Some people love professional massages but view them as an occasional treat, while others are uncomfortable with the prospect of having a stranger's hands anywhere near them and wouldn't even entertain the idea.
Could there be another way?
Holistic spa health clinic, tropical hut, your living room - whatever the location, a great massage given by an excellent practitioner is hard to beat. For many, however, time and cost can rule it out as a regular option. This is where a self massage can come into its own and help to ease and prevent minor aches, pains and tension.
Beata Aleksandrowicz is a massage expert who has written several books on the subject. She has trained spa masseurs worldwide and is a keen advocate of educating everyone on the power of touch, massage and spiritual growth.
"Self massage is easy to learn" she says "it's a fantastic tool in an emergency for sudden pain for example or if you stayed at the computer too long and feel aches in the wrist, neck or shoulders. It can release tension and pain, and tide you over until you see a professional, if you need to. It can also be a valuable part of your daily ritual - offering five minutes of connection and the chance to be kind and generous to ourselves. We don't need to go to an ashram or a spa abroad. We can connect to and heal ourselves here and now."
Beata became aware of the importance of touch after she spent time travelling in Africa, visiting Angola, Botswana and Namibia, where she was acknowledged and initiated by healers. to explore the sensation of being deprived of touch, she worked with the Himba people of nordern Namibia : "The Himba live on the open desert and they cover their bodies with okra paste, to protect themselves from the elements," says Beata. She performed massage and healing on them and found that "even though their skin is like armour because of the paste, their response when they were touched was very deep and profound."
After this she made "Touch of trust", a documentary that explores the ability to communicate through touch, which goes beyond cultural and language barriers.
"I've put my hands on thousands of people in the past 20 years. Massage is a tool of true transformation on a deeper level," she says. "it can of course address muscular and skeletal issues, but it also offers the chance to help you get back in touch with yourself."
Beata adds that self massage might be a way of avoiding problems, too : “Done on a regular basis it can prevent to build-up of tension. It's an amazing way to celebrate yourself." But the stresses that self-massage and professional massage are different things. " You can't compare the receiving element. When you receive a massage, every system in the body is engaged. You can’t massage every part of your body. Also if you have a neck problem self massage might help, but you may need to see a specialist to address the underlying cause."
More than a treat
Massage is not just pampering, it's also a medical tool and can be part of a health- boosting regime. The NHS has recognised this in his advice to women who have had lymphoedema following breast cancer, and offers guidelines on his website for lymph- boosting self massage.
Beata agrees that opinions are beginning to change and says this extends to other cancer patients : "We used to think that when you massaged, the resulting increased blood circulation might cause the cancer to spread. Now we know that massage can help balance hormone levels and blood flow, improve the lymphatic system, which is responsible for detoxification, and increase the release of endorphins, so people feel better."
Of course, not everyone feels comfortable with being touched by others and there are people around the world for whom self-massage could prove a useful alternative.
Beata's personal experience is that " in hot countries people tend to be more connected with their bodies... whereas in colder countries, where the bodies are more covered we're [in danger of] losing that connection if we don't make an effort."