When I do massage…

Q. Can I train myself to relax?

A. Probably not. When dealing with stress, almost any kind of self-help is futile because most seriously stressed individuals have deeply ingrained bad habits. Exercise, meditation and hobbies too often become obsessive or even competitive. Thinking rationally about stress (or trying hard not to think about it) just makes it worse. Help usually has to come from outside, from other people.

Q. Will massage succeed where other relaxation techniques have failed?

A. Maybe. If you’ve been depending on pills or alcohol to relax you’re on a slippery slope. Massage offers drugless stress control. To the executive it means quick energy boosts and a way to cut through fatigue, to the athlete it offers astonishing muscle recovery rates after exercise, to the insomniac it brings peace, and to the lover, a new way of touching. It can also provide a simple but amazingly effective facial. Taken regularly massage can change your life.

Q. How long does it take to work?

A. Watch your partner during a massage. In minutes you will see stress-induced pain vanish as pure pleasure takes its place. That’s one of the things human hands can do; ease pain.

Q. Can I use massage as an aphrodisiac?

A. How uncomplicated life would be if massage could always ignite the fires of uncontrollable lust in the object of your desire. Alas, the feelings must be mutual.

However, once the attraction is apparent, combining massage with sex greatly magnifies the power of both experiences. If you and your lover have been searching for an aphrodisiac, a way to ignite your sex life, try massaging each other.

Q. Should I talk to help relax my partner?

A. If it’s a first massage you may want to say a few words every now and then to learn your partner’s preferences. However, you should resist the temptation to start a conversation. Words take the mind away from the feeling. Let your hands say it.

Q. Will I be strong enough to do massage?

A. Massage isn’t a question of strength so much as repetition, rhythm and technique. Don’t be intimidated by a request for dozens of repetitions of a favorite stroke. When riding a bicycle you would think nothing of repeating the same movements hundreds of times. Massage is even easier.

Q. My partner sighs a lot during massage. What should I do.

A. More of the same. Be generous—but don’t come to expect an audible confirmation for everything you do. Relaxation is a deeply personal affair. Your thanks will come later.

Q. Occasionally, when oiling my partner I find bits of grit on the skin. What’s the best way to handle that?

A. Don’t interrupt the stroke. Use one hand to move the grit off the skin while continuing your massage with the other hand. Never break contact during a massage. Your partner, who experiencing an exquisitely intense tactile experience, will feel abandoned.

Q. Where should I begin a massage?

A. Start on the hands if your partner is nervous about a first massage. Everyone is accustomed to being touched on the hands. Generally, however, the back is the ideal place to begin. We use its large muscles in virtually everything we do.

Q. Should I run my hands around my partner’s body before starting a massage?

A. No. Massage is educated touch. People dislike being probed.

Q. What kind of music or sound works best during a massage.

A. Choose something soothing that will compliment, not compete with, a massage. Find out what your partner enjoys and set up an audio source that will play without interruption throughout the massage.

Q. How should I set up a room for massage?

A. Turn off the phone and lock the door. Make sure children and pets are looked after. Do what you can to eliminate bright lights, noise and interruptions. Make sure the massage surface is at least 70 degrees F. Maintain contact with your partner’s body throughout a massage. Breaking contact will interrupt the sensual mood.