Massage for men

 Common Sense

       Nothing has changed more in the past fifty years than the definition of massage. That word always had two meanings, but the legitimate kind was the domain of the masseur, and took place next to the club barber shop. It was the natural destination after the weights, steam room, and sauna, an indispensable facet of health and discipline. The club rub down had nothing to do with the diverse notions of massage today. It was named for the rubbing alchohol applied for muscle toning, and promised no more health benefits than increased circulation and the "glow of health." In some clubs the rub down was a scrub down, and the massage a stem to stern shampoo. One club in Philadelphia has preserved the marble benches patrons would stretch out on, but this once-common practice has all but disappeared, only to return in the horizontal showers of high end European spas.

       The postwar rub down differed markedly from both the chiropractic massage and New Age aromatherapy and accupressure of today. But it did have the one health benefit of breaking up the myofacial layer just beneath the surface of the skin, resulting in increased blood flow, improved circulation, and the "glow of health." And what is the formula? Plenty of handling, plenty of lotion or oil to reduce friction, smooth the flow and warm the body. Pretty much the intuitive idea of massage. And the result? No medical claims, no miracle cures. Just a near-Nirvana sense of well-being and the general "glow of health."


 The Hands-on Man

       In his best- selling book, The Friendship Factor, Alan Loy McGuiness writes that skin is our most powerful sense organ, and that half a million sensory fibers flow through the spinal cord to the brain. He quotes poet Thomas Carlyle: "There is one temple in the universe -- the human body. We touch heaven when we touch the human body." The body cries out for handling, and the skin for human touch, but most people are touch-- starved. This is massage anyone can do at home, with readily available supplies. Once offer your services, and you likely won't lack for volunteers. Like exercise, coffee, and beer, massage is dehydrating, so be sure to follow your sessions with refreshment for the inner man -- a long, cool drink of water.

       Some say this view of massage goes too far, and some say not far enough. The latter hold that massage is just repressed libido, so why not have the real thing? "Get down with your bad self, Doctor!" They hold that restraint is repression and self- discipline is bad. In the 'sixties carefree catchphrase, "If it feels good, do it!" But if you took this view of violence, you'd be acting on every angry urge and mowing people down instead of playing video games. Discipline means letting the brain call the shots for the body. Nike's famous "Just Do It" ad campaign brilliantly turned the 'sixties slogan on its head, and as the packed gyms testify, many are finding that discipline, not the lack of it, feels good. Massage today is split between the lopsided halves of solely sensual and purely therapeutic. Recovering the unitary nature of massage is one more step on the road to "a fit mind in a fit body," and to training the total man.


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