Abhyanga, or oil massage, is an ayurvedic external treatment where one, two, or more therapists use massage and aromatic herbal oils to bring balance to the body.
This combination of massage, yoga, and acrobatics was developed by Benjamin Marantz. The client is placed in an inverted pose atop the acrosager’s feet, with the head hanging freely. With no pressure on the neck or spine, the client’s upper body can be easily massaged.
Acu-Yoga is a system of exercises integrating the knowledge of two holistic methods of health maintenance—acupressure and yoga. Both relax muscular tension and balance the vital life forces of the body. Yoga does this through controlling the breath while holding the body in certain postures. Acupressure does this by directly manipulating body energy through a system of points and meridians. Each Acu-Yoga posture naturally presses and stretches certain nerves, muscles, and acupressure points, awakening the meridians and releasing the tension in the points so that energy (chi) can circulate freely. This energy is the source of all life, and its flow is the key to radiant health. The process balances the body and stimulates it to heal itself.
Acupressure is an ancient healing art that uses the fingers to press key points on the surface of the skin to stimulate the body’s natural self-curative abilities. When these points are pressed, they release muscular tension and promote the circulation of blood and the body’s life force (sometimes known as qi or chi) to aid healing. Acupuncture and acupressure use the same points, but acupuncture employs needles, while acupressure uses the gentle but firm pressure of hands and feet.
Acupressure continues to be the most effective method for self-treatment of tension-related ailments by using the power and sensitivity of the human hand. Acupressure can be effective in helping relieve headaches, eye strain, sinus problems, neck pain, backaches, arthritis, muscle aches, tension due to stress, ulcer pain, menstrual cramps, lower backaches, constipation, and indigestion. Self-acupressure can also be used to relieve anxiety and improve sleep. There are also great advantages to using acupressure as a way to balance the body and maintain good health. The healing touch of acupressure reduces tension, increases circulation, and enables the body to relax deeply. By relieving stress, acupressure strengthens resistance to disease and promotes wellness.
In acupressure, local symptoms are considered an expression of the condition of the body as a whole. A tension headache, for instance, may be rooted in the shoulder and neck area. Thus, acupressure focuses on relieving pain and discomfort, as well as responding to tension, before it develops into a disease—before the constrictions and imbalances can do further damage.
The origins of acupressure are as ancient as the instinctive impulse to hold your forehead or temples when you have a headache. Everyone at one time or another has used their hands spontaneously to hold tense or painful places on the body. More than 5,000 years ago, the Chinese discovered that pressing certain points on the body relieved pain where it occurred and also benefited other parts of the body more remote from the pain and the pressure point. Gradually, they found other locations that not only alleviated pain, but also influenced the functioning of certain internal organs.
(Definition, in part, from the book Acupressure’s Potent Points, by Michael Reed Gach, director of the Acupressure Institute, Bantam, 1990.) Click here to find an acupressure practitioner.
Acupuncture is an ancient Asian healing technique based on the Taoist philosophy of balancing energy meridians within the body, thus allowing the body to heal itself. Fine needles are painlessly inserted at key points corresponding to body organs to relieve pain and cure disease and dysfunction. Related techniques include the use of low-voltage electric current (electro acupuncture) or massage at key points (acupressure).
Ai Chi (Flowing Aquatic Energy)
Ai chi is a water exercise and relaxation program, created by Jun Konno, to help aquatic practitioners and students enjoy the water in a flowing, yet powerful progression. Ai chi, created by combining t’ai chi concepts with shiatsu and Watsu techniques, is performed standing in shoulder-depth water using a combination of deep breathing and slow, broad movements of the arms, legs, and torso. The ai chi progression moves from simple breathing to upper extremity movement, to movement of the trunk, and finally to lower extremity movement. Ai chi promotes relaxation, stability, and coordinated breathing. It improves flexibility, mobility, and strength, and it will animate the mind as well as the body.
This noncompetitive Japanese martial art aims to harmonize energy with that of a partner or opponent in order to achieve both physical and emotional mastery through peaceful resolution. Aikido literally means the path to the coordination of body, mind, and spirit. Aikido is a defensive system of continuous, circular motions, combining many of the fluid, dance-like movements of t’ai chi along with more subtle, stylized techniques. When practiced properly, successful defense is achieved through minimal action. Originally seen as a combination of religion and martial arts, aikido was created by Morehei Ueshiba in the early twentieth century.
Developed by Kamala Renner, Alchemical Synergy is a process of evolving universal energy patterns and is used as a holistic counseling system that focuses on achieving transformation by utilizing the universal four forces—centripetal, centrifugal, gravitational, and electromagnetical—the consciousness portion of the Big Bang theory of the beginning of the universe.
- Centripetal force controls all inward movement, allowing us to go inside to observe and reconnect with our inner world, which contains knowledge of all that is natural for us as an individual.
- Centrifugal force controls all outward movement, allowing interaction of the consciousness with the surroundings and other people.
- Gravity regulates the action of centripetal and centrifugal forces to ensure universal balance and stimulates the ability to step out of duality to observe the effect of its interaction from a neutral space.
