Home Massage Massage Guidelines Massage Guidlines - The Basic Massage Sequence
Oct 04


When you see that trading is done, not by consent, but by compulsion - when you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing - when you see that money is flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favors - when you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work, and your laws don't protect you against them, but protect them against you - when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice - you may know that your society is doomed. -   Ayn Rand

Feed Display

No Feed URL specified.

Introduction to Massage

Other Stuff

Massage Guidlines - The Basic Massage Sequence PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Tuesday, 21 October 2008 09:21
Article Index
Massage Guidlines
Creating a Relaxed Environment
Working Surfaces
Giving and Receiving
The Hara
Oiling and Oils
Making and Breaking Contact
Basic Strokes
Gliding Stroke
Medium - Depth Stroke
Deep Tissue Strokes
The Basic Massage Sequence
All Pages

The Basic Massage Sequence

When learning massage it will help to understand and memorize the sequence of strokes.  You start by massaging the back of the body working down from head to feet then turn the person over and massage the front of the body working down from the top. The sequence is made up of seven areas two on the back of the body, and five on the front no matter which area you are working on you follow roughly the same order of strokes. First you apply oil then work from lighter broader strokes to the deeper more specific ones ending once more with lighter ones. When giving a full body massage you are affecting many of the body's systems including the lymphatic and venous circulation, the nervous system.   Traditional massage works "toward the heart", to aid the venous circulation. Since we are interested here in relaxing and balancing a wide range of processes our sequence of strokes should only be followed where it is appropriate.  

The Back

The back is the main supportive structure of the body and an area of great mobility and strength. Since it is more protected than the softer front of the body it is the best place to start a massage.  By the time you come to work on the more vulnerable front of the body, your partner will generally be feeling relaxed and more trusting.  The back is also the single largest area you will be massaging and receives more time and than any other part of the body.  You reach nerves on the back that spread to every part of your partner a deep sense of release is felt after a thorough back massage.   To avoid tiring yourself remember to use your whole body, and not just your arms. As your massage begins with the back, it is here that you are accustoming your partner to your touch and becoming acquainted with the feel of his or her body. This is where you say hello.

Shoulder from Head

After oiling the back, you start to work on the shoulders. Begin with the shoulder away from the direction your partners head is facing if you are not using a face cradle. Circle around the Shoulder blade and up the side of the ribcage. Then start to work more firmly kneading all the fleshy areas of the shoulders. Gradually begin to use more pressure, applying the thumb and rolling strokes around the base of the neck, the scalene and the Trapezius muscles.  Pay attention to any little knots of tension you may find interspersing this more concentrated work with soothing broader strokes. Finish with deep alternate thumb strokes along the side of the spine.

Shoulder from Side

You now shift your position to work on the same shoulder front the side, facing your partner's head. Lift the forearm carefully on to the lower back,  Anchoring the arm on the back, cup your other hand under the shoulder joint the left hand under left shoulder and vice versa. Once you have isolated the shoulder blade by raising it use your free hand to work around and across it. Squeeze along the spine of the blade and kneaded the back of the neck, slide your partner's arm gently off the back and reposition yourself at the head. Ask the receiver to turn there head the other way then repeat the sequence on the other shoulder.  Always check with the receiver before placing the arm on the lower Back this is the same position as an attacker would use to subdue a person and many people feel the position to be threatening CHECK FIRST DON’T ASSUME.                                                                   

Lower Back and Buttocks

To work on the lower back and buttocks you position yourself at your partner's side level with the thighs. First you thoroughly knead the lower back; then you massage one buttock before pulling up that side of the torso. The lower back is a seat of tension and discomfort. Since it is linked to pain in the lumbar region this often suggests problems connected with grounding, security and sexuality. A good way of completing the sequence after pulling up the sides is to use a gliding stroke down from the shoulder to foot. Now move to the other side of your partner and repeat the sequence on the opposite buttock and side.


 According to yoga, the condition of the spine affects us at every level-physical, emotional, and spiritual. The spinal nerves link the brain with all other parts of the body and since they lie close to the surface of the back, massage can have a profoundly relaxing effect.

