by Julie Gallant, MA Holistic Health Education & CMT

 

Loved ones who are providing essential work during this time are experiencing exhausting and unprecedented levels of emotional and physical stress. They would most certainly benefit from reduced stress levels, a chance to reset, and by receiving an immune-boosting massage.

 

You don’t have to be a trained massage therapist to give a massage.

 

A simple warm touch can provide profound benefits, including calming cardiovascular stress & providing a release of oxytocin, which is associated with feelings of love, bonding, and wellbeing. 

 

Partners and family members can learn to give a relaxing massage to each other with a little guidance.  I’ll break it down for you into a few easy steps.  The following massage sequence assumes that the recipient will be clothed, wearing comfortable clothing that allows movement.

 

Please note:  I am promoting giving a massage to your close family members and those that you already are living with, still adhering to social-distancing guidelines. I will leave it in your hands to take extra safety precautions to protect yourself and your family (For example, giving massages only after showering and changing into clean clothes. You might consider both wearing masks.)

 

What you’ll need:

  • Approximately 1 hour to devote to your partner. Have less time? See the abbreviated massage suggestions.
  • A quiet, comfortable spot where you won’t be interrupted
    • Turn off phones. Choose a quiet time of day. Give your kids a quiet activity or invite them to help participate. 
  • Warmth 
    • A soft blanket or sheet
    • Maybe a cup of tea to warm your hands
  • Space for your partner to receive massage 
    • A massage table, the floor padded with a few blankets, or outside in the yard on a blanket would all work. Shiatsu and Thai massage are both practiced on the floor.  
    • In a pinch, the kitchen/dining room table (padded with blankets) would work and is a great height from which to work.
    • I find that beds are too big to move around with ease and the recipient often sinks into the mattress when pressure is applied.  
  • Pillows
    • To place under knees while lying face up
    • Support ankles while lying face down
  • Special touches
  • Comfortable soft clothing that allow for movement

 

Techniques:

  • Your Massage Tools – Your hands, fingers, palms, a loose fist, forearms, elbows and your thumbs are all you need! Fingertips and thumbs work great for small places, hands, the face, and behind/under the scapula. Your palms and forearms are good tools for broader surfaces like the back, quads, hamstrings, calves, and forearms. 
  • Pressure – Let your recipient guide you! As a rule of thumb, aim for consistent medium pressure on the back body (deeper focus on areas of tension), and a lighter touch for the front body, inner thighs, belly, around the eyes and other sensitive skin or injuries.  
  • Speed – Slow is soothing and relaxing. Quick strokes are enlivening & invigorating. What does your partner want to receive?
  • Checking-in –  Ask your partner if they like the pressure & speed. Is there anything you can do to make them more comfortable?
  • Listen to the recipient’s cues – Notice sighs of relief, softening, letting limbs be loose.  Make a change if you notice tensing/holding.
  • Brushing – Using finger tips & palms (recipient to guide pressure), brush through limbs from shoulders to fingertips, hips to toes, head to sacrum. This technique lets your recipient get used to your touch, triggers a relaxation response, and soothes.  
  • Palming –  Placing pressure into alternating hands, softening an area, like a cat might do before laying down.
  • KneadingTense or strained muscle fibers shorten. Kneading counteracts this by stretching and loosening the fibers, helping muscles to relax and unwind.  Pretend you are kneading dough. Using as much of your hand as possible, rhythmically lift and roll tissue/muscle between your fingers and palms.
  • Gentle squeezes – Grasping with all fingers and palms (medium pressure), work rhythmically through arms and legs, fingers and toes.
  • Direction of movements – Embrace your creativity. Move/work/squeeze/flow from head to toe and then flow up the sides of the body. Move from midline to extremities & then toward the heart to help with lymphatic flow. Encircle entire limbs & joints. 
  • Be careful to apply pressure to muscles and tissues, not bones.
  • Be curious, touch with sensitivity & compassionate intent – This is by far the most important thing to master!

 

Short on time? Any amount of massage is valuable. Here are some abbreviated recipes for relaxation. 

