process is called as “Abhyanga”. In great ayurvedic classic Ashtanga Hridaya the benefits of herbal oil massage has been documented as follows.
” Abhyanga aachare nityam sa jara- shrama – vataha | Drushtihi prasada pushtyaahu swapna sutwak daadarya krit ||”
•Aging symptoms appear very late in life.
•Balances Vata and reduces vata related problems
•Skin becomes fresh, soft, glowing and healthy.
•Skin becomes resistant to diseases.
•Sharp eyesight and attractive eyes.
•Body becomes stronger and well nourished.
•The body and mind gets relaxed.
•Rejuvenates the body.
Acharya Charaka indicates foot massage (Padabhyanga) to get rid of cracked feet, dry skin on foot, to relieve tiredness and foot pain. The flexibility of foot increases.
Precautions and prohibitions
According to ayurvedic texts the massage should not be done for those who suffer from fever, diarrhea, vomiting and and in pregnancy.Usually therapists do not massage a person if the latter has, fever, skin eruptions, large bruises, inflamed joints, sensitive veins, varicose, tumors, a period, indigestion, nut allergy, appendix:2yr/6m, dislocated shoulder(s), vertebral problems. The person should not wear contact lenses or consume alcohol or over-eat during or shortly before a massage.One more precaution to be taken before going for a massage is to check whether the massage therapist is qualified or not. An unqualified massage therapist may cause more harm than relief.