“Massage in Bali comes from necessity rather than pleasure,” explains Suwendra. “After a long day in the field, the Balinese will prepare warm oil and massage themselves to alleviate much of the tension that builds up throughout a day.” He explains that this has been the case for as long as he’s lived, and it is only within the past 30 years, when Bali began expanding as a tourist destination, that massage became commercialized.
“The whole idea, as you already know, is relaxation,” he says. It’s almost entirely done with the palms and thumbs, he explains, and is a massage that employs heavy uses of the sliding techniques with a bit of Swedish effleurage thrown in. Never digging too deep, nor pushing or pulling too forcefully, the massage is designed to be user-friendly, in that much of the time Balinese massage can be tailored to the guest. “If it’s all about relaxation,” Suwendra adds, “then why wouldn’t we allow the guest to customize as much as possible?” In this way, Suwendra says the Balinese massage is intended to be a jump-off into a custom-tailored massage that will leave any visitor feeling enraptured upon finish.
For all of this dynamism in the massage, however, masseuses need to be fully prepared to know how to alter and shape the Balinese massage movements into a tailored package. “The techniques take about a month to learn,” explains Suwendra, “but for a masseuse to really succeed, they must have a deep understanding of the human anatomy, and a wealth of experience. Only then will they be able to give a proper Balinese massage.”
The Balinese massage is more a set of techniques than a set itinerary, and much like life in Bali, it’s elegant yet unorganized, relaxing yet firm, and adventurous yet sleepy. This set of techniques that rose to prominence through the quite-literal grassroots is catching on quick, and when you knock out in five minutes because of the sheer relaxation, you understand quickly why.