Whether you're the type of person who likes to learn a little about a subject or someone who goes whole hog, try massage. Now seen by some as a true holistic alternative medicine, the types and purposes of massage are varied enough to appeal to most anyone. An upstate New York teacher says her husband goes every week for an hour and a half. "He feels this is one of the only times he is actually able to 'empty his mind' of the week and finds that very beneficial to his health and to his productivity at work (as an ad director)."
I was interested in the intimacy and communication aspects of massage so I checked online and found software, videos, and books galore! How about a book called 101 Essential Tips: Massage by LaCroix for under $6 online. Other recommendations led me to The Romantic's Guide: Hundreds of Creative Tips for a lifetime of Love for about $15. There are countless others out there, so just take a few minutes to surf the web or visit your local book store.
You can try it yourself or pay a massage therapist--make sure he or she is licensed! Swedish massage is the most common type, and the focus is relaxation. It's often very pleasurable. The Massage Book, by George Downing, focuses on gentle Swedish techniques and is recommended for couples.
According to the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA), massage can be as simple as a 15-minute shoulder-and-back massage while fully clothed (offered in some workplaces) or as involved as an hour-long head-to-toe body maintenance treatment. One mom got a salon certificate from her husband for Mother's Day. She reports, "I had a head-and-neck massage and a foot massage as part of a pedicure. I would totally recommend massages. I was so relaxed when I was finished I think I was slurring my speech. It is so nice to slow down life's fast pace for a few moments."
Jennifer Kam, a licensed massage therapist, told me that for couples who want to try massage there are a number of books with set-by-step guides to massage, and you can feel safe trying your techniques out on each other. She said the magic is in touch.
Jennifer emphasized two points. First, when you purchase a massage for yourself or as a gift, the masseuse should be licensed. And, second, you or the gift recipient should present any recent injuries or health concerns to the therapist. Communication will make the experience the best it can be. Is the pressure too light or heavy? Is the room warm enough? Tell the masseuse.
If you're ready to try giving a back massage, here are some quick tips: In a quiet, comfortable, candlelit spot have your partner lie down on his/her stomach. Be beside them with one hand between their shoulder blades and the other on their lower back. Use slight thumb pressure along the sides of the spine (NEVER APPLY PRESSURE TO THE SPINE!!!!) to promote relaxation. Use long strokes down the length of the back, flaring out at the hips and connecting again at the neck or head base. Use clockwise circular motions with fingertips on shoulder blades and close to the spine. Knead fleshy areas and use thumbs or fingers to apply pressure to tight areas. Oil will decrease your friction and eliminate pulling any body hairs!
Peggy LaClair said, "I gave my husband a back massage and tested him with different massaging tools we had in the house. We have an electric massager and three of the hand-held kinds that have wooden wheels on them. Keith said that my hands with some baby oil was the best, next was the electric massager, then came the wooden hand-held ones, one of which he said felt like I had put a squid on his back!"
If you want scented oil, shop for mood-setting fragrances like relaxing lavender. Oils can be purchased at bath accessory stores or online through web sites. I found an 8-ounce Soothing Whole body massage and bath oil (for all ages and all skins) advertised for $13.90. Bath and Body Works has many fragranced oils; Crabtree and Evelyn and the Body Shop carry various oils, too. Check in the skin care section to find what scents and products appeal to you.
The New York teacher sums up massaging this way: "I think a professional massage and an 'each other' massage are two pleasant, but very different, experiences."
Take It From Me: "I bruise easily and my first massage was no exception. I really do not think it was the fault of the person giving the massage, and I now know to warn a new masseuse ahead of time. Some people require a much lighter touch than others." --Upstate NY teacher