Boost your partner’s health and happiness with a massage.
Having a massage can be seriously beneficial for your health. Research suggests it can ease insomnia, boost immunity, prevent PMT and increase alertness. Studies also show massage reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which can lead to less stress, anxiety and depression.
Giving a relaxing massage is also a wonderful way to help you connect with your partner. The touch forges a strong, safe, trusting bond that will, in turn, improve your loved one’s wellbeing (not to mention their mood).
Here, Kaye Dixon from Central Springs School of Massage & Holistic Therapies shares 10 easy steps to giving a relaxing, restorative massage based on the Hawaiian style.
Choose your oils
“I use water-based oil, which is easier to get out of towels and clothes,” Dixon says. She recommends grapeseed, almond or jojoba oil with a few drops of lavender essential oil. “In summer months, coconut oil cools the body, while sesame oil is great for warming up the skin in winter.”
Whichever oil you use, warm it before use by placing the bottle in a jug of hot water. Then rub a little oil between your hands before starting – never pour oil directly onto the body, as it can come as a shock. Use enough oil to avoid unpleasant friction, but not so much that there is a slick on the recipient’s body.
Before starting, always check that the person having the massage has no allergies. Some people are allergic to lavender, while traces of other nuts in almond oil could cause problems.
Create the right ambience
Prepare the room by burning incense or essential oil and fashion a pampering environment with fresh flowers and low lighting. “If you’d like to play music, you could opt for sounds of nature or something soothing, like Celtic harp, or perhaps something more rootsy, like Eva Cassidy or Hawaiian singers,” Dixon says.
Channel the positive energy
Get the recipient to lie face down and ask them to take a few deep breaths. Place both hands on their back in the area that corresponds to where the heart is.
“Your aim is to channel energy down through your heart and out through your hands,” Dixon says.
In Hawaii, in traditional lomi lomi massage, the Hawaiians also pray for the person, but you could just focus your positive intent.
Dixon stresses the importance of warming up the muscles at the beginning of a massage, like an athlete would. “Begin with light, long and flowing surface strokes,” she says, “then work the muscles more deeply as you progress into the session.”
It’s important to get into a calm, almost meditative state when giving a massage, in order to calm the recipient. It is also important to use flowing, soothing movements and Dixon recommends imagining you are doing something similar to tai chi.
Each school of massage differs slightly. For example, Swedish massage focuses on the body in distinct, small parts, while the Hawaiian school of thought believes energy flows through the body and so the body needs to be massaged as a whole to restore balance. To this end, use both your hands and forearms in long, fluid sweeps.
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Avoid injuring yourself
Dixon says the average masseuse has a working lifespan of seven years before injury prevents them from continuing. Shoulders, hands, thumbs, elbows and wrists are all at risk, particularly through repetitive strain, so the Hawaiian method teaches you to manoeuvre through your legs.
Work methodically through the body
Dixon recommends starting at the back and working through the back of the arms, neck, back of the legs and feet. If the receiver is comfortable having their front massaged, lead with the legs, then arms, hands and chest. Dixon says stimulating reflex points in the hands and feet releases endorphins from the pituitary gland at the base of the skull, which has a feel-good effect on the whole body.
Use your intuition
Listen to the body, Dixon says. If an area tenses up or goes red, give it some extra work. “I can feel energy movement and blockages,” she says, “but that does take practice.”
Be aware of discomfort
There are some no-nos when carrying out a massage. The stomach, in particular, holds a lot of emotions. A stomach massage can also feel too intimate. Ask the person receiving the massage what areas of the body they want massaged and what pressure they like. Don’t randomly dig into an area, either – keep your strokes flowing and without the element of surprise.
Winding up your massage with an extremity – the hands, feet, head or face – has a powerful relaxing effect, thanks to the release of endorphins.
If working on the face, use a light jojoba oil. Some people love a scalp massage, and working oil into the hair is also great for conditioning, but check it will be appreciated first.
Cool down the muscles with long, relaxing strokes and finally, finish with another energy balance. Place your hands over the recipient’s heart – or perhaps one hand on the forehead and one on the stomach – and visualize yourself sending them a healing light.