On a relaxing evening, massages are great fun to give or receive. Helping soothe the body and instill peace and focus, they can make a calm end to a week’s hard work and prepare you for a delightful, stress-free weekend. Making use of a well-chosen massage oil whilst receiving a massage is essential for indulging in a relaxing experience and reducing stress as well as creating a pleasant atmosphere. Choosing a massage oil to use can be quite difficult, however. Although each massage oil is unique and has different qualities useful for different purposes, understanding the characteristics that make up a good massage oil will make it much easier to navigate your way through the endless types of massage oils available for purchase.
The Type of Massage
When selecting a massage oil to use, you should first have in mind what sort of massage you would like. Different massage techniques, such as the most common traditional Swedish massage, require different oils. For example, the Swedish massage, generally considered the conventional form of Western massage you have most likely heard of, consists of long, smooth strokes and vigorous but gentle kneading. When performing a traditional Swedish massage, an odorless or very mild scented oil is typically used to relax the muscles and skin without overpowering the senses or attempting to overly loosen the skin itself. If an aromatic oil is used in a traditional Swedish massage, the strokes being performed may spread the oil unevenly over the skin and result in the person being massaged having an uneven mixture of scents across their body.
Some common massage techniques other than the Swedish massage include the deep tissue and spinal massage as well as traditionally Asian massage techniques such as Shiatsu and Thai massages.
Deep tissue massages involve penetrating layers of muscle with deep, massaging strokes that are performed in a slow fashion across the grain of the muscle. This relaxes the muscles and helps re-align tissue in order to provide better muscle stimulation. When a spinal massage is performed, similar strokes are used to that of a deep tissue massage whilst paying close attention to the alignment and loosening of the small bones linked throughout the spine.
In contrast to traditionally Western or Nordic massage styles, Shiatsu, a traditionally Japanese form of massage, focuses on particular points of the body which are believed to regulate the flow of energy. Pressure is applied in a rhythmic pattern to each of these areas so that energy flows more effectively around the body. Shiatsu massages are often very similar to Thai massages, another Asian form of massage. Thai massages place pressure on certain points of the body whilst also stretching and compressing different muscles and areas of tissue. In addition to Shiatsu and Thai styles of massage, when imagining traditionally Asian styles of massages, many people also think of the hot stone massage. Often seen as slightly mystical or esoteric, hot stone massage techniques involve placing hot stones over particular areas of the body, particularly the spine, in order to loosen tight and constricted muscular zones and vertebrae.
Key characteristics you should look for in a massage oil include the oil’s viscosity and texture, which are essential in ensuring that the oil you are using does not run or become overly sticky. Should the viscosity of the massage oil be too dense or too thin, the warmth and loosening of the skin provided by the oil could be spread over too large or too little portions of the skin. This could result in very uncomfortable feelings where oil does not cover the areas being massaged or flows into areas where oil is not desired.
As well as viscosity and texture, the absorption of an oil into the skin should be taken into account. Oils such as jojoba oil are very rapidly absorbed by the skin. Although oil absorption can help loosen the skin and, in the case of jojoba oil, provide lasting benefits such as the reduction of acne, a delicate balance must be struck between the absorption of massage oil by the skin and the lubrication that is possible when massage oil remains on the surface of the skin. If an oil is absorbed too easily into the skin, it must be re-applied if you wish to continue giving a pleasurable massage. On the contrary, if the oil is not absorbed at all, the enjoyment of the massage can be reduced and too much lubrication may be present between the masseuse’s hands and the person being massaged, which would make it difficult to properly apply pressure and make contact with the skin. Oils that provide good levels of absorption include sweet almond oil and apricot kernel oil.
The most important characteristic of a good massage oil is neither it’s viscosity or texture, but it’s aroma. When enjoying a massage, you will likely want to be in a warm and calming atmosphere. A crucial aspect of doing so is building up a pleasant, ambient scent. This can be done by using an aromatic massage oil where the scent will linger on the skin once the massage has concluded and may be complemented with a set of subtle incense sticks or a scented candle during the massage.Choosing an aroma that you enjoy will greatly enhance your experience.
When using aromatic oils in a massage, a base oil, such as sweet almond oil or jojoba oil is selected and can be used to lubricate and soften the skin. In addition, a smaller portion of an aromatic oil is used to add to the ambiance. Some aromatic oils possess medicinal qualities as well as an enticing aroma. Ylang ylang oil, for example, can act as a light sedative and stimulates the production of endorphins.
Some aromatic oils that are generally considered to have a pleasant scent and are well known for bringing out the best in an aromatic massage include lavender oil, Ylang ylang oil, tea tree oil, Eucalyptus oil and rose oil. Both tea tree and rose oil, although being among the more expensive aromatic oils, each possess a number of medicinal properties such as acting as an anti-depressant and a natural anti-fungal and bacterial substance. Although aromatic oils are often considered tasteful to the point where some deem them essential for a successful massage, it can be beneficial to use a selection of non-aromatic oils instead. Jojoba oil, being rapidly absorbed by the skin, can act as a supplementary oil to a second base oil when aromatic oils are not being used. This allows you to benefit from the best of both worlds: the base oil’s lubrication as well as the jojoba oil’s softening and anti-bacterial qualities.
Picking the right massage oil to use can help turn a simple massaging session into an enjoyable and memorable experience.