Most people want a Swedish massage
or deep tissue
massage when they go to the spa. They're the hamburger and cheeseburger of the spa industry. But sometimes it's good to break out of your rut and try something new. Here are my top ten massages to try when you're feeling more adventuresome.
Matthew Wakem/The Image Bank/Getty Images
Thai massage takes place fully clothed, on a thick cotton mat on the floor. The therapist uses passive stretching and pressure along the body's energy lines to increase flexibility and relieve muscle and joint tension. The therapist literally uses his/her whole body during the massage, so you have to be comfortable with the contact. Best for experienced spa-goers!
Aromatherapy is a Swedish massage with essential oils added to the massage oil.
The essential oils smell good and have a therapeutic effect on body and mind. Massage therapists
usually put the oil in their hands, cup them under your nose for a few moments so you can inhale the wonderful scent, then apply the oil to your body.
Craniosacral therapy is a form of therapeutic touch that addresses imbalances in the craniosacral system -- the membranes and fluid that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord. It's very gentle, but can yield big results.
Lomi-lomi is an ancient form of Hawaiian massage with a deeply spiritual component. Lomi-lomi originated in Hawaii and is commonly found in Hawaiian spas, but it has also traveled around the world. Traditionally, lomi-lomi (sometimes spelled lomilomi or lomi lomi) was practiced by family members, native healers, warriors and servants of royalty.
Hot stone massage is at its best in winter. The therapist uses smooth, rounded stones that have been heated in water as an extension of his/her hand. The heat helps warm up muscle tissue and is deeply relaxing. (As long as it's not too hot!) Hot stone massage requires a lot of skill, so quality can vary widely.
Lava shell massage is another way to get heat. The therapist uses highly polished shells that stay hot for about an hour due to the chemical reaction of minerals, algae and salt water inside the shell. The pressure is light and the therapist doesn't have to change out the shells as often as stones, so it's a super-relaxing experience.
Shiatsu is another style of Asian bodywork that generally takes place fully clothed on a mat on the floor. It was developed in Japan and uses finger pressure (sometimes a little intense!) to restore the healthy flow of energy throughout the body.
Watsu is a very soothing type of massage that takes place in a special watsu pool heated to the exact same temperature as your body. You and the massage therapist both wear bathing suits, and you wear floats to help your buoyancy. The therapist cradles you, and twirls you through the water, first one way then another, taking your body through a series of passive stretches and twists. Being held in the warm water is deeply relaxing.
No, it doesn't tell your future. Psychic massage is a form of energy work that involves awareness, and when done well can give you insight. "It is helpful if the person is truly interested in getting to know themselves better. It isn't a treatment you should book to be entertained," says Bhadra Ruttiger, who gives psychic massage at Mii amo, A Destination Spa at Enchantment
in Sedona, Arizona.
Love to have your feet rubbed? The therapist works primarily on your feet, stimulating reflex points in the feet, hand and ears to promotes health in that organ via the body's energetic pathways. When done by a skilled practitioner, reflexology is a deeply relaxing treatment with benefits that can be felt throughout the body. (If they're less skilled, you'll just feel like you've had a very long foot massage.)