Because every person is a unique individual physically, physiologically, and emotionally, no single massage modality will be the right one for everyone. A skilled massage therapist will possess experience in more than one type of massage and should be able to advise each client on the optimum method or methods suitable for his or her situation.
The traditional type of massage you are likely to encounter in most Western-style spas is Swedish massage. This modality promotes calm and relaxation but also boosts circulation and aids in reducing tension throughout the muscles. Swedish massage features a set of five basic touch techniques: the kneading motions of petrissage; the gliding, drawn-out strokes of effleurage; the tapping motion of tapotement; friction; and vibration.
Trigger-point massage concentrates on painful areas of tightened muscles using cyclical motions that alternately apply pressure and release.
Deep-tissue massage aims to reduce inflammation and pain and to relieve chronic tension, through connecting with underlying muscles and connective tissue.
Sports massage focuses on the special needs of athletes and other active individuals. Rather than concentrating on relaxation, it attempts to utilize a mix of massage techniques to promote increased fitness, build the body’s ability to withstand injury, and treat sports-related injuries.
Thai massage may be a good choice for people who love yoga. This ancient modality, often called a kind of passive yoga, is performed on a mat resting on the floor. The therapist combines deep stretching of the body with gentle motions designed to compress the muscles along a set of energy lines. A skilled practitioner will tailor each Thai massage to the individual client’s current physical condition and wellness goals.
A good massage therapist will learn a variety of techniques over the course of his or her professional career and will provide increased value to clients by adding new forms of massage to any basic repertoire.
Jivamukti Yoga blends physical challenges and meditation. The style draws on the original definition of asana, a Sanskrit word that refers to a connection to the Earth, and by extension, all life. In the Jivamukti tradition, a person should ensure that his or her relationships to others benefit both parties and emerge from an ongoing state of happiness and joy.
To help students achieve that state, Jivamukti teaches five tenets of equal importance. Ahimsa stresses a compassionate lifestyle of nonviolence. Bhakti sets a goal of self-realization in devotional practices. Dhyana encourages connection to an unchanging internal reality. Nada promotes the development of mind and body through listening. And Shastra incorporates the study of the ancient teachings of yoga.
Students learn Jivamukti Yoga in one of six class types, including the four-week journey of the basic class, which teaches a new theme each week. Other classes include the Spiritual Warrior, designed for people with only a little time for yoga and a desire to get in shape, as well as vinyasa classes that teach the basics of a practice in which yoga forms flow into one another in sequence. More information on Jivamukti Yoga can be found at www.jivamuktiyoga.com.
Football players and other athletes who lift heavy weights and train frequently can benefit greatly from regular yoga practice. According to the Mayo Clinic, yoga aids the body in flushing excess lactic acid from muscles. Since lactic acid is primarily what leads to soreness and stiffness, yoga can alleviate a great deal of the pain sometimes associated with weightlifting. In addition, flushing lactic acid can make the next workout more effective, as the athlete will meet with less soreness, which can inhibit the ability to lift more weight. By pulling oxygen into muscles, yoga helps them perform better. Ultimately, yoga can help individuals become stronger.
Restorative yoga is designed to rejuvenate tired and sore muscles. More traditional forms of yoga can reduce the tension in athletes’ bodies. Even if weightlifters do not want to dedicate a significant amount of time to yoga practice, simply performing a few yoga stretches in between sets can have an immense impact on the session. When stretching, individuals should aim to hold a pose for a minute or more to maximize rest and repair time.
The practice of yoga involves physical postures designed to enhance the body’s flexibility, endurance, and suppleness. However, practitioners who choose to focus only on the physical fitness aspect of yoga are missing an important way to gain calmness of mind and a feeling of inner peace and overall well-being.
To reach the true yogi’s goal of samadhi, or spiritual liberation and union with the divine, the practice of pranayama is key. Pranayama, or the study of controlling the breath, is one “limb” of the traditional yogi’s eight-fold path. It involves focus on the cycle of inhalation, retention, and exhalation. Through the correct practice of pranayama, a student of yoga is said to be able to span the gap that exists between his or her soul and the spiritual source of the universe.
The great teacher B. K. S. Iyengar taught that the practice of pranayama promotes energy, growth of the spiritual self, and an awareness of the divinity within each living being. He instructed his students that through the deliberate regulation of the breath, they could better organize their thoughts and direct energy from the outer world inward.
Both Iyengar and the ancient teacher Patanjali considered pranayama an advanced practice, one best developed after a student has become comfortable with the physical practice of the yogic postures, or asanas.
However, for those who undertake it, pranayama can reduce stress, improve focus and the ability to concentrate, mitigate stormy emotional states, and promote deep and restful sleep.