You will encounter many different forms of massage depending where around the world you travel. However in this modern age, you can probably find all significant forms of massage within a close proximity.
What is the first thing that comes to mind when you see a sign or advertisement for Asian Massage or Massage Salon? Do you immediately think about a great massage at a reasonable rate, or do you go the other direction and imagine a hot Asian masseuse and immoral behavior?
If you answered the latter, then I’m here to tell you that you might just be missing out on an amazing experience that will leave you wondering how you’d been missing out all this time!
Do unsavory things happen in an Asian massage store? Absolutely! Just like how some western studios are better at selling a membership than they are at providing therapy and do not fool yourself into thinking that happy endings don’t happen in the nationally branded franchised stores.
If you’ll allow me, I would like to take a few moments of your time and share with you some of the experience I have obtained in my years of building, working with, marketing for, handling calls, scheduling appointments and managing Asian massage stores across the United States and Canada.
First things first let’s think about the origin of massage. The earliest records of massage emerge between 3,000 and 2,500 BCE in China and India where it was used as a form of homeopathic healing that felt the body could right itself of ailments if it was brought into balance. Massage Asian style persisted throughout the world until the dark ages when those in power decided that the intimacy of a massage was impure and immoral. Massage continued in Asia but in Europe it was forbidden or frowned upon.
Now let’s explore what I think are the 4 biggest stigmas associated with the idea of entering an Asian massage parlor.
Stigma #1: What is an “Asian Massage”?
Many Asian practitioners have learned the craft from someone trained in eastern modalities where the emphasis is a holistic approach that follows where the body leads, seeking balance and alignment, energy and reaction. Often a pain or aliment is a symptom or reaction to something going on in a different part of the body, the pain you feel in your neck may be related to tension in your buttocks rather than anything to do with your neck or the location that the pain presents. By following the tension an Eastern trained therapist can locate and eliminate your discomfort by realignment rather then brute force or focus. One characteristic of eastern modalities is an abundance of relaxation, almost a meditative state where you can find peace and tranquility in this state you do not resist the strokes of the therapist and the outcome is often much longer lasting.
Most Western modalities are more focused on a clinical approach to healing and rely on the wasting or wearing down of muscle or tissue than addressing the source of the ailment. This rigid and often direct approach is less relaxing and at times painful. If your neck hurts, the masseuse will focus on your neck and wear the muscles down until they are forced to relax, and tension seems to subside, though it quickly returns because the cause of the tension was not addressed and eliminated. You will notice that most western modalities are predetermined approach to massage where they will spend a certain number of minutes in a particular area then move on the next to cover all parts of the area to be massaged in the allotted time. The therapist is unlikely to accept the feedback your body provides as the routine is one of repletion rather than response.
Stigma #2: Is it clean inside?
The simple answer is yes and no. Some stores are immaculate and the operates takes personal pride in the appearance and condition of their store while others could care less and are not even in the business of providing good massage and are much more interested in getting guys in and out and collecting as many tips as they can along the way.
Go in and check the place out for yourself, you will get a decent idea as soon as you walk in the door. Observe things like how the place smells, is the sitting or waiting area clean and tidy, what are the masseuses wearing? If the waiting area in dingy and the “therapists” are wearing skimpy outfits, then you are likely in the wrong place for a quality massage.
One thing not focus on if the lighting is dim, remember that Asian massage is focused on relaxing you and getting you to a meditative state and this is done in a low light environment with gentle music, the room will likely be a little darker than the hall and this is intentional as they do not want you to go from dark to bright and mess up the relaxed state the massage just helped you to achieve.
Stigma #3: Why is advertising so basic
Many Asian massage studios are operated by Chinese or Vietnamese families that have come to this country with less than nothing, they got a job doing massage and save every penny to open their own store to live their version of the American dream. Along the way very few had the opportunity to learn or even understand the nuances of western marketing. They’ve focused solely on earning a living, supporting their family here and back in their country of origin by working 15 to 16 hours a day, 7 days a week.
They pick up things along the way form the stores they honed their craft in and the duplicate what seemed to work. You’ll notice many have an illuminated sign that says nothing more than “MASSAGE”, most advertisements will say “Brand New”, “Grand Opening” or “New Staff” and this is all because they saw it work before and hope it’ll work again, don’t hold limited knowledge and understanding against them as most are the hardest working most caring and sincere people you will ever meet.
Stigma #4: No Membership Discounts
It is very possible that they are doing you a major favor by offering excellent massage and not coercing you into a contract. Think back to the last time you tried to cancel your gym membership and how that turned out. Without exception all the major franchises are more interested in selling you a membership and having you sign a contract than they are delivering you a quality massage, once you sign that contract you are locked in and the rules for breaking it are extreme, many have caveats that require you to have moved to a new location that is more than 50 miles from one of their facilities, miss a month and they get their money but your massage is gone, don’t cancel in time and you’re locked in for another year, don’t cancel in the way you were instructed on the original contract and you’ll still be charged.
All of the Asian studios I have done business with have a loyalty program or card that will reward you for coming, for some it is 5 visits and for others it is 10 and you will get a massage of equal value for free, when you really do the math this loyalty agreement pays out as good or better than what is offered via contract and you and you alone choose whether to do business with them or not you are never contractually bound, obligated or charge for a service that was never delivered.
All in all, if you have ever or plan to ever spend you hard earned money on a massage, I implore you to keep an open mind to what may be the best massage money can buy, the happy ending you get maybe the unexpected joy of an amazing experience.
Don’t go in looking for fancy furniture or perfect English, keep in mind many of the massage therapists are and have been focused on noting more than massage since they arrived in this country.
Check the condition of the lobby and the attire of the therapists, when you see a clean lobby and nurses scrubs rest assured that you are in the right place. Lay down, relax and be prepared to be healed as mother nature intended!