Touch is important to all living beings, being one of first and most basic means of communication. Massage is just one way of communicating sensations, hopefully of a pleasant nature.
Just as the body stores up the tensions of the day, both physical and emotional, in the muscles of the neck, back, head and limbs, so massage is a way of removing these muscular tensions, and as a result associated mental tension should also be eased. In addition massage can stimulate the circulation of the blood: the intended purpose of the massage should always be considered – if a massage is given to aid sleep, an invigorating rub down may have the opposite effect!
Aromatherapy massage adds an extra sense – that of smell – to the basic benefit of massage. Fragrances have the power to evoke feelings and memories independently of conscious thought. Combining aromatherapy with massage makes for a powerful experience – essentially the massage giver passes on their energy and touch to the receiver.
Contrary to popular belief, massage is not complicated or difficult and can, by following a few simple rules, form an important part of the healing process.
Always massage with the flow of your body, which is towards your heart. When massaging the abdomen the flow is in a clockwise direction, using circular movements that follow the flow.
Be aware of the needs of the person whom you are massaging, to ensure that it is a both a comforting and soothing experience, especially where the young and the very old are concerned.
The following is a simple guide to the different types of massage and the strokes that can be used to ensure the best results.
How to do Aromatherapy Massage
Aromatherapy massage is one of the simplest ways of using essential oils, but it still helps to prepare your tools and working space in advance.
It is important to have a warm, draught free and quiet environment, where you won’t be disturbed, and where all of your oils and accessories, such as clean towels, are easily to hand.
All essential oils need to be diluted in a carrier, or base oil, before being massaged onto the body or face. As a general rule of thumb the ratio of essential oil to base oil should be:
10 – 15 drops of essential oil in 60ml (12 teaspoons) of base oil.
The Basic Massage Strokes
Aromatherapy massage requires long slow strokes maintaining contact on the body at all times, alternating with short fast friction rubs that warm the oils and help spread them evenly over the skin. Delicate areas such as the abdomen, pelvic region and bony areas should be stroked fairly lightly, while greater pressure can be applied to the heavier muscle areas such as the shoulders, buttocks and back. The basic massage strokes listed below comprise the main movements required for Aromatherapy massage.
Effleurage (Stroking Movements)
This is a series of gentle strokes enabling the massage oil to penetrate the body, helping to bring about a state of calm and relaxation. Use the whole hand to do short or long strokes, these can be firm or gentle depending on how you feel. This type of massage helps to increase circulation, relaxation of the muscles and relieve the body of stress and tension.
Petrissage (Kneading Movements)
Petrissage is gentle kneading movements, like kneading dough. The art of petrissage is never to cause pain or discomfort and should be performed slowly and carefully. It is usually used on the back, muscular and fatty areas, and is good for releasing trapped toxins, relaxing muscles and encouraging the lymphatic system to flow. As you perform each kneading movement put a slight pressure on your thumbs.
Friction (Circular Movements)
Especially beneficial for areas that are cold or of poor circulation. Rub the skin in circular movements with the flat of the hand in short, fast movements.
Hold the fingers stiffly at the joints to resemble the ends of a rake, or as if to play the piano, and with fingertips touching the skin, make firm, raking movements with one or both hands, backwards towards your body.
Make one or both hands into fists and, keeping fingers loose and relaxed while held in a fist, bounce them up and down the body in a fast drumming movement. Pummelling can also be carried out with the hands flat, and fingertips down, or with the sides of the hands, or even with the palms turned upwards.
The Five Main Areas for Massage
- Hand Massage
- Head, Neck & Facial Massage
- Foot Massage
- Shoulders & Back Massage
- Full Body Massage
This is especially appropriate for older people and people for whom back, foot or facial massages are not appropriate. Touching the hands gently can be very calming – the fingers are packed with nerve endings, and can be as attuned to different parts of the body as the feet.
A quick de-stresser is to gently stroke the recipient’s hands, from wrist to finger tips, using a light flowing touch with all five fingers.
Head, Neck & Facial Massage
Place your chosen essential oils on your fingertips and use the fingers to massage around the head. Use only your fingertips to gently but firmly pass around and over the head in a smooth controlled movement.
For Headaches it’s best to start at the base of the neck and work upwards to the base of the scalp. Use the fingers in firm, but not hard effleurage strokes. Continue for as long as necessary. It may also help to include the upper shoulder area which is also often tense, and may in fact be the cause of the headache.
A self- facial massage of the jaw line up to a point immediately below the ears can also help to prepare us for stressful situations such as sitting exams, interviews etc.
To continue the massage onto the neck area, move the hands to the base of the neck, placing a hand on each side of the vertebrae (never put pressure on the vertebrae).
Use small but firm circular movements, working from the base of the neck, and continue upwards to the base of the scalp and then down the sides of the neck. Work around the sides of the neck using gentle but firm movements.
Massage in an upwards direction form the toes to the ankle; if you are lucky enough to have someone do this for you, thumbs should be on the sole of the foot with the fingers on top, if you are doing your own feet you may find it easier to have your thumb on top with you fingers underneath.
Shoulder & Back Massage
Before you begin the massage, ensure the recipient is comfortable, preferably lying face down on a well padded floor, bed or mattress, with a rolled up towel or bolster pillow under the upper chest, to ensure that the head and neck will be relaxed in the face down position.
Beginning with the shoulders, use the thumbs and palms to massage with effleurage and petrissage actions, moving from the base of the neck outwards to the shoulder. You may also find it beneficial to take in the shoulder blade area by making large circular movements around the top of the shoulder to just under the shoulder blade.
Moving down towards the lumbar region of the back, use effleurage strokes, placing one hand either side of the vertebrae, using the whole hand, flat against the back stroke up towards the shoulder around and over the shoulder blade and slide down again the sides of the back. Repeat as often as is wished.
Note: Do NOT massage over the vertebrae, as the spine is very sensitive. Always move the hands, fingers and thumbs over either side of the spine.
Full Body Massage
The full body massage should incorporate all of the above massages, while also including the arms, legs and abdomen.
The Arms – Using upwards strokes from the wrist to the armpit. Using petrissage on fatty and muscular areas as appropriate.
The Abdomen – using effleurage strokes, use circular movements in a clockwise direction only.
The Legs – always massage the legs upwards from the ankle to the thigh using effleurage strokes. Where appropriate use petrissage on the fatty or muscular areas. (Never over varicose areas)
Lower abdomen and hips – using effleurage strokes start at the lower back and slide over the hips, then slide each hand over the abdomen. Use the whole of the hand flat against the skin.