4 Lesser-Known Types of Bodywork

Updated: Jun 10

Author: Ngametua Varu

Date: 5/26/2022


The most commonly known massage styles right now are Swedish relaxation massage and Deep Tissue Therapeutic massage. However, there are over 60 unique bodywork styles out there! Here is a small list of some uncommon ones you may not have heard of.


Bodywork and holistic healing practices have been around for over 5,000 years.

Massage therapy has been around since 3000 BCE first originating in India, then traveling to China and Egypt roughly 300-500 years later. From there, the practice has evolved and branched into many different styles.


#1- Amma Therapy

Amma therapy originated in China over 5,000 years ago and was further refined after it was brought to Japan by Tina Sohn. This specialized form of bodywork combines Eastern methods of balancing the flow of Qi (pronounced 'chee') in the energetic system and Western methods of treating organ or muscular dysfunction. Amma is a holistic form of healthcare focusing on restoring and maintaining mind, body, and spirit.


Amma techniques include pressing, stroking, stretching, and percussion, honing in on potent acupressure points along the 14 main Meridians (energy channels). No oil or lotion is used and Amma can be done through clothing, on a table, or floor mat.

#2 Watsu

Watsu is a form of hydrotherapy or water therapy. It is an offshoot of Shiatsu which directly translates to "finger pressure".


The massage is performed in a warm pool or hot tub and combines massage strokes, stretching, and acupressure to promote relaxation, and alleviate pain and discomfort.


The idea behind performing the therapy in water is to use the water's resistance to soothe physical tension. The therapist is in the water with you and will take you through various movements. The goal is to promote a healthy flow of energy or Qi and release tightness in muscle and fascia (the connective tissue found throughout the body).


#3 Rolfing

Developed by and named after Dr. Ida P. Rolf, Rolfing is an approach similar to deep tissue massage but with the focus on reorganizing fascia or connective tissue throughout the body to return to optimal function and freedom of movement rather than focusing on the muscles themselves.


The overall idea is that reorganizing the connective tissue will naturally realign the structures attached to it (muscles, bones, etc.) and help reshape the body into its natural form over several sessions. Rolfing has been used by many to relieve pain and chronic stress to improve performance.


#4 Esalen Massage Therapy


Esalen massage therapy was developed in the 1960s in Big Sur, California at the Esalen Institute. The practice combines techniques from a large variety of other styles such as Swedish massage, Tai Chi, Craniosacral, and others. The goal is to induce deep relaxation, connect mind and body, and enhance total body awareness.


Sessions are typically 90 minutes and performed outside in a serene natural environment, with the client dressed down completely and carefully draped under a sheet. Oil is applied and the practitioner uses a combination of long flowing strokes, intentional pauses, rhythmic rocking, and passive stretching to allow the body to release tension and increase the range of motion. The practitioners develop their intuition to stay in tune with the body and emotions of the receiver and allow a deeper sense of safety and comfort.


There's something out there for everyone.

Whatever kind of holistic healing you're looking for, there is something out there for you. If you're looking to become a bodywork practitioner yourself, check out our licensure program at Pacific Northwest Massage Academy. We help you lay the foundation so you can go further and explore all the options out there for you. Maybe you will be the next one to develop your own style.


Do you know other uncommon modalities you want to talk about? Leave it in a comment below!