  • Have a beginning, a middle, and a close. Connect with your partner for 1 min. Choose an area of focus. Use the final 1-2 minutes to brush through the entire body, or by placing your hands over your partner’s belly & heart for a breath.
  • 10 mins – Focus on the area that your partner needs the most attention. Neck & shoulders? Low back?
  • 20 mins –  Give a great head massage, followed by massaging hands and feet. 
  • 30 mins –  You have time for the entire back followed by arms & hands.

 

To Begin:

  • Start face down
    • Place a pillow under their ankles
    •  If you are not using a massage table, you will need to create a makeshift headrest (folded towel under forehead and chest) so that your partner can breath and keep their neck aligned. Turning your head to the side can easily strain neck muscles. 
    • Cover with a blanket if desired.

 

  • Center Yourself
    • Allow yourself to make any movements, stretches to be comfortable in your own body. 
    • Bringing your attention to your feet & toes, notice your connection to the ground. 
    • Get clear about your intention for offering this massage (For example — to support in healing, releasing tension, to provide deep relaxation, etc.) Hold this lightly in your thoughts throughout the massage.
    • Without changing anything, bring your attention to your breath. With loving attention, feel the sensation of your inhale and exhale. guide your client to do the same.

 

  • Connect to your partner 
    • Place one hand on the back of your partner’s neck and one hand on their sacrum (base of the tailbone). Hold with medium light pressure for a couple of breaths.
    • Start at recipient’s head. Using your fingers & palms, ‘brush’ (be guided by the recipient on pressure) over the whole body connecting head to toes. Brush through arms and legs through to hands and feet. 

 

  • Back (15-20 minutes)
    • Starting at the base of the neck and working down to the hips, use your own creative combination of brushing, slow palming, gentle squeezes and kneading. 
    • Take time to unwind knots and focus on areas of tension. 
    • You might bring your attention to each scapula (shoulder blade), tracing the inside edge of the scapula with the pinky side edge of your hand.
    • You could use a loose fist making small clockwise circles or a kneading motion to work from the base of the neck out toward the top of the shoulder; or using the same movement work down each side of the spine being careful to put pressure on muscle, not the spine. 
    • If it helps, you can divide the body into upper and lower/left and right. Forget the big picture for a little while, and get lost in the details.  Work one area at a time, moving to the next when ready.  When you are done,  connect the whole back (or body) together with a large sweeping stroke.

 

  • Hips/Glutes (4-5 minutes)
    • Slow palming/cat walking work great here. You can focus your pressure into the fleshy gluteal muscles to the outside of the sacrum bone, spreading the muscles in a lateral direction.   

 

  • Legs & Feet (6-8 minutes each leg)
    • Work from the hips and glutes toward the feet.  Broad strokes work great here. Use forearms and/or palms to brush, knead, gently squeeze through hamstrings and calves, being careful not to apply pressure behind the knee.  
    • Once you reach the foot, you can slowly pick up your partner’s foot. bending the knee at a 90 degree angle. Holding heel in one hand and supporting toes in your other hand, gently rotate the foot making small circles in both directions. Gently place foot back on the pillow.
    • Feet:  There are many reflexology points on our feet that benefit the entire body.  You could forgo a whole body massage and just focus on feet, hands, and the head — you would surely have a very happy recipient.  
      • Make sure to address all the toes, ball of foot, arch, and the heel.  

 

Half-Time!  Have your partner roll over to lie on their back, placing a pillow under the knees to support their lower back.  Cover with a blanket if needed.

 

  • Arms & Hands (6-8 minutes each arm)
    • Work from the shoulder to fingertips.  Brush, knead, gently squeeze through biceps, triceps, and forearms.
    • Once you reach the hand, you can interlace your fingers with your partners and make small rotations with the wrist. 
    • Hands: They do so much work and communication for us throughout the day — they deserve the royal treatment. Like our feet, hands have many potent reflexology points that benefit the entire body.  
      • I like to hold my clients hands face up, using my thumbs to massage the palm while my fingers wrap around supporting the outside of the hand.  
      • Give each finger and thumb loving attention, kneading and encircling from palm to fingertip while giving a little traction. 

