There are few things more relaxing than a massage – whether you’re hoping to untie those knots in your back, help your body through your feet with a reflexology session or de-stress from the top down with an Indian head massage. It’s one treatment that appeals to a huge cross section of the public and as such, people are flocking to study massage and learn more about what it can do.
Massage for leisure
If you’re a devoted massage patron and love giving friends and family massages, then you should probably consider taking up a short or part time massage course. After all, you don’t want to be thinking you’re doing someone a favour and then actually end up making their aches worse! Learn to give effective back massages, pick up a 10-minute massage routine, explore the ancient form of healing through Thai yoga massage, or follow Shiatsu for a Japanese approach to the art of healing. Classes run from a day to a couple of weeks and you can even do some of these courses with your partner so you have someone to practise on.
Become a qualified massage therapist
If you’re hoping to take things a bit more seriously, there are loads of courses available that will lead to a career as a trained massage therapist. Some qualifications will take your career to the next level so it’s worth looking out for these. Therapeutic massages are fast becoming popular, not only for when people feel like a little stress relief after a hard day’s work, but they’re also increasingly being promoted by healthcare providers to patients. From pregnancy and aromatherapy massages to sports and deep tissue massages, you’ve got a wide range of areas to specialise in.
Improve your skills
For those who are already working as professional massage therapists, there are courses designed for you to gain additional skills and knowledge required at a higher level. They’re more comprehensive with advanced assessment techniques, practical assessments, oral questioning, final practical exams, theories and long contact hours. You’ll draw upon personal expertise and engage in supervised clinical practice through vocational experiences.
Korean hand massage anyone?
Yes – the Korean hand massage technique actually exists! There are plenty of different types of massage and you’re in for a surprise if you think that it’s just all about Thai massages. There’s the therapeutic Indian head massage; the Lomi Lomi Hawaiian massage, that’s been passed down through generations by the Polynesian shamans through secret initiations and training; hands free massage techniques using feet and elbows; chair-based massage; and the Chinese Tuina massage which works with Chi and acupressure points. Plus, if you’ve got a screaming baby who keeps you up all night, learn some baby massage techniques. This helps to strengthen your new bond, gives your baby a longer peaceful sleep, and allows you to enjoy your much needed rest.
Awards & certifications
Whilst most courses will give you a certificate of attendance upon completion, there are also courses that are run by renowned examination board and awarding bodies. For instance, the International Therapy Examination Council (ITEC) develops and provides international career pathways in complementary therapies, ensuring students receive training so that they’re work-ready upon their course completion. Other qualifications are the Vocational Training Charitable Trust (VTCT) and City & Guilds. Some undergraduate and postgraduate massage courses are awarded by the universities themselves.
Our favourite massage
So, we spoke to the Hotcourses team and many of us have had the privilege of enjoying some of the best massages all over the country. Our favourite was one of the Hotcourses team member’s massage at the Gajah Mina Beach Resort where the massage room looks out to one of the most beautiful, unspoilt beaches in the west coast of Bali, Indonesia.
‘The floor to ceiling glass doors give a panoramic view of the Balinese surf sport on one side and the deserted Mejan beach on the other. During the hour long hot stone massage, you can hear the sound of waves and feel the cool gentle sea breeze. The massage therapist was very professional and her magic hands worked all the knots away in my shoulders and problem areas. The mixture of scented oil, warm stones and deep penetrating massaging left me feeling rejuvenated.’
Massage dos & don’ts
Don’t get put off by the term massage or the idea of making it a career. As opposed to stereotypical views, giving people massages as a career is a very respectable and rewarding job. You’ll not be working in dingy little rooms or dealing with unsolicited requests (people know better these days!). It’s not every day we get happy customers who give us hugs, praises or even endless ‘thank yous’, but being a licensed massage therapist will ensure your customers walk away with a bounce in their step, leaving you with bags of confidence!
