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An Association of Massage Therapists

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When did massage begin? Recorded history indicates 4,000 to 5,000 years ago. And before that? It is likely that humans discovered the benefits of touch very early in our evolutionary process. If something hurt, it got rubbed. Touch for healing and nurturing is an old practice.

Egyptian cave paintings depict massage of the feet. The Egyptians could be called the first reflexology practitioner. When do you notice your feet - after a full day of work or holiday shopping? Otherwise those 28 bones in each foot, structured to hold 2,000 pounds go unnoticed and unappreciated as you trot around doing everyday tasks. Massaging the feet is safe and nice to do for friends. After a little "foot work", they're soon smiling.

Legend has it that the Egyptians would go for full-body massages only once or twice in their lifetime. Massage was then an occupation of the blind, who were believed to have compensated for their loss of sight with increased sensitivity to touch. Each session would last seven to eight hours. As a grand finale the "massager" would tap the bottom of the foot with a feather. If all the tension blocks were gone, the body would ripple to the top of the head, as water ripples when a pebble is tossed into a pond. This also had the effect of "setting all the pieces in place", to align the body.

The focus of Greek massage was on soldiers and athletes. Soldiers would run into battle, and then use massage to increase their range of motion.

Writing in the Fifth Century, B.C., Hippocrates, the Greek physician considered to be the father of medicine, said, "The physician must be experienced in many things, but assuredly in rubbing."

Massage then fell into a dark period during the Middle Ages, when healing with herbs and touch was deemed to be tapping the powers of Satan. Witches were burned, and people became contemptuous of the pleasures of the flesh. It just wasn't right to feel that good. Self ­punishment and guilt were the thoughts of the day.

Meanwhile, in the East, Genghis Kahn, the great Mongol conqueror, had his troops skin rolled before battle. This is a technique of rolling the skin to increase circulation. It has a tremendous rejuvenating and invigorating effect. No wonder his armies "rolled" over China and Russia.

The 18th Century brought interesting insights into relationships between psychology and massage. Wilhelm Reichian, a contemporary psychologist, believed that the body stores suppressed emotions and psychological trauma in localized areas. He believed physical tensions, and consequently emotional trauma, could be released through massage.
The present revival of massage is attributed, in part, to Per Henrik Ling, a Swede, who combined techniques of remedial gymnastics, physiology and massage practices of ancient cultures to formulate Swedish massage.

In the late 1800's massage came to this country via Washington D.C. Up to that point there had been resistance from physicians. But diplomats visiting the United States from other countries assumed they could find - and asked for - massage. First brought here for these foreign politicians, massage caught on. Health spas developed first on the East Coast, then jumped to the West Coast. Movie stars had their personal massage therapists, and professional athletes had their athletic trainers, who performed massage.

Over the years, massage remained a valuable healing technique in Eastern cultures. Accupressure and Shiatsu, two well-known Eastern techniques, are based on a theory of body energy. Energy is thought to travel through the system along 12 meridians, or pathways. Pressure applied to specific points along a meridian can restore an even flow to the body's energy.

The current trend makes massage available and appealing to a wide variety of people. Whether used to accelerate healing, increase performance levels for weekend athletes, decrease job tensions or cope with the stress of living, massage is making its way into the health ­conscious mainstream. We can visit our local health club, beauty salon or chiropractor's office to find a licensed massage practitioner. Additionally, as more people are introduced to the practice of massage through classes, books and video tapes, they are drawn to pursue it for the benefit of friends and family or as a career. As an ever increasing number of individuals complete licensing requirements and open practices, massage is becoming available to more community members.

You might have noticed the increasing number of certified, licensed therapists in your own area. Certainly, there have been very favorable articles about massage appearing recently in popular magazines and newspapers. This current interest in the age-old practice seems to be growing steadily as more people become acquainted with how well massage meets many of the needs of modern life. As our society moves further toward an impersonal lifestyle, meaningful touch will help create a necessary balance in our lives. As family members and friends exchange massages, a special bonding takes place. Sharing such quality time will enhance all relationships by opening a new avenue of communication ­the language of healthful, nurturing touch.

Next: How To Massage: Massage and the Sun Signs




© 1988 Nancy Blachly All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form
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