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What is Holistic Massage Therapy?

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One of the first questions I get asked about holistic massage is "What does holistic mean?" Holistic means 'whole' (it has Greek roots for those interested in the Etymology!). So this form of massage deals with you as a 'whole'. Like other therapies, it is not just looking to treat the symptoms, but to establish the cause, whether it be internal or external. The aim is to rebalance the body so it achieves homeostasis or balance. The training for the therapist is quite extensive, as it not only covers massage, but also anatomy and physiology, nutrition and general health.

What Happens When I Go For A Holistic Massage

At the first consultation with your therapist, you will be asked to complete a detailed health questionnaire. This will take about 45 minutes as it goes over every aspect of your health, family history and lifestyle, what goes in your body and yes, what comes out the other end! From this information the therapist can put together a profile for you and tailor the massage to suit. The therapist keeps a note of each treatment, which for you means that after a few visits you can come in, 'flop' down on the couch and the therapist knows what you need.

What Are The Health Benefits Of Holistic Massage Therapy

Massage benefits are both mind and body. It is rare that we take an hour to lie down, close our eyes and just 'be'. An hour's peace and quiet away from ringing phones and demanding children has a definite restorative effect.

For the body, the massage helps taut muscles learn to relax and this, combined with strokes to aid lymphatic drainage, helps to release toxins. The benefits can be felt by all ages, backgrounds and lifestyles. According to the Massage Association, research has verified that office workers massaged regularly were more alert, performed better and were less stressed than those who weren't massaged. It is not just office workers who benefit. Stress affects different people in a myriad of ways, physically and emotionally. Stiffness and soreness in muscles can be due to a wide range of physical factors from an overly energetic session in the gym or carrying too much shopping home, to poor posture through being seated at a desk all day or excessive time behind the steering wheel. The causes are not always physical however. Emotional tension and the day to day stresses that life throws at us can manifest in headaches caused by a stiff neck and shoulders and the body generally tensing up in response to stress, especially if there is not the opportunity to release. Massage can help people to deal with emotional problems such as grief and depression. Some massage therapists specialise in pregnant women ('doula' massage), attending the birth to enable a drug free delivery. Young babies and children benefit from massage stroking and touch are a great way for parent and child to bond. Children with autism have been shown to respond well to cranial massage.

Older people benefit too. For the elderly it can be difficult to get around, resulting in lack of exercise and muscle atrophy. Massage will stimulate blood flow and help the release of those feel-good endorphins that make us feel smiley inside.

Are There Any Reasons I Would Not Be Able To Have A Massage

There are a number of factors which preclude massage, for example if the you are ill and/or has a fever. You are also advised not to drink alcohol or take drugs (unless by prescription!) in the 24 hours before and after the massage. This could affect the liver and kidneys as in addition to the toxins released by the massage they will also be trying to cope with toxins from the drug. People with some conditions (such as cancer) may be treated only with consent from their GP. Your therapist will advise you, as the list is quite extensive.

What Happens At The End Of The Massage And Between Treatments

At the end of the session the therapist may give you advice about what you can do in between treatments to maintain or improve your body's equilibrium. This may be through gentle yoga or chi kung based exercises or dietary changes. For example, if you had the complaint of frequent headaches, it may be tension but one of the contributory factors may be too many caffeinated drinks (fizzy drinks, cups of tea, coffee, hot chocolate, for example) and a need to up their water intake. This is empowering as you are able to take responsibility for helping yourself 'get better' and this in turn really helps to boost self-esteem.

The medical benefits are very well documented with hundreds of books and websites devoted to the health benefits. You don't need a medical reason to enjoy massage though. A regular massage weekly if you can manage it, will keep the body tuned. People groom daily, looking after their external appearance. Massage is like grooming for the inside, and if the inside is in good shape, it will shine through the outside too!



By Elaine Michel
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