When you’re in Peru, you may see or hear about Inca Massage, also called Energetic Inca Massage or Shamanic Massage. Of course, this fits perfectly well in the Peruvian atmosphere of ancient indigenous medicine and practices with San Pedro Cactus (Huachuma), Mambe Coca Powder, Ayahuasca, and so on.
Nevertheless, trying to find out what exactly defines an Inca or Shamanic Massage, you’ll hit on quite some different versions, and you cannot evade the feeling that it’s all a bit of an invention, and basically a massage treatment modality that’s created for tourist-commercial purposes. It doesn’t mean that there wasn’t any massage tradition in pre-Columbian Andes civilization, it’s just that what you usually encounter today is clearly not so “traditional” at all.
In any case, you will see that massage practitioners in Peru tend to use oils, creams, and lotions with medicinal herbs and plants that have a local origin, such as Coca (Erythroxylum coca), Muña (Minthostachys mollis), and Hierba Luisa (Aloysia citrodora). The masseurs and therapists will often claim that these “topical gliders” were already used by the Incas, of course.
The massages offered with the aforementioned traditional oils are usually common deep tissue, full body massages on a massage table, sometimes combined with Reflexology Massage and/or Aromatherapy. To make things a bit more special, massage treatment providers like to mention that the herbs and oils they use come straight from the Valle Sagrado de los Incas (the ancient Sacred Valley region).
Another popular type of “Inca Massage” is the one that uses hot stones. Of course, the stones used are supposedly “hand-picked” at the sacred Machu Picchu site, as such giving them extra “spiritual and energetic” properties. Or — if that’s somewhat over the top — perhaps they may mention that they use these special volcanic stones or salt stones.
Then, of course, there’s the “Shamanic Massage.” These types of massages really capitalize on the Curanderismo and Shamanic tradition of Peru by introducing a range of “spiritual elements” into a massage session. Think of the use of Condor feathers, Flower water, Mapacho tobacco smoke, Palo Santo wood sticks, visualizations, invocations of Pachamama, incense, Icaros chants, and whatnot.
It’s then asserted that the Shamanic Massage cleanses negative energies, aligns your Chakras, purifies your Aura, wakes up unconscious states of your mind, releases energy blocks and promotes the free flow of energy in your body, and connects you to the spiritual energies of the universe, etc.
All by all, so-called Inca massages and Shamanic massages are basically modern, blended massage modalities which — just like many other contemporary massages — boost your blood circulation, combat fatigue, anxiety, and stress, stimulate detoxification of the body, tone your skin, improve mobility and flexibility, relieve muscle tension and other physical discomforts, and finally promote relaxation and overall feelings of well-being.
As a matter of fact, when you look closely at Peruvian Shamanic massages you cannot help but notice that a range of non-native elements are “integrated” into the massage sessions, such as Chakra, Aura, and Reiki healing, and the application of techniques found in Ayurvedic and Swedish or Classic massages.