Do take up courses to become a trained massage therapist. You can specialise in different areas; from Indian head massage and full body Swedish massage to pregnancy and sports massage. Even if you’re not interested in doing it as a career, why not pick up some massage skills to spice things up with your partner or get a full night’s sleep after giving your newborn a baby massage!
For most of us, a massage is a way to relax or a one off treat when visiting a spa, yet for those working in the industry it is far more than this. Proven to reduce stress, better the functioning of the immune system and improve sleep, do we all need a little more massage treatment in our lives? When it came to finding out more about the healing properties of massage there was one woman we wanted to speak too. Author of several successful books on the subject including, The Art of Indian Head Massage, Hand and Foot Massage and Healing Touch for Children, Mary Atkinson has worked in the industry for years, running her own private therapy practice and courses. We were thrilled when Mary agreed to take a break from her busy schedule and share her expertise with Hotcourses.
So Mary, looking back on your successful career, can you tell us a little about where it all began?
My original training was as a journalist back in the 70s. I worked for many years as a feature writer on women’s magazines such as Woman, Woman’s Own and Best. Then when we started a family and I left my salaried job to become a freelance journalist writing about health issues for the national press. The holistic health approach fascinated me and I started learning massage and reflexology at our local college in Chichester.
How did this develop? When did you realise you wanted to turn your hobby into a career?
When I was training in Indian head massage in the 90s, I looked around for some books to help with my studies and struggled to find any, so I approached a publisher and the next day a contract arrived. I then spent months researching Indian Head Massage by talking to Indian families and Indian therapists and writing copious notes. Once was published in 2000, it started a total change of career. Firstly, I was asked to develop a new complementary therapy service at our local hospice and then I was asked to teach Indian Head Massage at our local college – both of these were new ventures and out of my comfort zone, but I am so pleased that I said yes. I worked part time at the hospice and also trained to be an adult education teacher and added to my therapies by taking a diploma in Aromatherapy – it was a busy few years.
You have now published several books, where does the inspiration for these come from?
I love studying and learning new skills and as a trained journalist, there’s a natural desire for me to write about what I learn so I can share it with others. I love the whole process of developing an idea, often from talking to other people, doing the research, ordering my thoughts and writing it all down.
My latest book, Once Upon a Touch...Story Massage For Children, was written with a colleague Sandra Hooper and that was very rewarding. The inspiration came from my work with Cocaro, a Japanese charity, who invited me to travel to Rikuzentakata and work with the children affected by the tsunami in 2012. We introduced the idea of sharing a story massage, which combines storytelling with all the benefits of simple massage strokes. It proved so wonderfully beneficial that Sandra and I decided to start a Story Massage Project with an accredited day course, book and DVD.
That must have been so rewarding, what do you think massage brought to their lives?
It was and my work with the victims really brought home the power of massage to me. As well as sharing story massage with the children, we offered 15 minute hand and foot massages to the adults. One lady told me that the massage was like a precious gift, bringing peace of mind and respite from inner turmoil. Another said she felt that my hands had touched her heart. One man talked and cried and despite the language barrier, his smile was testimony to the comfort that he had enjoyed – I think that feedback says it all!
Definitely, what would you say is the best part of your job?
I love teaching my students – there is a wonderful moment when something ‘clicks’ and they gain new skills. Students write to tell me how their lives have changed since taking up a new career. Being a therapist is not just about a job, it’s a whole way of life and most therapists are amazing people who really care about making a difference in the world. I like mixing with these people – who wouldn’t?
What do you think is the most important thing to remember when learning the art of massage?
Never forget that you are massaging another person who has good days and bad days and thoughts and emotions just like you. Whatever type of massage you are doing, it’s so important not to get so wrapped up in the techniques that you forget about the person on the massage chair. It’s about tailoring the massage to the person and meeting their specific needs, this means that each massage you give will be different. My advice would be to have a specialism such as working people with Parkinson’s or working with pregnancy and birth – so that people know they can trust and rely on you. That doesn’t exclude other clients, but it means that you can build up a firm and loyal clientele and you know where to target any advertising or social media promotion.
