Massages From Around the World | Discover Massage Australia

Massage is a practice that has been performed since ancient and medieval times. Many of the different massage types you see today originated from ancient civilisations including China, Japan, India, Egypt, and Greece, and were performed to induce a number of different bodily responses. Every type of massage offers a different historical and cultural experience.

Depending on where you're having the massage, the practitioner might use their hands, fingers, forearms, elbows, and sometimes even knees and feet! A range of facilities, equipment, and supplies may also be used, with everything from your standard massage tables and chairs to warm-water pools, lotions, and even stones or rocks.

With all those differences in mind, here are 35 different massages from around the world.

1. Acupressure - China

Acupressure is a traditional Chinese healing method that is thousands of years old, derived from the practice of acupuncture. Acupressure is very effective at treating tension-related ailments such as headaches, backaches, muscle aches, eye strain, neck pain, sinus issues, arthritis, and tension due to stress. Acupressure also aids in the removal of toxic wastes and increases your energy levels and overall feeling of wellbeing.

Technique

Gentle but firm pressure is applied on acupuncture points on the body using the hand, fingers, or elbow to stimulate the body's natural self-healing abilities. Pressing on these acupressure points releases muscle tension, helps with blood circulation, and heals the body. You'll feel completely relaxed and relieved afterwards.

2. Acu-Yoga - China/India

Acu-Yoga blends two holistic methods of natural healing; acupressure from China and yoga from India. It is an active-movement massage that balances the body's energy, improves muscle tone, increases blood flow, and stimulates healing.

Technique

Breathing and gentle stretching of the muscles occurs via yogic relaxation, reducing muscle tension. Yoga asanas stimulate acupressure points, helping to open the body's energy centres and relax problem areas.

3. Amma - Japan

Amma or 'anma' is a traditional Japanese massage that has its origins in China. It's an energy-balancing/therapeutic deep tissue massage that is over 5,000 years old, based on the principles of Chinese Traditional Medicine. Amma restores your body to its optimal function by loosening your muscles, joints, and connective tissues, while also strengthening your nervous, cardiovascular, and respiratory systems. An Amma massage targets and relaxes both your body and mind to create balanced wellness.

Technique

A combination of pressing, stretching, stroking, and percussion manipulations are involved, along with smooth, fluid-like movements to stimulate circulatory systems. To carry out the massage, the fingers, thumbs, arms, elbows, knees, and feet are used and applied alongside acupressure points sitting on the body's 14 meridians or energy pathways. Oils aren't generally used, and the client can be either seated or lying down, although a lying down position creates a stronger flow of energy in the body.

4. Aromatherapy - Egypt/Greece/Italy

Aromatherapy is a form of massage therapy that dates back to ancient Egypt, Greece, and Italy. Using essential oils, the massage is aimed to promote greater healing and relaxation.

Technique

The space is filled with the scents of a particular essential oil, helping the client to relax, be uplifted, or to invigorate their body's energy centres. Essential oils have their own unique qualities, and the expected result for each is fairly predictable, meaning they can be mixed according to a client's unique needs. It's important that the client is comfortable with using aromatherapy, and that the aromatherapist doesn't use too much oil.

5. Ayurvedic Massage - India

Ayurveda is a 5,000 year old natural health system that originated in India. It's a system of whole body healing that examines a person physically, emotionally, and spiritually, including a combination of massage, meditation, yoga, diet, and herbal remedies. Ayurvedic Massage offers relaxation, improves blood flow, eliminates toxins, and rejuvenates the body.

Technique

A heated blend of herbal massage oils is used, uniquely mixed according to the client's physique, ailments, and diet. For a head massage, the therapists uses oils to knead and stroke all over the head, going through the hair but focusing on pressure points on the temples and shoulders, hands, and so on. A small dough ball dipped in vegetable oil is used to massage babies as well. Ayurvedic Massage can be performed either lying down or sitting on a massage mat or chair.

