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Introduction to Holistic Massage & History

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healing-massageMassage, in its many forms, is increasingly being looked on as an aid to the relief of stress and tension from which almost everyone suffers these days. It is these feelings of worry and frustration which some people acknowledge to be the precursors to disease and physical illness.

Holistic massage strives to restore balance to the body, whilst making use of many of the classical manipulations which are part of swedish, Aromatherapy, Shiatsu and other massage treatments.

The term ‘Holistic’ comes from the greek word ‘holos’, meaning whole. A holistic perspective means looking at ourselves as an interpenetrating web of mind, body and spirit, and also as part of the larger environment in which we live. The holistic approach takes into account the physical, mental and social factors in the client’s condition, rather than just the diagnosed condition.

Plato, the greek Philosopher, wrote of holism:

“The cure of the part should not be attempted without treatment of the whole. No attempts should be made to cure the body without the soil and, if the head and body are to be healthy, you must begin by curing the mind for this is the great error of the day in the treatment of the human body that physicians first separate the soul from the body.”

The difference between holistic massage and conventional massage is that the former integrates newer ideas of holistic health with long established techniques of massage. Massage does not need to be considered simply as a mechanical art; when more elements are added to the basic massage technique, it turns out to be a dynamic health process.

To offer holistic therapy, the therapist must gain a higher degree of empathy with the client than is perhaps required by any other treatment. Self-awareness, meditation, relaxation and deep breathing exercises are incorporated with massage routines adapted to the individual and may include aromatherapy, reflexology and other techniques as and when appropriate.


The history of massage is well documented and makes interesting reading. Dating from 3000 BC in china, and the earliest civilisations in Japan, Egypt, Greece and India, records show its uses ranged from social, religious, medical, cosmetic and sports rituals and activities and were found to improve strength, appearance, mental and physical equilibrium and was carried out by all social classes. All of these countries, both in the past and present, are renowned for their holistic or whole body, mind and spirit approach to medicine.

It was not until the early 19th century when Per Henrik Ling (1776-1839) of Sweden realised the importance of the link between its practice and a good knowledge of anatomy and physiology that massage began to be recognised and accepted as complementary to traditional medicine. Ling was named President of the Royal Swedish Central Institute of Gymnastics in 1813 and his work was recognised first in his home country and subsequently around the world. Massage is still referred to as ‘Swedish massage’ because of his influence.
In the two world wars, massage was used to treat nerve injury for rehabilitation.

In recent years, massage has become a recognised therapy, thanks to an increased awareness of and interest in complementary therapies and alternative medicine. Massage is beneficial to all the body systems and is a natural and effective way to treat both physical conditions and phychological problems.

Massage is classically defined as the manipulation of the soft tissue of the body, particularly muscles, performed by the hands or by mechanical means, for the purpose of producing effects on the vascular, muscular and nervous systems of the body. These may be relaxing or invigorating, depending on the choice of movements and massage requirements. There are many different routines as there are therapists, hence students are advised that having thoroughly learnt the principles and essential classical manipulations, they will develop through experience their own sequences, modifying and adapting them according to individual client requirements and their own personal preference of working.

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