Massage—the kneading and applying of pressure on various parts of the body—has long been employed in different cultures as a method of healing. These days, it’s not only used as a mode of therapy but also as a means of relaxation. It’s available in high-end spas, malls, and even airports. When you’re thinking about how to destress yourself instantly, you can even call an affordable massage service so you can comfortably enjoy a massage at home.
Benefits of Massage
There’s more to a massage than working out the kinks in your muscles or managing that aching back you got from an awkward sleeping position. A review published in the journal Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice notes that moderate-pressure massage reduced depression, anxiety and heart rate, and promoted a relaxation response. Massage was also linked to decreased cortisol activity as well as activity in the brain involved in stress and emotion regulation. Apart from these scientifically backed benefits, massage also encourages you to get some much-needed and well-deserved me-time amid your busy schedule.
Types of Massage
There are a number of different types of massage. In fact, some countries are known for their local massages, such as the Thai massage. Our own Filipino hilot, long used in folk medicine, traditionally employs plenty of oil and kneads out areas of congestion in the body using upward, circular, or downward strokes. Some of the more popular massages typically offered by spas and massage establishments are:
Swedish massage. One of the most common types of massage, Swedish massage helps release muscle knots through kneading, long strokes, and deep, circular motions.
Shiatsu massage. As opposed to the Swedish massage which uses long strokes, this Japanese massage involves the use of hands, palms, and thumbs rhythmically pressing against certain points of the body, particularly areas of tension.
Reflexology. If you’re iffy about letting someone rub you all over your body, then reflexology might be the best type of massage for you. It focuses on pressure points of the feet and hands without the use of oil.
Hot stone massage. As its name implies, this massage uses heated stones strategically placed on different parts of the body.
Deep tissue massage. This one uses more pressure and deeper strokes, and is great for those who are feeling especially sore or tight.
Sports massage. If you regularly play sports, then this massage can focus on the muscles that you use most often. On top of providing relief, it may help prevent injuries and increase flexibility.
Aromatherapy. Aromatherapy is similar to Swedish massage in that it uses long strokes but it’s combined with the use of essential oils. The oils may help improve psychological wellbeing.
Best Massage Oils for Stress
If you’re planning to get a massage, why not increase the benefits by making use of a massage oil for stress relief? Scents can have a powerful effect on the part of the brain that regulates our stress response (fight-or-flight response, heart rate, blood pressure), immediately triggering physical reactions. Some of the essential oils you can try are:
Lavender. Sure, the scent can transport you to the lavender fields of France, but this essential oil can do more than fuel your daydreams. Psychology Today cites a study that found lavender oil aromatherapy lowered blood pressure, heart rate, and skin temperature and also changed brain waves to a more relaxed state. Lavender has also been linked to better sleep quality and reduced anxiety (such as in dental offices and hospital settings).
Bergamot. This citrus-y essential oil is often used as a flavoring but it has long been used in Italian folk medicine. A review published in Frontiers in Pharmacology noted clinical studies indicating that bergamot essential oil aromatherapy “can be useful to reduce anxiety and stress effects.” (Note: Bergamot is generally safe but since it is photosynthesizing, you should avoid it within 12 hours of sun exposure as it can increase the risk of sun damage.)
Ylang Ylang. This sweet floral essential oil has been linked to a lower heart rate and blood pressure and is said to have mood-boosting effects.
Whatever body massage oil for stress relief you choose, make sure you use essential oils properly by diluting them in carrier oils and taking precautions—some oils are not recommended for certain conditions, so best to run it by your physician first if you have an existing medical condition.