6. Balinese Massage - Bali

Balinese Massage is a form of traditional Indonesian massage that combines influences from different cultures such as China and India. It has also often been linked to Ayurveda. Balinese massage is frequently used for relaxation, but it can also loosen tight muscles, help relieve pain, soreness, and aches, ease migraines, breathing problems, and sleep disorders, reduce stress and anxiety, and boost overall wellbeing.

Technique

The techniques used in Balinese Massage include deep tissue massage, acupressure, reflexology, and aromatherapy. The massage therapist will fold, knead, stroke, stretch, and press the skin, while also placing Balinese hot stones on problem areas. Aromatherapy oil will be applied on the body to enhance the effects of the massage. Afterwards, the flow of blood, oxygen, and energy will increase dramatically. Balinese Massage that takes place in a day spa or similar may be more gentle and focused on relaxation.

7. Blind Massage - China

Blind Massage is performed by a person who is blind. It began in China in the 8th century, when Buddhist monk Jianzhen practiced the treatment for the first time after losing his eyesight during old age. A blind practitioner's increased sensitivity to touch may just be the key to a better massage.

Technique

Blind Massage includes foot and whole body massage, and doesn't work differently than any other form of traditional Chinese massage. The practitioner has a thorough knowledge of the human body, including its channels and pressure points, and knows exactly how to knead, push, and pull the body to manipulate these points. Blind massage can help ease muscle, tendon, and ligament problems while also treating more complicated disease.

8. Cross Fibre Release/Contractual Tendon Release -Australia

Cross Fibre Release also known as Contractual Tendon release technique is a remedial hands-on thorough, holistic massage therapy. It is designed to relax and release the tendon's including the muscles. It will relieve tightness and pain in the muscle improving function and flexibility.

Technique

Using the thumbs and fingers, a rolling movement with gentle to firm pressure is applied over your tendons and muscles. There is no forceful, or prolonged contact with your tendons however your muscles will be massaged with a deep and thorough pressure through the muscles. This technique can be integrated with most styles of massage. You will feel a quick release and longer lasting results with this technique.

9. Breema - Breemava

Breema massage originated in the Kurdish mountain village of Breemava, between Afghanistan and Iran. The benefits include mental clarity, relaxed body and mind, and balanced emotions and energy. Breema essentially brings mental, emotional, and physical balance for optimal health. So if you want more balance and harmony in your life while nurturing your body at the same time, try Breema.

Technique

The massage involves simple forms of touch and body movement, where the masseuse will firmly but gently stretch the skin and body to relieve tension; lean and pull muscles, holding parts of the body in different poses, and so on. Breema is performed on the floor on a padded mat or massage cushion, usually on fully clothed patients.

10. Hakali - Mexico

Cactus or 'Hakali' massage utilises a combination of indigenous flora, sage, tequila body lotion, and local massage techniques. Hakali or cactus is the key ingredient used in the massage, and has many antioxidant healing properties.

Technique

The thorns are pulled out from the cactus paddles before being heated in warm water, so there's no need to worry about being pricked during a cactus massage! The paddles are then used to knead your tired muscles. They can also be cut in half, exposing a gooey interior that can also be used to massage your body. It removes toxins and re-hydrates your skin, leaving you to feel completely rejuvenated and calm.

11.Champissage - India

Champissage was created by Narendra Mehta and is based on the traditional form of Champi, or head massage, which has been practiced in India for over 1,000 years. Champissage relieves aches, pains, stress, and insomnia, promotes hair growth, and rebalances the flow of energy in the body, providing a deep sense of peace, calm, and tranquility.

Technique

The masseuse will massage your head, face, ears, neck, shoulders, and upper arms in order to balance your energy chakras. Oils aren't used and there's no need for the client to undress.

