From the smell of your grandmother’s homemade chocolate-chip cookies baking in the oven to the scent of freshly cut grass on a warm summer morning, what wafts into our nostrils may in fact have a profound effect on mood states and wellness.

The field of aromatherapy is based on the notion of using various scents to promote the health and harmony of mind, body and spirit. Based on such a definition, it is simple to see why aromatherapy is popular among massage therapists and bodyworkers, who also strive to boost health and harmony through their hands-on work.

Although some massage therapists may prefer to use fragrance-free massage creams and avoid scents in the session room—especially if they work with sensitive clients—many practitioners enjoy weaving a bit of aromatherapy into their work.

There are several ways to integrate aroma into a massage session. For instance, you may choose a diffuser for your practice space, which will allow your chosen scent or aromatherapy blend to permeate the air in a light, lingering and constant manner throughout your work day.

Another method of implementing a little aromatherapy is to place a drop or two of the chosen scent on the palms of your hands and hold them above a client’s face, instructing him or her to breathe in deeply a few times while resting on the massage table.

Perhaps you would choose to do this in the beginning of a session, using a scent such as lavender, which is reported to encourage relaxation of the body and mind. Then again, you might want to do it at the end of a session, with such a scent as lemon or peppermint, to help refresh and revitalize your relaxed client to go back out into the world.

As you can see, there are myriad ways to work aroma into a massage session. For the best results, how you choose to use essential oils should be based on the bodywork goals and individual needs of each client.

An additional way to weave aromatherapy into your practice is by adding a few drops of one or more essential oils to a carrier oil and using the blend as a bodywork lubricant. In this way, both you and your client can inhale the scent throughout the session. As an added bonus for the client, certain types of essential oils are reported to have benefits when absorbed through the skin.

As you begin to explore the avenue of aromatherapy, in hopes of adding a bit of beneficial scent to your sessions, it’s important to do your homework. Find out what the specific attributes of each essential oil are, so that you can select the right one for your clients.

For instance, if a client comes to you complaining of muscle tension and a poor mood state, you may want to reach for ylang ylang. On the other hand, if your client reports high levels of stress and anxiety, Roman chamomile might be the best choice.

It’s also key to learn to use essential oils safely, so be sure to follow instructions or consult an expert in aromatherapy if you have any questions.

—Brandi Schlossberg

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