When you’re splashing out on the best massage money can buy, you want to savour each second and make the most of the benefits of the treatment. This is why we’ve put together guide on how to make the most of your massage, you should feel not only fabulous, but also like you got your money’s worth.
Choosing the right massage
You can save yourself a lot of time and bother by giving yourself a pre-pre-consultation before you even book your spa day. First: is there anything physically wrong? If so, book a sports massage, or let the spa know so they can adapt to your needs. If pregnant, avoid having a massage in the first trimester, then book a massage specifically aimed at mums to be. If you have or are in recovery from cancer, make sure your spa has cancer care trained therapists (read our feature on spa-ing with cancer).
Next ask yourself if you want to feel relaxed (aromatherapy, hot stone), energized (deep tissue, Swedish or Thai), or balanced (Ayurveda or Balinese) – or if you want your skin to feel nourished with beautiful products and massage oils. If you want to improve your circulation, try a lymphatic drainage massage which uses gentle, pulsing motions to encourage the flow of lymph – a clear fluid that carries white blood cells around your body.
Maximise the effects
Arrive relaxed: arrive at the spa in plenty of time so that you aren’t rushed. We once ran to our massage after a gym work-out, so arrived sweaty and hot with adrenalin pumping. Our poor therapist! Research shows that massage is particularly good at relieving stress-related problems such as anxiety, panic attacks, asthma, constipation and high blood pressure; it’s even more beneficial if you don’t add to your stress levels on your spa day.
Prepare your muscles by using the spa facilities beforehand. A sauna and steam will open your pores, increase your circulation and relax your muscles ready to absorb those lovely products and prepare you for an even deeper state of calm. If you are really tense, try standing under the swan jets for 15 minutes before to give your muscles and knots a head start.
Be honest about the pressure: if the therapist is hurting you, tell them. Ask them if they can do more flowing even strokes as you are feeling quite sensitive today. If you are menstruating, or simply feeling more tired and sensitive, you might want a more soothing stroke than usual: there’s no shame in asking for mild pressure. Similarly, say if your treatment bed or the room is too warm or too cold – this treatment is supposed to be for your benefit, not something you have to endure.
Try and stay awake: unless your mission is to doze on the massage table and miss the whole thing, it’s a good idea to try and be mindfully present, to really enjoy each delicious stoke and save your snoring for after. You can even book a mindful massage where the therapist will guide you in a gentle meditation to help you relax and get the most out of your treatment. If you do end up drifting off, however, it’s no bad thing.
Prolong the bliss
At the end of your massage, your therapist will usually lead you to a relaxation room and bring you a drink or water or tea – maybe even a snack if you are lucky.
You will usually be told to drink lots of water, this helps you to rehydrate after the massage and lying down for a long period. A massage is like a work-out and is dehydrating. Kneading muscle gets fluid pumping out of your soft tissue and into your circulatory system, where it is processed by your kidneys -- why you often need a wee after a massage.
Give yourself at least half an hour after your treatment to rest and return to planet earth. If you rush out into London traffic slipping all over the place in your sandals due to the massage oil (we have done this) or get in the car a drive for two hours (guilty as charged), you will completely undo all the good work.
After an intense Ayurvedic massage, it is often advised to give yourself as long as five hours to do absolutely nothing after your treatment: if ever you needed an excuse to be idle, this is it.
Keep your oils and products in as long as possible – ideally you have nothing planned for the rest of the evening.
If you have had a massage to aid sleep, be careful when driving afterwards as the effects can be genuinely soporific – almost dangerously so. Have a snooze and drink lots of fluid to wake yourself up before you hit the road.