12. Creole Bamboo Massage - Mascarene Archipelago Islands

Creole Bamboo Massage originated from the Mascarene Archipelago Islands in the southern Indian Ocean. It's very stimulating, and great for people who want to lose weight, diminish cellulite, or eliminate their physical and mental fatigue.

Technique

Two hollow bamboo sticks are used, with one being entirely hollow and the other half-filled with grains. The masseuse uses the sticks for tapotement on your body at the rhythm of 120-140 beats a minute, while rhythmic Creole music plays in the background.

13. Elephant Massage - Thailand

Elephant Massage is part of an elephant show that's held in Chiang Mai, Thailand, part of the Mae Ping Elephant Camp. The elephants show off their amazing talents to the audience, and one of those talents is massage.

Technique

The patient lays face down on a mat while the trained elephant gives them a massage by gently stepping over their back using one foot.

14. Esalen - California

Esalen massage is an effective healing art that was developed at the Esalen Institute in California during the 1960s. It combines traditional Swedish massage with sensory awareness practice and slow flowing Tai Chi with long, integrating strokes. The signature flow includes massaging deep tissue, mobilising joints, stretching, and working with the body's energy. Your tension will melt away and yield to a harmonious state.

Technique

The massage therapist will work with you instead of on you. They will gently rock your body, passively exercise your joints, do deep structural work on your muscles and joints, and balance your body's energy. This creates an experience of deep relaxation, promoting self-healing.

15. Fire Massage - China

Fire Massage is an ancient Chinese medical treatment that can reduce wrinkles, give younger-looking skin, and even slim the thighs.

Technique

A towel is soaked in alcohol and a kind of 'elixir' before being placed over problem areas on your face, legs, or other body parts before being lit on fire for a few seconds. This helps to stimulate the skin, reducing wrinkles, sagging, and dullness.

16. Gua Sha - China

Gua Sha, or 'scraping', is a traditional Chinese massage technique that is used to treat back and neck pain, as well as foot problems and muscle issues in the leg. Not only does it help to relieve pain and tightness, but it can also ease other ailments such as respiratory problems.

Technique

A Gua Sha practitioner will palpate you to find areas on your body that feel tight, and then rub them with a spoon or coin - that has been lubricated with a bit of gin or white flower oil - until the skin turns red. This basically scrapes the restriction in your skin, instantly boosting your wellbeing to make you feel better inside and out. The scraping can be described as an instrument-assisted unidirectional press stroking that stimulates an anti-inflammatory and immune response.

17. Hammam - Turkey

A hammam or Turkish bath originated in Turkey, when the Ottomans first built the baths in the then capital city of Constantinople (now Turkey). Mimar Sinan, an Ottoman architect, designed several key bath structures around the city in the late fifteenth century, some of which are still in operation today. The Cemberlitas Hamami is one such example, giving spa-goers an opportunity to take part in an old world activity.

Technique

Before you visit a hammam you may need to change into a traditional cotton body wrap, heat your body in a sauna that has a heated marble platform at the centre, and have your body scrubbed down and washed by an attendant. You will then be ready for the massage, which will come in different forms depending on the hammam you visit and who the massage therapist is. Just as an example, they could walk on your back or twist and pull at your body, so prepare yourself and ask beforehand to avoid any surprises.

18. Hilot - Philippines

Hilot is a traditional healing practice in the Philippines that includes acupressure, deep tissue massage, chiropractic methods, and light exorcisms as part of the therapy. Hilot is most useful for treating pain, stiffness, aches, cramps, and anxiety, and is extremely effective at resetting sprained or stressed joints. Hilot can also be used to aid the childbirth process. A hilot practitioner is often also a herbalist, and can treat both common pains and ailments as well as more complex illnesses.

Technique

The massage part of the process will relax your muscles, while the hilot part will manipulate your joints in order to relax both stressed muscles as well as your body as a whole. If you're cold, the hilot practitioner will first of all massage your shoulders to warm you up. They might then rub ginger-infused coconut oil over painful areas of your body to stimulate blood flow, and then drag banana fronds lightly over the top. If the leaves stick to any part of your skin, it will be an indication of a problem area. The practitioner will then perform deep tissue massage, acupressure, and joint manipulations on the problem areas.

