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The perfect massage

SpaInc asked an expert for tips on creating the ideal massage for spa clients

A perfect massage is more than caresses, kneading, and patting. The perfect massage calms the mind, relieves muscle tension, brings us back into our physical bodies, re-energizes and restores us so that we can return to our over stimulated world and face the day to day challenges with renewed energy. A tall order yes, but possible if the following details are put into practice.

Create a space

A massage starts the moment you walk into the treatment room. First impressions count and it’s therefore important to set the scene. A clean space that is welcoming, warm, comforting and has an overall sense of calm can make a client start to unwind before they even get onto the table. Soft lighting that can be adjusted is a must as there is nothing worse than trying to relax in a room lit with unnatural fluorescent glare. The massage table should have layers of cozy blankets or a comforter. Some clients are always hot and prefer fewer covers, others are always cold and will appreciate the extra warmth. Either way you will be ready to adjust to the individual needs.

Power of music

Music is a key element to the perfect massage as it has a calming effect and works by distracting the mind from thinking about work, grocery lists, what to make for dinner and instead makes a person feel transported to another time and place. If you have the freedom, choose and compile your own massage playlists. It doesn’t have to be the typical “spa music,” use classical music, jazz or folksy tunes, whatever you find relaxing (although if heavy metal is your thing it might be wise to refrain) and get creative. Your clients will notice.

Please the nose

Get to know your aromatherapy oils and scent the room with pure essential oils. A little will go a long way. Use a diffuser to infuse the room with botanicals. Add a drop of lavender, peppermint or rosemary to your massage oils to reap further therapeutic benefits.

Communication is a two way process

All too often this part of the massage is overlooked. Remember to ask clients specific, clear questions pertaining to what they want from the treatment. Listen carefully so that you can customize a massage treatment for your client. It’s wonderful to enter a space where you feel heard and understood. Give the client clear instructions regarding what they should do to prepare for the treatment in order to alleviate any anxiety they might have about removing clothing. Specify whether they should remove under garments, whether they should lie under the covers, face up or face down.

Pain is not necessarily gain

More pressure is not always the answer. Pain is not always gain and can impede relaxation. Yes, work those knots but warm up the area first and then slowly get deeper into the muscle. Don’t focus solely on the very knotted area, remember that knotted area in the shoulder is attached to the rest of the back and body.

Intuition and Intention

A bodyworker that is present, attentive to the client, and focused on the massage will give a much better treatment than a therapist that is just going through the motions while thinking about anything and everything else other than the task at hand. If a bodyworker’s attention is focused on the client and not distracted, the client will sense this and benefit by having a deepened sense of relaxation. A massage experience is profoundly personal and there are many details that should be considered in order to create that perfect massage. Leave out an essential element and the experience can leave a client feeling unsatisfied with the treatment. Aristotle may have been referring to the perfect massage when he said “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”


Spa Therapist and Co-owner of Three Birds Bodycare and Massage, Vancouver, BC Amanda Swain is a a Registered Nurse with a special interest in the health benefits of massage. In 2011 she graduated with a Spa Therapy Certificate and along with Tallulah, her friend and fellow graduate, founded Three Birds Bodycare and Massage

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