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The Bliss of Balinese Massage

Contact Author Sarah Kajonborrirak May 2010 issue of Skin Inc. magazine

Thank you for your inquiry. Please note that the author cannot provide individual medical advice. Also, if you have a customer service question, email customer service at

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woman receiving Balinese massage

Editor’s note: Before offering any new services on your spa menu, be sure that all therapists are trained in the modality to ensure safe practices.

The traditional Balinese massage is an ancient healing therapy that originated on the island of Bali, Indonesia. Just as several other Eastern therapies that have been adopted and glorified by today’s spas, its origins have roots in folk medicine and healing techniques passed from generation to generation.

The Balinese is an oil-based, deep tissue massage that is great for relaxation, improving circulation and re-energizing the body; it helps to achieve a blissful state of mind that seems so elusive in these hectic days. It has been documented that, among other health benefits, Balinese massage helps relieve sleep disorders, migraines, depression and lymphatic disorders, not to mention alleviating strained muscles and joint pain.1

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The main feature of Balinese massage and its derivates is the combination of gentle stretches and acupressure it uses in order to stimulate the energy qi. Its similarity to ayurveda is no coincidence; Balinese massage is based on the system of traditional medicine for which India is famous.

Therapeutic essence

With such a great reputation and credentials, Balinese massage is offered in many reputable spas throughout the world, and even though the technique has evolved with time and has been slightly modified in different geographic regions, its therapeutic essence remains the same. In fact, there is more than one genuine Balinese massage, because the smaller islands surrounding Indonesia developed their own interpretation of this healing art. Because of this, Sasak, Lombok, Urat and a few other techniques exist today that are called Balinese. However, they are all very similar, and the slight variations between their sequences should not be a cause of concern.

Oils are essential for Balinese massage. Even though you could use the oil of your preference, it is advised to administer this ancient massage technique with an essential oil featuring hints of lemongrass, ginger, jasmine or frangipani in order to recreate the feeling of being on the tropical and exotic island that gives its name to this extraordinary massage therapy. As with most massages, it is recommended to leave the oil on the skin after the session is over in order to let it penetrate and work its magic, however it is not absolutely necessary.

Balinese Massage Treatment

Spiritual renewal

Balinese massage is a rigorous and luxurious spa treatment, and a great one to choose for clients who want to experience relaxation and feel spiritually renewed at the same time. When many clients are feeling more stress than usual due to the current state of the economy, it is important for them to relax and find peace. Be sure to market this treatment to those clients to help decrease their stress and increase their well-being.



1. J Chapman, Ultimate Spa: Asia’s Best Spas and Treatments, Periplus Publishing, North Clarendon, VT (2006)

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How-to: Balinese Massage Treatment

Balinese massage is normally performed on a mattress on the floor, but doing so is not mandatory. If you prefer to administer it on a regular treatment table, it’s completely fine to do so. 90 minutes

Treatment duration:

Treatment cost: $60

Equipment needed:

Mattress or treatment table


Supplies needed:

An essential oil with hints of lemongrass, ginger, jasmine or frangipani

Coconut essential oil

Step 1: After greeting the client, who has completed a medical history form, discuss any issues that arise and remind the client that the service needs to take place 30–45 minutes after a meal, and should be avoided if the client has had surgery within the past six months, or suffers from high blood pressure, diabetes or skin diseases, is menstruating or is pregnant. Next, lead the client to the treatment room, ask her to lie face down on the mattress or treatment table and cover her with a towel.

Step 2: Apply the essential oil to your hands and start the massage with a kneading stroke between the neck and shoulders. The key to the successful kneading stroke is to use the whole of your hands, grasping and squeezing as if you were kneading dough. From the neck and shoulders, move down to the middle back, performing the same kneading movement. From there, move on to the back of the arms until you reach the wrists, always making sure that the person receiving the massage is in a comfortable position.

Step 3: Return to the back and change to a heel-of-the-hand pressure stroke, in which you push the heels of your hands forward into the flesh. Do this from the lower to the upper back and complete this first sequence by making short, deep circles with your thumbs up either side of the spine, from the waist to shoulders and back.

Step 4: After finishing the back, concentrate on the feet and legs, beginning with the left side. Start with a quick reflexology sequence, not forgetting to work around the ankles, too, and perform a long stroke gliding up the center of the client’s leg and slide down the sides of the leg. Use a rhythmical, alternating movement, and knead the thigh and calf. Lift the lower leg to an upright position and drain the calf with your thumbs—do this by massaging along the muscle lines using a draining motion—then put the leg back in its original position and start working with the right side.

Step 5: Help your client lie on her back and after finishing with the right leg, begin working with the left leg again, except that this time, focus on the front. Begin with the lower leg until you reach the thigh, making sure that the draining stroke being performed has the right pressure for the client.

Step 6: The abdomen area is very sensitive, so let your hands come down gently when you start and let them rest on the belly for a few seconds before you begin performing broad, circling strokes on the belly.

Step 7: Continue by applying oil to the left arm with long strokes, gliding your arms up and undulating over the contours until just below the armpit. Once the arm is fully oiled, drain the forearm with your thumb, from elbow to wrist.

Step 8: Start working on the hand—a very relaxing practice thanks to the reflex connections with the rest of the body—by using your two hands to hold the client’s hand with the palm facing you, and begin draining it with your two thumbs.

Step 9: Next, squeeze the shoulder joint by placing one hand on your client’s collarbone and the other under the middle of the upper back.

Step 10: Repeat the same sequence in steps 7–9 with the right arm, hand and shoulder joint.

Step 11: Now, place your hands on the upper chest, fingers pointing down, and slide them out toward the shoulders. Once your hands are there, curve them around the joints until you reach the back of the neck.

Step 12: It’s now time to work on the face and scalp; this is considered by many as the most relaxing part of the whole massage, so it is important to make sure that the pressure is not too strong. The best way to find out whether the pressure is right or not is by simply asking the client. Start with the chin and jawbone; hold the chin between your thumbs and index fingers, and then squeeze using a rhythmical stroke.

Step 13: Next, move alongside to the jawbone until you reach the ear lobe. Now, using your ring, middle and index fingers, work on the cheeks performing an upward movement starting from around the lips and finishing on the corners of the eyes. Perform the same upward stroke starting from the top of the nose moving on the forehead.

Step 14: The next area of focus is the scalp, which can improve the health of the hair and fight headaches. Add the essential oil to your fingers and begin rubbing vigorously in small circular motions, slowly moving from the hairline down to the base of the neck. Add more oil to the tip of your fingers, if necessary. Grasp the ears between your fingers and massage the ear lobes softly for about 15 seconds.

Step 15: Complete the massage by asking your client to sit up on the treatment table. Once the client is sitting comfortably, perform a short kneading sequence on the neck. The correct way to do it is by firmly working the whole neck area, grasping the muscles at the base of the neck, and moving horizontally to the shoulder blades, one at the time.

Step 16: At the end of the massage sequence, pour a little coconut oil on your hands and then rub it on your client’s body to give a nice, tropical smell that is reminiscent of the beautiful island of Bali.

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