What is your favourite type of massage to practise?
Indian head massage – it’s so versatile and can really help people learn to relax. People look and feel so much better after an Indian head massage. I love the fact that Indian head massage can be adapted to suit each individual client – it can be done through clothes or with aromatic oils. It can be a short and gentle therapy in a palliative care setting or a longer, more vigorous therapy for a healthy office worker. It’s so simple to learn and can help to get a child to sleep at night or give an elderly relative some extra loving care.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to follow in your footsteps and make a career out of massage?
The most important thing is to do your research – find an accredited course so that you gain insurance and belong to a professional body. It’s also vital to get business advice to help decide whether you want to work for yourself, or work within a salon or clinic setting. Once you are trained, I would also recommend meeting up with other therapists and taking courses or joining study days to continue your personal and professional development.
Finally, why do you think massage is so important?
There are many different types of massage, so this is quite difficult to answer. A sports massage can help reduce injury or speed up the healing process for sports people. My massage clients tend to be older people or those going through emotional problems or illness. For those clients, massage offers extra support at a difficult time and gives them to have the chance to relax and have ‘time out’ away from everything. The power of touch through therapeutic massage brings a deep relaxation and a sense of peace and stillness, which is essential to coping with the pressures and demands of our lives.
If you want to find out more about Mary’s work take a look at her website, or get in touch with her via Facebook or Twitter. Fancy learning how to heal with the power of touch? Take a look at the massage courses on offer and get practising.
What comes to mind when you think of Harrods; the floors of high fashion, the luxurious Knightsbridge location, the gold plated script on the emerald green bags? A relaxing massage is not top of the list, but in the famous store you will find the aptly named Urban Retreat Spa, hidden away on the top floor, a haven of relaxation from the hustle and bustle of the city below.
Known for being a big name in luxury goods, Harrods has similar ideas to the massages offered in its spa; an indulgent location of pampering. With a countless list of options available, from a lava shell to a deep tissue massage, we wanted to find out how important the luxurious environment was to the treatment. To find out more, we spoke to Harrods own massage therapists, Margarida Bandola and Sheena who were more than happy to share the tricks of the luxury trade and explain why falling asleep is a good thing.
Thank you for taking the time out to talk to us! How did you both get into massage?
Margarida: I studied beauty therapy and cosmetology in Portugal seven years ago – I always enjoyed working with my hands and used to practise massage on my friends and family, so it was a very natural choice for me.
Sheena: I started studying beauty and sport therapy - although the course was great I felt more connected to massage and the holistic approach, so after my degree I decided to follow my heart and start a CIDESCO massage program.
So have you both had formal training in massage?
M: Yes, I trained in massage during my NVQ and I also have had additional training in hot stone therapy and lymphatic drainage. It is very important to study as many different techniques as possible in order to give a personalised massage to suit your client’s needs.
S: I completely agree with Margarida, being trained in a number of techniques gives me more confidence to perform personalised massages. I have been trained in Swedish massage with a number of big name brands.
What brought you to Urban Retreat at Harrods?
M: I saw the job online and travelled all the way from Portugal for my interview. I fell in love with Urban Retreat as soon as I saw the website and knew I wanted to work there. As much as you are passionate about what you do, the work environment is important – you need to feel comfortable with the team and the image of the company you work with.
S: The brand Murad asked me to work at Urban Retreat for them and now I am an Urban Retreat Body Therapist.
What would you say is the most important thing to remember when learning the art of massage?
M: I would say the most important things are listening to your customers’ needs, whilst understanding the anatomy to help deliver the best massage.
S: Yeah I agree, I also think getting to know and understand your client is a must – make sure they feel comfortable and the environment invites them to relax.
What is the best part of your job?
M: I love giving massages, especially when the client gives me positive feedback – it makes it all worthwhile.
S: One of the best parts for me would have to be meeting new people. Also, working for a brand like Urban Retreat helps me to stay up to date with any new techniques and products when they come onto the market.
What is the hardest part?
