April 17, 1989 12:00 PM

Most Americans define massage as (1) an affectionate shoulder rub or (2) something that takes place only at a type of parlor that ranks just below bathhouses on the national seediness scale. Here’s Shari Belafonte-Harper setting our thinking right with a thoughtful tape about this ancient art. “Stress is unavoidable,” she announces, then offers up her body to instructors Mirka Knaster and James Heartland, who show how to get the kinks out. Knaster warms up her hands with oil and starts on Shari’s bare back, making tiny “friction circles” with her finger pads to break up muscle knots and kneading the flesh to promote relaxation. It sure looks as if it feels good. Knaster does some percussive work on a muscular guy named Adriano, and the tape ends with Shari demonstrating do-it-yourself, yoga-type “stress-buster” exercises to relieve tension when a partner isn’t available. Otherwise, any partner will do as long as he or she is armed with this tape and strong hands—if you can find him or her. Ahhhhhhh. There’s the rub. (Healing Arts, $29.95; 800-722-7347)

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