 

  • Legs & Feet (6-8 minutes each leg)
    • Work from the hips toward the feet. Slow, broad forearm strokes work great here. Alternatively, use palms to cat-walk or knead through quads to knee. Circle knee with thumbs, making the shape of a heart. 
    • Below the knee, wrap your hand around the lower leg with your fingers grasping the calf muscles and palms on the outside of the shin. Squeeze slowly and release. Repeat this movement 3-4 times as you move your hands toward the foot.
    • Once you reach the foot, you can use your fingertips to massage the tops of the feet from the ankle to the toes.

 

  • Neck & Shoulders (5-10 minutes)
    • Starting at your partner’s deltoids, slowly scoop under and across shoulders & up neck and scalenes.  Coming to resting hold with your fingertips or palms under your partner’s occiput, perhaps giving a little traction. Repeat 3 times. 
    • Slowly rotate head to right as far as it is comfortable (checking in with your recipient) for one complete in and out breath.
    • Slowly rotate head to left as far as it is comfortable (checking in with your recipient) for one complete in and out breath.
    • Bring head back to center.

 

  • Face & Head (5-10 minutes)
    • Gently place your thumbs side by side (your fingers pointing toward the top of the head) between your partner’s eyebrows. Glide your thumbs laterally all the way to the base of the ears. Repeats 3 times, covering different parts of the forehead each time.
    • Using fingertips & light pressure, make small circles at temples.
    • Using fingertips & light pressure, make small circles in front of the ears. Gently give each ear light traction.
    • Using fingertips & light pressure, make small circles along jaw the line to chin.
    • Save the best for last — Massage (knead, circle, brush) with your fingertips & thumbs through the hair as if you are shampooing your partner. 

 

Ending/Closing:

  • Do one final sweep through (light brushing) from head to toes. 
  • Let your partner know that you have finished, encouraging them to move slowly, drink water, and perhaps give them the option to rest for a bit longer.
  • Stretch. Wash your hands and forearms.
  • Drink deeply.
  • Schedule time for you to receive your massage!

 

Hands to heart, offer a bow of gratitude to both your partner and yourself for making time to nourish each other. 

 

Contra-indications (when not to massage):

 

The sequences in this guide are designed to introduce you to the everyday benefits of massage. However, there are certain circumstances under which you should avoid giving them a go:

  • If your partner has any painful bruises, fractures or open wounds
  • If your partner suffers from serious and persistent back or neck pain
  • If your partner has just eaten a large meal (wait at least an hour after eating before receiving a massage)
  • If your partner is under the influence of alcohol or other drugs
  • If your partner has a temperature (massage stimulates the body’s metabolism, which can cause temperatures to rise even higher)
  • Avoid directional & deep work (pressure points) if your partner has varicose veins. Only use a very light touch in areas with varicose veins.
  • Use caution if your partner is pregnant. Use a side-lying position. Skip inner thighs. Seek professional advice. 

 

If you’re in any doubt at all, consult a doctor or professional therapist.

 

Sending love and care to you and yours,

Julie

 

With over 20 years of experience in bodywork, a Master’s Degree in Holistic Health Education, and current study in Syntara energy-work, Julie’s bodywork addresses your whole being – leaving you revitalized and peaceful.

 

While Julie specializes in acupressure and perinatal massage, she enjoys clients from all stages and ages of life. Her massage is a nurturing combination of Swedish strokes, shiatsu, and deep tissue. Her intention is to tend, support, and nourish body & spirit.

 

Julie’s Virtual Wellness Appointments offer clients a combination of self-massage practice and instruction & are rounded out with energy work (which can be profoundly nourishing and effective remotely!).

 

Julie, mother to two amazing boys, knows first-hand how important it is that parents and parents-to-be take the time to unwind and embrace self-care. When not working at Luma Yoga, you likely find Julie curled up with a book, swimming, taking her dog for a hike, or crafting with friends.

 

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