Therapy of the Month – Massage

by Rowan on April 5, 2018

Massage is one of the most commonly used therapies in the world – but what is it actually like to be a massage therapist? This month we’re chatting to Vanessa Afful, long-time resident massage therapist at Bellenden, about her work and what it means to her.

What are the different kinds of massage you offer and how are they different?

I offer Aromatherapy massage, Deep Tissue massage, Holistic massage, Pregnancy massage and a mix of Holistic and Deep Tissue techniques which I describe as Remedial massage.

Aromatherapy massage uses a blend of essential oils and vegetable oils made up for the client based on a preliminary consultation and the client’s needs and preferred smell. The massage is quite relaxing and I do lots of massage techniques to stimulate circulation and the lymphatic system. For my Holistic massage I work with oils that I have already made up and the massage is slightly stronger than an Aromatherapy Massage. Deep Tissue is for those who like deep pressure and have lots of tightness and tension in their body. It is also appropriate for people who have strained an area or have temporary mobility issues. Many of my clients choose a Remedial mix of Holistic and Deep Tissue techniques – a deeper massage is often more appropriate for the back as this where lots of people carry most of their tension, so I will mix that with some stretching to create each client’s desired type of massage.

What are the biggest benefits of getting regular massages?

There are many benefits from having a regular massage. The obvious ones are that it helps with muscle tightness and pain. It’s also great for circulation, removing toxins, helping people relax, de-stressing and reducing anxiety – it really releases those feel-good hormones! What I really love about massage is that it makes you more aware of your body and ways you can help with your own self-care.

What attracted you to becoming a massage therapist?

I originally wanted to become an Aromatherapist and learn more about essentials oils as I wanted to launch a range of natural products. Back in 2010, I started developing a range of products using essential oils. I wanted to have a greater understanding of those oils and their therapeutic benefits so enrolled on a Aromatherapy course.Massage was not really a consideration for me at first. During the interview to get onto the course, the Course Director, took one look at my nails (which were rather long) and told me I’d have to kiss those goodbye as I would be doing massage! That came as a bit of a surprise, but as soon as I started I loved the massage as much as learning about the oils, and the rest as they say is history.

What is your favourite thing about being a massage therapist?

I like the energy and buzz I get from helping people. I think I always have, no matter what field I’ve been in. I used to volunteer regularly at a charity who housed parents whilst their children were ill in hospital. One of the managers commented that she loved watching the parents come in and out of my therapy room. They would often come in exhausted, deflated, with a face full of worries, but they always left energised, fresh and with a few less worry lines. In all honesty that means the world to me. I don’t think I could do anything else now, I love my job.

What has been the highlight of your career in massage so far?

Ooh that’s a hard one. I think actually doing this for a living. I can still remember the first ever person who paid me for a massage and the happiness and thankfulness on her face when she left. I still get a buzz from realising that I work for myself (although I am a terrible boss) and that I get to make my living from doing massage.

What is your favourite non-massage therapy to use as a patient?

At the moment it’s Osteopathy. Both Dorothy and Kristin (our current and former Osteopaths at Bellenden Therapies) have been essential to my wellbeing. I couldn’t do what I do without them. I also love Bach Flower Essences – I’ve promised myself that at some point this year I will do one of Julia’s workshops.

What was the best massage you ever had?

An Ayurvedic Massage called Pinda Sveda Herbal Bolus. I had it at the Ayurvedic Spa in London. The Therapist uses cotton poultice bags filled with a selection of herbs dipped in warm oil based on your dosha – the combined elements that govern you (I am a Vata). They are then massaged all over your body until you are completely drenched in oil (as is the couch!) It’s like being anointed. You can then remove the excess oil with a towel or take a shower. I left there completely blissed out, and feeling very nurtured and looked after. I don’t think my skin has ever felt so soft!


Vanessa Afful’s work includes Aromatherapy Treatments, Facials, Deep Tissue Massage, Holistic Massage and Pregnancy Massage. She also makes a selection of tailor made natural beauty product designed to use at home in between treatments. Vanessa is a member of the Complementary Health Professionals Association.

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