Moxibustion, effleurage, lomi lomi, pétrissage, tapotement
& other massage terms
I had the jittery heebie-jeebies. In a state of tremulous discomfiture did I enter Madame Bijou’s Parlour of Flesh Re-Arrangement. Although the saucy name in neon: FLESH!!! promised nubile nymphules (aka jailbait) dancing to “Santeria” while clad in skimpy thongs, carnal indulgence unknown since Belshazzar’s Feast, all I sought was surcease from pain between my shoulder blades. Like the famous Babylonian orgy, there was, ominously, “the writing on the wall.” It was a spa sign that warned: “persons touching the masseuse in any way deemed inappropriate shall have the offending hand amputated by the scimitar of Abdul, our staff eunuch.” I murmured a compliant eek! and with unmanly haste locked my iron chastity jockstrap.
No, I told a friend, my upper back pain is not due to a Bowie knife embedded in a medioscapular locus by a co-worker — in other words, no knife in my back. Several other co-workers had sworn up and down, on Mitt Romney’s two-page book A Mormon Guide to Poor People. Piously they averred that several of Madame Bijou’s clientele had risen from her massage table able to walk and — yes! — still capable of extracting one-hundred dollar bills from their wallets.
Forthwith a blizzard of massage terms utterly new to me perplexed my ears, procedures like effleurage, lomi lomi, moxibustion, pétrissage and tui na dropped upon my habitually paranoid consciousness as if someone had said Tomás de Torquemada is dropping by the house tonight to correct a few minor office errors.
True, most massage terms are in plain English and easily understood: the Swedish Skull-Hammer Cure, ancient Chinese epicanthic fold stretching, the Aztec Brain Cleaner (involves a live condor and nitric acid) and VTIT or Viking Testicular Interchange Therapy. Those did not worry me. After the unfamiliar massage terms were explained, I thought it only kind to share them with any badly kneaded readers.
In Swedish massage, tapotement is quick rhythmic tapping with the edge of the hand, a cupped hand or the tips of the fingers. It is sometimes called finger percussion, but that always sounds to me like a misadventure which might befall one while strapped to the iron bed of that ancient Greek thug blacksmith, Procrustes.
There are several types of tapotement including Beating, Hacking, Tapping (use just fingertips) and Cupping. Tapotement serves to awaken a somnolent nervous system, for example: releasing lymphatic build up in the back by gently tapping the shoulder of the client. Even in traditional medical procedures, tapotement is used on the chest wall of patients with bronchitis to help loosen the mucus in their air passages. In relaxation and maintenance massage, tapotement improves the tissue tone and vasodilates capillaries, thus improving blood flow to remotest cells.
The name of the stroke is taken from the French verb tapoter ‘to drum the fingers rapidly, to tap.’
This is a gliding, stroking movement in massage, mostly over the spine and back, often to warm up muscles before deeper massage techniques are employed, usually at the start and at the end of facial or body massage. Fingertip effleurage of the abdomen is a technique used in the Lamaze method of natural childbirth. Effleurage is also a common mode of spreading oil on bodies to be massaged. Glides are in the direction of the heart which helps push the flow of blood and lymph. Effleurage was developed to affect the skin and superficial muscles.
The French verb effleurer in its prime meaning is to ‘remove the flower of something,’ from French la fleur ‘the flower.’ But its quite early developed sense was ‘to skim the surface’ hence to stroke the skin lightly, gently.
This is kneading body muscles as if one were making dough. The masseur or masseuse rolls, squeezes and presses the muscles to improve deep circulation. Pétrissage acts by forcing venous blood onward and bringing freshly oxygenated blood to depleted tissues. Toxins lingering in neural and muscle tissue may be partially eliminated too.
Le pétrissage is the noun from the older French verb pétrir. It first appears in thirteenth-century documents as Old French pestrir ‘to knead dough in baking,’ borrowed from late Latin pistrire, itself based on Latin pinsere ‘to pulverize, to grind grain.’ Among cognates of the Latin verb are Greek πτίσσειν ptissein ‘to crush spices or drugs with a pestle in a mortar.’ Classical Latin borrowed ptisana ‘barley with the outer covering pounded off, pearl barley, barley water.’ Indo-European cognates include Sanskrit pinasti ‘he crushes’ and Avestan pixati ‘it bumps into, it bangs.’
Tui Na ( Chinese, literally ‘Push-Pull’ )
This Chinese massage technique follows the theory of qi (chi), life energy flow through tendons and meridians of the body that can be redirected therapeutically.
This is an ancient Hawaiian healing massage during which kukui nut, macadamia nut and coconut oils are used as lubricants and nutritional moisturizers, the hands-on manipulations are similar to Japanese shiatsu. Before a procedure begins, the client is allowed one phone call home to a loved one or to a lawyer empowered to draw testamentary pleadings in courts of chancery.
Like many Polynesian forms, Hawaiian lomi-lomi is a noun formed by a doubled verb stem, in this case a reduplication of lomi ‘to rub with the hand,’ so that its prime sense is ‘a great deal of hand-rubbing.’ The ancient Polynesian etymon is lima ‘hand.’
( Chinese: 灸 ; pinyin: ji ǔ or Yomogi 蓬 Japanese Moxa)
In this little skin roast, a glowing moxa stick is used to warm certain acu-points before they are massaged. Moxa is a dried preparation of the herb mugwort, long used in oriental medicine for a variety of menstrual problems. It claims to stimulate blood circulation and speed recovery of many bodily ills.
Now, with that subluxation of my third interior chakra safely returned to my chief spiritual center, namely my kneecap, I feel I can hobble forth to meet anew a brutal world.
A reader emails me to ask if I believe in these procedures. Let me put it this way: if you are one who, of a night, leaves out on your bedstand a thimble full of petunia nectar for the tooth fairy, then by all means avail thy cramped musculature of these massage benefits.
Scientists now state that having sex twice-a-week improves your immune system's ability to fight infections. As I told my doctor, I have one problem with that. I can't coax my neighbor's sheep dog into my garage.
copyright © 2012 William Gordon Casselman
French Canadian Translation Services
Read Some Other of My Columns
1. Wog: Origin of a Racist Insult
2. Bastard Canoe!
3. Solstice: The Impossible Word
4. Hudson's Bay Hymnbook
5. Tuque: Winter Hat Supreme