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The massage, Tools

Improving your massage

The aim of a massage is to make the recipient relax so the muscles can be normalized and stress leave the body and mind. There are several things that you can do to improve your massage.

Move slowly. Keep in mind that you want the other person to relax completely, so slow smooth non-jerking movements, especially in the beginning, will help them relax and get used to your touch. Sudden movements and jerks will startle and trigger a brief stress in response. It’s important that you’re always calm and balanced when you massage so no gesture will surprise the one you massage.

The oil must be warm. Make sure the oil is the same temperature as your hands before you apply it. Or for even better relaxation and enjoyment, heat the oil to the temperature of warm bathing water (not too hot or you’ll burn yourself). Warmth makes the recipient relax, while cold oil will make them tense up and possibly even freeze.

Oil the entire body at once, preferably in one movement which means oiling the hands and underarms thoroughly before starting. This way the massage becomes flowing and smooth, and you don’t have to interrupt what you’re doing to apply more oil, as well as you avoid the risk of sudden cold oil pulling the recipient out of a deep relaxation.

Don’t interrupt the flow, keep contact all the time. By keeping constant contact, you enable the recipient to know where you are at all times, and thereby you won’t startle the one you massage. By always knowing where the hands of the masseur is, it’s easier to fully let go and relax. Try to always have at least one hand on the body, even when you shift positions or need to apply more oil.

Be predictable. Predictable doesn’t mean boring. Rather, if the one you massage has an idea of what comes next, it’s easier for them to relax and receive your touch. This way the body’s protection mechanism doesn’t have to be in high alert, and no fight or flight response is triggered when you massage. A sudden change that wasn’t indicated beforehand, will surprise the recipient and raise stress even if it’s only for a very short time. So, for instance when asking them to turn over to the other side, make sure that the first side is finished and the one you massage can sense that you’ve concluded that part of the body.

Work systematically. This is connected to the above of being predictable. Working systematically is finishing one part/aspect of the body before moving on to the next. A bit like building with LEGO, where you put the massage together in a series of small systematic building blocks. This doesn’t mean that you can’t massage a body part after you’ve finished it, but the main work should be done, and the return be more of a connective nature. Again, this allows the recipient to have an idea of what comes next and thereby easier let go and relax.

Connect the body parts. When you go from one area to another, spend a bit of time on connecting the two parts. If you’ve massaged one leg and want to massage the other, do a brief intersection of massaging lower back for instance and then go to the other leg. Instead of just jumping from one leg to the other. This will bring the body together as a whole, and not just a bunch of LEGOs that are put together.

Only talk if necessary, preferably leave it to the recipient to initiate conversation. For most people it’s easiest to relax and let go if they don’t have to talk. It’s a chance for the mind to drift and sort out all those thoughts which go through our minds all the time. By not talking to the recipient unless necessary, you aid them to relax fully and help them de-stress. Some people have a need to talk while they’re being massaged and it’s of course all right to accommodate them. A massage can be very releasing and some have the need to speak about their experiences. Here it can be an idea to suggest to them that you’ll take the time to talk to them after the massage over a cup of tea, while you can give them your full attention to what they say. Keep in mind too that some people tend to talk to avoid opening up and feeling what’s going on inside, as a protective mechanism so they don’t have to let go.

Make sure the room is hot enough. This is really simple. If you freeze while you receive a massage, you can’t truly relax. Muscles tense and spasm when they are very cold, and when you lie and relax you’re more prone to freezing.

Light candles and put on some relaxing music. Anything to create a special and relaxing mood is useful. Music can be a good tool, though some will find it distracting, so listen to the wishes of the recipient. Candles create a warm mood and has a lot of good associations for many people. Keep in mind that the air doesn’t get too stiffling from too many candles, and that parafin candles aren’t that good for the health. It’s better to use soy-candles or bee-wax.

Finish the massage with a hot towel. Often after a massage people need a bit of time to return to relality, or they might just want to lie and enjoy the feeling of relaxation. Placing a towel over the one massaged helps tell them that the massage is finished and helps them stay warm while they lie on the table. To add an extra experience, heat the towel so they remain very nicely warm and are reminded of your hands.

What ideas and suggestions do you have that can improve a massage? Do you employ these tips already or don’t you find them necessary? Share your thoughts and opinions and let’s together improve our massages.

About Pia Poulsen

Pia Poulsen is educated as a wellness massage therapist at Institut FIGARI in Paris, from where she passed her certification exam in January 2008. Since then she has expanded her skills to become the first Advanced LaStone® practitioner in France as well as a certified LaStone® instructor.


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