Indian Massage – Marma-Point

Many massage techniques that later became popular in various parts of Asia actually originated in ancient India. One of the oldest is marma-point massage. Used for thousands of years, it has now made its way into Western spas where it’s a great favorite of clients.

As with many Eastern techniques the focus is on the integration of mind and body. Marma is a Sanskrit word that means ‘hidden’ and the basic idea is to reach to the hidden places to bring out the desired effect. As a result, marma-point utilizes deep tissue massage to stimulate joints, ligaments and muscles where they meet at a point.

While the theory involves unfounded principles of Eastern philosophy, the practice is sound, providing obvious health benefits. With light stimulation of points on the body (107 according to the ancient theory), the practitioner applies gentle pressure that relieves joint stress.

Covering both the front and the back over a long session, finger-width pressure is applied at locations called anguli. Encompassing an area larger than that used in acupuncture, these anguli are stimulated in turn, similar to the technique used in reflexology.

Dating back to the southern India of 1500 B.C., the practice has its origins in the points used during a martial art developed there called ‘kalari’. According to its practitioners, the marma points are areas where a struck blow can result in great harm. But in the massage technique these points are used to release tension and create relaxation.

Points are stimulated with the tips of one or two fingers in a very subtle, low-pressure way using circular movements. Practitioners work with the client, not on them, receiving feedback as the various points are worked to ensure that comfort levels are not exceeded. Typical sessions take an hour to an hour and a half.

The technique is passed from master to apprentice, taking a long time to develop. Many require as long as five years to learn all the points and how best to stimulate them. Growing out of Ayurvedic medicine, a dedicated student can learn the basics, though, in a few months. Much of the preliminary training involves a study of ‘doshas’, which are a type of ‘energy’, according to practitioners.

Each point has a unique name and relation to other points. Some of the more common ones are associated with familiar areas on the body, such as the temples, points at the base of the skull, the backs of the knees and the like.

But whatever the underlying theory, the technique can certainly produce positive benefits when carried out properly. Often incorporating sunflower and other oils, the result is a low-friction, relaxing session.

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