This post is a part of August’s Healthy Living Tuesdays series, focused on how you take time for yourself on your busiest of days. We’re still taking submissions, so email your 3-4 sentence proposal to healthylivingblogs at gmail dot com, and we’ll select 4-6 to feature on Tuesdays in August!
I know, the answer seems simple – lie there. But as I learned from my modern dance teacher in college (who had us give/receive massages for a good 20 minutes every class, bless her heart) there is a method to maximizing your experience.
I consider myself a massage connoisseur, having received just about every type there is throughout my adult life. Aside from their many health benefits, I have found them to be especially helpful in overcoming my eating disorder – I would use them as non-food rewards and as a way to release stress and get a subconscious positive self-talk dialogue going on. Massages became a replacement for bingeing – who wants to consume massive amounts of food before getting rubbed down by a stranger? And afterwards, I would always feel so relaxed and appreciative of my body that the last thing I wanted to do was go on an eating bender.
Unfortunately, massages are pricey and my wallet couldn’t keep up with using them as a binge replacer. Luckily, I’ve figured out other, less-expensive methods to cope with daily stress (like journaling and long walks while listening to podcasts) but for the last year or so I’ve gotten a professional rub down every month. This is the time I take for myself, and I’m totally worth it!
To cut down on costs, I rarely do the ultra-posh spa massages I was first introduced to during bridal showers. Some cities have massage schools, where students will “study” you for cheap. Check your area for Korean Day Spas, Thai Massage, and Chinese foot rubs (which are actually full body). You can get deals for under $45 and find places with good reputations via Yelp. Sites like Groupon often have ½ off coupons have the fancier places too!
Here are my 10 tips for how to get the most out of a kneading:
- Shave the day before. If you’re into that and it makes you feel more comfortable not having stubble on your legs. (I’m not judging, because there are definitely times in the winter when I’ve gone without. ) I stress the day before, because it’ll give your pores a chance to close, prior to whatever massage oil will be slathered on top.
- Set the right time. You don’t want to be rushed getting there, or immediately afterwards. Also, keep in mind that your face will have crease marks on it, so if you have an important event later in the day, give your skin a few hours to spring back.
- Arrive early. Give yourself a chance to use the bathroom (nothing worse than having to pee during a massage) and get familiar with the environment.
- Request the right person. Choose someone you’re comfortable with – male or female – and ask your friends or the receptionist who they recommend for the type of massage you like (here’s a list of some popular ones if you’re not sure).
- Be comfy. I will usually get totally naked with a masseuse and leave my underwear on with a masseur. Whatever you feel okay with – you’re the one who has to experience this, after all.
- Speak up. Tell them about any problem areas you’d like them to focus on or avoid. If you want them to avoid your face because you’re afraid of breaking out, mention that. If you’re ticklish on your feet, make that clear. If they’re applying too much pressure (or not enough) a simple “Harder” or “Softer” is fine. They won’t be offended – that’s their job!
- Relax (duh)! If your mind’s going a mile a minute and you’re having trouble just enjoying the experience, focus on your breathing. If you fall asleep and drool, that’s a wonderful thing too.
- Take your time “coming down.”I used to get anxious when I saw signs of the massage ending – try to enjoy the last few moments by thanking yourself for taking the time to do this instead of stressing yourself out that it’s almost done. When it’s all over, don’t rush getting off the table – you don’t want to get dizzy and fall off! Take a few breaths, soak it all in for a few minutes.
- Tip well. If they did a good job, listened to you, and you’d want them to give you a rub down in the future, 20% should show them that their efforts were appreciated. If not, stick to 15% and put in a request with the receptionist to not match you guys up again (and maybe you can explain why too).
- Drink lots of water. Both before and after a massage, it’s a good idea to be hydrated. It allows the massage therapist to get deeper into your muscles, and will help to flush out toxins when you’re done.
My last piece of advice is to have a light meal ahead of time – you don’t want to be hungry or bloated from gas. I’ll usually help myself to a cookie and some tea at the spa too!