Going Global: International Massage Methods and Modalities

Written by Kim Collier

As the wonderful world of wellness goes global, bring clients an exotic “staycay vacay” (and your staff something unique), by offering intriguing massage modalities not found everywhere. Here’s a quick review, with benefits and tips to get you started.




The eighth century, stone-carved panels of Borobudur temple in Central Java, Indonesia depict common life, which include origins of Indonesian massage “pijat” and making of herbal medicine, better known today as jamu. Balinese massage, from the neighboring island of Bali, combines Chinese, Indian, and European technique influences. A rhythmic massage dance of thumb walking, wringing, skin rolling, and acupressure, Balinese massage begins with dry strokes, progresses with tropical oils, and finishes with stuccato percussion for each area. Traditionally, the massage begins with a floral foot soak and concludes with a spice back scrub and jamu herbal beverage.


Benefit: This massage is body balancing, medium to deep tissue massage indicated for energizing the body. Helpful to relieve jet-lag, hangovers, and lethargy, Balinese massage increases overall body energy flow and the body’s life force “chi” by manually activating key pressure points and moving connective tissue.


Equipment: A Balinese foot soak bowl, sarong, tingsha, organic body oils, and herbal body scrubs are needed for this massage.




A raw and powerful treatment, Chavutti Thirumal is an Ayurvedic massage which originates from Kerala in southern India and was traditionally performed by Kalari warriors. Strong, even pressure is applied from the feet and core of the professional, as they balance using ropes to administer long, powerful strokes from the client’s hand all the way down the body to the feet and back in a hypnotic fashion. As the treatment progresses, more localised strokes are used on specific parts of the body – even the neck is massaged by the feet. Only at the end are hands used, to work on the arms, head, and face.


Benefit: This clears the meridians and lymphatic system and pushes the toxins to the exit points at the ankles, wrists, top and base of the spine, and crown of the head.


Equipment: This massage requires installation of stable ropes connected across the ceiling and a comfortable surface for the client to lay (ideally a floor mattress).




Thai yoga massage feels like having yoga done to you. It takes place on a cotton floor mat, and loose clothing is worn, as acupressure points of the body’s 10 main energy lines are thoroughly worked through a combination of pressure using feet, knees, thumbs, and palms. This is followed by dynamic stretching, which eases muscles beyond their usual mobility limitations. Afterwards, the recipient feels looser and more limber – like they have completed a yoga class, except no effort is involved.


Benefit: Blocked and stagnant energy is released, blood circulation is enhanced, muscles are invigorated, and chi life energy is stimulated to flow freely.


Equipment: To perform, a cotton floor mat the size of a twin bed and adequate space around the bed for stretching movements are needed, as well as Thai pajamas and a neck pillow. 





Based on Ayurvedic Indian traditions, Indian head massage treatment includes kneading and probing of the neck and shoulder areas. The recipient sits in a low backed chair, wearing light loose clothing, so the therapist may access their upper back. The treatment works on the upper back, arms, shoulders, neck, scalp, face, and ears. The therapist will also manipulate facial pressure points to relieve sinus pressure, increase alertness, and stimulate circulation. A client’s ears may be pressed and tugged, and their hair tousled, during scalp massage using squeezing, tapping, rubbing, feathering, stroking, and prodding motions to stimulate cranial pressure points. Oils may also be applied, yet are not required.


Benefit: Profoundly relaxing, this massage may ease stress headaches and congestion such as sinusitis, bring mental clarity, improve sleep, and may promote hair growth.



Equipment: A proper chair for client and staff ergonomics is needed.





Gua Sha is an effective, uni-directional facial massage, using a small jade or gemstone board, which brings about fundamental change in the skin. By clearing stagnation in the channel system, pathways that feed the skin are ignited to activate the body’s natural healing potential.


Benefit: Gentle, press-stroking massage movements manipulate connective tissue, muscles, and energy lines along the face and body to break up blood stagnation, free toxic accumulation, and promote lymphatic drainage. The technique creates space for the optimal flow of blood, oxygen, lymph, and nutrients.


Equipment: To perform, a massage or facial table, Gua Sha stones, and organic facial products are necessary.


It is no surprise that clients may be curious and interested in global modalities for the face and body. Incorporating these unique services will certainly pique the interest of many clients.



Kim CollierA holistic health practitioner and massage therapist, Kim Collier’s international experience portfolio includes spa director, wellness consultant, and educator in Hong Kong, Indonesia (Java, Sumatra, Bali, Lombok), Singapore, Thailand, Philippines, Australia, Russia, Mexico, Canada, and the United States. Collier supports sustainability and cannabis wellness initiatives, via Collier Concepts, and remains at the helm of Balinese herbal, organic body care company, JAMU & Organic Spa Rituals. With over 25 years dedicated to the spa and wellness industry, Collier’s next chapters are focused upon collaborating, educating, and advocating for plant-based healing, cannabis wellness, and sustainability solutions. collierconcepts.com or jamuspa.com


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