Body Butter to Bodywork Bliss

My Massage Discovery

By Lisa Bakewell

My assignment? Try something new—a massage or bodywork service I’d never received before. I contacted a therapist near my home to book a treatment I had never had: a body butter wrap and aromatherapy massage.

Cozy and Cocooned

My session started with a body butter wrap that was designed for hydration (others can be detox or slimming wraps). Since I chose to have an aromatherapy massage afterward, my massage therapist added scented oil to the body butter—which smelled amazing. The idea of the body butter wrap sounded so inviting when I scheduled it. And, although the wrap was ultimately very relaxing—and I would definitely schedule another one—I initially had a mini- anxiety attack and a mild case of claustrophobia.
If you’ve not heard of a body wrap (sometimes called a body mask or body cocoon), envision yourself slathered with oil and wrapped up like a burrito in plastic. And then, on top of the plastic, you’re wrapped in a shiny metallic-looking space blanket. Finally, towels are added on top of the space blanket—with all the toppings tucked in nicely—to hold in the heat. The massage table, already warmed, is made warmer once you’re wrapped, so the oil will “bake into” your skin. Sounds amazing, right? It was, but …
My first concern was the heat. This caused anxiety because I don’t like to be hot. And I have occasional hot flashes, so I was concerned the heat would be too much. Granted, I should have mentioned these concerns to my therapist right away, but I wasn’t thinking—until I was left alone in the room.
Yeah. I hadn’t thought that through either.
Being wrapped like a burrito (with my arms at my side and my feet together) and left alone in the room for 20–25 minutes—in the dark, with an herbal mask over my eyes—caused a little bit of a panic. For a second, I forgot that I could probably “escape” the wrap, if necessary. Once I calmed myself with deep breathing (thank you, yoga training!), I was able to resist the urge to bust out of my cocoon (I actually read where someone did this), and I was ultimately able to relax. I even dozed off a couple of times. I know this because I woke myself with my snoring.
If you think being left alone will bother you, ask to have a facial massage or reflexology massage while in the wrap—or just ask your therapist to check on you after the first five minutes to make sure you’re not freaking out. And, although I was able to calm myself, I would caution anyone who is extremely claustrophobic to try an alternate treatment.
Also, be aware that although your therapist will be massaging the oil onto your body before the wrap, this treatment is not technically a massage. It feels nice to have the oil applied, but you would definitely be disappointed if you thought you would be receiving a massage at the time of oil application. That’s why I opted for the aromatherapy massage afterward.

Aromatherapy Massage

Although I’ve had deep-tissue massage and Swedish massage in the past, I’ve never done a massage with aromatherapy. Aromatherapy is typically a Swedish massage using essential oils added to the massage oil—or in my case, the body butter. The essential oils smell terrific, but they also offer different therapeutic effects. Once I was released from my burrito cocoon, my massage therapist began delivering the aromatherapy massage.
At the beginning of my treatment, my therapist invited me to smell various blends and described the essential oils each one contained—and their effects. I already loved the smell in the room (from her previous client), so I stuck with it. It was a citrusy smelling oil with lavender and sage. Take your time, though, and decide which scent resonates with you—as well as what effect you want to achieve from your massage (relaxed, invigorated, balanced, etc.). Remember, you’ll be smelling that fragrance for an hour or more, so choose wisely. Your therapist can guide you in your choice, and don’t feel rushed to make a quick decision.
During my aromatherapy massage, my therapist used a combination of techniques including long strokes (called effleurage) and kneading (petrissage). She also had a fabulous forearm stroke that seemed to hit every tight muscle in my body. Swedish massage can be slow and soothing with light pressure, quicker with more pressure, or a combination. Some therapists use firm pressure throughout the massage, but my therapist warmed my muscles first before applying pressure in a focused way.
My therapist’s technique for coaxing my muscles to release was fantastic, and I liked that she asked me about the amount of pressure in each area of the massage. She’d always check in with me to make sure the pressure was comfortable for that particular body part. That said, even if your therapist doesn’t ask, you should never feel uncomfortable speaking up.

Bonus Massage

During my aromatherapy massage, I was also introduced to abdominal massage by my therapist. I’d never had one, so I thought I’d try it. It felt a bit weird, but it also felt good and seemed really beneficial. Afterward, I felt my digestion speed up—not in a bad way. I just felt like she got everything moving.
To perform the abdominal massage, my therapist started with wide circular strokes. Gradually, with each rotation, the circles became smaller and smaller, and light pressure was applied to my stomach. But the massage was never painful. My biggest fear was that I’d pass wind, but that didn’t happen (and I was thankful, although therapists tell us this happens all the time and they don’t think twice about it).


Choices and Consultations

When choosing my massage and treatment, I discussed my choices over the phone with the therapist. She suggested the body butter wrap along with the aromatherapy massage, which ended up being the perfect combination (once I was able to relax). The mix of the warm oil and aromatherapy was awesome.
Although I started my consultation with my therapist over the phone (which I would suggest when trying new treatments, so you’re not making quick decisions regarding services), all professional massage therapists will start with a consultation when you arrive. First, you’ll fill out a form, and then your therapist will spend some time asking about your previous experience with massage and treatments (if any), what surgeries you’ve had (and if any are recent), and where you feel you’d like the therapist to concentrate when doing the bodywork, among other questions. Since I’m a writer and editor, I spend most of my day typing on a computer, so I carry all my stress and muscle tightness in my shoulder blades and neck, with some lower back issues—all places I wanted her to concentrate on.

Final Thoughts

It was exciting to try the body wrap and the aromatherapy (I would do both again). And, since I had spa treatments and massages before, I wasn’t anxious about undressing. I also knew that my therapist would take me through her massage process step by step. I was surprised by my anxiety over the body wrap, though. Sure, if I had really taken the time to think it through beforehand, I may have realized I might feel a bit restricted and claustrophobic.
My anxiety reminded me that asking questions is essential when receiving new services—just to be aware of what to expect. So, here are my final tips to you—in hopes you’ll be prepared for your first (or next) bodywork appointment:
• No matter the type of massage you’re receiving, it should feel good; it doesn’t need to hurt. Even a deep tissue massage should feel good and be relaxing. If you feel pain, listen to your body, and ask your massage therapist to apply less pressure. Also, feel free to state your pressure preference before and during the massage.
• Your massage therapist will engage you in as much—or as little—conversation as you wish, although your therapist will (and should) check in with you periodically about the amount of pressure being used.
• If you fall asleep during your massage, don’t feel embarrassed. It happens frequently!
• If you feel like you’ve worked out the day after your massage, that’s normal. Your therapist probably worked and released muscles you haven’t used in a while.
• Be sure to drink a lot of water after your body treatments and massage. Keeping tissues hydrated is always important.
• Also, depending on the treatment you had, you might feel like a limp noodle after your massage. Plan to take it easy for an hour or two after your bodywork.
• Take your time getting up from the massage table. Get your bearings before leaving the room; you could feel a bit light-headed.
• Above all else, honor yourself and enjoy the experience.

Lisa Bakewell is a full-time freelance writer, editor, perpetual learner, and lover of life in Chicagoland. Her areas of writing expertise span a multitude of topics that include health and wellness, travel, parenting, personal/company profiles, a plethora of “how-to” articles (her favorite!), and technology. She can be reached at