of us that give treatments professionally, we know that we were
chosen to do so. If you've ever gone to a spa or salon and
received a bad massage, you've met someone that chose the
profession, and not the other way around.
Those of you that have asked some unwitting loved one to give you
a shoulder massage when they didn't really want to, know what I
mean when I say "to give a good massage, your heart has to be
in it". I've found that a good massage begins with the
the desire to
give a good massage. That's not always as simple as it
sounds. Sometimes you just don't feel like it. But if
you would like to give a really great massage, whether you are a
professional or not, I will tell you how
to go about doing it.
everything else aside
This has a literal meaning, you must put both physical as well as
mental things aside. The room that you choose should be
clean and free from clutter, and so should your mind. This
is where you make the decision that you will give the treatment
that this fellow human being needs. This is where you part
company with the needy side of you, and begin to offer your gifts
to this person that needs your help.
Just by truly offering your gifts, you have begun to set the mood.
But there are things that you can do to reduce both of your
stress, and intensify a sense of restful calm with a little
planning. You will see, that by giving a great massage,
you will also be
receiving the health benefits.
Think of all of your senses, and try to appeal to each one of
them. Scent and vision are used the most before the massage
begins. So be sure to have a pleasant scent in the air by
using aromatherapy. Diffusers are great to have on hand so
that you can use essential oils in any combination.
Essential oils are live plant cells, that have gone through the
distillation process. They are all-natural, and readily
available. So please don't use toxic chemicals when you
don't have to. You can also buy aromatherapy candles.
And they can't be beat for adding a beautiful glow to the room.
There's something timeless about using actual fire. In the
winter, there's nothing better than a massage in a room with a
fireplace. Whatever lighting you choose, keep the lights
low, it's much more calming to the nerves.
Another natural element that can be to brought into the
environment is water. There are beautiful choices of
indoor water fountains nowadays. Hearing the sounds of water
on a CD can be another healing sound. Massage is a cleansing
process to the body and soul, and the natural sounds of water add
to the feeling. There are many nice CD's to choose from
today. Ask a massage therapist and they'll know what the
good ones are.
'two rules' for clients
Anything that lends to a tranquil setting, is heading you in the
right direction. In fact, I've always made a point of
telling new clients my 'two rules' for a good treatment while I'm 'tucking them in', so to speak.
First of all, in a very
soft, comforting way, I make it clear to them that this
'their' time. And if they want
anything changed, like the lighting, the music,
please let me know. I tell them that everyone is
different, and I want them to be completely comfortable.
This is usually the time when the new, inexperienced client will be thinking
"what is she doing to me?" and " What does she want
me to do?"
It's actually quite simple, I never need their help throughout the
treatment (except when it's time to turn over).
In fact the opposite is true. To push and pull and lift and
move body parts, I need them to be completely loose and relaxed.
Most of my clients are what I call givers (mothers, teachers,
etc..) that love to help. I let them know that when
they are tense (in helping mode), it makes it difficult for me to give them a
treatment. Well, the last thing that they want is to be a
burden for me, so they give in to the idea of relaxing easily.
This is my semi-sneaky way of actually helping them!
I will sometimes give them visual examples, so that their mind
will relax easier, like "Pretend that you are a rag doll", or "You are
a piece of butter...melting on the sun". I may offer them
more ideas like, "Picture yourself laying on a raft on a beautiful
sunny day on a very slow moving river or on a lake. Feel the
gentle flow of water beneath you." Or "Put yourself in a
beautiful garden and smell the flowers". At this time you
could even spritz some Rose hydrosol or any other beautiful choice
into the air to help with the illusion. Talking is always a
last resort. The best communication is done non-verbally
The idea that I try to convey, is that I want them to remove
themselves mentally from the room, and that I am there to
facilitate their healing and relaxation. A relaxed mind, brings about a
relaxed body, and visa versa. Some people actually seek permission
to fully relax, and I make sure to give it to them. With
experience, clients no longer need that permission from others,
and they are able to relax earlier in their treatment.
