By Kait Smith
Sure, you can turn up the heat in your relationship by forking over a handful of cash for an expensive couple's massage. Or you can take matters into your own hands — literally — and give your partner a sensual massage right in the comfort of your own home. After all, who knows your lover's pleasure points better than you?
Massages are great for circulation, the nervous system and, in general, easing stress. But that's not all a good rubdown can do, according to Massage Therapist Jeanetta Goddette. "Most of all, massage can make us feel loved," she says. "It enhances the intimate connection we share with our partner." Even novice masseurs can give a do-it-yourself rubdown a go; just follow these steps.
DO: Create a calm, distraction-free environment. Keep your cell phones out of the room entirely and leave the television off. The focus should be on the massage, nothing else. Instead, opt for soft, calming music to set the mood.
DON'T: Set up on the bed. Massage surfaces should be firm but comfortable, so create a soft area on the floor for your partner to lie upon.
DO: Consider the temperature. Goddette recommends about 75 degrees. "You want it to be warm enough for your partner to be totally comfortable when uncovered," she advises. "The best way to know for sure is to ask if it is warm enough, and if not, turn up the heat until it is."
DON'T: Leave your jewelry on. Watches, rings, bracelets — remove them all to avoid skin-pinching snafus. And while you're at it, it might be a good time to trim your fingernails.
DO: Use oil. A little bit of lubrication goes a long way towards making a massage truly sensual. But avoid going overboard, warns Goddette: "You want your partner to feel your touch and the sensation of your skin and warmth against their skin, not just the sensation of oil dripping down their sides." When it comes to selecting the type of oil, Goddette recommends those specifically designed for massage, like Durex Massage & Play Soothing Touch. "Avoid using any petroleum-based oil or one with heavy perfumes that could potentially irritate sensitive areas," she warns. "I like to use oil that can be safely ingested, especially because kissing may be involved."
DON'T: Pour that oil directly onto your partner’s skin. Cold shock, much? Instead, pour the oil into your hands and allow your own body warmth to bring it to the proper temperature before rubbing it into your partner’s back.
DO: Vary your massage strokes. "A little repetition is alright, but you certainly don't want it to get boring," says Goddette. "You're not trying to lull your partner to sleep." Instead, she advises mixing strokes to see what your partner truly enjoys. "When you find a stroke that gets a particularly good response from your partner, you may want to repeat that one, or come back to it often."
DON'T: Treat your partner like a punching bag. Percussion is an important part of any massage, but beware of the dreaded "karate chop" that can ensue; too much pressure can cause a lot of pain. To soften the blow, lay one hand flat on your partner’s back, then strike your fist upon the flat hand to absorb the initial shock.
DO: Focus on tension areas. Women tend to experience tension more in their neck and shoulders; men in their lower backs.
DON'T: Apply pressure to the spine or back below the ribs. Your kidneys are unprotected and don't need to take a beating.
DO: Have plenty of towels handy. We mentioned oil, and the more the better; just beware that it can get messy (another reason to stay off the bed, folks!).
DON'T: Insist upon a massage in return. Clapping your hands together and saying, "Me next!" is bad massage etiquette. Instead, Goddetter recommends "thinking of a sensual massage as a slow tease. You want the pleasure and anticipation to build." What happens next is totally up to you.
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