Massage Therapy : Relaxation Massage
First of all let me say that this hub is not about massage techniques, it would require a whole book or several videos to cover those. Its main purpose is to provide some tips to help you give a great relaxation massage. I make no claims for its healing power other than those which come from relaxation and the release of stress, if the person that you are going to massage has a serious medical condition please make sure that they consult with their health care professional before proceeding. I have emphasized the most important points in bold type. These are just some things I have found to be useful in my practice, feel free to comment if you disagree or have any helpful tips to add.
The relevance of these points may vary depending on whether you are giving the massage in your own home/studio or in the client/friend's home and also upon whether you’re a professional or an amateur massaging a friend or partner.
Before the relaxation massage
When doing a relaxation massage it’s important that the person you are massaging does not feel uncomfortable mentally or physically.
1. Make sure that the room is warm enough that they will feel comfortable wearing a minimum of clothing, also be sure that they know any clothing they do wear might become stained with oil, so it may be best for them to wear something old.
2. This type of massage is best done on the floor rather than a massage table so lay a couple of bath towels or a small futon on the floor and cover it with a bed sheet to keep the oil off. Use a small pillow to put under their head. Check that they are comfortable.
3. Ask them if they have any particularly sensitive or painful areas on their body so that you can avoid these and just massage around them.
4. Hint that it is better not to talk during the massage unless it's to tell you that they are uncomfortable.
5. Let them choose which type of oil they would like to be massaged with, I usually have at least three different blends of oil with me for them to choose from, it's important that they like the aroma of the oil that you're going to use. (More about this below).
6. I always use some type of background sound or music during the massage, it's always best to check with the person you are massaging that they like the one that you've chosen, if not change it.
7. Convince them to switch off their phone, this can be quite traumatic for some people but any interruption will ruin the effect of this massage. Try to foresee any other interruptions that might happen and avoid them.
Four different approaches to massage that have taught me a lot
Essential knowledge about acupressure points and the gentle way to use them
The relaxation massage tools
A few accessories and oils that will help you turn a good massage into a great one.
1. Music/sounds: Whether in your studio or in the person's home, sound can greatly help to relax both you and the person you are massaging. I have several nature sound CDs of the type made by "Solitudes" available, the most popular amongst my clients is called “Sounds of the Sea”, having this type of CD playing in the background not only relaxes the client but serves the block out unwelcome background noises.
2. Have a method of keeping the massage oil warm. I personally prefer to use a small heatproof bowl on top of an aromatherapy oil heater, but this can be improvised in any number of ways.
3. Carrier oils: I only ever use one carrier oil for relaxation massage and that is walnut, no other oil comes close to giving the perfect balance of slide and friction for this slow and gentle massage. If you have absolutely no way to get hold of walnut oil then almond oil is probably the next best thing.
4. Essential oils: In this type of massage essential oils should be used sparingly, just a few drops to give a relaxing ambience rather than large doses for therapeutic purposes. There are hundreds of recipes for massage oils on the Internet to try out, reduce the quantity of essential oil that you add and be careful to check that the oils you choose are suitable for use on the skin and are of the highest quality. When travelling to a client I take with me three blends for them to choose from. One consists of walnut oil with just a few drops of pure Jasmine oil. The second has 10 drops of neroli essential oil and three drops of sandalwood essential oil in the carrier. The last has a couple of drops each of cedar wood, lavender and petitgrain mixed with the walnut oil. Both men and women tend to like at least one of these combinations.
5. Cucumber Lotion: I use organic cucumber lotion to massage the face as using oil on the face especially the eyes will feel uncomfortable for the client.
Healing Tao exercises that will help sensitize your hands
The relaxation massage
The important thing to emphasise here is that this is a relaxation massage, gentle and quiet, it is important that you relax, switch off your brain and concentrate all your attention on your hands. This may seem difficult to do at first but with a little practice it will soon become second nature. If you learn to concentrate all your attention on your hands you will soon notice that your hands become much more sensitive. They learn to notice subtle differences of heat, cold and tension in the tissue of your client’s body and strange as it may sound they will know which areas need the most attention and what to do to relax the knots of tension in your clients muscles. It’s important to start working with the person you are massaging lying on their back because people feel more vulnerable in this position and they will tend to relax more later in the massage when you ask them to turn onto their front.
I’m not going to go into detail about the actual massage techniques here as that would be enough for another hub or two by itself but if you are a beginner just use your fingertips and thumbs on the head and feet and the flats of your hands and fingers on the rest of the body, just remember this is a gentle massage and you won’t do any harm, after a while it will become instinctive. Just remember, slow and gentle.
A great book for beginners which I own and can thoroughly recommend is "Total Massage" or "The Joy of Sensual Massage" by Jack Hofer, they are both the same book, I guess he just retitled it for commercial purposes. You can pick it up at Amazon for next to nothing.
1. The head and neck: Use your fingertips and thumbs moistened with some cucumber lotion, first get your client to lie on their back, sit comfortably behind their head, massage their face then their forehead, scalp next then ears and temples. Massage the back of the neck then very gently the throat.
2. The body: Use some warm oil to massage the front first, massage up the front from the toes to the head in stages, massage upwards using the flats of your hands and fingers and slide back to start the next movement, avoid the breasts if you are massaging a woman but do gently massage the points on the ribs directly under them as there are often tender points there. Ask them to turn over onto their front and then massage downwards from the shoulders to the feet, work outwards from the spine to the sides but be careful not to put any pressure on the spine itself. Pay extra attention to the shoulders, hips and buttocks as these are places where tension builds up. If your client/friend has ticklish feet massage these before the shoulders and back so as not to break the relaxation.