We love us a spa day, but let’s face it: at the moment when stress strikes, a luxurious treatment isn’t always in the cards. The next best thing? An at-home massage courtesy of a willing friend or partner — unless your amateur masseuse has no idea what he or she’s doing.
In the interest of skill-building, we spoke with celebrity massage therapist Dr. Dot Stein, who is best known for de-stressing an A-list clientele that includes Lady Gaga, the Black Eyes Peas and Aerosmith. Dr. Stein gave us these helpful tips for giving the perfect massage, just in time for the stressful holiday season. Feel free to pass this one along (wink, nudge).
Create A Relaxing Environment
Since most of us don’t have a massage table lying around the house, Dr. Stein recommends placing your client on the bed, with his or her head at the corner and the feet propped up with a pillow. Keep your client warm at all times. “The only part of the body that should be exposed is the part you’re working on at the moment,” says Dr. Stein. There should be no speaking during the massage (so tell your chatty partner to hush). The only thing the client should hear is relaxing music. Dr. Stein recommends the blues or classical music. “No techno, pop, or hard rock,” she added. Soft lighting and candles are also a must.
Use A Massage Oil (Or DIY One)
If you have massage oil, great. If not, Dr. Stein says you can use any type of oil or cream, as long as it’s not lotion. “Lotion is not that good because it rolls up into annoying little balls,” she explains. To make your own massage oil, try her formula: three parts unscented baby oil mixed with one part unscented baby gel. Add scents if you want: “Lavender oil is good for a relaxing massage, and lemon essential oil is great for an energetic massage,” Dr. Stein says. If all else fails, you can use olive oil or grapeseed oil. Just be careful; grapeseed oil will stain the sheets!
Before starting the massage, warm up the oil or cream by submerging the container in hot water. “Never pour the oil directly onto the person’s body. Always put it in your hands first,” Dr. Stein says.
Perfect Your Technique
Time to get started! With your client face down on the bed, start massaging the back using long, even, and firm up-and-down strokes. “Fast motions will destroy relaxation.”
As you massage, avoid bone on bone contact, as well as fingernail to skin contact, because, well, ow. Every movement needs to be fluid. “I usually start on one side and then go to the other side and do the same exact thing. You can’t leave anything out,” she says. “You can also use a clawing/raking motion on the back. I use the ball of the hand (back of hand) for the pushing motion and I rake coming back.”
“I also use the pizza dough method,” says Dr. Stein. “Go back and forth like you’re kneading a wad of dough.”
After massaging the back for a good half hour (including the legs and butt), flip the client over and do the arms, shoulders, face and scalp. “Always end the massage with the feet,” said Dr. Stein. “All the nerves end in the hands and feet. So if you stimulate the hands and the feet, you relax the whole body.”