Not many wellness practices have stood the test of time like massage has. There’s evidence that massage was practiced over 5000 years ago. It was part of life in ancient Egypt around 2500 BCE, and also in Japan in 1000 BCE, where shiatsu massage was born. It continued blossoming in ancient Greek and Roman empires, where massage was given to their top performing athletes.
However, in the Middle Ages, massage practices went into decline. That continued until the 1800s, when Swede Per Henrik Ling revived its reputation in the West. This launched us into the current era where massage is recognized for its relaxing and healing properties. His work primed the 20th century to be a time of interest not only in the Swedish massage, but many massage traditions that had long been forgotten.
When ancient Greeks and Romans used massage to help athletes, they were onto something. With the benefit of science, we can confirm what has traditionally been held to be true. One study has shown that massage can alleviate muscle soreness by up to 30%! And in terms of options for healing, massage is fantastic because it hasn’t been associated with any negative side effects, except perhaps some soreness.
Another great thing about massage - giving a massage doesn’t require you to be a professional! Just a little know-how can make you a decent masseuse So give the gift of relaxation to someone you care about. Here are some easy steps anyone can use to give a great back massage.
How to Give a Memorable Back Massage
First things first, massage is about the muscles, not the bones. Be sure that you are not pressing on bones, and especially not on the ones in the spine. Since we are focusing on muscles, keep in mind that muscles need to be relaxed and for that you need to work with steady, even strokes and avoid jerky or quick movements. To understand how much pressure is right at each area, all you have to do is ask. That way, you can also find out what areas your massage subject would like to focus on. And they will greatly appreciate the open communication!
Rub your palms together quickly to build a little friction and make your hands feel warmer. Place about a tablespoon of high quality oil into your hands and begin the massage by gently spreading it all over the person’s back. To do this, start from the base of the spine and use even, long strokes going upwards until it is evenly distributed.
You can begin the massage at the neck and shoulders, as people store a lot of tension there. Do one shoulder at a time and begin to knead it like you would a ball of dough using both the palm of your hand and your fingers to help you work. For the shoulders, you can also use a smooth, steady squeezing action with your thumb and forefinger.
Continue kneading, working your way down the muscles on each side of the back. When you get to the bottom of the person's back, consider spending some extra time there as people who have a sedentary lifestyle, like sitting a lot for work, can have tension or pain in this area.
Once you’ve warmed up the muscles with some kneading and reached the base of the spine, you can work your way back up to the top with gliding movements in long, even strokes. Continue repeating this up and down the back and on each side of the spine, from left to right, gradually increasing the pressure as you go.
When you feel done, put both hands on the person’s back with soft pressure and instruct them to take a deep breath, to conclude the experience and help them ground back into the moment.
As you gain confidence and give more massages, you’ll be able to learn more techniques or lean into your intuition and freestyle movements that you think your recipient will respond positively to. Remember, as a non-professional, it's good to err on the side of caution when you're unsure.
Ideally, you might get a professional massage at least once a week. However, sometimes massage therapy can be pricey, in which case, you can give yourself a massage.
Melt Away Stress With a Foot Massage
Of course, it's difficult to access all the parts of your body with only your own two hands. That’s why for massaging yourself we recommend starting with a foot massage! According to the traditional wisdom of reflexology, your feet are a dashboard for impacting all the parts of your body - in one compact, easy to reach area!
Get ready by gently melting some body balm between your palms and spreading it across your whole foot. Then you can cocoon your foot with both hands, and take 3-5 gentle deep breaths. This will allow you to sink into the moment and become present for this gift you will give yourself.
Work Your Mobility
Begin by holding your foot in both hands, and using your hands to rotate your ankle in circular motions, changing directions, to explore its full rotation. Next, gently rub the full circumference of the area around your ankle, applying pressure from the tips of your fingers. When you’re done, find a nice stroke to rub the top of your foot, going up towards the ankle and down all the way until you reach your toes.
Next, discover how your toes can move. Try exploring their mobility back to front, side to side or moving them in circles. To do this, hold them at the tip and move them in different directions while gently squeezing them.
Go Toe to Toe
Staying with your toes, try using your thumb and index finger to glide up and down each toe. Start at the base and then use an upward-moving stroke to reach the top of each toe. It may feel nice to gently tug on each toe. Make sure you stroke every toe from all sides.
Next, press on the valley between each toe, rubbing and pressing as it feels good. From there, continue to the padded area on the underside of your foot, exploring the pad that's immediately below each toe individually.
Soothe Your Sole
Now move onto the instep and sole of your foot, the area between the ball and heel. Use both hands to grasp your foot, with your thumbs on the underside of the foot and begin to knead gently. Play with the pressure, increasing it as you go until it is just right. Ask yourself what parts prefer stronger force or a lighter touch.
Move on to your heels. Here you will use a combination of kneading, rubbing and some squeezing. You can use both hands, and make sure you do both the bottom of your heel and also the sides. To finish up, gently work your way up towards your achilles tendon, which you can stroke up and down with your thumb and index finger to relieve tension.
Take a few more deep breaths while holding your whole foot again and notice how it feels different than at the start of the massage. Repeat the process with the other foot and that’s it, you’re done!
Products for a Top Tier Massage
Today, as in ancient times, various oils, herbs and plants are applied to peoples’ bodies for adding to the benefits of massage. The oils and products you incorporate into massage are an important element of the massage itself.
Many people have found that CBD topicals can enhance your massage experience. After all, both CBD and massage are often used for the same purpose - primarily pain and anxiety relief. So consider enhancing your massage with the benefits of CBD.
CBD Coconut Oil
If you’d like to use oil, coconut oil is a fantastic option. It’s the oil of choice for many massage therapists who recognize its great properties. For example, studies have shown that coconut oil contributes to a protective barrier function, meaning your skin can do the job of taking care of itself better. It also has antibacterial and antifungal properties.
What's more, coconut oil has the ability to easily absorb into your skin without making it feel greasy. Speaking of grease, unlike many other oils, it doesn’t leave stains - which can be a problem on your favorite sheets or clothes! We recommend our fully organic Hemp-Infused CBD Coconut Oil.
CBD Body Balm
Another option you can use for massage is a body balm. Balms are especially good for extra dry skin and a little bit can go a long way. Balms are thicker than oil and definitely more so than lotions - which typically includes water. Balms are made without water, which means the key ingredients are not diluted, making the product concentrated with active ingredients.
A balm can be the perfect fit when you’re in a colder environment or if you have an area you’d like to work on that has especially dry or damaged skin, which can happen often at our joints - like knees, elbows or knuckles! Looking for a beneficial balm? Try our Hemp-Infused CBD Body Balm, handmade in Vermont!
Massage for the Ages
Many ancient cultures believed that massage could be beneficial to both healthy people as well as those in need of healing. Indeed, massage is known to have both physical and psychological benefits. For example, helping with pain management and also alleviating stress.
Thankfully, the 21st century provides an abundance of massage styles and philosophies for our health and comfort. So whether you seek out a professional masseuse, enjoy self massage, or want to give the gift of massage, you’ll benefit from adding this age old practice to your wellness routine.