Aromatherapy and Massage
Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils and other plant extracts as part of a therapeutic session.
As with much in the massage therapy world, aromatherapy has its adherents and its critics. While the claims of curing disease are overstated, aromatherapy does have some unquestionable benefits.
There’s no doubt that certain scents help provide a pleasurable atmosphere during massage. Since the basic goal of massage is to enhance the well-being of the recipient, this is a value.
As part of creating the ambiance for a relaxing, soothing massage, there are several options available for those who want to utilize aromas during a session.
Basil is a popular choice, owing to its sweet, mildly spicy odor. Though its use should be avoided when the client is pregnant (basil contains emmenagogues that can be harmful to those who are sensitive), it offers a delightful scent.
Bergamot is another that, in the form of an essential oil, makes for a pleasant aroma. Those who enjoy Earl Gray tea will be familiar with the scent, but as part of aromatherapy it is more concentrated. As it happens, it is also an effective, natural insect repellent and can be useful for helping to improve the massage area.
Citronella, another common oil used to ward off mosquitoes, has a use as a pleasant lemon grass odor that makes the session area a relaxing place to be. As such, it adds to the use of effleurage techniques that deliver a relaxing, stress-relieving massage session.
Lavender oil is often preferred by women clients who find the delicate scent the perfect adjunct to a slow, healthful sports massage. Working the long muscles while inhaling this flowery aroma can encourage a drowsy state that puts the client into an excellent frame of mind.
Male clients sometimes find the pungent scent of clove oil a welcome adjunct to a vigorous, deep tissue session. After a long workout at the gym, a good massage that loosens all those knotty muscles can be just what the therapist calls for.
Sandalwood is another commonly used scent in aromatherapy sessions. The odor is reminiscent of the beach or forest and, as with many scents, works by association. Incorporating pleasant mental images into the session often helps the client relax, making the massage a joy for both recipient and giver.
It’s important that the massage therapist who employs scents as part of the overall experience seek client input. Scents are very individual and the goal is to enhance the session, to put the client into a good frame of mind during and after. Not only is the specific aroma used important, but the concentration should be adjusted to personal taste.