Master Your Massage Moves

Just in time for V-day, Best-of-Philly-spa owner Cara Solomon shares how to take a regular rub fest from ho-hum to holy cow

Treating your sweetie (or allowing them to treat you!) to a V-Day massage is more than just a romantic gesture—there are also health benefits, which is more than we can say about that box of chocolates. “In addition to relieving stress and tension, massages also increase circulation and mobility in muscles and joints, which will help relieve any pain,” says Cara Solomon, owner of Body Restoration Spa in Center City. “They also cause you to release endorphins, your feel-good hormones.” So prep for your night of passion by checking out Solomon’s top five tips for taking a regular rub fest from ho-hum to holy cow.

Set the mood. Dim the lights and light a few lavender- or citrus-y-scented candles, says Solomon. “They’re universally liked and more neutral than other scents."

Smooth out shoulders. Start with your sweetheart lying on his or her back, face up. This is the best position to begin working away the tension in the shoulders, says Solomon. Using firm pressure, rub your knuckles in a circular motion along the tops of the shoulders and the back of the neck. You should spend about 15 minutes easing tension here.

Treat the feet. After massaging the shoulders, Solomon suggests moving to the feet while your honey is still lying on his or her back. Cup the heel with one hand and grasp the ball of the foot with the other hand, says Solomon. Slowly rotate the ankle in tiny circles, and then alternate directions. Next, very gently, pull each toe in an upward motion to loosen the joint. Finally, use your thumb to make tiny circles up and down the middle of the foot, applying firm pressure. Repeat on the opposite foot. (You should spend about three minutes on each foot.)

Back basics. To massage the back, have your sweetheart gently roll onto their stomach. Stand or kneel at his or her head and place your open hands parallel on either side of the top of the spine. Applying gentle but firm pressure, slide your hands slowly down the spine. At the base of the spine, lift hands and return to start. Repeat motion for a few minutes. Then, place both thumbs on either side of the top of the spine. Pushing firmly, walk the thumbs up and down the sides of the spine. Push only as hard as your subject can comfortably bear (squirming, shouts of pain, and random slaps are signs it’s too hard). Continue alternating motions for at least 5 minutes. You’ll know you can finish up when the skin turns pink, says Solomon, a sign that the blood has come to the surface of the skin and is circulating throughout the muscles.

Self-sacrifice. As tempting as it is to ask for a massage in return, Solomon says it’s best to alternate giving each other massages nightly – the one receiving the massage should be allowed to relax. So if you’d both like to relax together, check out Body Restoration’s Couples Massage options, starting at $180.