- Electromagnetics is the life force that is a catalyst for reproduction to occur, allowing the evolution of consciousness to continue.
Centripetal and centrifugal force are duality and control all activity that depends on yin/yang, negative/positive balance for its existence. Synergy training defines every experience in categories relative to the force from which it originates. (Adapted from Holistic Health Directory.)
The Alexander Technique is movement education in which the student is taught to sit, stand, and move in ways that reduce physical stress on the body. Alexander Technique teachers use gentle manual guidance and verbal cues to improve students’ posture and movement patterns. A lesson or group class typically involves basic movements such as sitting, standing, walking, bending, reaching, carrying, and lying down. It may also involve more specialized activities such as playing a musical instrument, working at a computer, etc.
The teacher’s manual guidance stresses the adjustment of the head, neck, and torso relationship. In beginning lessons, the teacher closely monitors the student. Later, the student learns to monitor herself, ultimately learning a unique self-management process, an understanding of balance and dynamic postural control.
F. M. Alexander, an Australian actor, developed the technique in the late 1800s as a result of attempting to solve his own physical problem of losing his voice on stage. He discovered that misuse of the neuromuscular activity of the head, neck, and spine caused maladaptive functioning and that this movement could be corrected. As he began to teach his technique, he found that his students’ overall health improved and that the technique could be used to address a wide array of problems.
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Also known as conventional medicine, allopathy is a medical approach that seeks to cure by producing a condition in the body different than, or opposite to, the condition that exists within the diseased state.
Amma (sometimes spelled anma) is the traditional word for massage in the Japanese language. It comes from the Chinese tradition of massage, anmo, a form of bodywork that is based on the principles of Chinese medicine and is more than 5,000 years old. When anmo was brought to Japan, the technique was further refined into its own therapeutic art form, amma.
The amma techniques encompass a myriad of pressing, stroking, stretching, and percussive manipulations with the thumbs, fingers, arms, elbows, knees, and feet on acupressure points along the body’s 14 major meridians. Amma brings to Western culture the ancient art and wisdom of traditional Japanese massage. Through the structure of kata (choreographed movement), amma teaches the importance of rhythm, pacing, precision, and form in massage.
Unlike Western massage, amma utilizes no oils and can be done through clothing with the client either sitting or lying. This makes amma an extremely flexible style of massage suitable to a wide variety of client needs and environments. Shiatsu—a style of bodywork popularized after World War II—was developed from the amma tradition.
Both pets and performance animals experience soft-tissue damage in their daily lives just as humans do. Therapeutic massage provides significant relief, stimulates healing, and promotes stress reduction and relaxation. Other benefits include enhancing performance by increasing range of motion, maintaining muscle tone and joint flexibility, increasing blood and lymph circulation, increasing oxygen to reduce muscle spasms, flushing toxins from muscles and joints, improving disposition, preventing injuries, stimulating areas affected postoperatively, recovering from skeletal and muscular surgery or injury, relieving muscle pain by releasing endorphins, and relieving discomfort from arthritis, lameness, and hip dysplasia. Animals also can receive pre- and post-event massage for competition. See equine massage.
Applied Kinesiology is a healing system that evaluates and treats an individual’s structural, chemical, and mental aspects. It employs muscle testing and other standard methods of diagnosis. Applied Kinesiology therapeutically utilizes nutrition, manipulation, diet, acupressure, exercise, and education to help restore balance and harmony in the body and maintain well-being throughout life. (From Alternative Healing, by Hugh Burroughs and Mark Kastner, Halcyon, 1993.)
Dr. George Goodheart, a chiropractor in Detroit, Michigan, discovered the technique in 1964 during a patient treatment. After applying a few seconds of deep pressure on the man’s severe muscular dysfunction, he found the problem was eliminated. Dr. John Thie developed a simplified version of Applied Kinesiology called Touch for Health in 1970.
A muscle monitoring technique, applied physiology allows the body to express what is out of balance and provides information to restore that balance. Muscles are put through a normal range of motion, monitored to determine where the stresses lie. The centerpiece of the technique is using acupoints to ask “questions” about specific physiological and anatomical stresses. The goal of treatment is to let go of the stress within the body by integrating the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual components of an individual.
The use of essential oils (extracted from herbs, flowers, resin, woods, and roots) in body and skin care treatments is known as aromatherapy. Used as a healing technique for thousands of years by the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, essential oils aid in relaxation, improve circulation, and help the healing of wounds.
Specific essential oils are blended by the aromatherapist and added to a carrier oil, such as almond oil, to be used during the massage. Each oil has its own unique characteristics and benefits. Aromatherapy diffusers are utilized to fill the massage room with the scent of the oils.
Use of this technique declined as the modern pharmaceutical industry developed. However, the French chemist Gattefossé revived the art by coining the term aromatherapy and by publishing a book on the subject in 1928. Click here to find an Aromatherapy practitioner.
Using the media of the arts (sculpture, painting, collage, etc.) to provide release of symbolic expression, art therapy allows the individual an opportunity to confront inner perceptions of the self.
