It’s rather exciting to witness the nearly global rise and acceptance of massage as an effective and essential alternative therapy. Massage is now recommended routinely by the medical community to bolster conventional treatments, improve many aspects of health, and to prevent injury. Besides the medical benefits, it doesn’t hurt that massage is also amazingly enjoyable and relaxing.
Land in any city around the world and you will find a variety of massage therapy centres and therapists. While this new popularity may seem like a new phenomenon, we only notionally understand how far back in human history massage was commonly practised and how much it was valued in various civilizations going back thousands of years.
In reality we are now simply catching up to our ancient ancestors. Through images carved in stone, drawn on papyrus or in philosophical texts, massage has been documented as a routine part of a life well lived.
We look to China for the earliest references to massage in a book called “The Inner Canon of the Yellow Emperor” by emperor Huangdi Neijing. In this text, massage is indicated for restoring the flow of energy through the meridian channels.
Moving to Africa, images in Egyptian tombs depict individuals practising massage, especially reflexology. Healing powers of applying pressure to various key points of the foot give the credit for reflexology to the Egyptians.
In sacred texts about Ayurveda practices of India, “touch healing” is one of the 5 pillars of medicinal practice to restore mental and physical balance in reestablishing harmony in a body and to assist in healing itself.
1000 BC – 700 BC
As cultures mingled more we see massage traditions going east to Japan and south to Thailand from China. Greek philosopher Hippocrates in the 5th century BC prescribed the combination of exercise and “rubbing” (Greek Medicine) to help the body in self-healing.
Adopting the Greek traditions, Roman emperors and their physicians treated any number of ailments with the practice of massage. Use of massage in the ubiquitous Roman baths made massage a common practice and part of life’s rituals.
Skipping happily a few centuries forward, the foundations of Swedish massage were developed by an athlete doctor named Per Henrik Ling. The “Swedish Movement System” was further developed in practice and training by Dutchman Johan Georg Mezger, defining the hand strokes, kneading muscles, tapping and other techniques into the canon of western style massage.
So do as the Romans did and make massage a part of your normal life routine.