Swedish massage: the mother of all massages

For this massaging novice, the term "Swedish massage" sounded quite hard-core at first.

But while doing a bit of research before my much-anticipated session, I realised that it's actually the classic type of massage that's most commonly used in salons and spas worldwide.

The Swedish massage, which also gave birth to all other forms of massaging, involves light to medium pressure on the body to induce deep relaxation. There are generally two options: the back, neck and shoulder massage, or the full-body massage.

While the original idea was to just go for a full-body Swedish massage, it was decided that a bit of deep-tissue massaging would probably do me good. (I suspect I had the slightly freaked-out, stressed look that journalists perpetually seem to have, thus the insistence on giving me a more intense massage.)

I learnt that deep-tissue massaging is a unique type of massage that aids muscle recovery after minor muscle injuries. While I didn't have any such injuries that I knew of, the therapist decided to incorporate deep-tissue techniques into my Swedish massage session to dissolve lactic acid build-up in my muscles and to get rid of stress-related "knots" (sensitive spots in the muscles that feel like knots).

What it felt like
As expected, I had to take off all my clothes, but thankfully Shareefa, the therapist with the golden hands, asked me to wrap myself up in towels. Throughout the session, she discreetly shifted the towels around so that my body was never fully exposed.

Lying on my stomach, Shareefa first cleaned my feet with surgical spirits (I take it that this is standard practice, as I'd just scrubbed my feet an hour before!). She then briefly "walked" over my entire body with her fists, applying just a small amount of pressure.

After this brief "introduction", Shareefa got down to business: she started working intensively on my left calve, using sweet almond oil (a very good massage oil that nourishes the skin) to ease the massaging process. She used big, smooth strokes but also smaller, rubbing movements, while focusing on specific areas. For reasons I'm not entirely sure about, the calve massage was the most painful bit of the entire session.

After working briefly on my feet, where I could feel a lot of tension, Shareefa moved on to the back of my thighs. I got the same big-stroke-vs.-rubbing treatment here. This bit was also quite sore and I started to wonder whether it wasn't perhaps due to a build-up of toxins in muscles in this area.

Subsequently, Shareefa covered my left leg and moved on to the right one, where she repeated everything.

Then she moved to the back of my upper body, first working quite a bit on my buttocks as I seem to carry tension here. Shareefa pressed rather hard in certain spots, which was quite sore, but it was a relief to feel the tension ease.

Then the back. Aahh, the back. She spent a lot of time here, first using long strokes down my spine and then applying butterfly-like and circular movements. She focused on the tense spots and actually "rubbed away" the knots. At this stage, I almost drifted off to sleep...

Lastly, Shareefa asked me to turn over on my back. She worked on the front of my legs and again on my feet, but not applying as much pressure as before. She then also massaged my arms and hands, a part of the session that was surprisingly nice.

Thankfully she didn't touch my front upper body. She merely dabbed off the excess almond oil on the rest of my body and left me to relax.

The verdict
Most of us could do with a massage at this time of the year. So, if you've got R200 to spare, I say go for it. Try the Swedish massage, in combination with a deep-tissue massage, for a divine, relaxing experience. I've got absolutely no downsides to report!

For more information, contact:
The International Academy of Health and Skin Care
2nd Floor, Federal Building
Tulbagh Square, Foreshore
Tel: 021 421 6661
Fax: 021 425 1880

3rd Floor, South Tower
Nelson Mandela Square
Tel: 011 883 8033
Fax: 011 883 7121

- (Carine van Rooyen, November 2007)

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