Massage comes from the Arabic word mass/mas’s meaning ‘to press softly. Massage as a holistic treatment means treating the whole person, body, mind, and spirit. Research suggests that massage was in use several centuries before the birth of Christ. It was mentioned in ancient Greek, Egyptian, Indian and Chinese medical texts. It was mentioned in the 18lh Century B.C. by Homer in his book Odyssey, mentioned by Hippocrates around the 4lh Century B.C. and the physician Galen (AD 150) was known to use massage for the treatment and prevention of disease. Massage was taught in Egyptian temples alongside herbal medicine.
Massage has also been used throughout history for relaxation and a beauty treatment. The Romans indulged in massage with aromatic ointments, there are fables about the massage and bath centres that were frequented by the Roman nobles and emperors. They had taken bathing to the point of being a luxurious indulgence.
After the fall of the Roman Empire the Western world became more puritanical and viewed pampering of the body as sinful. The very idea of treating the body as a thing of beauty and to indulge in pampering it was considered blasphemous. This resulted in massage as a form of relaxation and as a form of medicine being ostracized and it remained so for several centuries. It was not until the end of the 18″1 century, when the wave of liberalism hit the world, that massage was re-invented.
Massage relies on the power and magic of touch, for efficacy. Touch is an amazingly powerful tool. It heals, it comforts and it brings with it a warm glow of security that encircles both the giver and receiver in a strange kind of bonding. The warm cocoon of love that pervades the sense of touch and human contact is perhaps the most healing therapy of all. Remember the time you got hurt and ran back to mother for a comforting touch. At times, she would just touch gently on the spot and you felt a magic take place. That little touch took away all the pain and the hurt; it brought you a relief that could not have come from any medicine in the world. It was the touch therapy that you had experienced, then.
Touch is an absolutely primal and a basic instinctive need for the living beings. Be it a human being, an animal or a plant, every living being responds to the stimulus of touch. Even plants grow up healthy and faster when they are subjected to music and touch. Even the most violent animals can be subdued by the loving power of touch. It is a vital requirement that is sadly neglected in many of our societies.
The continuing rise in the popularity of therapies like massage, REIKI, reflexology etc, demonstrate how effective touch can be. In the last 30 years researchers have started to look at the therapeutic effects of touch, and have shown that not only does regular physical contact lower anxiety levels and enhance the quality of life, but it affects physiological processes, too, ranging from lowered blood pressure, and even less arteriosclerosis, to reduced brain cell deterioration and memory loss with ageing. Musculoskeletal disorders are most often helped by manipulative or other physical treatments, and both pain levels and pain tolerance can often be aided with the help of touch therapies.
Massage is nothing but a technical adaptation of touch. It incorporates the various pressures and techniques of touch, for efficacy. And it can bring about tremendous amount of benefits to people, especially those who suffer from disorders related to stress and tension, which have become a part and parcel of our lives.
Apart from being therapeutically beneficial, massage also happens to be a very enjoyable treatment to receive and to give. It conveys a lot more than mere words can convey. It improves relationships between partners who practise it, making them secure and comfortable in each other’s company. Massage provides the most immediate way to affect another person, to reassure and relax them, to help to reduce pain, influence our ability to build relationships, and even fight off disease. The emotional effects brought about are of the kind that can heal most physical problems.