Not sure what to give your special valentine this year? A relaxing home massage might be just what the doctor ordered. Don’t fear if you’re not a professional massage therapist. You can learn some basic techniques that will leave your partner drowsy and satisfied nonetheless.
Not only are massages good for relaxation, they’re also good for physical and mental health. For example, the majority of people deal with foot challenges at some point. Massage can help alleviate this, while improving circulation and decreasing stress.
It may seem obvious that couples would benefit from massaging each other, and there’s science to prove it. British researchers taught couples some basic techniques in massage, and then took a look at the results. Here’s what they learned:
“These findings show that massage can be a simple and effective way for couples to improve their physical and mental wellbeing whilst showing affection for one another … Massage is a cost effective and pleasant intervention that isn't just for a therapeutic setting but can be easily incorporated into a healthy couple's daily routine."
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Set the Mood
If you’ve had many professional massages, you know they’re typically given in a room with soft lighting and inviting aromas. While you may not have a dedicated room and your own massage table, you can create this ambiance in a bedroom.
Music is key. Create a relaxing playlist or find a mellow station on your phone. If you’re not sure which music to pick, start with classical artists like Mozart or Beethoven. Or, go for modern acoustic music.
If you have an oil diffuser, now’s a great time to use it. Otherwise, scented candles will do the trick. Many people enjoy lavender scents, which are shown to help with relaxation.
Put down a cool sheet and pillows that you can arrange as needed. Depending on body type and comfort, your partner may need an array of pillows and towels to get positioned most comfortably.
Have an extra sheet to drape over your partner for privacy and comfort. You can either massage through the sheet for sensitive areas (like the buttocks), or move the sheet to areas you aren’t touching. Even if you’re used to seeing your partner bare all, this is a new setting that may bring out some shyness. Your partner can decide on their own comfort level.
Choose a massage oil. You can find a variety of scented massage oils at local stores or online. Choose a scent you and your partner like, or order a couple of options to try.
Finally, consider the lighting. If you have bright overhead lighting, turn that off and opt for one or two lamps at a low level. You want enough light to get around, but not so much that it distracts from the relaxing environment.
If you’re going to this effort to create a relaxing massage, consider making a fun event out of it. Create or print an invitation, or announce that you’ll be providing a professional-type massage as your Valentine’s Day gift.
If your partner isn’t particularly sensitive about body issues and likes massages, then consider making it a surprise. If your partner tends to get a little more anxious, offer the massage but leave it up to them. You can always downgrade to just a shoulder or foot massage, if that seems more comfortable.
Once your partner enters the massage area, create the emotional tone. Talk in a soothing voice (if you giggle that’s okay), and ask them to get comfortable. Help them set up pillows and supports as needed.
Let your partner know this massage is for their comfort and relaxation. If at any time they’d like you to continue in a certain area, move on, or use a different stroke or pressure, they should let you know.
Now is the time to let go of your own perfectionism — you’re not a professional massage therapist, and that’s okay. You and your partner will navigate this together. This is about your mutual experience and enjoyment as a couple.
Learn the Strokes
When it’s time to start the massage, you’ll want to experiment with some basic massage strokes. Here are four commonly used techniques. You can practice each on yourself ahead of time, to get a sense of the difference.
Flat, Gliding Strokes
Use an open palm, and glide your oiled hands over the body. This can be done lightly or with more pressure. During the massage, always check with your partner and ask how much pressure feels good.
These are likely the most common massages given by lay people. If you’ve ever given or received a shoulder massage, it likely included kneading. Again, check with your partner to see how much pressure they like on different areas of the body.
Use the balls of your finger, or our thumb, and apply pressure. Then move that pressure around in a circular motion, depending on your partner’s comfort. Try this in particularly tight muscles or areas of tension.
This is the technique you may have seen in movies, which looks like rapid karate chops. Pick an area that’s not particularly sensitive for your partner, and start with light chopping. Go from there, depending on your partner’s response.
Giving the Massage
Massage therapists often use a specific pattern around the body for optimum comfort and experience. Yours can be unique to your preference, what you think your partner will like, and the space available.
Up or Down?
In Swedish massage, the receiver often begins by laying on their stomach. You can start this way if you like. Apply oil to your hands and give gliding strokes. Massage the torso, including the back and shoulders. Mix up the massage techniques, depending on what feels best to your hands and to your partner.
Then move through each limb, taking your time. Don’t neglect your partner’s feet. Foot wellness is an important, although sometimes forgotten, area of the body. To be an effective foot massager, use a combination of gliding, kneading, and friction movements. Take your time with toes, heels, and arches, moving up into the ankle.
Remember the hands as well, gently massage the fingers and wrist, moving up the arm. Cover both the forearm and upper arm areas.
If your partner doesn’t mind, include the buttocks. Consider some light chopping in the hip area. Throughout the massage, linger more in the areas that your partner seems to enjoy.
Change Up Positions
If you are using your bed and the head is against the wall, get creative with your partner’s positions. They can switch multiple times, with their head or feet facing the foot of the bed at alternate times.
You can then stand at that end of the bed to best reach your partner from above. This will give you easier access to the head, feet, and shoulders. You can also invite your partner to lay on each side for comfort, with feet facing either way.
Make note of your own comfort as well. If your fingers are getting tired, change it up to other types of strokes, or take a break. If you need to rest, tell your partner in a soothing voice that you’ll be right back, and they should relax and listen to the music while you’re gone.
Massage your partner for a set amount of time, once you’ve covered each body area, or when you simply feel like stopping. Once the massage is over, gently raise the sheet and cover them.
Glide your hands lightly around the body one more time, over the sheet, and let them know the massage is over. Leave the room, and have them come out of the bedroom when they’re ready. Have a light snack, lemonade, or glass of wine ready.
Mostly, Have Fun
The point isn’t to give the best massage in the world. Your partner won’t be grading you on pressure points and technique. Most likely, they’ll be relaxed, grateful, and wondering what they did to deserve you. Be flexible, change things up, and go with the flow based on what feels good for you and your valentine.