Ama Lia, an intuitive healer, recently invited me to attend a retreat for healers in Bali. I had always wanted to visit this exotic, remote island in south-central Indonesia and was curious about Bali massage work. So last month I took off for the South Pacific to learn how the Balinese do it. Here's the first of three posts on my adventures.
Entering the open room, I was invited to sit on a low stool and place my feet in a tank filled with one-inch fish, which promptly started nibbling away at the skin, removing bacteria, dirt, and loose skin. Once the fish were full, my therapist removed my feet from the tank and proceeded to clean them with oils, then placed them in a wooden bucket filled with lemon, fresh tumeric, lemon grass, a huge assortment of tropical flowers and essential oils, and other organic substances. Then she gave each foot a vigorous scrub! Next, she soothed my feet in hot oil.
I was then escorted into a heavenly massage room; the table was draped just with a sheet. I was given a rolled-packaged panty to put on. I disrobed and got on the table. The open room was so serene, facing a mangrove with the sounds of trickling water, singing birds and croaking geckos. Ahhhhh, so relaxing! Then the Balinese massage began! The therapist started stretching and pressing at pressure points on the feet with force. “OUCH! Please do it lighter!” I requested, but I don't think my therapist understood. Then she grabbed my calves and progressed up the legs, squeezing and pressing hard on all the tired muscles! “Hey, go easy!” I've heard of compression, but this was too much!
Once my body was squeezed, pressed and stretched, the massage continued with application of hot oils that smelled like jasmine, or coconut oil, all very pleasant. Then my therapist administered long strokes to the total leg, up to the buttocks, then to my back. The pressure was almost irritating! Then I was asked to flip over! I felt like a fish! Oil was placed inside my belly button, and the therapist's hands swirled around my belly, making me feel like a baby! Then her hands worked their way up around the chest area, but avoided the breasts. Then the feet, legs and arms and hands got the treatment, while the face and head were saved for last! My therapist gripped my hair in her hands and gently tugged; it felt like the hairs were being pulled from my head!
I spent 18 days discovering such techniques, and had my therapists demo how they used their hands to do some of their movements. My conclusion: I can see the benefits of Balinese massage, but only if it’s done gently! One can use strong compression without leaving bruises! Most of the therapists had received only a month's training – not what I'd call therapeutic! But, it was worthwhile learning some of their techniques, and meeting so many nice, caring therapists! I'm looking forward to incorporating some of these approaches into my other healing modalities. But I'm not yet ready to give you the fishy feet treatment!
Check back often to learn about the newest trends in massage therapy. I'm happy to share my ideas and approaches, based on more than 30 years of experience.