Fascia Blasters, Persian Spas and the 'Painful' French Rub-down: A Brief History of the World's Best Massages

Fascia Blasters, Persian Spas and the 'Painful' French Rub-down: A Brief History of the World's Best Massages ...
thedailybeast.com 27/08/2017 Health

Keywords:#Avicenna, #Facebook, #French, #History, #Ibn, #Paris, #Persian, #Roman, #The_Canon_of_Medicine, #Thedailybeast.com

The ancient Greeks thought it could melt fat, the Victorians used it to cure hysteria, and the French like it to be as painful as possible.
Candida Moss
08.27.17 12:00 AM ET
Anyone engaged in the quest for bodily perfection knows that it is hard to change the shape of your body. Without a surgical strike, diet is more like carpet bombing the unruly parts of the body. The billion-dollar beauty industry is cluttered with creams, exercise equipment, compression underwear, and nutritional plans that claim to solve the problem, but 2017 has been the year of the painful massage.
In Paris, French aesthetician Martine de Richeville developed a particular form of massage known as rémodelage that claims to reshape the silhouette, banish cellulite, and release stored toxins. The experience isn’t pleasant: the body is pinched and kneaded into submission, but she is fully booked and recently opened a satellite studio at Saks Fifth Avenue.
De Richeville’s hands-on techniques cater to those with time and money. Meanwhile Ashley Black, the author of The Cellulite Myth: It’s not Fat it’s Fascia, is bringing body manipulation to the masses. A former sports therapist, Black’s research and experience led her to develop a variety of “fascia blasters”—claw-adorned handled sticks that reshape the body. The body is heated, oiled, and pummeled into the desired shape. The level of discomfort is up to the individual, but the effects can be quite striking; Black’s loyal disciples proudly display their results and their bruises on her invitation-only Facebook group. The blasters are marketed to the cellulite-obsessed crowd, but Black claims that her techniques can improve posture and reduce pain (she is currently conducting a study on hair loss).
All of this sounds like a faddish trend catering to a narcissistic public. Surely fascia blasters are just our version of the Thigh Master? If it is just a trend, it isn’t new; people have been using massage to reshape the body for thousands of years.
Father of medicine, Hippocrates, insisted that a good physician be skilled in the art of “rubbing,” or massage. Rubbing, he says, can bind or loosen the joints and flesh. Rubbing hard will bind the body; massaging softly will loosen it; excessive rubbing with cause the flesh to waste away; while a moderate amount would promote its growth.
But massage can have even more profound effects on the body. In dispensing pediatric advice, the ancient gynecologist Soranus (fl. 1st-2nd century CE) suggested that nurses should massage the male infant into an appropriate bodily shape. The buttocks, head, limbs, nose, and other parts of the baby’s body could be manipulated so that it reflected a more masculine “nature.” There’s something ironic and oddly revealing about the idea that you can push your body into a better version of its “natural” (ideal) state, but there’s also something very particular about the soft pliable bodies of babies. Just the experience of being born can distort the shape of the cranium.
But it wasn’t only the bodies of infants that were susceptible to change. The 11th-century Persian medic Avicenna (Ibn Sina)’s encyclopedic The Canon of Medicine contains several dozen references to the use of medical massage. Drawing on the work of the Roman doctor Galen, Avicenna recommends a kind of kneading technique and rubbing that is usually referred to as friction. Friction, he recommends, “should be used in preparation for exercise, [in order to help] the bowels and [open] the pores of the skin.” The rubbing technique should use a rough towel and should continue until the skin shows “a florid blush.” The purpose of the massage was to remove “effete matter” from the body. To the modern ear this sounds a great deal like the removal of toxins from the body, and his methods sound oddly similar to dry body brushing or fascia blasting.
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