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Holism and Massage

Incorporating the 'whole'

Holistic bodywork is a recognized massage treatment  system which provides all the benefits associated with massage including relaxation and stress release, detoxification, strengthening of the immune system, improving general health, sport and academic performance.

The word "holistic" implies wholeness, but what is the 'whole' in relation to massage? Really, it can be anything for as we know, we are the sum total of all our component parts. These parts include everything that makes up a complete human being including all body parts and the elements which make up our life such as diet, lifestyle, relationships and environment.

This means that a holistic massage would treat the entire body of a person to the limit of their comfort. Typically as holistic massage is practised around the world, a holistic massage treats the entire body excluding the genitals and any massage that involves massage to the genitals while it may be holistic, is generally thought of as sensual or tantric massage.

Public Attitudes
Unfortunately in our modern lives, many aspects of our bodies and selves are regulated and excluded from active and even private life. We are often taught that our bodies are evil/sinful and unworthy, our bodies and character subject to limitation and judgment prescribed as political correctness.

Throughout all history, attitudes to the human body have changed due to the politics of the time. I an ancient Greece and Rome, public nudity was common and even where privacy was available sexual intercourse even took place in the public as there was no sense of shame regarding the body and its functions.

With the advent of Christianity and Islam, the body came under censure as the politics of church and state became more complex. While public attitudes toward body and self has shifted throughout all history it may be more probable that self judgement arises from imbalanced human relationships and the male/female dynamic as evidenced from when Eve is said to have eaten the apple from the tree of knowledge.

However if we look at ourselves from any religious perspective, God created us in his/her own image. Therefore if we are made the image of God, then our body
and our being is inherently perfect, we are the mirror image of God and naked or clothed, the shame so often associated with our bodies, or body parts is a sin against God.

God is the all seeing, all knowing perfect ideal who created us in this perfection, yet our bodies are so often seen as sinful or shameful. I believe the simple truth is that our notions about our bodies are simply a result of an unbalanced education and politics.

Recently the Horizon Program asked What's The Problem With Nudity? When did we lose our fur? And why does nakedness make us feel so uncomfortable? Horizon investigates the evolution of a uniquely human characteristic and reported its simply a matter of education. The subjects in the documentary lost their inhibitions within 48 hours and became comfortable naked.

Political correctness pervades our lives and distorts our perception for the sole reason of preserving the moral superiority of a few. Within massage and most modalities of healing and promoting wellness, the whole body is rarely approached. Modern medicine divides the body into component parts and treats them in isolation from each other, treats the symptoms and rarely the cause.

We are as human beings composed of body, mind and spirit, and spirit may interpreted as soul. Now Plato advised over 2000 years ago that cure is not possible as "the part can never be well unless the whole is well" and this fact remains as true today.

The Practicality of 'holistic bodywork':
Putting aside politics and morality, holistic bodywork sees the body as a unified and complete organism, and seeks to treat the entire body in a way that releases stresses and strengthens the entire being as a lot of massage therapy performed today only treats a small percentage of the body for a specific effect.

While a limited treatment generally will have some beneficial effect, it can never be as effective as a whole body treatment as by definition, a massage that omits or does not treat any particular body part, i.e. the feet or the chest cannot be called a holistic massage.

What does this mean for those seeking treatment?
Within many societies the ideas intrinsic to holistic bodywork may be illegal unless done by a medical practitioner, i.e. massage of the breasts. While in most countries, providing that the client seeking treatment gives informed consent, massage to the entire body is legal and addresses a persons right to be treated as a whole person.

Every Holistic bodywork therapist will have a slightly different interpretation as to what constitutes the 'whole' and may even cause some apprehension for anyone seeking this treatment. Generally, a client is asked about their life and health, the reasons for the treatment and no two people will ever get the exact same massage treatment. However the therapist should also explain their ideals and goals.

In agreement the massage proceeds - some therapists my use typical draping techniques, some may have the client laying naked but always the massage proceeds in consultation as it progresses and if the clients is not comfortable, they can call a halt or ask for change at any time.

What does this mean for a massage therapist?
A practitioner unable to perceive the entirety of a person will never be able to deliver a true holistic treatment.

In a practical sense the application of holistic massage is severely limited by national and personal politics, and personal beliefs. To affect body mind and spirit in a positive and healthy way, the elements of the practitioner must also be in better balance than the person they seek to treat.

Due to the uncertainty of modern politics, written consent must be given by the client before treatment commences.

Holistic body work provides all the benefits associated with massage including relaxation and stress release, detoxification, strengthening the immune system and improving general health, sport and academic performance, and it addresses the complete person.

Further reading
Holism defined

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