We've mentioned that a basic massage doesn't really require much in the way of aids and tools. When you're planning to indulge in home massage regularly though, there are some things that can help make giving -- and receiving -- a massage easier and more enjoyable:
- Massage oil -- Using oil in massage reduces friction. This helps the masseuse (you and your magic fingers) as well as the recipient. Massage is a hands-on activity -- yeah! But after a few intense minutes loosening his shoulder muscles, your fingers and wrists will start feeling the burn. Keeping friction to a minimum will keep your delightful digits at the task longer without discomfort. A few drops should do it. You want to create a smooth sheen, not an oil slick.
- Scented oils -- You can use baby oil and still give a great massage, but exploring a few aromatherapy oil options can increase the benefits of massage without any additional work on your part. The essential oils used in aromatherapy are distilled plant essences that work on brain and body chemistry in a number of ways. They are inhaled as well as absorbed through the skin during massage, which makes massage a powerful delivery system for the benefits of aromatherapy. Research into the way aromatherapy works on the body is ongoing, but aromatherapy essences like lavender appear to be surprisingly effective at reducing stress and anxiety, relaxing tense muscles and combating mild insomnia. Just be sure to dilute any essential oils you use.
- Massage tables and chairs -- Today's scaled-down, portable massage equipment is more affordable for home use than they used to be. Massage tables and chairs are also lighter, often collapsible and easy to store in a utility closet. Having a spot on which to perform relaxing massage will make the process more convenient and could even encourage regular (mutual) massage as a weekly activity. Choose equipment that's adjustable (up and down), comfortably padded and easy to wipe down with a damp cloth. You can find entry level home massage tables for around $100 and chairs for $200 and up.
- Massage accessories -- Massage is an ancient art, so there are lots of effective techniques around. The ones you choose to explore will reflect your personal interests and possibly recommendations you've received from a massage practitioner or physician. Some massage techniques use heat or steam; others use appliances like handheld massagers. The takeaway here is there's a lot to learn if you want to use a formal massage method, and there are fun tools that can help in the process. Tools are only as good as your ability to use them safely and effectively, though. Gentle massage using your hands to help relax your partner isn't likely to cause injury. Using accessories or aggressive massage techniques without proper instruction, on the other hand, may do more harm than good. Your hands aren't lethal weapons, but avoid experimenting with new massage techniques if your partner has an existing medical condition that should be left to the care of a trained massage therapist.
To give a great massage, be prepared with at least a fluffy towel and massage oil. You'll also want to work on a soft, level surface that's easy to clean if the oil gets away from you. Oh, and you might also want to use a little rubbing alcohol after the massage to remove excess oil from areas like the back, neck or shoulders, especially if those areas are prone to breakouts.