19. Kahuna - Hawaii, USA

Kahuna is a type of Hawaiian massage that stimulates the natural flow of energy within your body to improve emotional, physical, and spiritual health. It's a nurturing massage that releases tension and stress and encourages health and vitality.

Technique

Flowing strokes are applied to the body while the masseuse rubs their hands and forearms in rhythmic wave-like motions both under and over the body. This helps to drain body lymph, massage soft and deep tissue, and balance the body's energy.

20. Knife Massage - China

Knife Massage originated in China over 2,000 years ago and is practiced in Taiwan and Japan as well as some Chinatowns in Western cities. It's carried out according to the meridian theory of traditional Chinese medicine, with the knives stimulating energy along the body's meridians by clearing up congestion.

Technique

The patient will either lie down or lean forward in a sitting position, with a thin cloth covering their back. The practitioner then uses the sharp edge of a knife's blade to tap along the back's energy pathways in a chopping motion, which helps to relieve back pain. In Taiwan, two cleavers are also used to gently pound on the patient's back and shoulders, releasing the body's energy and helping the blood to flow. Cleavers are also used in China, while samurai swords are used in Japan.

21. Laos Massage - Laos

Laos Massage may be linked back to Jivaka - the creator of what we know today as Thai Massage - in India some 2,500 years ago. While the origins may be similar to Thai, the technique and ritual are somewhat different. Thai Massage relieves tension by focusing on pressure points and oxygenating muscles, bringing balance and harmony. On the other hand, the northern tribes of Laos practice Laos Massage to prevent pain and provide a sense of calm.

Technique

It's common to enter a herbal steam sauna before receiving a Laos Massage in a different room, where you will be laying down on a flatbed. The masseuse applies pressure to different parts around the body in a repetitive flow while stretching the entire body. Laos Massage also includes some foot reflexology, and is slightly softer than a Thai Massage. You will still feel your bones cracking in certain areas of your body, however.

22. Lomi Lomi - Hawaii

Lomi Lomi is a traditional Hawaiian massage. It is somewhat of a 'custom' massage form as it varies by island and family. The name Lomi Lomi can also be used to describe a massage from other island countries.

Technique

Deep pressure and stroking are the main techniques used to perform Lomi Lomi massage. The massage can be given anywhere from the beach or in a portable shelter while listening to the waves crash on the shore. There are no other words to describe it but 'relaxing'.

23. Maya Abdominal Massage - Central America

Maya Abdominal Massage is a non-invasive deep massage technique that can be very effective in treating chronic congestion of the digestive and eliminative systems. By relieving congestion and blockages from the abdomen, it improves the flow of energy and fluids from the body's systems and prevents chronic disease. It's also an excellent way to detox.

Technique

The Arvigo techniques of Maya abdominal therapies support and enhance health and wellness. The techniques were developed by Dr. Rosita Arvigo in Central America, based on the ancient Maya practice of abdominal massage and incorporating a holistic approach to health, emotional, and spiritual healing. These areas are addressed simultaneously to promote optimal health and wellbeing. The massage itself realigns your internal abdominal organs into their proper position, so that they can function properly.

24. Myofascial Release Therapy - USA

Myofascial Release Therapy was developed by John F. Barnes in the USA in the 1970s, and is a manual massage that stretches the fascia and releases bonds between it and muscles to eliminate pain, increase range of motion, and equalise the systems of the body. It can also be used to improve skeletal and muscular alignment before a surgery or sports competition.

Technique

The masseuse will locate areas of the fascial system that appear to be restricted, and measure the level of loss of motion or symmetry in the body. They then apply gentle compression or tension on these areas in different directions, or roll the skin. This helps to unstick the muscles and increase the normal flow of blood, oxygen, and energy in the body.

