Massage, I am sure, has lengthened my life and enriched my spirit. When lying face down in semiconscious bliss while muscles unknot and tension drains away, it’s impossible to stay angry or stressed. Massage provides a soothing one-hour break from everyday life.
Living and traveling around the world has introduced me to many types of massage. And paying $15 per hour—as opposed to the American rate of $1.80 per minute—has increased my options.
Throughout my travels - to such places as Kerala in southern India, Russia, and Port Townsend, Washington - massage themes have emerged
Kerala specializes in Ayurvedic massage, which improves one’s emotional balance, focus, and health. A practitioner determines the person’s dosha, or mind-body type, and develops a treatment in conjunction with the physical, emotional, and mental characteristics. Each session involves quite a bit of oil, which moisturizes your skin but can also stain your clothes or sheets, so rinse well.
The Ananda Spa, high above the Ganges River in northern India, specializes in Ayurvedic massage. And after one visit, I realized why it was one of Oprah’s favorite places. The check-in interview lays out a program for your particular dosha. You may choose from several treatments. I highly recommend the synchronized massage: two well-trained practitioners simultaneously massage each side of your body with identical movements. It’s paradise.
When I lived in Africa and in the Middle East, I had weekly massage therapy from women trained in Russia. Massage therapy focuses on muscles and pressure points to give pain relief and healing. Practitioners use their elbows a lot, which I love. Lena, my therapist in Africa, healed a nagging muscle ache from a ten-year-old weight-training injury. (I think she was also a Russian spy, but I learned how to evade her questions.)
Some women are squeamish about removing their clothing. I was. Yet a well-trained masseuse will maintain your privacy. But if your trust factor is low, there are two other options. A Thai massage has you dress in a loose karate kind of suit for an hour of being stretched. It can be intense, and you certainly won’t doze off, but in the end you’ll feel refreshed and limber.
Another option is reflexology, or zone therapy. You may think that a foot massage is nothing more than a balm for tired toes, but a competent therapist can detect issues. Mr. Boateng, my reflexologist in Ghana, was trained in Kerala. When he pressed on a certain zone on my foot, tears came to my eyes. He said I had spleen issues. I brushed it off until a few years later when an ultrasound revealed a calcified spleen.
If you choose massage, you'll need to choose your oil: Sandalwood? Lavendar? Almond? Then relax and enjoy the rub.