Before your massage
Avoid lotions and perfumed body products. Your massage therapist will use oil or lotion to hydrate your skin and you don’t want the perfumes in your products to counteract the scents that are a part of your treatment.
Arrive a little early: There is nothing worse than arriving stressed and rushing. 20 minutes before your appointment allows you to fill out a questionnaire (if it is your first time at this spa), use the restroom, and relax with a cup of herbal tea or water.
Wear loose, comfortable clothing: Regardless whether you will completely undress for the massage or not, slipping into comfy clothing afterwards helps your muscles to stay relaxed and reap the full benefits of the massage long after you leave.
Arrive well hydrated: massage increases circulation and blood flow, and stimulates the lymphatic system. This releases the body of toxins, and good hydration before and after massage helps this process.
Stretching: Maintain joint mobility, arriving with loose, stretched muscles allows your body to be more receptive and responsive to the work that your massage therapist does.
During your massage
Let your massage therapist know your expectations for the massage. Talk about areas that you want focused on, tenderness, areas to be avoided, and the type of pressure you prefer. Speak up if you are uncomfortable or the pressure is painful.
Breathe. Full, deep breaths help your muscles to loosen and respond to the pressure. Take some deep inhales and exhales periodically during the massage.
Give feedback. If your therapist addresses a spot particularly well or uses a technique that works for you, let him./her know so it can help guide the session.
After your massage
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Remember your massage is ridding your body of those toxins, help the process along by drinking at least a liter of filtered water.
Avoid caffeine and energy drinks: You will be leaving in a state of calm to receive optimum benefits of the massage. Caffeine and energy drinks stimulate you and negate that calm frame of mind, as well as inhibit the detoxification process.
Stretch again. Just as you did prior to your massage, do some stretching or even yoga afterwards to help your body stay loose.
Take a bath. The warm water is very soothing. Add Epsom salts to aid in the detoxification process.
Rest. If possible, make time to take a nap after your massage. This allows you to reap the full relaxation benefits and helps your mind and body recover.
Featured photo from Flickr, labeled for reuse under Creative Commons.