25. Reflexology - China

Reflexology massage is based on a Chinese therapy that dates back thousands of years. It utilises the acupressure points in the hands, feet, and ears that connect to the organs, glands and systems in the body.

Technique

Different levels of pressure are applied to the acupressure points in the feet, hands, and ears to stimulate the organs of the body, open up energy channels, and relieve blocked areas. Working with the body's natural energy system, reflexology helps to strengthen the immune system and promote self-healing. It also helps to reduce pain and stress, increase relaxation, and improve blood and lymphatic fluid circulation.

26. Rungu - East Africa

Rungu massage originated in East Africa and makes use of a Rungu stick, which is a wooden throwing club or baton that bears special symbolism and significance in the tribal cultures of East Africa. In Maasai culture, for example, young males see the Rungu as a symbol of warrior status.

Technique

The Rungu stick is used to penetrate deep into the muscles for a more intense massage experience. The shaft is used in circular motions on larger areas of the body, while the big knob is used on larger muscles and the smaller knob used to get into smaller spaces such as the scapula. As a deep tissue massage, the Rungu is great for relieving tension. It also helps to improve blood flow and sensory nerve perception, increase lymphatic drainage, and create a deep sense of relaxation.

27. Shiatsu - Japan

Shiatsu is known as a Japanese massage therapy, however its origin are in China. Massage and acupuncture are an integral part of traditional Chinese medicine, and a Buddhist monk introduced the concepts to Japan in the 6th century. The Japanese then developed their own style of massage based on these concepts. Massage therapist Tamai Tempaku organised the practice into a regiment technique in 1919, and the Japanese Government eventually recognised it in 1964.

Technique

Using the fingers, thumbs, and palms, pressure is applied to the body's meridians, as in acupressure, and the body is also stretched. The masseuse can also roll, brush, vibrate, and grasp the skin. In another technique, the feet are used to apply pressure on your back, legs, and feet. Shiatsu can also include acupuncture and cupping to create balance in the body.

28. Snail Facial Massage - Russia/Japan/UK

Snail Facial Massage can be found in Russian, Japanese, and British spas. The key to the facial is secreted snail mucus, which has powerful anti-ageing properties and can recover damaged skin. It's a 100% pure and natural process, so you no longer have to buy several snail-based facial creams to get the same benefits.

Technique

Three large snails are placed on the face and left to gently glide around, leaving their slime behind. Snail slime contains proteins, antioxidants, and hyaluronic acid that helps to retain moisture in the skin, minimise wrinkles, remove dead skin, eliminate scars, and reduce skin inflammation.

29. Snake Massage - Israel/Indonesia

Snake Massage can be found in spas in Israel and Indonesia, offering a unique and relaxing experience for customers. Physical contact with the snakes can also relieve stress, refreshing the body and mind.

Technique

In Israel, six non-venomous snakes are used to massage aching muscles and joints, helping to reduce soreness and pain. The larger snakes alleviate deeper muscle tension, while smaller snakes create a fluttering effect. In Indonesia, several pythons are used to massage the body, which is thought to aid in metabolism due to the slithering movement of the snakes on the back as well as the rush of fear-induced adrenaline.

30. Stone Massage - Arizona, USA

Stone Massage originated in Arizona in the USA by therapist Mary Nelson, who created the practice of hot and cold stone massage for her business LaStone Massage. The hot stones used are usually river stones that have become polished and smoothed over time. Some massage therapists use a 'body rock', a smooth tool that's carved out of stone or found in a certain auspicious place.

Technique

Cold and hot stones are used to apply pressure and different temperatures to your body to make the appropriate changes for a cleansing process. Hot stones are placed on the back along acupressure meridians, which helps to retain heat that deeply penetrates into your muscles, releasing tension. Body rock is used to increase the therapist's strength and to focus pressure on specific areas of the body. It's either practiced directly on the skin with a lubricant-like massage oil or over the top of clothes. A massage therapist who delivers various different massage strokes can also use the oil-coated stones.

