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Massage Tips #1

Home massage guide

A simple introduction to massage therapy for relaxation

Start position with a bolster under the hips to alleviate lower back pain while laying face down

Please ensure you have read and understood all the essential theory, health and safety information before practising on anyone. Massage to some degree is common sense, be kind and compassionate in your approach and as long as you are sincere, your efforts will be appreciated.

1. Preparation

  • Have your room nice and warm.
  • Have your table set up and your warm massage oil ready with a person willing to be your model.
  • Ascertain they have no concerns or health problems.
  • Have them undress and lay face down. If necessary cover them with a sheet or towel.
  • Note that men often need a bolster under their ankles to prevent discomfort and if anyone suffers lower back pain when laying face down, a bolster under their hips is often helpful.

2. Getting started

  1. Stand comfortably, look at your friends back and observe the overall shape and skin condition.
  2. Notice how the buttocks curve down into the hollow of the lower back and there is a soft curve up over the shoulders to the neck.
  3. The hollow of the back between the hips and the rib cage is relatively soft and you should never put too much pressure into this area because there is a risk that you could damage the kidneys. Also never press on the spine.
  4. Stand similarly to the person in the top right image with one hand over the heart and another hand on the sacrum. Simply be there and take a few breaths to get energetically connected.

2. Apply oil

  1. Rub 10 – 20 mls into your hands and spread it softly and evenly over the entire exposed area of skin that you can comfortably reach and intend to massage. Note it does not feel nice to have the oil dripped over you, and this may get the massage off to a bad start.

3. Primary effleurage

This primary effleurage stroke is to start warming the muscles and for you to gain a perspective on the back that you are working on, you are noticing how soft or how tight the muscles are. Remember, you are messaging the soft tissues (or muscles) and avoiding putting any strong pressure on the bones, especially the spine which you should really avoid as much as possible.

Where my fingers are in this image is the start point for all strokes working up the back. This point is beside the base of the spine or coccyx.

  1. After applying the oil, place your hands on your friends buttocks.
  2. Stand beside their hips facing slightly toward their head.
  3. Have your legs apart with your outer foot forward and your toes parallel to the table and you back heel turned out
  4. As you slide your hands up the back, take the weight off or bend your forward knee and raise your back heel as you hands slide up the back. By using your legs like this, you move your body along the table making it easier to reach over the shoulders and preventing discomfort in your own back.
  5. When massaging a tall person and you feel discomfort in your back, tilt your pelvis – like you’re turning your pubic bone back between your legs.
  6. Then lean forwards and let your hands slide up the muscles either side of the spine and into the neck,
  7. Then curl your fingers over the shoulders and,
  8. Slide out over the tops of the arms.
  9. Draw your hands back down along the body sides so your fingers circle up and back up onto the hips and back to the start point ready for the next stroke.

Generally it’s best to keep the palms of both your hands in firm contact and don’t just use your fingertips.

These are soothing and relaxing strokes, so do not press with your thumbs, use the whole of your hand and perhaps feel/press in with your finger tips, especially when going between the shoulder blades.

Repeat this move as often as you would like; 5 – 10 times alternating the pressure to suit. Are you comfortable and ask the person if they are enjoying this?

4. Secondary effleurage

Slide back down the sides to resume the next stroke from the buttocks. But instead of stroking up the length of the back,

  1. massage in circular movement out and down through the persons waist and
  2. pull back up through the hips and
  3. repeat with your strokes getting bigger as you go along until you are once more doing the primary stroke as above. Repeat  3 – 5 times.

5. Thumb pressure

Now, you may have felt that some muscle are more tight, and some muscles are soft and you can now begin to increase pressure into the muscles that feel tighter. Repeat the above two sequences this time with pressure on your thumbs instead of your whole hand.

  1. Make your 1st stroke from the sacrum up either side and close to the spine.
  2. Make your 2nd stroke a centimetre (1/2 inch further away from the spine.
  3. Make your 3rd stroke another centimetre (1/2 inch further away from the spine.

As you increase the pressure, ask your friend if the pressure is okay, or if they would like more or less pressure and it is your job to follow their request. Repeat these strokes up the back and down the sides, note be gentle over the back waist and ribs.

By now you will be starting to notice variations in muscle density and you should by now have some feedback that what you are doing feels nice, or maybe some parts of the back feel tender or even a little sore.

Use your fingers and thumbs to lift and gently squeeze the the soft area of muscle between the neck and shoulder. Whe the head is to one side, ask the person to turn their head periodically. 

6. Explore the details

Now you can select and gently rub those tender areas using back and forward movements with your fingertips or thumbs. Typically this is the upper back and between the shoulder blades. Perform rubbing strokes both along the grain (that’s the direction) of the muscles and across the grain to help them soften and relax.

Remember your friend must be made comfortable in all positions or the pleasure and value of treatment is diminished. Always face your friend, at times it is easy when doing the extremities to face away from the client, however this will disconnect you from their energy and they may feel abandoned. Also from the first moment of touch, do not take your hand off them, of if you need something out of reach tell them that you will be back.

Other Strokes:

  • Rubbing
    Short back and forward strokes over tight muscles, feels good between the shoulders.
  • Kneading
    This is what we call petrissage, where you are attempting to pick up as much of the skin and underlying muscle as you can to get away from home squeezing with alternate hands.
  • Friction rubs
    Slide your hand quickly but gently over a small area of skin to warm the skin and underling muscle.

An alternative approach from above the head

In contrast to what has been described, stand above your friends head and work down over the neck and shoulders.

  • Follow the same procedure making long effleurage strokes from the shoulders, down the back, over the hips and back up the sides.
  • Draw your hands into the armpits and slide smoothly out over the shoulders so your fingers slide under the front shoulder to arrive back at your start point.
  • Then repeat the stroke a few times before looking to use a slightly deeper and more specific pressure and kneading around the shoulders.


  • If your table does not have a face hole, ensure the person turns their head from time to time. Use your fingertips to feel and gently massage the neck and along the base of the skull as well as the back of the head.
  • Stroke the neck gently with more strokes down from the head to the back than up.
  • When you’re done on the back, cover the back if necessary and uncover the leg you’re about to work on.
  • When someone is laying face down on the massage table, let them rest their arms when they are most comfortable

If you have enjoyed trying out some of these techniques, you can learn a great deal more in one of our courses or personalised training to suit your needs.

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