A short guide to massages

When you think spa, the first thing that comes to mind is “massages”. Indeed, this type of skincare has become a must-have for men and women alike. And yet, reading the spa map can quickly make you feel lost… At first glance, it’s hard to know exactly what a particular massage is, let alone its health benefits. If you no longer feel like asking repeatedly what the difference is between Swedish and Californian massage, this Luxe Wellness Club article is for you.

(Photo: Aman Resorts)

By the way, massage or modelling?

Over time, we have popularized the word “massage”. In fact, when it comes to relaxation, we should be talking about modelling . We now call it a relaxation massage.

A modelage is performed by a practitioner, while a massage is supposed to be given by a qualified masseur-physiotherapist. The French language distinguishes between these two terms to emphasize the therapeutic aspect of massage.

Modelling can be either relaxing or aesthetic, making the skin suppler and firmer, delaying the appearance of wrinkles, eliminating subcutaneous fat or reshaping the silhouette. Massage, on the other hand, acts deep down on various parts of the body, so it must be performed with care. Tendons, ligaments and muscles are particularly targeted.

The Classics

There are dozens of types of massage. But it’s not essential to know them all. Indeed, even if each wellness center has its own identity with signature offers, each spa offers a range of “classic” treatments. So we’ve put together a selection of ten of the world’s most popular massages , so you don’t have to waste any more time trying to find the one that’s just right for you on vacation.

Thai massage

It’s one of the oldest massages there is. It draws its origins and techniques from several traditions, including Ayurveda, traditional Chinese medicine and yoga. It aims to relieve all forms of tension by stimulating strategic points on the meridians. Various techniques such as stretching, acupressure, muscle kneading, etc. help to soften the body, relieve back pain and release muscular tension. A full Thai massage lasts around two hours.

Swedish massage

With Swedish massage, we say goodbye to muscular tension. It also relieves aches and pains and relieves stress. With precise movements, this massage stimulates blood circulation, improving oxygenation and eliminating toxins. Generally lasting around an hour, Swedish massage is a combination of different movements such as effleurage, friction, tapping, kneading and so on.

Californian massage

The objectives of Californian massage (also known as Esalen massage) are, first and foremost, to relax the body and mind, thus eliminating any negative states such as anxiety or tension. The main aim of a Californian massage is to restore psychological balance. Lasting around an hour, the session generally takes place on a mat on the floor, and focuses on gentle movements (effleurement) on the bust, stomach and back.

(Photo: Six Senses)

Lomi-lomi massage

It recalls the ebb and flow of Hawaii’s waves. In fact, it was on this island that Lomi-Lomi massage was born. It consists of sweeping, relatively rapid movements over the entire body, usually accompanied by monoi oil. Most of the work is done with the hands and forearms. It aims to bring harmony to the body through the four elements of fire, water, earth and air. It’s a tension-relieving, vitality-boosting massage.

Balinese massage

This type of massage uses techniques from several traditions (Indian, Chinese, Ayurvedic), as well as essential oils (such as sandalwood, ylang-ylang or jasmine). Closely related to Ayurveda, Balinese massage aims to balance the three elements of air, water and fire. Through three vital points (called Marmas), it focuses on three systems represented by these elements: the nervous, digestive and hormonal systems. The session, which lasts around an hour, begins with effleurage, kneading and frictions all over the body to tone it, followed by a moment of deep relaxation (with some stretching and acupressure).

Enjoying a Balinese massage brings great harmony between body and mind, boosts energy, softens the skin, relaxes and can even help you lose weight through the drainage effect.

Kashmiri massage

Less well known, Kashmiri massage, like Balinese massage, stimulates the body’s vital points. These Marmas are a kind of link between the skin’s surface and the body’s organic elements. The aim is to achieve a balance between mind, emotions and body, eliminate negative thoughts and awaken the senses.

For about two hours, you’re in the fetal position, with one leg on each side of the practitioner, who slowly massages along the vital points.

Ayurvedic massage

Ayurvedic massage, also known as abhyanga, has many benefits: it stimulates muscles, tendons, bones and skin to relax the whole body. It also eliminates toxins and improves lymphatic, blood and hormonal circulation. It strengthens the nervous and immune systems, and can improve sleep.

Ayurvedic massage is based on the premise that inner well-being comes from harmony between the three elements of air, water and fire. Various techniques are used on the body’s vital points, along with heated herbal oil. Using stretching, kneading and effleurage movements on the energy meridians, the massage focuses on the whole body, starting with the upper body, then the lower body and finishing in the seated position.

Oriental massage

An hour-long Oriental massage is generally preceded by a 15-minute steam bath to relax skin and muscles. This is also why the treatment room is scented with incense. Various circular techniques run through the body, with greater intensity on the stomach, thorax and spine. At the end of the massage, you can drink a mint tea to promote the draining action. Here, the benefits essentially revolve around releasing nervous tension, eliminating toxins, stimulating blood circulation and softening muscles.

Shiatsu massage

Linked to other Asian massages, and especially to traditional Chinese medicine, shiatsu massage eliminates blockages by releasing energy. To understand this type of massage, you need to understand its name, which literally means “finger pressure” in Japanese. Note, however, that the practitioner may use elbows, fists or even knees, depending on the degree of blockage…

Its benefits are numerous: eliminating tension, improving concentration, relieving pain, making muscles more supple, eliminating painful periods, revitalizing the body as a whole, etc.

Hot stone massage

It originates from a Hawaiian tradition and involves placing volcanic stones heated to 50°C on energy points on the body, then using them to massage the body. These stones are soaked in essential oils to complete the treatment. Cold stones can sometimes also be used, alternating with hot stones. This massage eliminates toxins, reduces muscular tension, reduces cellulite, improves circulation, tones the body and more.

How to choose the right massage?

There’s no such thing as a bad massage, and they can all be very pleasant, but only on one condition: that they’re well done. When choosing a massage, the choice of spa is also very important (which is why we select the best luxury spas in the world).

In addition to this first criterion, it’s important to identify your needs and desires, and for which body part(s). This will guide you towards the most suitable type of massage. For example, if you’d like a full-body massage to de-stress and eliminate psychological tension, a Californian massage will certainly do you a world of good. If you tend to have muscular tension, an Oriental massage, for example, would be more suitable…

(Photo: Belmond)

Finally, a criterion that seems important to us: the different massage products used. Some spas use very modern products based on molecular solutions, or high-tech machines, while others prefer the natural side, using only plants or essential oils. It’s up to you to decide what appeals to you most.

Where to find the best massages?

The good news is that all the luxury spas selected by Luxe Wellness Club offer top-quality massages! Indeed, high-end establishments know how to attract the best therapists and practitioners. Some of the best massages we’ve tested in recent years include the Six Senses spa in Marbella, the fabulous Lily of the Valley in France, the Six Senses Ninh Van Bay spa in Vietnam, the Sport Hotel Hermitage in Andorra

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