How to begin
will tell you how to give a basic 'stress reduction' treatment
that you can make you own, and change any way that you wish.
If you have a professional massage table, you'll have the client
facing down, with their head in the face cradle. You'll want
to drape them from the lower back downward, with their feet on a
long thin pillow to take the pressure off of their knees and lower
back. Always consider the temperature that your client is
feeling. Because they have more skin exposed, and they are
lying still, they will have a tendency to be cooler than you will
be. So don't hesitate to use blankets when needed.
Heat up your oil by either gently rubbing in between your palms, or
heat slightly in a bottle warmer. Stand at the top end of
the table, facing your client. Starting at the top of the
back, massage the oil around the back to evenly distribute the
oil. This takes practice. The idea is to lend a
feeling of confidence to your client through your touch.
Make your movements solid... yet fluid, firm... yet caring.
If you have soft music playing, use the tempo to add harmony to
the experience. Which doesn't mean that you necessarily have
to massage to the beat. Just tie it into the movements, to
add another dimension. This is just another part of the rich
non-verbal communication that takes place in a good massage
Once the oil is distributed, start at the top of the neck and
gently run your thumbs down the spine to the lower back.
Feel as you go, and be careful not to push too hard. This
area is tender at the beginning of the treatment, and if you're
not careful, you'll lose the client's trust, and they will not be
as apt to relax.
While still at the base of the spine, run both palms up the middle
of both sides of the back, then out onto the arms on both sides at
the same time, and then bring them back together in the middle,
ending at the base of the scull.
Repeat this process a couple more times. Now, after moving
your position to the side of your client, cup your hands and do a
slow, rhythmic drumming motion up and down the spine,
shoulder area, and down the arms and back.
Next you can focus in between the shoulder blades, using gentle kneading motions
with your thumbs, and alternating the two hands in a kneading
motion in various areas. Gently do circular motions with
your thumbs up the soft tissue that surrounds each vertebra,
beginning at the lower portion of the back. Keep your
motions fluid, and never remove your hands from your client.
Even if you need more massage oil, keep one hand remaining on the
client at all times. Glide your hands up to the top of the
vertebra and move your own position to the other side of your
client, and repeat the smooth, kneading motions that you just did
on the other side.
It's so important to invest yourself in what the
client is feeling. The more massage that you've had yourself
the better. The more able you are to 'feel' what you are
doing, the better. In other words, the more ability you have
to put yourself in your client's place, the better treatment
you'll be able to give. You'll eventually come up with your
own series of movements on the back, neck and shoulder area.
Since every body is different, you'll find that every massage will
be slightly different, no matter how much you like to stick to a
regular series of movements.
To complete the back segment, position yourself at the top
of the client again (like when you began), and do the same
movement that you started with (the thumb to lower back, palms up
to top of shoulder area, down the shoulders and back to the
center). Do this 3 times, very slowly. End the segment
with your hands going up the sides of the head, make a couple of
slow circles, and gently grasp the hair and run your fingers
gently through and out. If you do it correctly, the client
will not even be sure when you've let go of their hair.
excess oil on the back in a way that feels great, and says to the
client physically "We are
finishing this part of the treatment,
soon it's time to wind into the next". Place a towel that has been soaking
in warm water and the scent of your choice (Eucalyptus or Lavender would
be nice choices). Lay it down the spine and gently press with
your hands (this feels really
good). Let it sit for about a half a minute, and wipe off
the excess oil in firm, yet gently strokes. Put a nice soft
dry towel over the same area to collect any excess water and
gently press. Gently put one hand at the base of the neck, and the
other at the base of the spine and hold for about a minute.
