Monday, 22 March 2010

Massage at festivals?

Feeling a bit lost in the healing field? A guide to finding a decent massage this summer.

A long drive or train journey; hoiking heavy rucksacks or trolleys or wheelbarrows; setting up camp, sleeping in a tent, sitting on the ground, or standing up all the time if it’s muddy, dancing all night? We love it, but it’s not surprising that many of us ache at festivals. It’s also not surprising that there is a burgeoning mini industry in massage at festivals.

In many ways it’s potentially a perfect marriage of people enjoying a weekend away, and available massage therapists standing there right in front of them ready to go. How, though, do you know what to have? Or whether the person standing before you in flip flops and spangly make up is reliable?

The questions for the massage virgin, the mildly skeptical or indeed anyone befuddled by the range of complementary therapies available, can be how to decide what is the right treatment for your needs and whether you can be sure the person in front of you is properly qualified and experienced.

Despite our best efforts, many of us working at festivals might not look as neat and clean as in our usual clinic environment, and there may well be the odd spider dangling from our internal tent poles.

Abi Norman, who organises the therapy field at the Larmer Tree Gardens festival in Wiltshire says: “We work very hard at ensuring all our therapists are well qualified and have a minimum of two years experience. We always gather and check qualifications and professional insurance policies, and we don’t take everyone who applies. The Secret Garden, our healing field is an important part of our event and many people look forward to having a professional massage whilst at the festival.” Other big festivals that run a healing field, such as Womad and The Big Chill, also employ similar rigour in their selection process.

So whether you ache, just want a rest from sound systems and people, or want somewhere quiet to take your hangover, the healing field is a place you can head with confidence. Festivals make a big effort to make the healing field environment as pleasant as possible for sitting, lying around or having a quiet wander. So, once there, you fancy a treatment? How do you know what to have?

One of the great advantages of trying a massage at a festival is that in most cases it will be possible to watch therapists in action first and probably get to chat to them, all of which helps to demystify the unknown. Some fields also provide an information tent where knowledgeable staff can tell you about what is available.

Thai massage and shiatsu are perennially popular as they are clothed massages; what you are wearing maybe fine or therapists will offer you an easy change of clothes if necessary. Reflexology is great to relax and ease tired feet, therapists will always have something to wash your feet if needed. If you prefer something oily; holistic, remedial and sports massage is generally available with the therapists appropriately equipped.

If you are in acute pain, whilst most kinds of massage can help, many festivals endeavour to employ an osteopath or physiotherapist. They may be wearing pixie ears, but will likely be the best place to go if you are experiencing a lot of discomfort and want a more medically qualified professional.

With luck, you already feel great and just fancy a bit of relaxing time out, or are feeling experimental and want to try something new.

Healing fields often have a little culture of their own within the festival, there maybe yoga or tai chi classes in the morning and perhaps a health food cafe or mini stage offering a programme of events. Costs for a complementary health treatment at a festival will generally be between £20 and £40


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