There is a wide assortment of massage, bodywork, and holistic therapies available today. Each one has its own unique character, techniques, and theoretical base. Some are more effective for certain goals than others. So where do you begin choosing? How do you know which one is best for you?

There are literally dozens of schools of bodywork, from light energetic type bodywork to the deep tissue bodywork therapies like Rolfing which aims toward a literally restructuring of the body. Energetic systems of bodywork, such as polarity, acupressure, Reiki, and craniosacral bodywork help balance energy in the body and bring about enhanced health and well being. Sessions are designed for the needs of the client – and a combination of several techniques may be used depending upon your needs (and/or preferences).

Most Styles of Bodywork can fit into these 3 functions and purposes:

* Nurturing Bodywork: Popular examples include: pampering spa massage treatments and generic style Swedish massage. Other forms of gentler, nurturing bodywork are: Trager, aquatic Watsu, and many forms of energetic bodywork like craniosacral, polarity, and Jin shin jytsu.

* Therapeutic Bodywork: These types of bodywork focus on clearing stress and dealing with chronic tension patterns. This bodywork tends to be deeper, delving into body armor and resilient tension patterns in the body. Examples include: deep/connective tissue bodywork, reflexology, Shiatsu/acupressure, deeper Swedish, Thai, Trager, and on-site/seated massage.

* Medical or Rehabilitation Bodywork: is used for recurring persistent injuries. Muscles and joints that are overused or misused and may compromise one’s posture and daily activities. Examples include: Myopathy and Myofascia Bodywork, acupressure, Russian/medical massage, and TENS therapy, Acuscope micro-current, and Pulsating Electro-Magnetic Resonance technologies individually tailored for treating old weakened injuries and/or restoring optimal body balance.

Popular Modalities
Swedish Massage ( Nurturing Massage)
The most well known form of Western massage today is the Swedish style. It’s what most people are familiar with as a generic nurturing massage offered in spa and beauty salons. People experiencing the work feel more relaxed and pliable. Swedish offers a lot of soothing , rhythmical gliding movements with lotion or oil. The friction movements break up fibrous tissue & provide greater range of motion. For a full body Swedish massage, you lie partially disrobed and covered on a massage table so that oils or aromatherapies can be applied with its long smooth strokes.

Shiatsu / Acupressure (Therapeutic & Medical Massage)
An ancient system of bodywork aimed at encouraging Chi life force to circulate through the body. Combining Oriental healing philosophy & techniques with traditional Chinese acupuncture points, this Japanese bodywork uses thumb and palm pressure to transmit healing energy to chronic tension patterns, reinforcing joint and muscle mobility. The philosophy behind Oriental massage differs considerably from Swedish. By unblocking the Chi in the meridians, this energetic bodywork allows the body to heal itself and helps to prevent illness. Shiatsu is one of the most popular styles of bodywork, leaving a person invigorated after a session.

Craniosacral Bodywork (Nurturing & Therapeutic Massage)
Craniosacral osteopathic bodywork is a light hands on approach that assists the hydraulic forces inherent within the Central Nervous System to induce deep levels of relaxation. Utilizing a gentle, noninvasive manipulation technique, this osteopathic healing modality improves the function of the brain and spinal cord to dissipate the negative effects of stress, promotes good health and enhances resistance to disease. Clients feel calm and refreshed afterwards.

Myofascial Release (Medical Massage & Physical Therapy)
Myofascia is an advanced form of (physical therapy) bodywork with some similarities to deep tissue Rolfing in that it rearranges the fascia in the muscular layers. Myofascial Release uses prolonged stretching & deep tissue connective stretches to small regions of the muscular-skeletal frame. It is particularly effective for clearing out trigger points & chronic pain patterns in muscular groups and joints after car accidents.

Deep Tissue Massage (Therapeutic & Medical Massage)
This bodywork style is used to release chronic muscle tension through slower strokes and more direct pressure applied to the deeper layers of the muscles. This invigorating experience is a process of detection of stiff and painful areas by determining the quality and texture of deeper layers of musculature, and slowly working the deep layers of tissue. Specific hand positions and stroke are then used to respond to various tissue qualities. Techniques employing breath and movement are also used for releasing muscular congestion.

Sports Massage ( Therapeutic & Medical Bodywork )
Sports massage integrates deeper Swedish techniques with pressure point to prevent injury, improve performance and aid recovery. The focus of the treatment is on the areas most stressed during exercise. It often employs passive and resistant stretching for pre- and post-athletic events and maintenance techniques that promote greater athletic endurance and performance, lessening chances of injury and reduce recovery time.

Thai Massage (Therapeutic & Medical Massage)
Thai massage originated in India over 2500 years ago. Thailand, being so near to China and on the trade route to and from India, gained the influences of both cultures. This ancient healing traditions have been passed down from generation to generation through the temples & family traditions. The influences of acupuncture, herbs, shiatsu, tui-na Chinese massage, along with gentle yoga postures have been integrated into this system of healing. Through compression, pressure on specific points and stretches to release muscular and energetic blockages, the body’s free flow of energy is balanced and restored. Similar in some ways to barefoot shiatsu, leverage with the feet, knees, fists, hands & full body strength are strategically used by the therapist to penetrate into muscular areas. There is an intimate & meditative quality to this bodywork, with the giver massaging with the mind centered, while the receiver focuses on a breathing rhythm. Thai massage is performed on a wide table or futon mat over clothing. No oil or lotions are used. Benefits from a 60- or 90-minute session may include increasing range of motion, releasing tight joints, stretching the connective tissue & muscles and reducing stress.

Pregnancy Massage (Therapeutic & Medical)
This specialty form of massage benefits both the mother and the baby. Many pediatricians recommend therapeutic massage during pregnancy to improve circulation for varicosities, foot discomfort, and to ease low back and abdominal stresses. It is especially helpful during the last trimester of pregnancy to create more space for the baby to move.

Polarity Bodywork (Nurturing Energetic )
Polarity bodywork is an Eastern style of gentle bodywork from India that does advanced energetic balancing. It emphasizes the interdependence of the body, emotions, as well as counseling on developing positive thoughts and attitudes. Tapping into the meridian system, Polarity works with the organs, endocrine and nervous system to re-balance where the body needs energetic revamping. Polarity is often used by care givers in conjunction with many other therapies.

Aquatic Massage (Nurturing)
Water massage is where a therapist floats you in body temperature water supporting the weight of your body cradled in their arms and gently rocked supporting the sacrum. The therapist applies slow stretches and movements that encourage the receiver to go deep into them. Movements of activity flow into moments of quiet . This can be especially effective with pregnant women in their third trimester.

Click the links for a more complete listing of styles of bodywork, holistic health modalities, and Knead2Dance Bodywork Rates.