South Korea is one of the best countries to visit. Aside from taking a tour to temples, palaces, tourist spots, and the world-class city, Seoul, there are also plenty of exciting activities to do. If you’re planning to go on a trip to this beautiful country, ready your bucket list, and don’t miss out on Korean massage!
A Korean massage will surely make your vacation unforgettable. It’s a great way to refresh, relax, and regenerate your energy for the rest of your trip.
But you don’t have to fly all the way to South Korea just to experience it. In some countries, there are some local spas that offer Korean massages. If there’s one around your area, we suggest you make an appointment, enjoy, and let your body and mind break away from tension and stress.
If you want to know what is a Korean massage and why it’s a ‘must-try,’ without further ado, let’s have a read!
What is a Korean Massage?
If you’ve watched a Korean variety show, you’ve probably seen an episode where the hosts and guests have to play a game, and whoever loses will have to face a consequence. One of the most intense punishments is always the Korean massage.
By the looks of it, you probably think that Korean massage, in general, is painful. But don’t let your impression mislead you. In fact, Korean massage is not as excruciating and brutal as you think it is!
Compared to Western massage, which mainly focuses on promoting relaxation and relieving tense muscles, Korean massage, or Ji-ap brings relaxation and wellness both physically and mentally.
Aside from combined Indian, Japanese, Thai, Chinese, and Swedish massage disciplines and some techniques like reflexology, Koreans also integrate hanbang, or traditional Korean holistic medicine into their massage to bring balanced energy flow and calmness to the body and mind.
To do the massage, Korean masseurs use a blend of maneuvers such as elbow, thumb, fingertips, and others. But what really makes Korean massage unique is that it incorporates saunas, swimming pools, and even food services for an otherworldly experience.
The Origins of Korean Massage
The practice of traditional massage therapy or treatment originated in many ancient cultures such as India, China, Japan, and Thailand. Its main purpose is to bring holistic healing as it’s believed that the mind and body are interconnected.
Along with acupuncture and herbal remedies, Korea adopted massage and made it a part of Korean medicine. It is also believed that it became popular and highly regarded when Joseon Dynasty’s King Sejong became ill and received a massage from a Buddhist monk to cure him.
Koreans use a combination of massage techniques from the founding Asian countries and later incorporated the Swedish massage discipline. These techniques were based on Asian rub philosophies that work with the body’s energy flow.
Ancient Asians believe that the human body has meridian lines or paths where energy flows. When the meridian lines are blocked, it means that a person might be ill, so they apply massage in a systematic order based on the meridian lines to stimulate the body’s ability to heal itself.
Massage promotes longevity, vitality, and good health and well-being. This holistic view brings the proper balance of Um-Yang (Korean term for Yin-yang), so massage is well-known in Korea.
The Different Types of Korean Massage
When getting a Korean massage, it’s important to know what type of massage suits your needs to get the best results. Knowing each type also has its perk, as some massage therapists allow you to choose how you want your massage routine to go.
1. Full Body Massage
A full body massage is a therapeutic massage that covers the entire body—from top to toe. It includes the head, neck, shoulder, arms, back, buttock, legs, and feet. In this type of massage, the masseur uses a variety of movements and techniques across the body.
It’s one of the best massages to relieve the whole body’s tension and stress.
It’s almost similar to Swedish massage (also known as the classic massage), which you can also specifically book on spas. It is a gentler version good for massage newbies who want to soothe muscles and achieve relaxation.
In some massage spas, you can even have additional services like hot stone massage where the therapist put heated stones on some body parts to put you into a state of relaxation.
Another great additional therapy is the traditional glass cupping, which involves suctioning the skin using bell-shaped glass cups to improve blood flow.
2. Sport Massage
Although this massage is mainly recommended for people engaged in sports, you don’t necessarily have to be an athlete just to experience this kind of therapy.
If you have aching muscles or perhaps you want to warm up or cool down before or after intensive training/exercise, then a sport massage is a great option.
This massage involves trigger pointing where the therapist massages the parts that need most attention using a range of motion and shiatsu massage techniques such as kneading, pressing, and stretching.
It comes with the “good kind of hurt” as it might be a little painful, but you’ll surely feel refreshed after the session.
Reflexology targets the pressure points of the hand, feet, and ears. Using thumb, finger, and hand massage techniques, the therapist applies firm or different amounts of pressure on certain areas.
It’s indeed more than just a hand and foot massage you usually get on common spas as it also serves as a treatment to reduce pain, fatigue, and anxiety, and improve sleep and mood.
4. Korean Face Massage
Among Koreans, one of the most popular beauty treatments or massages is the Korean facial massage. They even include facial massage in their skincare routine as an ultimate anti-aging trick!
It combines face-sculpting and skin-glowing massage techniques that could correct facial asymmetry, release jaw tension, lift appearance, and brighten skin.
It might involve the use of beauty products during the process of cleansing and moisturizing. It might also include a scalp massage, which will surely leave you relaxed and at ease.
5. Jjimjilbang (Korean Bathhouse)
If you’re aiming for a full Korean massage/spa experience, you might want to skip going to stand-alone spas and enter jjimjilbang or Korean bathhouse!
The Korean bathhouse is a well-known place to get the ultimate full-body scrub, which is an intense Korean cleansing or exfoliating process to remove dead skin from the body.
After scrubbing, you get to explore the different rooms inside the bathhouse, such as saunas, sleeping rooms, and therapy rooms like salt room, clay room, and ice room. There are also massage rooms where you can lay down and get a relaxing full-body massage.
The Health Benefits of Korean Massage
1. Reduce Body Pain
One of the many health benefits of Korean massage is easing body pains by releasing tension and relaxing your muscles, tendons, and joints to reduce soreness. It also promotes faster healing as it increases blood flow and reduces inflammation.
2. Improve Blood Circulation
Another physical benefit gained from massage is improved circulation. Through applied friction and pressure, it stimulates blood flow through congested areas. Thus, ensuring that blood continuously flow throughout your body, supplying vital organs with enough oxygen needed to operate.
3. Reduce Stress and Manage Anxiety and Depression
Since Korean massage is considered holistic healing, it also improves your overall psychological well-being for a healthy, balanced mind.
Cortisol levels are tied to happiness and inner peace. During a massage, your cortisol levels decrease, which is a natural response when you’re in a relaxed state.
It allows you to unwind and clear your mind from all the stress. And it can also boost your mood and decrease the symptoms of anxiety or depression. So, after a blissful massage, you’ll surely feel happier and calmer.
4. Better Sleep
Having inner peace and a calm mind lets you break free from sleepless nights. Since the culprit (stress) has been eliminated or at least reduced, you may now easily rest your mind and start a healthy sleep cycle.
Additionally, a full night’s sleep increases brain function, so you’ll also be able to concentrate and focus during the day.
5. Healthier Mind and Body
As the saying goes, “A healthy mind can lead you to a healthy body – and much happier life.” A massage is beneficial for general well and health maintenance.
It can walk you through the path to healthier, balanced, and joyful life.
Your mind holds your inner strength, so it’s important to take care of your mental health as much as you take care of your physical health.
Aside from exercising and eating healthy foods, adding a therapeutic massage to your self-care routine could add many health benefits to your overall welfare.
There are plenty of Korean massages to try, and you might be surprised by the instant results it brings.
Now that you know a lot about Korean massage, we encourage you to give it a shot and see for yourself!
If you’re looking for more posts about Korean culture, you can also read our posts about Korean Sayings and Korean Superstitions.