Swedish massage is a familiar treatment, widely adopted and adapted by therapists. However, different cultures around the world have their own massage techniques, too.
Thai massage: During a Thai massage, the therapist kneels, crouches and sometimes stands over the patient. It concentrates more on joints than muscles, easing stagnation via stretching and acupressure. It starts with the feet and works the lower body more than the upper. The therapist manipulates the limbs, often adapting yoga poses.
"That's why it's called lazy yoga," says Mariana Spry, spa director at The Sports Club/LA in Boston. "It's assisted yoga and a very different experience from Swedish, which concentrates on one aspect of the body. It's extremely beneficial for myofascial [soft tissue] therapy, for treating pain and restriction of motion."
Lomilomi: If your travels will soon take you to Hawaii, be sure to book this treatment, which is a rarity off the islands. Like Thai massage, lomilomi balances chakras and encourages chi (energy) flow, but it works as a whole-body massage and the therapist cannot work on a specific area of congestion or tightness. In Hawaiian, lomilomi means "going to and from." The massage is intense and specific, consisting of long, continuous strokes with no breaks in touch at all.
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"It's very melodic and needs to be done precisely," says Alex Sharpe, spa director at Vermont's Topnotch Spa. "It's most beneficial for people with chronic stress, but it's also an energy session to send chi flowing though the body."
Abhyanga: This Indian treatment, based in Ayurvedic medicine, incorporates heated oils (lots of them) and often two or more therapists working together. The pressure is light and the procedure is usually followed by steam, yoga or a bath.