Spinal massage divides into three main strokes:

Broad generalized stroke, called the "Rocking Horse" which is in two parts one soothing, and the other more stimulating

Deep friction stroke which eases tension around the vertebrae

Connecting stroke with your forearms which imparts a feeling of wholeness to the entire back.  Avoid pressing directly on the vertebrae and work on either side of the spine  

Back of Legs

To complete your massage on the back of the body you work on the back of the legs and finally on the feet. In bringing energy down to the legs and feet you are helping your partner to feel more grounded. The soft, fleshy backs of the legs are ideal for kneading and wringing. If this area is especially sensitive or painful, you may find that your partner suffers from lower back problems, since the sciatic nerve runs from the base of the spine right down the back of the leg to the knee. By massaging the back of the leg you therefore not only relieve tenderness there but also affect pain or stiffness in the lower back. If there is active sciatic nerve involvement massage in this area is contraindicated.

Half Lotus Leg Lift

In addition to using the different basic strokes to massage your partner, you can incorporate various “Passive” exercises into your session. These mobilize the joints and stretch the muscles by placing the receiver's body in certain positions. The "Half Lotus" Leg Lift - so-called because the movement imitates the Half Lotus position in yoga - it exercises the hip joint and stretches the muscles at the front of the thigh. When lifting the partner’s leg, let your whole body take the weight, not just your shoulders and arms. And flex the leg only as far as the point of resistance. There should be no strain or discomfort, either for you or the partner.

Draining the Leg

These strokes work with the circulation, assisting the flow of blood and lymph back to the heart. Positioned either at your partner's foot or by the side of the leg, you begin to work up front the leg ankle first with your thumbs then with the heels of your hands. When you come to the back of the knee, your strokes should be broader and lighter-if you press too hard, the knee-cap will be pushed uncomfortably against the working surface. The draining stroke with the heels of the hands is most effective on the back of the thigh and buttocks.

Working Down The Leg

Having drained the leg up to the hip you now begin to move down again toward the foot using a kneading stroke on the thigh and calf. After thoroughly massaging the entire leg, you can either pull down the inside of the leg in overlapping strokes or wring your hands along the leg. The back of the legs is particularly suitable for wringing work.  

The Ankle

 Ankles store tension blocking the free flow of energy between the feet and the legs. People with stiff ankles may suffer from cold feet and may be ungrounded. Their connection with the ground with reality is unsure. Massage will not only help to restore flexibility and assist energy flow it will also relieve any build-up of fluid. Three of the movements shown here serve both to test, and then to increase mobility and suppleness in this area. Rotating the ankle gives you a sense of the flexibility of the joint; flexing the foot tests the tension in the muscles and tendons. If the hamstrings are tight, you will not be able to push the foot far forward; if the extensor muscles at the front of the lower leg are tight, pushing the foot backward will be painful.

The Foot

The human foot has evolved into a highly complex structure made up of 26 small bones some of which form two large supporting arches. As well as carrying the entire weight of the body feet serve as marvelous shock absorbers. In addition the sole of the foot contains thousands of nerve endings with reflex connections to the rest of the body. In massaging the feet you are affecting the entire body.  Once you have finished one foot move over to work on the back of the other leg and foot. Starting from the beginning of the sequence, this completes the massage on the back of the body. After completing both legs let you’re partner rest for a few moments. Then suggest that they turn over to facilitate work on the front of the body.

Shoulders, Neck, and Scalp

Once your partner has turned over you begin your massage on the front of the body by returning to the shoulders a focus point of tension in the body. In a healthy person feelings that are expressed physically through the arms and hands, or vocally through the throat. Many of us are forbidden to express our emotions freely as children, and learn to suppress feelings of anger or sorrow by tightening up in the shoulders and throat. So this area merits attention from both the back and front of the body. The main advantage of working on the shoulders from the front is that the receiver's own weight presses down on to your hands under the back giving extra impact to the strokes. The sequence of strokes may seem a little complex at first as a lot of it happens out of sight, between your partner's back and the working surface. But once you have mastered it you will find it a rewarding part of your massage session, and one that feels especially good to the receiver.

Neck Stretches

These stretching movements lead on naturally from any of the long strokes. Instead of bringing your hands off the top of head you simply stop at the base of the skull and holding the head securely you gently pull it toward you. You can also stretch the neck forward, backward and to one side. This stretches right along the top of the shoulder and side of the neck. Some people will be relaxed enough to surrender their heads to your hands their heads will feel heavy when you lift them. Others will unconsciously move their heads themselves, if this happens simply ask your partner to be aware that they are "holding" while you attempt to loosen the neck by stretching it. But don't be impatient if they are unable to let go just move on to the next stroke.

