The source of Javanese massage comes from several places and so elements of this healing ritual are drawn together to create a unique experience. And those are two key words: healing and ritual. This is a physical and a spiritual experience. Relaxation is often the key to health, but other benefits include easing muscle and joint pain, improving circulation, and muscle tone, and so massage also becomes a beauty treatment.
So what is the secret recipe? Start with a mixing bowl and add ayurvedic medicine, a traditional medicine based on plants from the Indian Subcontinent, and then add ancient Chinese medicine. Then a sprinkle of Hindu religion and Buddism. Finally, introduce a drop of trade, brought by the winds on Arabian boats searching for spice.
Each massage experience is different, depending on who is looking after you, the ambience, the environment and the patient’s state of mind. It was a real sacrifice, but in the name of research I underwent two massages and gained two completely different experiences.
Apsara Spa, Hotel Tugu, Malang, Java
As soon as you cross the threshold of Hotel Tugu you step back a thousand years to be surrounded by the legend of the beautiful Cambodia dancing goddess, Apsara, and her love story with a Javanese prince. This is a tale of opposites, and the Javanese massage offered if based on this Yin and Yang.
Like waves, the ritual starts with a hot aromatic soak, which includes lemon, ginger and a larder of herbs. This is followed by lots of oil and a strong, deep tissue massage. Javanese methods mainly focus on the use of the thumbs to invigorate, while the Balinese offer a more relaxing approach, using the palm of the hand. Pushing and stroking techniques ease knots and tension from the muscles to aid post massage relaxation.
Westin Spa, Westin Hotel, Nusa Dua, Bali
If you are looking for a more dreamy experience, the eternal beauty ritual should not be missed. Originating from the royal palaces the Javanese lulur is an ancient ritual that leaves you drifting off to sleep. Each step leads you down into a complete state of relaxation, washing away the stresses of everyday life. Starting with a sandalwood body wash and a spice scrub, the highlight is a full-body massage that breaks down even a fisherman’s net of knots. And at the end of this two-hour pampering there is a soak in a milky bath decorated with candles and frangipani flowers. The only trouble is you’ll be so relaxed you’ll have trouble dragging yourself out of the bath.
Understanding the context and history of a type of massage only helps you to enjoy the experience more. Imagine yourself to be a princess in a palace, as you inhale the fragrances deeply, and try to carry the Zen-like state back with you to the real world.
The practical bit
· Hotel Tugu, Malang: Apsara Herbal Massage, 60 mins, www.tuguhotels.com
· Westin Hotels and Resorts, Bali: Eternal Beauty Ritual, 120 mins, www.westinnusaduabali.com