Relaxation Massage

The Massage To Get When You Want To Tune Out

relaxation massage
••• Relaxation massage uses gentler techniques and doesn't try to undo chronic muscle pain. Getty Images: Jada

Relaxation massage is a gentle Swedish massage that uses smooth, gliding strokes to help you relax.  The massage therapist will move at a slower pace and use lighter pressure.  In a relaxation massage, there is less emphasis on working out chronic underlying muscle tension -- the adhesions or "knots" and muscle restrictions in the muscle tissue.  That's because deep tissue work can be uncomfortable, and during a relaxation massage you just want to drift away and feel good.

 

In a relaxation massage, the therapist won't push your limits in order to get the muscle to release. You might even fall asleep!  It's a good choice for someone who is getting a massage for the first time, or someone who just wants to bring their stress level down.  

Relaxation massage is also good for someone who get massage as a special treat once a year.  It's not realistic to expect that you can get rid of all your knots in one massage.  But to drift into a deeply relaxed state in fifty minutes -- that's doable! 

The Health Benefits of Relaxation Massage

There are substantial health benefits to a relaxation massage.  Gentle massage stimulates sensory nerve endings in the skin, which transmit messages through the nervous system and cause the brain to release endorphins.  These are the body's natural painkillers, feel-good chemicals that create a sense of well-being.

Massage further aids relaxation by stimulating the body's parasympathetic nervous system, sometimes called the "rest and digest system."  Blood pressure decreases, heart rate slows, and digestive activity increases.

Relaxation massage also increase blood circulation and stimulates the body's lymphatic system, which carries away waste products.

How To Make Your Massage More Relaxing

There are several things you can do to make any massage more relaxing.  Most important, get to the spa well ahead of your actual appointment.

 If the spa has amenities that will help you relax, like hot tubs, saunas or steam room, take advantage of them.  Build in time to take a shower.  Get cozy in your white robe, and take something to read in the relaxation lounge. 

Love to talk?  Think twice about that during a relaxation massage.  It keeps you mind active, inhibiting the relaxation response.  Instead, focus on your breathing, or on every movement of the therapists' hand.  Sometimes when you pay close attention, it becomes a form of meditation for both you and the therapist, and you get a more mindful treatment.

Afterwards, take time to continue resting instead of jumping up and running off to some activity. It's especially good to take a nap, which allows the body to continue receiving the benefits of the treatments.  As always, drink lots of water after your treatment.