Massage: An Art That Has Stood The Test Of Time
Updated: Nov 7
If you thought that massage therapy was another passing fad, then it can be very interesting to learn just how long humans have been using the art of massage for healing and therapeutic purposes. In fact, historians have recorded the first practice of massage way back in 3000 BC.
The first massages were thought to have been performed during the ancient Hindu era, where the process was enhanced by herbs and aromatic oils. It was more than just a physical experience; it was thought that massage could restore the body’s chakras, which are the root of harmonious flow of energy around the body, both spiritual and physical.
The ancient Buddhist and Hindu religions both believed that touch and massage could help to heal mental, emotional and physical pain. As the root chakra is located at the base the spine, this was considered a key to unlocking all the other energy flows. It is believed to keep humans in touch with their feelings and also grounded to the earth.
The Chinese also believed in the power of massage, and combined its use with yoga, herbal medicines, and martial arts. They believed that disease was caused by an imbalance in the bodily energies, and that it could be cured with different massage techniques.
The Egyptians invented the art of reflexology, which involves applying pressure to specific points on the feet and hands. Never ones to be left behind when it comes to new inventions, it was the Romans who invented the sports massage.
They were applied both before and after sporting events to prepare the athletes, and gradually they became integrated within a holistic approach to fitness and health, that encompassed a good diet, exercise, fresh air, and listening to soothing music. Sounds rather familiar!
The art of massage gradually became less popular during the medieval era, possibly because the strong emphasis on religion during this time discouraged any nurturing of the body. It is difficult to tell, as this was a turbulent era, troubled by plague, wars, and religious persecution.
During the Renaissance era, the body was once again celebrated, and the benefits of massage for health purposes began to become more widely known. However, it wasn’t until the early 19th century that any major new developments were made. In 1813, Swedish gymnast Per Henrik Ling opened the Royal Gymnastic Central Institute in Stockholm.
This was dedicated to the training of gym instructors, and Ling also employed several physicians. This led to the development of what is known today as the ‘Swedish Massage.’ Central to the techniques was the belief that massage could be used to heal pain. Although Ling wasn’t medically qualified, he did have a good knowledge of anatomy.
This type of massage involves a combination of stroking, pressing, cupping, clapping, and kneading on the body, in slow controlled movements. The process is designed to unlock tension in the muscles, and is also a relaxing and rejuvenating mental experience.
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