Getting the Mood Right
One of the most common mistakes people make when giving someone a massage happens before they even get started: they don’t ensure the ambiance is just right! Our lives are full of distractions, stressors, and interruptions, and a massage is supposed to be a break from all that. To give a memorable massage, you’ll have to create an atmosphere of serenity.
When setting the mood, involve their senses. Turn on some relaxing music or, better yet, make a calming playlist in advance so that ads don’t ruin the mood every few minutes. Light some candles or dim the overhead lights.
Use a massage oil so your hands can glide seamlessly over your partner’s skin. To amp up the relaxation factor, choose a scented massage oil that will help your partner sink into a state of calm, like lavender, jasmine, or even fresh laundry. However, unscented might be your best bet if they have allergies or skin sensitivities. If you’d like to incorporate temperature play, you can buy warming or cooling massage oils or use a body-safe candle that melts at a low temperature.
Prepare the massage area as well. A massage table will be easiest for the massage-giver’s back, but a bed will work, too. Use stain-resistant sheets if you’ll be incorporating a massage oil so that you don’t end up with permanently grease-stained sheets. You could also cover the area with an old sheet or towel that you don’t care about staining.
If you have a warming blanket or heating pad, place that under the sheet to help your partner stay warm throughout the massage. Another good idea is to wash your hands in warm water right before the massage so that your fingers aren’t cold.
Perfecting the Technique
To begin your massage, you can start by gently putting your hands on your partner, perhaps starting with their back, and applying gentle pressure to prepare them for the sensations to come. Keep in mind throughout the massage that you may want to switch between your thumbs, palms, fingertips, forearm, and elbows so that your body doesn’t get exhausted before theirs is fully relaxed.
Next, you’ll want to use different techniques depending on the part of the body that you’re rubbing.
Back: Start by standing at your partner’s head, facing their feet. Put some massage oil on your hands and then place your palms on your partner’s shoulder blades, with your thumbs pointed toward their spine, and make long, slow strokes from the top to the bottom of their spine. Then, walk your hands back up to the neck.
Neck and shoulders: An excellent technique to help relax the neck muscles is to make a c-shape with your hand so your thumb is on one side of their neck and your fingers are on the other. Your thumb will be on one of the main muscles, and your fingers will be on the other. Now, make small circles with your thumb and fingers, rubbing in a downward motion. Note: if your partner isn’t lying down, you’ll want to use less intensity since they will be using their neck muscles to keep their head upright against your pressure.
Then, use your thumbs to outline their shoulder blades and apply pressure to their muscles. Pulling their shoulders lightly down away from their ears can also feel incredible. When you feel tight muscles, spend some time rubbing that area to help relieve the tension.
Legs: Grab more massage oil for the legs. Using the palm of your hands, start at the ankles and rub the oil into their calf and hamstrings in fluid motions. When you bring your hands back towards their ankles, caress down the sides of their legs, so they get the sensation of having your touch on every part of their legs. Complete the motion by drawing your hands down their feet with firm pressure so you don’t tickle them. Next, squeeze the muscles gently like you are kneading a loaf of bread. Use the back of your hand, rolled into a fist shape if your partner would like more pressure in these areas.
Hips: The muscles that connect your legs to your backside can be super tight, and it feels amazing when they are massaged. After you’ve rubbed your partner’s legs, continue long strokes upward from the thigh into their glute muscles. These muscles are thick, so use your body weight to help apply pressure rather than your thumbs, which won’t be strong enough. Use your hands to identify tight spots in the glute, and then use your elbows (if your partner can handle the intensity) in circular motions to help loosen up the muscles.
Talk to your partner about whether they have any particularly sensitive areas, injuries, ticklish spots, or any other place they’d like you to avoid. And be sure to ask if there are any areas they’d like you to give extra attention to so you know how to spend your time and energy most effectively.