If you've done everything correctly, you should feel a gentle
flowing current going down the spine and the client's breathing
will be slow and relaxed.
client over for round two
At this point, the client feels so good, the last thing that they
feel like doing is lifting a finger. But you want them to
turn over. Remove the pillow from under their feet, and remove the
draping that they are wrapped in, while making sure that they are
not uncomfortably exposed. In a gentle voice, say, "At
this point I'm going to ask that you roll over very carefully so
that we can continue your treatment." Be right there to help
guide them and make sure that they are safe. Don't talk,
don't make them think any more than they need to.
Immediately rap them
up in the sheet again, leaving their arms and upper chest area exposed. Cover each arm with a towel forming a "V".
The best position for you to be in for the next segment is seated,
so a stool that's set at the right height is going to be helpful.
Get comfortable, and notice where your client is holding the most tension.
If it is in the neck and shoulders, apply oil to your hands, fold
the two towels down to expose their upper arms,
and slowly start a shoulder area massage by placing both palms at
the top of both shoulders. Gently, slowly, press down alternately
shoulders as if to say, "we are going to be bringing these down".
Don't do anything that is forceful. When first beginning in
any area, always work your way into the area in a way that says
"I'm working with
you, not against
If the client has tension in the face, they more than likely hold
it in the scalp area too. So sometimes I like to begin with
a massage of the scalp area. When this area is massaged well, it's
true nirvana! You may want to begin with just a drop or two
of an oil that has had an essential oil blended into it. Rub
it somewhat quickly to bring it to it's fullest aroma, then cup
your hands about 3-4 inches in front of the client's nose.
Be careful to do this slowly and thoughtfully, you don't want them
to get nervous or feel claustrophobic. Sometimes it's nice to say
something like, " Take a nice gentle breath". Just the
addition of the fresh scent is enough to take someone to a whole
deeper state of relaxation. But to begin the second phase of
the massage in this way, sends a message deep into the brain, that
this is a special experience. These are the gifts that you
bring to your client. The ability to sense what they need,
when they need it.
Use a light touch and do circular motions with all fingers
throughout the scalp. If you are not already skilled in
massage procedures in the neck area, please don't try turning the
neck or doing anything that could potentially harm someone.
Neck injuries can have serious consequences. So again,
please don't do anything that twists or cracks the neck in any
way. If you already have been trained in neck manipulation,
you will know what to do to bring release to these areas.
For others, go directly to the lower neck area. You can make
alternate circular motions on either side of the spine with both
hands. This is where most people hold tension, and can be
quite effective in bringing all-over body relaxation.
Another nice way to begin the shoulder massage is by placing both hands like an upside
down "V" on the upper chest area, with
your index fingers side by side. Have the tips of the
fingers start small alternating circular movements, while slowly moving
outward, eventually bringing both hands into mirror imaging of
what the other is doing. This should be done extremely slow.
The chest holds a lot of tension, and feels so good when it is
released. This movement really brings the attention of the
client directly to that
tension, and will hopefully have the client breathing a nice deep
breath before you are done.
Your next motion will be using your palms to go halfway down the arms and back
up to the bottom of the neck. Make circular motions
between the shoulder blades (where most people hold most of their
tension). You should start to feel more
movement in the shoulders and arms, and neck at this point.
Do some "pushing" movements in areas like the tops of the
shoulders, both from pressing down towards their feet, and down
towards the floor in the outer shoulder region. Also
alternate sides as you gently push down and stretch that area.
When you push down on one shoulder, the neck may want to pull down
as well, so gently put your hand at the base of the scull on the
same side. Otherwise the client may feel that they need to
tighten to counteract.
So you can see that you're doing a series of kneading, doing
circular movements, pushing, and all the while... 'feeling' what
the client is feeling. The ability to 'feel' what the client
feels is an important skill that improves with time and practice.
Once you get good at it, you'll feel as though you've received the
treatment yourself. It's a case of getting so good at
eventually you begin receiving
Develop your own style
Anyone can tell you how to massage, and what steps to take, in
what order. But the best way to create any massage treatment
is to make it your own. We each think, touch, and feel differently, so we each bring something different to our
treatment. That's why as a client, you may have different
massage therapists that you like to go to for different reasons.
