We all appreciate the therapeutic power of touch. Touch is of course the most predominant, if not only, sense used or engaged in standard massage therapy. However, what if you want to enhance the overall experience, believability and benefits a client has during their massage treatment? For instance, can other senses apart from touch be engaged to an equal level? Here, we explore how you can include a more multi-sensory approach to your massage/hands-on treatments.
But how exactly – and why should you?
Essential oils and the concentrated aromatic liquids extracted from plants, have been used for their therapeutic benefits for nearly 6,000 years. Ancient civilisations from China, India, Egypt, Greece and Italy all understood the importance of these essential oils – especially in the practice of healing the mind and body – so it’s little wonder they used them in cosmetics, perfumes and drugs.
Most essential oils are either massaged into the skin and/or inhaled. Odours we smell have the ability to positively affect our mood and memory – as we tend to link memory and related smells together – leading to smells triggering associated memories.
So, why do we link smells to specific memories? Our olfactory system (our sense of smell), uses the amygdala and the limbic system to help process smells. The molecules from whatever we’re smelling trigger the olfactory receptors in our nose, along with the other estimated 150 receptors around our whole body. Think about it – yes – we can detect aroma through our whole body.
Sensory neurons then pass the signals onto our olfactory bulb – which then begins processing the signal. Mitral cells carry the signal to the olfactory cortex, limbic system and amygdala – the part of our brain known for emotional learning and memory. Therefore, a stronger memory can be produced and recalled, if our other senses (such as touch and sound) are also associated with that same memory.
If you are not confident in the use of aromatherapy oils/fragranced products during massage, then the burning of incense, scented candles and/or oil-burners can create a memorable ambience that your client will subconsciously grow to look forward to.
From an early age, music has a profound impact on our brains and bodies. Mothers through the ages have used lullabies and rhythmic rocking to calm crying babies. It’s therefore understandable that babies and adults alike respond to music – and why it can make such a powerful tool in massage therapy treatments.
Our brain loves the predictability and structure of music. The rhythmic component of sound waves, tones and chords provide stimulation for our brain – triggering our auditory and visual senses, as well as affecting our sense of touch, movement and general balance.
Music releases mood enhancing chemicals into our body, including dopamine and endorphins – and it’s these hormones that trigger our feelings of pleasure, happiness and wellbeing. Our blood pressure can be lowered, our heart rate can increase or decrease, depending on the tempo of the beat and our heart and other muscles can relax.
Didgeridoos and other low frequency instruments not only release stored negative energy and emotions, they also produce infra sound frequencies that reach below 20 Htz. These low frequencies reach us at a core level, promoting healing and providing relief to our muscular and skeletal structures.
Alternatively, the pure tones of Tibetan chimes (Ting-sha) have long been used in prayer and religious rituals. They cleanse the air, banish negative frequencies and help energise Chi in the environment – and they can have the same affect when used before massage or during massage music.
Sound waves produced by singing bowls, restore a healthy vibrational state to our bodies, whilst resonating and enabling the brain’s theta state. Theta brainwaves induce deep meditation and enhance intuition, creative thinking and promote healing – especially from mental disorders such as depression, insomnia and anxiety.
Another excellent choice is Buddhist or ‘deep voice’ chanting. This produces a waveform that operates on several levels of our body and mind. The pharynx, or false vocal chords, are used to create up to four overtones, all amplified at the same time as the initial first note. This multidimensional sound (Om, or AUM in Hindu) is said to be the creative force behind the Universe; the sound that initiated creation.
When it comes to providing a further multi-sensory experience for your clients, you can consider including differing textures (such as towels, lotions, scrubs and oils), a comfortable temperature (adapted for each client accordingly) and different styles of massage. Depending on the type of massage therapy treatment you’re offering, there will be a variation in pressure, speed and warmth.
Acupressure and/or reflexology are both great additions, as they apply pressure to certain areas or points on the body, known to correspond to various organs and muscles. This can help improve blood circulation, unblock nerve impulses and relieve stress and tension. Using light-pressure based techniques or lymphatic drainage can help speed up your body’s ability to recover, recoup and detoxify.
Indian head massage and Thai Foot Massage are other additions to consider – and also perfect for stimulating the lymphatic system, boosting immune levels and relieving built-up tension. All massage improves circulation, leading to an increase in energy, as well as promoting a clearer mind and an increase in concentration.
An equal emphasis on massage, aroma and music within a treatment can therefore transform the experience for the client and enhance the many benefits of massage alone. Perhaps it’s time to consider upgrading any music/aromas that are currently “background” or not linked to the massage and give them the attention they deserve.
Find out more about our Face The World and our multi-sensory massage courses here –