When we think bout getting a massage, we most likely imagine ourselves lying face down with someone using either their thumbs or the palm of their hand to firmly but gently press and push our tired muscles and skin into a state of relaxation that has a lot to do with the comfort of kind human touch and the idea of doing nothing for an hour.

Massage is a lovely treat, and in many countries it has become part of the culture. Whether you indulge in a 30 minute foot massage after a day’s shopping or sightseeing in Thailand, or sit in a 20 story health spa in a glass tower in Hong Kong whilst someone drains the tension from your neck and shoulders, a massage can be as restorative as a vacation or a night of good rest.

Not all massages are the same, however, and not all massage involves touch in the way we expect.

Tibetan singing bowls, for example, are used as part of a massage therapy called ‘Singing Bowl Massage. The bowls are a type of instrument used for healing. Also known as Himalayan bowls, Tibetan singing bowls are considered a type of bell.

Buddhist monks have used Tibetan singing bowls in meditation since they first started sitting cross legged. If you have ever done a yoga class, you may have heard one right at the end. The idea is that the vibrations of the bowls resonate with the spirit and energy- or Chi- of the person laying down. In order to be most effective, practitioners believe that they themselves must have a connection with the client and the Earth’s energy forces. They believe not everyone is capable of being connected to ‘The Mother’, as they refer to the Energy force they believe surrounds and connects all living beings. In addition to Spa therapists, some alternative medicine practitioners, including music therapists, use Tibetan singing bowls to aid in the treatment of certain health conditions.

Some people also claim that Tibetan singing bowls can stimulate the immune system and produce beneficial changes in brain waves. There’s currently a lack of scientific evidence to support the use of Tibetan singing bowls for any health-related purposes, but the sound is nice, and the therapy is certainly very deeply relaxing, unlike this next one which has a slightly more aggressive style.

Venik Bath Broom Massage originated in Russia and equally popular in Finnish Saunas and spas. The treatment involves using branches of a tree tied together into a ‘broom’ at one end which are then used to brush or even beat the skin. If the tree branches are from a scented tree, for example a Eucalyptus, then the oils of the plant are thought to assist with healing and relaxation. The idea is to increase and improve blood circulation by generating heat from the beating or stroking movement. Unlike traditional massage, there is no skin to skin contact. This style of massage has been practiced for hundreds of years throughout the colder parts of Europe.

The bath broom can be made out of almost any tree or shrub whose twigs are sufficiently flexible, have no thorns, and do not emit any sticky or harmful substances. Popular bath brooms include the wood and foliage of Oak and Pine, and Nettle which, with its stinging quality, is said to help joint and arthritic pain. It may well be that the burning sensation inflicted by the nettles themselves just make you forget about your own aches.

During a Venik massage, the practitioner or therapist will stand above the client and either gentle stroke the leaves and twigs down the body. If the idea of being beaten by a birch broom doesn’t appeal, you may want to opt for the softer more stroking type of massage, and fans of the practice use words like ‘soporific’ and ‘calming’. However if you are more into the spanky kind of massage then you might ask for an hour of birch whipping instead. In many countries that is a whole other form of relaxation, so if they are offering it as part of the service In Russia and Finland and you are up for getting spanked in a sauna, this might just be the therapy you are looking for.

If pain is your thing, we have another type of massage that might just do it for you. In Mexico (where else) they offer Cactus Massages. Yes, they do. The funny thing is, however, that they claim- and others have confirmed- that this form of relaxation DOESN’T hurt at all, in spite of the fact that the therapy involves you laying still whilst cactus plants are pressed into your skin. The trick is that the spikes are actually removed first and the part that makes contact with your flesh is the gooey aloe vera type substance found inside the cactus itself. Yes, you will be covered in cactus-es, but they will have been softened first in warm water and the only thing you will need to worry about is how not to smell like a plant afterwards.

Of course, saying that you have had a massage by being covered in cactus-es sounds a lot better than saying ‘I had a massage in Mexico that was mostly jelly and smelled like the inside of a tree’.

If you suffer from dry skin or sunburn, then this is definitely the one for you, as all of these plants, like succulents and Aloe Vera and even cacti are GREAT as holding onto water, and the moisture they deliver is top class and full of vitamin E amongst other things.

So there you have it.

Some people want a massage to work out the creaks and squeaks, some people want one to move the lymph and blood around tied and aching muscles, some people like being smothered in oil and stroked into slumber, and some people want a little bit more.

Do you have a favourite type of massage treatment? Do you have a favourite place to recommend? Drop us a line here at My Grey Nomads in our comment box and we will share your knowledge with our readers. In the meantime, see if you can convince a loved one to take a massage course- just for fun. If they need someone to practice on, you can always volunteer!



Calm Down, It’s Just Another Sexual Revolution

Gender fluidity discussions seem to be all the rage right now- and the amount of rage they can cause is deeply disturbing. New terms like LGBTQI+ and hot topics like toilet allocations get everyone very hot and bothered. And not in a fun way…

Less Motivation, More Determination

Anyone remotely alive- and that means all of us- know what it is like to feel like the wind has been taken out of our sails and we are sitting, to take the metaphor to it’s natural conclusion, like a rudderless rowboat in the centre of the Doldrums…

Old Town New Tricks

Founded in 1296 and located some 700 kilometres north of Bangkok, Chiang Mai has long played an important role in not only the economy and history of Thailand, it has also been a hugely significant political hub…

Self-Cleaning Cells

Fasting, or IF- Intermittent Fasting- seems to be the dieting buzzword du jour. 5/2, 8/16, 24/7/365 (ok, the last one isn’t real) the numbers roll

Eat Your Flowers

Recent weather nightmares and continued lockdowns remind us that having enough food in the house to hold out for a few days is one of those important basics that …