Both: Giving a massage at the end of the day!
M: It takes a lot of energy and you need to be physically in shape to be able to give the best massages consistently throughout the day.
What is your favourite type of massage to practise?
M: Using aromatherapy in a massage, as this can enhance the overall experience and wellbeing, either to revitalize, balance or relax the client.
S: I really like practising personalised massages, which offer a mix of different techniques, so I can concentrate on my clients concerns.
Do you get a lot of freebie massages from your colleagues?
Both: Unfortunately, there is not much time in such a busy salon, however if we need a massage we can ask our colleagues if they can give a treatment before or after work or vice versa.
Is there a formula to massage or do you have to adjust your technique for different clients?
M: It takes time, but each therapist develops their own techniques after a few years. The secret is to practise your technique whenever you can on family or friends, so they can give you honest feedback. This way you can make adjustments and be more responsive to your clients’ needs afterwards. In addition, it is really important to feel the body and adjust your massage according to each individual client.
S: I completely agree, your experience and training will help you to adjust your technique. It is very important to feel the body, using your own intuition and technique to deliver the best massage to each client.
Have you ever had anyone fall asleep while giving them a massage?
Both: Yes! All the time – it is actually quite a good way of knowing they are really enjoying it and are completely relaxed!
We’ve had massages in treatment rooms, with whales singing in the background and incense burning and we’ve had ones in dated doctors’ surgeries, sat on a plastic chair; how important is atmosphere when giving a massage or is it just for show?
M: Definitely the environment will comfort and relax the client as soon as they walk in. It is really important to have the right music enabling the client to drift off; the lighting should be dim and the couch comfortable with a heated blanket!
S: The atmosphere of the room is really important – it has to be warm, calm and inviting to help our busy clients relax.
Finally, what would you say to someone who has never had a massage in their life?
M: Book one in! It is so important to have time to relax from the hustle and bustle of city life – remember our bodies and minds need to be switched off to be ready for the next challenge.
If you fancy learning how to pamper your friends with a luxury massage, why not follow in Margarida and Sheena’s footsteps and find a massage course for you? De-stress and enjoy with an Indian head massage or master the art of working with hot stones, with many part time and evening classes on offer, luxury is a course away!
Generally it will be a mix so that you can learn about the physiology of different genders and the different pressure points. However, if you’re focusing on pregnancy massage, it’s unlikely you’ll find yourself massaging a man...
It’s good if you have but you’ll certainly gain experience of what a massage feels like on your course. It’s important that you understand what works and what doesn’t so you can give future clients the best service possible.
This is something you’d have to ask your course provider about before starting, as different courses will involve different treatments and thus different products. If you’re using oils, you will get them on your hands so you’ll need to ensure you’re not going to have a reaction to them mid-massage.
Sometimes. Some courses will let you wear your own comfortable clothes that you can move around in. Other courses, usually longer ones and those based in working salons may require that you wear a uniform which typically consists of a tunic over trousers.
Yes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect, so you’ll need to try your techniques out on others to get better. Volunteers will know you’re still learning so there won’t be too much pressure to get everything right first time.
As massage is all about using your hands, learning to do it will be largely about trying it out. However, you will be working with the human body so it’s vital you know your stuff when it comes to biology and physiology. As such, there will be an aspect of science involved in your lessons.
There’s no hard and fast rule for this but to be employed in a salon or spa you would generally need to prove you know your stuff beforehand. There are certain ‘names’ to look out for when applying that will indicate your qualification will be of a good quality. GCMT The Council for Soft Tissue Therapies governs the quality of massage courses so it’s worth looking out for their name as they are particularly well respected in this area. Awarding bodies in massage include ITEC and CIBTAC as well.
No. These will all be provided for you, so no need to turn up with your own bed.
In case you need a little more inspiration, here are some of our favourite photo galleries from course providers offering massage courses...
