It wasn’t long ago that you’d request a massage at a hotel and the only follow-up question would be, “What time?” But today’s extensive massage menus can be as intimidating as a fancy restaurant’s wine list. And you might not even be sure which list you’re reading as both lists often include chardonnay.
With so many techniques out there, it’s tough to keep track of which massage does what so if you don’t know the difference between a shiatsu and a shih tzu, here’s a quick reference tool to ensure you get the ideal massage for your needs.
Your Massage Guide For The Spa Challenged
Hot Stone Massage
A hot stone massage usually involves the same elements as a Swedish massage but with the addition of heated stones applied to the body. The stones warm and relax the muscles, which allows the therapist to apply deeper pressure if desired. If you can’t get no satisfaction then you’ve got the wrong kind of stones on your back.
The Swedish people are known for being neutral and the same could be said for this traditional massage. It’s the standard “two hands, oil and a towel-covered backside” massage that resembles the style your lover offers you on a special occasion (which probably lasts just five minutes before he declares, “my turn!”).
Deep Tissue Massage
You don’t usually associate the word “torture” with a pleasurable spa visit but that’s how a deep tissue massage is sometimes described. The masseuse pushes and pulls your knotted body, breaking down adhesions (bands of painful, rigid tissue) in muscles, tendons, and ligaments. It may be torture but it’s the good kind of torture.
Acupressure involves applying pressure to meridian points on the body (there are 14) to relieve pain and tension. It’s essentially the ancient Chinese answer to ibuprofen.
Shiatsu is another finger pressure massage. It’s similar to acupressure but takes it a step further by incorporating other methods such as stretching, breathing and rotating for more of a whole-body approach to restoring energy balance. With shiatsu, no massage oil is applied so you remain fully clothed during the treatment. It’s essentially the ancient Japanese answer to the Chinese answer to ibuprofen (wait, what was the question again?).
This is typically a foot massage, though it’s sometimes applied to the hands or ears. The application of pressure to certain parts of the feet impacts the whole body. Reflexology is guaranteed to knock your socks off.
Reiki is the no-massage massage. It involves a non-invasive touch (or no touch at all) around the chakras of the body to release cosmic energy and heal the body physically and emotionally. Think of it as the Bluetooth massage.
A Thai massage is often referred to as “lazy yoga” as it involves a practitioner moving your entire body around to stimulate acupressure points. Wouldn’t it be awesome if somebody else could do all the work for your other exercises as well?
There you go. You’re now ready to tackle the massage menu. And the best part of all is that when it comes to a massage, it’s always happy hour!
About the Author
Jenée is slowly working her way around the world, one job at a time. It began at age 19 when she moved to Hawaii for a three-month stint (which turned into almost five years) even though she didn’t know a soul there. She later toured as a standup comedian all over the United States and even performed for our military troops in a dozen countries, including Bosnia, Kosovo, South Korea and Afghanistan. And now she’s combining her love of traveling, writing and yoga at Blue Osa Yoga Retreat + Spa in Costa Rica.