31. Swedish Massage - Sweden

Swedish or 'classic' massage is the most well-known form of massage therapy, but it actually didn't originate in Sweden. Dutch practitioner Johan Georg Mezger adopted the French names for basic strokes that were systemised in the massage, and the practice was confused with Peter Ling's Swedish Movement System in the 19th century. The massage helps to reduce pain, relieve joint stiffness, increase flexibility and joint function, and improve circulation.

Technique

Five styles of long flowing strokes are used to massage the client: effleurage (sliding or gliding), petrissage (kneading), tapotement (rhythmic tapping), friction (working across muscle fibres), and vibration/shaking. It's great for athletes and those who exercise regularly as they tend to have a buildup of lactic acid, and the massage can help to loosen that and allow fresh blood to flow through.

32. Thai Massage - Thailand

Thai Massage is often referred to as a yoga massage, as it originated in India about 2,500 years ago and is based on yoga and Ayurvedic healing massage. Jivaka, a contemporary of the Buddha and personal physician to the King of North India, Bimbisara, created the foundation for Thai Massage and explained its connections to yoga.

Technique

A bit of movement is required from both the massage therapist and the client, as Thai Massage combines with yoga-like positions. The massage therapist will knead and rub deep tissue, moving parts of the body in specific ways and applying pressure to give a deep stretch. If done correctly, there'll be a lot of cracking in the bones. While the northern style of Thai Massage focuses on stretching, the southern style puts emphasis on acupressure.

33. Trigger Point Therapy - USA

Trigger Point Therapy was developed by Dr. Janet G. Travell in the 40s, and is used to treat sprains, strains, aches, pains, and other conditions. It deactivates sensitive points in muscle fibres that could be the cause of local or referred pain (e.g. a trigger point in the neck muscles refers pain into the head, which gives you a headache). Trigger points relate to a myoneural junction dysfunction in muscle, which makes this type of massage different from acupressure, reflexology, and pressure point massage.

Technique

The massage therapist will identify trigger points in the body that are causing myofascial pain, and release them by applying manual pressure, vibration, injection, or other techniques. For referred pain, as in a headache, the trigger point in the neck muscles is released to stop the headache.

34. Venik - Russia

Venik massage is performed in a hot Russian bath, using a leafy, fragrant bundle of twigs made of oak, birch, or eucalyptus and soaked in hot water, along with olive oil soap. The massage improves blood circulation, strengthens metabolism, and reduces pathogen growth on the skin, which in turn helps with relaxing the mind, awakening the skin, and relieving aches and pains.

Technique

The patient will lay face down while the massage therapist flutters the venik over the body, compressing it against the skin, brushing it side to side, and slapping and lashing the skin. This type of massage helps to open the pores and exfoliate the skin while also having therapeutic benefits due to the aromatherapy qualities of the venik. The essential oils from birch venik can help to relieve muscle and joint pain as well as respiratory congestion, while the essential oils from an oak venik are good for oily skin, relaxing, and anti-inflammatory.

35. Watsu - California

Watsu was developed by Harold Dull at Harbin Hot Springs, California in 1980. It combines hydrotherapy and shiatsu, and is performed in a private heated pool. There is a lot of movement involved with this massage therapy, and the patient is more likely to feel relaxed because of the warm temperature and cushioning support of the water. Watsu can treat acute and chronic pain, stress-related disorders, and postural imbalances.

Technique

Watsu activates the energy lines derived from shiatsu, and combines its therapeutic benefits with warm water. Both the client and massage therapist get into a pool that is 3-4 deep with skin temperature water. The therapist then supports the body and gently moves, stretches, and massages it in gliding and flowing movements, providing a relaxing experience for the patient.

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