Our online hot stone massage course allows you to add this luxury treatment to your list of therapies, it is a wonderful treatment all the time but it is a great winter warmer. All our courses are downloadable so you can start straight away
Our online indian head massage course is a great course if you are thinking of starting out on a career as a massage therapist or if you want to add a new therapy to your treatment list. It relaxes the head neck and shoulders and is fantastic treatment for anyone who works at a computer
Our online crystal massage course combines the power of crystal healing with the benefits of massage therapy to produce a wonderful luxury healing treatment. The course is download able so that you can start straight away. Your clients will love this new addition to treatments
Our online hopi ear candling course, is directly downloadable, you can start straight away, it is a standalone treatment that can start your career as a holistic therapist or is a great therapy to offer your existing clients
Our online body massage course, is directly downloadable, you can start straight away, and tailor your learning to suit your life style. At the end you will be a fully qualified professional massage therapist and you have taken the first steps to a new caring career
Our downloadable online reflexology course teaches you all the reflexology techniques, and anatomy and physiology to become a professional reflexologist. Because our course is directly downloadable you can start immediately
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Get more ideas and be inspired; we've scoured the web to bring you some of our favourite massage videos...
If you thought a hot stone massage sounded odd, prepare to be stunned at what is coming next. With so many forms of massage out there, we set out on a quest to find the weirdest treatments available around the world. From snakes massaging your face, an elephant standing on your back and towels set on fire, the weird and wonderful list really is endless. So take a look at the seven weirdest massages of all time and remember none of these are to be tried at home.
The Barak’s snake spa in Talmei, Israel offers visitors a once in a lifetime massage from a number of non-venomous snakes. As the king snakes produce a deep kneading massage, their smaller, thinner friends yield a calming tickle. Ada Barak herself is certain her slinky friends have a soothing influence and healing properties. Rather you than me Ada.
Despite the fact it is a common practice all over the world, with celebs such as Jen Aniston and Gwyneth Paltrow parading the tell tale marks on the red carpet, we still can’t get over cupping. The suction cups are placed all over the problem area of the body and left on the skin for ten to twenty minutes, improving blood and lymph circulation. Did you know cup marks are actually a good thing, indicating the stagnation or disease has been moved from deeper tissue layers to the surface? Unlike bruises, the rings only last between three and seven days.
Being massaged with a cactus sounds like the worst thing in the world, but don’t let the prickly name put you off - the Hakali massage in Mexico is thought to have healing powers. The paddies are warmed and the spikes are removed before they are rubbed along the skin. When the massage is done, the paddies are split in half and the nourishing cactus oil is left to soak into the skin.
Remember when your parents told you to be careful with sharp knives? In this traditional form of Chinese massage, the skin is covered in a towel and two heavy butcher knives are gently pounded along the back and shoulders in a chopping motion. Said to give you pain relief and a better blood flow, we are still terrified.
What would you say if we asked you to lie face down on the floor and let a three tonne elephant knead your back? In Chiang Mai, Thailand, elephant trainers are offering brave (or stupid) tourists the chance to be massaged by these gentle giants. We are not convinced.
Girl on fire
Another ancient Chinese medical treatment, the fire massage involves a towel soaked in alcohol and elixir placed on problem areas on your body. The towel is then set on fire for a few seconds and is thought to relax the body, improve the immune system and reduce body fat. We did warn you these weren’t treatments to try at home.
It might not be a form of massage, but we couldn’t help including the Japanese snail facial which is now available in the UK. Trained snail facialists will place the slimy creatures on your face, making sure they don’t get too near your mouth, eyes or nostrils. However if you can get over the snails, the results are said to be amazing, the snail mucus believed to have anti-aging properties.
If you are now longing for an Indian head massage, or anything that is less creepy, more calming, take a look at the variety of massage courses on offer. Don’t panic, none of the above will be included in this search, but plenty of relaxing part time and evening options will be.
By Helen Christie, 11th March 2013
Feeling tired and achy at the end of the day, or after a workout at the gym? How about a massage? There are loads of different types of massage, all of which involve stretching and manipulating the skin to help function, aid healing, and to give a feeling of...
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