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Whether hot stone, shiatsu or traditional - the benefits of a rubdown are numerous, writes Donna McIntyre. Take massage. There are many different methods - hot stones, shiatsu, bamboo, Hawaiian, Thai, the list goes on. Yet the most popular massages therapies are still the traditional Swedish, offering relaxation with comfort from the sense of touch, and then deep tissue for those who like their muscle knots and aches sorted out.
Massage therapist Rachael Elliott-Jones says New Zealanders tend to regard massage as a treat - unlike the Americans who view it as a regular and important part of self-care. But massage is steadily growing in popularity in this country as its benefits become better known and more understood.
Rachael worked as a massage therapist on cruise ships for four years then ran her own business in England before becoming area manager for Forme Spa, which has branches in Auckland, Hamilton and Wellington. And Kiwi men, especially, approach massage differently to their American counterparts, often having a massage only if their partner books them in or goes with them, and they sometimes feel awkward with the hands-on touching.
That's where Rachael says the newer bamboo and hot stone massages are great alternatives for people wary of being touched by someone they don't know, as they involve less hands-on contact yet have the same therapeutic effect. Plus, in winter, the warmth from the heated stones and bamboo sticks adds to the comfort factor. Bamboo massages use heated bamboo rods in three sizes for smaller and larger muscle areas.
The rods are rolled and manipulated over the muscle areas with varying pressure according to the clients' preference one school of thought attributes this technique to the primate world, saying it was developed after Balinese monkeys in the wild were observed using pieces of bamboo to rub each other's muscles. The best way to find a massage therapist is to ring around and ask what they offer, or ask friends and family for recommendations. The therapist should ask what you are wanting from a massage, any health concerns you have, where stress or aches and pains are and how much pressure you prefer.