Types of Asian Massage and Bodywork Therapy

Shiatsu Asian Massage

The nebulous and imprecise term Asian massage can refer to any touch-based therapy that developed out of the theories of Chinese and other Asian systems of medicine.

These forms of Asian bodywork therapy are typically based on working with the flow of energy (chi) through the body on pathways called meridians and concepts such as yin/yang, the five elements, and chakras. Unlike many Western styles of massage done on bare skin, most Asian bodywork is done with you fully clothed. Any of these techniques can be part of your holistic healing journey.

Acupressure Massage balances your body's energy, releases tension, and increases circulation by applying pressure to specific acupoints (the same ones used in acupuncture).

Amma (also spelled anma) iis traditional Japanese massage, which developed based on Chinese anmo (massage) that Buddhist priest Gan Jin Osho introduced to Japan in the sixth century. In the 17th century, Waichi Sugiyama, who was blind, was a central influence in amma development. He set up amma schools for blind people, and blind amma practitioners were common into the 20th century. This technique combines deep-tissue bodywork to muscles and ligaments with the application of pressure to specific acupoints.

AMMA Therapy® uses Chinese medical principles to assess and evaluate imbalances in the body's energy system. This therapy, developed and trademarked by Tina Sohn, includes deep bodywork, diet, herbs, nutritional supplements, and the use of external herbal applications.

Ayurveda Massage is part of the ayurvedic tradition of India and includes abhyanga and marma therapy. Marmas are sensitive zones somewhat similar to the acupoints of Traditional Chinese Medicine but covering larger areas. In addition to marma massage, marma therapy includes aromas, herbs, pranic healing, and yoga practices to balance the ayurvedic doshas (vatta, pitta, kapha). Indian Head Massage is also part of the ayurveda tradition.

Chi Nei Tsang is of Taoist Chinese origin and means "working the energy of the internal organs." Practitioners are trained in Chi Kung, and they mostly massage your abdomen with deep, soft, and gentle touches for the purpose of training your internal organs to work more efficiently. 

Jin Shin Jyutsu is a gentle technique that involves applying the hands or fingers to two or more points on the body at the same time according to established procedures that address particular circulation pathways. This system uses the concept of 52 safety energy locks (SELs) along 12 energy pathways.

Medical Qigong uses breath training, exercises, meditation, and guided visualization.

Reiki Massage is an ancient Japanese Healing Art that channels energy through the hands.

Shiatsu is the best-known type of acupressure and comes in many styles.  It's a Japanese form of bodywork that uses pressure on points along the meridians. Also see Shiatsu Self Massage

Thai Massage (Nuad Bo Rarn) uses a combination of stretches, yoga-like poses, pressure along the body’s energy lines, and breathing to open up energy passages and release chronic tension. Traditionally, Thai Massage is done on a mat on the floor with you fully clothed.

Tuina is a form of Chinese massage that uses smooth gliding and rolling movements of the hands and arms to open stagnant meridian channels and free blocked energy to relieve pain and let the body heal itself.

More Information About Asian Massage

American Organization for Bodywork Therapies of Asia is a professional membership organization representing instructors, practitioners, schools and programs, and students of Asian massage and bodywork.

In the U.S., national certification in Asian Bodywork Therapy is offered by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM).

Photo Credit: Shiatsu Loft Berlin via Photopin CC › Asian Massage