But no matter what your personal style is, you
must put the client
first. That way you will be able to give a more instinctual form of treatment. There is a
flow that takes place in a great massage. At the end of a
great treatment, it feels like a giant wave has come through the
room and washed everything clean. There's no recollection of
space or time, and you feel as light as a feather.
How to end
All signals should be there that the client is in a deep state of
bliss. You'll see a steady relaxed breath that is slow and
rhythmic. And you will see a nice solid heartbeat.
You'll notice that the deep beautiful breathing is now coming from
the stomach area, rather than the chest area. I've always
made it clear to my clients, that snoring is one of the most
beautiful sounds that I can hear. This means that they've
given themselves completely to the experience. Another sound
that is beautiful is gurgling in the stomach. I've had many
new clients that will apologize, or make mention that they must be
hungry, or that they've just eaten. Actually, I've heard
these gurgles so many times over the years, that I know it is a
natural event. It just means that the client is giving in to
the process, and their stomach muscles are relaxing and allowing
the natural flow that wants to take place.
comes time to end your treatment, it should be just like you started it,
in a slow, but firm, humble, yet
confident way. Always end the treatment by slowing down the pace
and lightening up the touch. You are giving non-verbal
indications to your client that the treatment is slowly coming to
a close. I generally always end at the top of the head,
because this symbolizes a feeling of completeness. The
client leaves with a feeling that they have been relaxed,
refreshed, and respected.
I will then go to the feet and gently hold them firmly, so that
the client can sense a feeling of becoming grounded in the
present. This brings the experience from head to toe.
No matter what, do this in a relaxed way, and do not rush the
importance of this final step. Wait until you sense that the
client is ready for you to let go. You may see them take one
nice long breath, or they may just smile. This is a signal
that the wave has come through, and all is well here on earth.
Use all-natural products
I'd like to offer one more word of advice about your choice of
products. All-natural products are those that have all of
their properties intact, and have no synthetic (possibly harmful)
are working on a natural body, therefore it only makes sense that
all-natural products will work in harmony with it. Good
choices for your massage oil are Almond oil and Jojoba (which is
actually more of a fluid wax). Coconut oil works well, but
needs to be in a warmed state to be fluid. They all
add the perfect amount of "slip" to your massage, work beautifully
to soften skin, and don't interfere with whatever scents you
choose throughout the treatment.
I feel that essential oils are God's gift to the massage experience.
are actual living cells of plants that have been extracted,
the distillation process. Look for pure "essential oils".
Costs vary from one type of essential oil to another, but you only
use a drop or two at a time because they are so potent. So
in the end, they are not as expensive as you may think. Use
them with great care. I would certainly recommend
buying some good books on this subject before you ever invest in
Once you know enough about essential oils, you will find them to be a
pleasurable means of bringing in the sense of smell to your
treatment. There are a myriad of choices, including various
blends that you can come up with. Scent works on a very
primitive area of the brain known as the limbic system. So
when you choose the correct scents, your client will be taken to a
whole new realm of existence. Learning to use essential oils
is a lifelong process that can be quite rewarding.
You'll find new and interesting ways that you can add essential
oils to your room in the way of a diffuser, hydrosol sprays, and
candles. You'll also find that you can add different EO's to
your massage oil according to their own properties and the effects
that you are trying to achieve. You may want to use
something anti-bacterial and anti-fungal on the feet, something
stimulating or heating on the back, and something exotic or
refreshing on the scalp. Try not to get stagnant.
Listen to your client when you ask them what their favorite scents
are. Experiment, and grow.
wish you the best of luck with the treatments that you give.
Massage is something that I believe has never been given the full credit
that it deserves. I've been to many doctors that didn't even
come close to giving me the health benefits that a single massage
I look forward to the day that it will be a part of
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