We often talk about how massage therapy can help ease stress (and who doesn’t need that, especially at tax time!). But did you know you can take the benefits of regular massages one step further by using aromatherapy for stress relief? Massage by itself already has amazing benefits, both for your body and mind. No matter what type of massage you get, you come away more relaxed. Muscles are less achy. Your mind is calmer. Your massage therapist always creates a soothing environment that will help you benefit the most from the healing power of touch. This environment includes soft lights and calming music. Aromatherapy adds an extra dimension by involving the sense of smell.
What is Aromatherapy? Aromatherapy is an age-old practice that uses essential oils derived from plants. These days, you can find many aromatherapy products in the form of candles, bath soaps, oils, even little pillows filled with sweet-smelling herbs. When combined with massage, aromatherapy uses the properties of essential oils to achieve specific results. Massage with aromatherapy goes beyond reducing physical aches. When inhaled, the scents induce both physical and mental responses. Depending on the oil that is used, the overall effect could be ultimate relaxation, rejuvenation or re-invigoration. Relaxing scents reduce the levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) in our bodies. Invigorating scents increase our energy and wakefulness.
Types of Oils for Aromatherapy Any essential oil used for massage therapy should be natural and organic. These oils are extracted from plants, not made in a laboratory. They are processed in a way that their natural scents and properties are retained. Going to a certified massage therapist will help assure that the oils used are of high-quality and meant specifically for massage therapy. Relaxing oils include lavender and chamomile. Lavender has been shown to calm down fussy babies and promote sleep. Essential oils derived from citrus, such as lemon and orange, are invigorating oils. Others, like eucalyptus, helps clear the mind while spearmint lifts your spirit and improves concentration. Rosemary, on the other hand, promotes contentment and positive emotions. Your massage therapist will help you choose an aromatherapy oil to use during your massage, depending on your overall condition and goals for the session. Listen carefully to her instructions as she tells you what to expect from each essential oil she has available.
How to Maximize the Benefits of Aromatherapy for Stress Relief Once you have chosen the essential oil for your session, relax and let your massage therapist do her job. She will use the oil throughout your massage. In addition to the added benefits of scent, the oil also helps your therapist’s hands glide smoothly across your skin. The reduced friction lets her work your muscles effectively without any discomfort to you. The oil also moisturizes your skin during your session. Breathe deeply and let the scent work its magic. Think happy, relaxing thoughts and just savor the experience as it envelopes you. After your session, linger for a few minutes on the massage table. Don’t hurry off to get back into your busy day. Finally, ask your therapist for a bottle of the essential oil that you picked. Some oils can be used for self-massage, or to add to warm water for a relaxing bath. You can enjoy the benefits of aromatherapy for stress relief, even in the comforts of your own home.