In the United Sates, it wasn’t until the early 1970s that people other than dancers, athletes, and members of spas and health clubs were aware of the benefits of massage. Massage is widely recognized today for its therapeutic value, and the practice continues to flourish in the Western World.
The Importance of Massage
The epidermis (outer lay of skin) and the layers beneath are designed to process sensation. Feeling is transmitted to the body and brain through an elaborate network of touch receptors to form natural electrical charges. The skin’s sensitivity as well as its ability to relay tactile messages is why massage can improve gland, organ, and nerve function, while relaxing muscles and producing a positive emotional feeling. When touch, in the form of massage, is combined with essential oils, the results can be wonderful.
Preparing for a Massage
- Be sure to avoid wounded areas and exercise special caution with pregnant women. To make massage more enjoyable, please follow these guidelines.
- The room for the massage should be comfortable, quiet, and warm, and provide a retreat from worldly stress and tensions.
- Continual concentration is necessary while giving a massage; therefore, chattering should be discouraged.
- Some people prefer to relax with soft music in the background.
- A soft, thick cushion draped with a towel or sheet may be used if a massage table is unavailable. If the massage is given on the floor, padding should extend beyond the person’s body.
- Add a pleasant essential oil fragrance to the room before the treatment.
- Keep extra towels, blankets, and oil nearby to avoid searching for them during the treatment.
- Hands should be clean and warm before beginning the massage. Cold hands on a warm back are very uncomfortable and could make the body tense.
- Remove all jewelry.
- Wear comfortable, loose clothing.
- Warm the carrier oil that will be used by placing the container in warm water or near a heater. Pour a small amount into your palm, and rub both hands together until warmth is generated. Then massage the oil into the skin.
- Drop the essential oils over the carrier oil. Massage into the specific areas according to the instructions for the formula being used.
- It is important to feel relaxed while giving the massage, since tension can be transmitted to the person receiving the massage.
- If possible, maintain constant touch by gently resting one hand on the person receiving the massage when you move to a different position or side.
- Wash your hands at the end of the session.
Massage Therapies and Techniques
- Stroke Movements: Slow, deliberate, continuous sequence, flowing.
- Benefits: Relaxing, relieves stress and tension, tones the muscles, improves circulation and lymph flow, and gives the mind and body an overall sense of well-being.
- Oils: Choose an aromatherapy massage formula
- Gliding Stroke: Gently glide both hands over the skin, using long, broad, smooth strokes. Use this technique at the beginning and end of the treatment to relax the body. Whether you apply gentle or deep pressure depends on the person’s preference and tolerance of pain.
- Muscle Kneading: Use both hands alternately to grasp, lift, and gently squeeze the muscles in a continuous kneading motion, keeping your hands on the body at all times. The amount of pressure applied can be determined by the depth of penetration needed and the receiver’s pain tolerance.
- Kneading movements should always be in the direction of the heart. This technique helps relax and tone the muscles.
- Deep Tissue Pressure: Use the thumbs, fingertips, or heels of the hands to work deeper into the muscles and around the joints. With the fingertips or ball of each thumb, gradually press deeply into the muscle, using small, circular movements. It is important that you move the underlying tissue and do not slide your fingers across the skin. Avoid applying pressure on bony areas, such as the spine and rib cage.
- Percussion: This form of massage includes hacking, beating, and cupping. It may be used on soft tissue areas, such as the back (avoiding the spine), thighs, and buttocks. These strokes stimulate the body, break up congestion, and tone the muscles. As you begin a different stroke, maintain the same rhythm.
- Hacking: With the outside edge of both hands, alternately create a chopping motion directly on the muscles.
- Beating: With loosely clenched fists, alternately “beat” the muscles, using the fleshy side of the hand.
- Cupping: With your palms in a cupped position and the fingers held together, alternately “slap” the muscle area, which will create a loud sound.
- Stroke Movements: Slow.
- Benefits: Relaxing, relieves stress and tension, and revitalizes the body.
- Oils: Choose an aromatherapy massage formula
- Powder: For a dry massage, without oils, choose a foot powder from the formula section.
- Massage the entire hand or foot to encourage muscle relaxation. When the person becomes relaxed, apply direct and circular pressure alternately.
- Direct Pressure: Pinpoint a painful area using your thumb or fingertip. Gently apply pressure directly on the sensitive point and hold your thumb or finger down firmly for several seconds. Release, then reapply pressure again. As you repeat this technique, gradually increase the amount of pressure according to the person’s pain tolerance.
Healing Oils, 500 Formulas for Aromatherapy, a guide to creating your own personal aromatic oils for every use--healing, pleasure, and beauty. Using essential oils extracted from plants, shrubs, trees, flowers, seeds, roots, and grasses, you can follow these recipes for making over 500 different formulas. by Carol Schiller and David Schiller and published by Sterling Ethos, 2016.
Reprinted with permission from Healing Oils, 500 Formulas for Aromatherapy. ©by Carol Schiller and David Schiller. Photos by: © Smuay 24; ©Leonardo Da 26.