What is the difference between bodywork and massage?
For the first couple of years of my massage practice, I took for granted that my massages were just like those of most massage therapists. But consistently people would get off my table and say, “that was unlike any massage I ever had before.” I began to wonder what was making my client’s experience so different.
When I came out of massage school in 1998, I was hungry to learn. I quickly began to study an array of alternative body therapies, such as Craniosacral Therapy, Visceral Manipulation, Structural Integration, Thai massage, and Shiatsu. For me, this was just part my natural expansion into my new massage career. At the time, I didn’t realize that I was drawn to therapies that addressed more than just muscles; I was learning practices that addressed whole body systems.
Shiatsu and Thai massage addressed the meridian system and the way that energy flowed through the physical body. The stretching of Thai massage also addressed joints and range of motion. Visceral Manipulation allowed me to address the organs and how they affected the digestive system. Structural Integration led me to explore how the fascia (a strong connective tissue) related to the bones, muscles, and organs to affect posture. All of these therapies fall under the bigger umbrella category of “bodywork.”
Massage is also a form of bodywork. In the West, mainstream massage primarily focuses on muscular tissue. Classically trained massage therapists use gliding, kneading, or stroking motions to release muscles.
What is the best match for me: massage or bodywork?
One generally chooses massage for relaxation, general well-being, or for addressing specific muscular concerns. Those who are looking to address specific issues, such as pain, flexibility, posture, or low energy or vitality, normally seek out bodywork. Some types of bodywork have skin-to-skin contact, like massage, and other types are done while the receiver is fully clothed.
In the sessions that I offer, I intuitively blend the massage and bodywork techniques that will best address your needs. You do not have to choose a specific modality. Once you express your goals and intentions for the session, I apply the techniques that will most serve you.
Whenever you are looking for a therapist, feel free to question them before scheduling. Ask them how they relate to their work. How would they address your symptoms? Can they adjust pressure or change modalities to meet your needs? Are they willing to meet you at your modesty level? Remember that your body is sacred. Being willing to ask questions and advocate for your preferences will help you to find a therapist that is a match for you.