One of the largest attractions when vacationing on the island of Bali is to try one of the ‘Island of the Gods’ natural spa treatments. The most common of these is the traditional Balinese massage.
So, what makes traditional Balinese massage so unique and where does it come from?
The heart of tradition
The Balinese people have long valued the health properties of massage; for centuries the Balinese have regularly massaged their newborn babies for health and well-being. Every village has a village healer who is an expert in massage. While in the past massage was typically only given when someone was feeling sick, nowadays the traditional Balinese massage is common amongst the millions of international tourists Bali welcomes each year.
The origins of Balinese massage
From 600-800 AD Hinduism and Buddhism appeared in Indonesia because of traders along the spice route archipelago, so the story goes that they brought their massage rituals with them. The amalgamated Balinese massage conveys the hallmarks of a mix of Ayurveda India, Chinese and Indonesian methods.
The therapeutic herbal oils used with the traditional massage have similarities to the Ayurvedic massages from ancient India. The acupressure and pressure point methods are known to come from China. Indonesian beauty rituals – once practised in the royal palaces of Java – also build part of the experience.
Balinese medicine was first recorded by Dutch Doctor, W. Weck, in the 1930’s. Unlike other massage styles around the world such as the Thai (Yoga) Massage where the there have been countless texts recording its style, technique and movement, the techniques of Balinese massage were pretty unknown until Weck documented them. Unlike the Balinese massage, Thai massage is strictly regulated by the Thai government.
All about feeling
Unlike the sometimes pretty painful Chinese reflexology and Thai massage techniques, Balinese massage makes a rather little impact on the body. Given the wide range of specialists and day spas, no two massages will feel the same. That noted, the treatment typically includes acupressure, palm pressure, long stretches and soothing strokes – all of which help to relax mind and body and induce a feeling of delightful well-being.
Indonesian or Balinese massage?
Most spas will offer you a choice of an Indonesian massage and a traditional Balinese massage – so how do you select which one is right for you? The Indonesian massage also has a rich history, and based on the region, will also differ in style and technique. The Balinese massage is typically seen to be the gentler of the two, but it also depends on your therapist.
Most spas will give you the option to conclude your massage with a wonderful flower bath. There’re very few places on earth where you can soak in a steaming tub carved out of rock and filled with freshly picked roses and frangipani flowers!
By Judy Chapman, Karma Spa Ambassador