Balinese massage, a traditional Indonesian therapy, combines hands-on bodywork with aromatherapy. This type of massage therapy is derived from a mixture of cultural influences, many of which originated in other parts of Asia. Relaxation is emphasized in Balinese massage, and practitioners are expected to create an environment that contributes to this goal.
The massage portion of this practice tends to be intense and deep, and some techniques are drawn from the associated fields of acupressure and reflexology, among others.
What Is Balinese Massage?
Traditional medical practices from India, China and other parts of Asia contributed to the development of massage on the Indonesian island of Bali. This varied background gives the practice a multilayered quality, incorporating unique techniques from fields that may otherwise have not been combined. From a Western perspective, Balinese massage mixes methods that can be tested by scientific means (deep massage) with those falling outside the realm of objective examination (energy- or spirit-based theories like acupressure and reflexology).
Essential oils are also used in Balinese massage, both to enhance the massage and to help provide an additional source of relaxation in the form of aromatherapy. This use of oils, or aromatherapy, is based on the traditional belief that these substances, which are produced from concentrated plant matter, can prevent and/or treat a variety of illnesses through contact or scent. However, essential oils have not been associated with such effects in experimental trials and do not appear to be linked with any specific theories of spirituality or energy. Accordingly, aromatherapy is considered by some to be the most uncertain aspect of Balinese massage, as far as benefits are concerned.
What To Expect From a Balinese Massage Session
A session of Balinese massage takes place in a relaxed atmosphere, though this atmosphere may differ in specifics between practitioners—some may use peaceful scenery, while others may use soft music and natural lighting, and so on).
People who receive this massage may undress to their undergarments, or completely, and will lie on a traditional massage table or couch. The massage, which is full-body, is likely to be somewhat intense, as the masseuse will knead, press, fold, and otherwise manipulate the skin and underlying muscles. At some point in the session, essential oils will be introduced to aid in the massage process and to deliver relaxing fragrances.
The session may last up to, or over one hour. Many people may wish to shower after receiving a Balinese massage in order to remove traces of the oils used.
Benefits of Balinese Massage
Currently, there is little existing research that evaluates Balinese massage in a scientific manner. This may be in part due to the spiritual aspect of the approach, but whatever the reason, the benefits offered have largely not been scientifically confirmed, outside of the evidence supporting deep massage as a way to decrease pain, improve circulation, and so on.
According to anecdotal evidence, many of those individuals who receive a Balinese massage do report positive results, such as increased energy and a boost in overall sense of well-being.
Balinese Massage Precautions
Those interested in receiving Balinese massage are encouraged to consider two significant risks:
- The use of deep massage techniques can be risky if the recipient has any one of several underlying health conditions. For example, a blood clot can be dislodged or abscesses ruptured. As with any type of massage, those seeking it may wish to first seek the approval of their primary care provider.
- Some people are allergic to specific types of essential oils and may not even know it. Severe reactions have been reported, and concerned individuals may wish to pursue allergy testing as a preventative measure before the application of essential oils.
- Posadzki, P., Alotaibi, A., & Ernst, E. (2012). Adverse effects of aromatherapy: A systematic review of case reports and case series. International Journal of Risk & Safety in Medicine, 24(3), 147-161. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Paul_Posadzki/publication/230768825_Adverse_effects_of_aromatherapy_A_systematic_review_of_case_reports_and_case_series/links/56641d4308ae418a786d3362.pdf
- Turrin, S. C. (2016). Balinese massage, the technique and benefits of a relaxing treatment. Retrieved from http://www.lifegate.com/people/lifestyle/balinese-massage
- What is Balinese massage? (n. d.) Retrieved from http://www.wisegeek.org/what-is-balinese-massage.htm
- Zuliani, E. (2014, May 4). An insider’s guide to traditional Balinese spa treatments. Retrieved from http://www.inbali.org/traditional-balinese-spa
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