Swedish massage, or classic massage as it is called in Sweden, is without doubt the most widely used form of massage in the western world. The method’s popularity lies in its flexibility, from light and gentle relaxation massage to more vigorous deep sports massage techniques.
In the beginning of the 19th century, Sweden and the Swedish population were in deplorable shape. The country had gone from being a strong European power to a country that had lost a great deal of its former territory. Doctors at the time had a firm hold on medical science, and Ling who was neither a doctor or educated in the area of science was considered to be quite controversial. His ambition was to do everything he could to make the Swedish population strong and healthy in both body and spirit.
A passion for excercise and massage
In 1813 Ling opened the Royal Gymnastic Central Institute in Stockholm. The school was the first in the world to specialize in the training of gymnastic instructors. He had a passionate belief in the positive effects of massage and excercise and managed to attract several physicians to the institute. Swedish excercise and massage not only spread quickly throughout Sweden but abroad as well. Ling’s idea had a large influence on healthcare during the second half of the 19th century. A visitor from America wrote in 1901: “A true Swede believes that excercise cures all. If you visit a Swedish doctor in all probability he will prescribe an excercise program and send you to a massage facility rathern than a visit to the pharmacy”.
Per-Henrik Ling (1776-1839) laid the foundation for the classic Swedish massage. He is considered the father of both Swedish gymnastics and Swedish massage.