Dating back to 2700 B.C., massaging — first used by ancient civilizations such as the Chinese and Egyptians, and then adopted to become the Swedish massage — continues to be the most widely practiced bodywork technique. While a Swedish massage relaxes and soothes the client with lubricated long strokes from head to toe, other techniques such as acupressure focus on finding specific points and releasing energy flows.

Various bodywork technique classes are offered through UCSC’s Holistic Health Program by the Office of Physical Education, Recreation and Sports (OPERS), including acupressure, Swedish massage and reflexology. Students taking part in the 315-hour program will be awarded a massage practitioner certification, making them a professional, licensed masseuse.

Bodywork techniques like acupressure have more complex uses than simply de-stressing the client. Program director Shelley Patton teaches the acupressure course and described the technique as a way to go deeper into one’s purpose in life.

Acupressure focuses on an “energetic level” and unlike the conventional Swedish massage, this bodywork technique is done without oils or long strokes on a patient who is fully clothed, Patton said. This technique opens up meridians, or channels running through the body that are connected to all organs. These channels have points that surface in different parts of the body — 30 in total — and are pressurized until they release and open the energy flows in the body.

Various other bodywork techniques including the Swedish massage also deal with pressure points, all of which can be learned through the Holistic Health Program.

A good massage will allow the client to let go of what Patton calls the “excessive thinking mind,” relaxing the mind and body in a break from day-to-day routine.

“It helps train the body and mind so you don’t have to take life so seriously. You can relax and let go, letting life flow naturally,” Patton said.

Patton stressed the importance of living in the present moment and being stress free. A stressed mind causes tightening up in the body and a tense body leads to congestion.

“If you are tight in your body, your energy won’t flow and you will become stressed or ill,” Patton said. “Stress is a major cause of the breakdown in the immune system, which keeps your body healthy.”

Massaging and bodywork outside of a professional setting like a spa can also be used to enhance one’s intimate relationship. It’s a useful tool in any relationship, allowing both the giver and receiver of the massage to escape into a tranquil state of unity.

“Being able to be vulnerable with a partner or lover and being open to intimate or conscious touch can enhance relationships and enhance the vulnerability one would like to feel in a loving relationship,” Patton said.

Whether it’s for intimate reasons, pursuing a career in bodywork or simply wanting to learn a useful service, Patton insists taking a class in bodywork can only serve to benefit you and those around you.