‘Tis the season for due dates, papers, finals — and rising stress levels. Worry does a number on sex. Stress not only decreases interest in sex, but it also harms ability to enjoy sex and reach orgasm. Long-term stress has catastrophic effects on the body and brain. 

Despite the fast-paced, high-pressure society we live in, it does some good to take some time from busy schedules and simply relax with a loved one. For those looking to destress this finals season, Hump Day brings some tips and tricks for sensual massage.

Professional massages can get expensive, but UHS at University of Wisconsin offers a 50-minute massage therapy session for $40. Though a non-professional massage can be incredibly erotic and lead to sexy times, massages also function as a terrific opportunity to loosen tight muscles, improve mindfulness, relax and even enhance intimacy.

Many of the following recommendations are centered around massaging a sweetheart, but one might also enjoy practicing these methods with a close friend. Massage might seem like one partner does all the work while the other lies still and enjoys. But usually both partners experience an unparalleled closeness. Allowing energy to flow along this connection releases happy bonding neurotransmitters in the brain while lowering stress levels.

Sensual Setting

Allow at least an hour of undisturbed time for massage with no phones and no visitors. Simply enjoy the skin-on-skin sensuality and connection of two people enjoying one another’s bodies. The best massage happens when the one massaging focuses intently on their hands kneading and stroking skin.

In order for everyone to feel relaxed and uninhibited, dim the lights a touch. Lighting candles, burning incense or smudging sage adds to the overall sensory experience. Consider a soothing scent: something to set the mood and give off nice light without being distracting.

Physical comfort is important for an enjoyable massage. The massaging partner can either wear comfortable clothes or something sexier — lingerie or even nudity can seriously turn up the heat during a massage session.

In order to prepare for a massage, the other partner should undress as much as they feel comfortable with and lie belly-down on a soft surface. Cover the butt with a towel if that improves comfort level. Play gentle, relaxing music in the background. Keep the volume and bass low to create a soothing atmosphere.

The most important ingredient is some sort of lotion or oil to allow hands to glide over skin and reduce friction. All sorts of oils — including hemp, hazelnut, argan, avocado, walnut, coconut, macadamia nut, almond, sunflower and mustard — work well as massage oils and can be found at local shops, such as Community Pharmacy in Madison. Many of them produce a pleasant scent.

One might also consider purchasing massage oils, but something such as coconut oil is much cheaper and equally effective. Almond oil works particularly well. In order to apply the oil, warm between the hands and begin moving the palms all over the back.  

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Titillating Techniques

Begin with an exchange of energy. Close your eyes and feel with the hands, working and kneading from neck to lower back or buttocks. Experiencing a lover exclusively through touch can be incredibly erotic or enlightening. Breathe deeply and apply pressure, visualizing affection pouring from hands to back, from heart to heart.

These seemingly simple connections have the power to inspire surprising feelings of love and lust between partners. As the bond builds and strengthens, vary pressure and pay close attention to physical reactions or sounds. Be sure to check in occasionally, asking if the location and level of pressure are pleasurable.

For those who love cracking their back, they should lie face-down on a harder surface while a partner straddles their back. Place the heels of the hands on either side of their back and ask the person lying down to take a deep breath. As they begin to exhale, press down firmly along either side of the spine. Be incredibly careful with this technique, as carelessness can result in discomfort or injury.

Focus on the back, neck and shoulders at first. Use long strokes on the back, up and down the spine, then knead tightened muscles in the shoulders. Work knots out of the area near shoulder blades using the thumbs, working in circles. In between massaging these areas, gently rub, stroke and massage the neck.

Consider rubbing the temples as well, especially when feeling nervous about massage skills. Some individuals may also enjoy a little flowjob — running fingers through their hair and gently massaging the scalp. Gradually work down the shoulders and back and knead the lower back.

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Things can heat up a little bit now if one chooses to partake in butt massage (or “ass-age”). Place one palm on each cheek and begin by using circular movements, gradually increasing pressure. Then advance by using the kneading technique one cheek at a time, creating a roll of skin with the thumbs and pushing upward. The sensuality of massaging a partner’s butt often creates intense mutual pleasure and has the ability to warm up the skin for a little spanking later on in the evening if one so desires.

Next, proceed to the legs and feet. Slowly work down from the butt to the upper thighs, gently massaging down the entirety of the leg to the foot. The thighs and calves respond well to light kneading and caressing using the fingertips. If they are not ticklish, the feet can be very sensual for many people. Start from the heel and be gentle, but not too light, working with the thumbs.

Complete the massage with a full body rubdown. Take all the knowledge acquired in the last forty-five minutes and pay attention to each area of the body, stroking and kneading until the partner’s body feels relaxed and satiated.

If transitioning into sexy time, take this moment to touch the partner with more than just hands — lean into them with the chest or begin layering kisses with all the kneading. Consider using the face-down position to try rear entry penetration, or simply a new angle for oral.