The Karma Guide to… traditional Balinese massage

The Karma Guide to… traditional Balinese massage

One of the biggest attractions when holidaying on the island of Bali is to experience one of the ‘Island of the Gods’ natural spa treatments. The most popular of these is the traditional Balinese massage.

So, what makes traditional Balinese massage so unique and where does it originate from?

The heart of tradition

The Balinese people have long valued the health benefits of massage; for centuries the Balinese have regularly massaged their newborn babies for health and well-being. Each village has a village healer who is skilled in massage. While in the past massage was usually only given when someone was very unwell today the traditional Balinese massage is popular amongst the millions of international guests Bali welcomes each year.

The origins of Balinese massage

From 600-800 AD Hinduism and Buddhism were introduced into Indonesia via traders along the spice route archipelago, so the thinking goes that they brought their massage rituals with them. The amalgamated Balinese massage bears the hallmarks of a mix of Ayurveda India, Chinese and Indonesian techniques.

The therapeutic herbal oils delivered with the traditional massage have similarities to the Ayurvedic massages from ancient India. The acupressure and pressure point techniques are said to derive from China. Indonesian beauty rituals – once practised in the royal palaces of Java – also form part of the experience.

Balinese medicine was first recorded by Dutch Doctor, W. Weck, in the 1930’s. In contrast to other massage styles around the world such as the Thai (Yoga) Massage where the there have been countless texts documenting its style, technique and movement, the techniques of Balinese massage were relatively unknown until Weck recorded them. Unlike the Balinese massage, Thai massage is strictly regulated by the Thai government.

All about feeling

In contrast to the sometimes rather painful Chinese reflexology and Thai massage techniques, Balinese massage produces a relatively small impact on the body.  Given the broad range of practitioners and day spas, no two massages will feel the same. That said, the treatment usually includes acupressure, palm pressure, long stretches and soothing strokes  – all of which help to relax mind and body and induce a feeling of delightful well-being.

Indonesian or Balinese massage?

Most spas will present you with a choice of an Indonesian massage and a traditional Balinese massage – so how do you choose which one is right for you? The Indonesian massage also has a rich history, and depending on the region, will also vary in style and technique. The Balinese massage is usually perceived to be the gentler of the two, but it also depends on your practitioner.

Most spas will offer you the option to conclude your massage with a beautiful flower bath. There’re very few places on earth where you can soak in a steaming tub carved out of rock and filled with freshly picked roses and frangipani flowers!

For an expert traditional Balinese massage on your next trip to Bali, call by one of Karma’s five Balinese spa destinations. For more information, visit Karma Spa here

By Judy Chapman, Karma Spa Ambassador

Written by Daniel Ferguson

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