Including Bamboo Massage in Your Practice

Here in the west, bamboo seems to have become very popular as of late. We see it frequently used in flooring, furniture, building materials and textiles as an eco-friendly alternative to using materials that takes a greater toll on the earth and environment.  But bamboo is nothing new.  It has been a vital part of life for many Asian cultures for centuries possessing both practical and spiritual uses. Now the west is discovering a whole new use for bamboo, one that has existed in Asia for many generations:   bamboo massage. Both clients and therapists are raving about the use of bamboo in massage. Therapists love using the smooth, lightweight tools that keep their hands and wrists free from injury and clients love the deep, relaxing feeling they get from heated bamboo. Let’s explore bamboo massage and see why it would be a great addition to your massage repertoire.

Bamboo has been deeply integrated into the lives of the Chinese, Indonesian, Indian and Japanese for centuries.  It has been used to build houses, construct furniture, create medicine, and produce paper. It has also acted as a vital food source to both humans and animals alike.  Moreover, bamboo has been integral in the spiritual lives of Asian cultures.  In ancient China bamboo was considered a representation of a gentleman; someone who is upright and mentally strong with an open heart (bamboo is hollow) ready to accept love and knowledge.   Bamboo is also a food staple for Buddhists for it was congruent with their beliefs that Buddhists followers should not eat any animal or animal products.  The Japanese often planted bamboo forests to surround their Shinto shrines as a protection from evil and in one Indian culture, bamboo was used as a remedy for menstrual problems and infertility.

Bamboo has a long history of being extremely useful for everyday living as well as an integral part of Asian culture and beliefs, but what about its role in the environment?  This miracle grass grows very rapidly and spreads very easily without the need for pesticides and a lot of water.  It releases 35% more oxygen in the air compared to similar-sized hardwood trees.  It matures faster than hardwood trees and hence conserves nutrients in the soil as it protects against soil erosion.  Although there is always a risk of over demand, bamboo replenishes very rapidly.  It is sure to be an integral plant for generations to come.

Bamboo massage uses bamboo-made tools usually in the form of sticks of varying lengths and widths.  The sticks can be solid, created from compressing cross sections of the solid part of the bamboo, or hollow, usually sourced from cut pieces of bamboo that have been sanded down to a smooth finish.  As mentioned before, the sticks vary in length and width.  The longer, wider sticks cover more surface areas and are used on larger muscle groups while the smaller, thinner sticks are used to hone in on specific, smaller areas like the face, hands and feet.  Of course there are many sizes in between that can be used as well and even some sticks that are semi-circular instead of round.  Some bamboo sets can include towel-wrapped sticks used for tapotement, a rhythmic tapping designed to wake up the muscles and increase circulation.

Bamboo tools can be warmed or be used at room temperature.  Bamboo holds heat well and gives your bodywork the added benefit of heat therapy allowing you to massage your client more deeply.  To heat the bamboo tools, simply place them atop a heating pad and cover with a towel.  Switch out your bamboo sticks after they lose heat by replacing cool sticks back to the heating pad and allowing them to get warm again.

To begin your bamboo massage, rub oil, lotion or cream on your client to lubricate the skin’s surface making it slick enough to allow the tools to glide easily over the body.  From there, choose an appropriately sized bamboo stick for the area of the body you work on.  Bamboo tools are designed to be extensions of your hands, fingers, thumbs, palms and forearms.  Massage your client’s body using the tools much like you would if you were administering a Swedish or Deep Tissue massage.  You will soon realize that massage using the bamboo tools saves your hands, wrists, and thumbs from injury and deterioration.  You let the tools do the work instead of your precious joints and you can penetrate sore muscles more deeply with the bamboo tools versus just using your hands. 

Depending on the length of your bamboo tools, you can either hold the ends of a longer stick with both hands rolling the muscles in short strokes or hold smaller sticks in the palm of your hand while you perform effleurage.  The butt-ends of the bamboo sticks are very useful for trigger point therapy.  Smaller sticks can find their way into delicate areas of the face, hands and feet.

Bamboo tools are easily maintained by cleaning them after every use and storing them in a container away from moisture and extreme temperatures.  Wiping the tools with an antibacterial cloth is recommended to eliminate germs.  Keep the tools conditioned by rubbing them with a bit of carrier massage oil.

Bamboo is certainly the plant of the future.  It has deep roots in eastern cultures and its eco-friendly nature has made it a favorite in the west.  Because of its suppleness and ability to retain heat, it is a wonderful medium for massage.  Reap the benefits of offering bamboo massage in your practice by investing in a bamboo massage tool kit plus training on the modality.  You will soon see an increase in business for your bodywork practice!

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