Ashiatsu Oriental Bar Therapy
This barefoot massage technique was developed by massage therapist Ruthie Piper Hardee in 1995 as a result of her own scoliosis and disk pain, associated with bending over the table to deliver deep-tissue massage. Bars are used above the head for leverage, and lubricant is essential for its application. The technique uses deep compression effleurage strokes that glide over the body.
The resulting movement may help relieve pain resulting from chronic soft-tissue damage. Correct application will provide deep relaxation while stretching chronic shortened muscles of the body.
Correct application of two-footed strokes near the spine creates a “push, pull, pumping” effect on the intervertebral disc space and can relieve irritation on the spinal nerve. No anxiety should result from this application, and client range of comfort is maintained at all times. Additional information is available at www.deepfeet.com.
Monitoring the flow of the vital life energy (known as chi, ki, prana, or qi) is at the heart of Asian bodywork. Using physical pressure and manipulation, the healer evaluates and modulates this energy flow to attain a state of balance. Popular modalities include shiatsu, amma, Jin Shin Do, Thai massage, and tui na.
Aston Patterning is an educational process, developed by Judith Aston in 1977, combining movement coaching, bodywork, ergonomics, and fitness training. It can be helpful to individuals seeking relief from acute or chronic pain or for those wishing to improve their posture and increase the efficiency of their movement patterns, either in activities of daily living or complex activities, such as athletics or the performing arts.
- The movement work, neurokinetics, has two divisions. The first part involves instruction in the most efficient way to perform the simple activities of daily living, and then progresses to complex activities. The second part teaches the client how to use movement to decrease accumulated tension in the body.
- The bodywork includes Aston massage, myokinetics, and arthrokinetics. The massage is a specialized form based on Swedish massage, utilizing a three-dimensional touch that helps to release functional holding patterns from surface to bone. The bodywork is used to make new movement options available, and the sessions are followed with a movement lesson to assist the client in understanding how the tension had been created and how to maintain the changes achieved.
- The ergonomic training shows the client how environment affects the body’s alignment, dimensional integrity, and degree of effort required to perform activities, and identifies the role the environment plays in the current complaint. The client is trained to modify or negotiate with less-than-optimal ergonomic situations.
- The fitness training includes vertical and horizontal loosening, toning, stretching, and cardiovascular fitness. The loosening moves address specific areas of tension that, when released, assist the client in achieving the best alignment and dimensional integrity before working out. Toning teaches the client how to address specific areas that are less toned in comparison to the rest of the body, resulting in an even distribution of muscle tone throughout the body. Stretching is taught in a way that doesn’t borrow dimension from an adjacent body segment while working a specific area.
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Asymmetric Body Balancing
This is a combination of Paul St. John’s neuromuscular therapy and more traditional Hatha yoga that helps clients diminish and/or alleviate pain or discomfort and find homeostasis and equilibrium in their daily lives.
Attunement is a non-touch (or light touch) approach to healing, employing spiritual techniques (prayer and meditation) to restore one’s naturally vibrant energetic and physical well-being. Attunement balances the flow of energy through the endocrine glands, organs, bones, and other tissues of the body—establishing alignment between the body, mind, and emotions and harmonizing these elements with the “spirit,” described as the radiant source of life and healing.
Sharing attunement with clients invites them to occupy a sacred energetic or vibrational space characterized by stillness and peace, where healing at all levels can occur. This life-giving process is the doorway through which an individual may enhance or recover health of body, mind, and spirit.
Ayurveda is the 5,000-year-old medical system of India. It is also a philosophy that offers keys for creating harmony and balance in life. The ayurvedic physician studies for five years and is supervised for one year in a hospital.
Although there are some spas in the United States that are designed as ayurvedic medical centers, most ayurvedic spas do not focus on the treatment of disease. Instead they adopt elements of ayurveda that focus on positive life choices, general detoxification, relaxation, enhanced spiritual awareness, and gentle exercise.
An ayurvedic massage is one part of the traditional detoxification and rejuvenation program of India called panchakarma, in which the entire body is vigorously massaged with large amounts of warm oil and herbs to remove toxins from the system. With the client’s permission, oil is also poured into the ears, between the eyebrows, and at specific chakras, or energy points, during techniques known respectively as karna purana, shirodhara, and marma chikitsa. These treatments have been modified to meet the needs of the West and have been powerful in their effects on the mind and nervous system—calming, balancing, and bringing both a heightened sense of awareness and deep inner peace. The techniques can be done either as stand-alone treatments or in conjunction with the ayurvedic body massage.
The basis for effectively performing all of the various ayurvedic massage techniques is a thorough understanding of the primordial energies of the five elements (ether, air, fire, water, and earth) and of vata, pitta, and kapha—the three basic constitutional types (similar to the ancient Greek method of mind/body classification). This knowledge allows the therapist to determine not only which ayurvedic massage techniques to use, but also how to customize treatments by selecting the proper oils and herbs and the rate and pressure of massage strokes to maximize the benefits for each client.