Shoulder, front and Back Sequence

Now you have loosened the whole neck up a little you start to focus on one side at a time. Laying the head on its side on one land, you use the other hand to work the whole upper back and neck area on the opposite side. Since much of the sequence takes place out of sight, under the back, we have provided diagrams to illustrate the path of your hands? The sequence consists of pushing your hands under the back pulling up toward the Neck across three different areas of the back in a fan shape. You will find it easier to get your hands under some backs than others - don’t force it go as far as you can comfortably manage without stress. As you pull your hands toward you the flesh may bunch up at the neck don’t disconnect continue on slowly upward your pressure will release the folds.

The Scalp

The scalp can get tense and contribute to tension headaches, dandruff and hair loss. Massage helps to relieve this tightness and aids the circulation and the health of the hair.

Spinal Stretch

This is the only stroke in the front of shoulders and neck sequence that requires cooperation on the part of your partner. They must lift up his or her head to enable you to reach under it with your hands. The stroke stretches the whole spine and feels very good to the receiver. You may need to practice a little before you can execute it smoothly. Be sure to always pull from the hara and pelvis not just from the shoulders.

The Face

The face is generally the part we notice first in other people. It is exposed and reflects the history of its owner. It’s expressions are sculpted by the tiny muscles that give us the mobility to make faces smiles and frowns are uniquely human. Stress and tension are reflected in tightness around the brow, jaw, and eyes. Serenity in an open relaxed expression, a constantly smiling mask of appeasement or one of mock surprise the patterns frozen on our faces reveal our attitudes and character.  A face massage enables us to relinquish some of our masks. A face massage can cause deep relaxation throughout the whole body.

You don't need to oil your hands to massage the face. The oil you already have on your fingers will be enough for this relatively small area; you may wish to use a facial cream is place of oil.  Before giving a face massage for the first time, practice on your own face to sec how it feels. The face is bonier and less fragile than it looks and you may be surprised to find that you can apply quite deep pressure without discomfort. Thresholds of comfort vary however so you should ask for feedback on your pressure from your partner. Before beginning, check whether your partner is wearing contact lenses; if so refrain from working over the eyelids. In this sequence you work gradually down the face stroking across it in strips front the center to the sides. Make your movements slow and clean and keep your awareness in your fingers.

Eyes, Nose and Cheeks

Continuing on down the face you work over the eyebrows, eyelids, and nose to the chin. There are twelve pairs of cranial nerves that link the brain directly with the face and the five senses. Working around the eyes, eyebrows, and temples in particular helps relieve stress, headaches, and clear the sinuses.

Chin and Jaw Line

Massaging the lower part of the face consists in squeezing the chin working along the jawbone and then circling over the chewing muscles, or masseters.   If you find it hard to locate these muscles place your fingers on the cheeks and ask your partner to clench their teeth. You will feel the muscles harden as they contract.  

Cheeks and Ears

This two-part sequence begins with a broad stroke across the cheeks and ends with stretching and squeezing the ears. Way back in our history we were able to move our ears some people still retain the ability to wiggle them. This may explain why it feels so pleasurable to have your ears massaged.  

Connecting Face and Head

This is a long stroke in three parts connecting the face with the neck and head. For best effect let it be one smooth flowing movement ending in a gentle stretching of the neck.   

Arms and Hands

When we evolved from walking on four legs and stood upright, we freed our upper limbs for a variety of uses to get food and fuel and to ward off danger. Is walking upright we exposed our soft bellies, and our relationships with one another acquired a new sensitivity. The arms and hands are intimately connected to relating.  Through our arms and hands, we express our most powerful emotions, showing love by embracing, giving, protecting, or stroking.  Hatred or rage are expressed through hitting, punching, shaking our fists. An arm and hand massage is a relaxing experience, especially for those who tend to bottle up their feelings.

Draining the Arm

This sequence works with the circulation of blood and lymph in the arm. Its purpose is to assist the lymphatic flow and the blood's venous return to the heart. Veins are closer to the skin's surface than arteries, which carry blood away from the heart.  You start by draining the forearm then work along the upper arm while squeezing down the forearm. You may notice your partner’s fingers opening and closing; this is because muscles controlling the fingers are in the forearm.


Stretching is passive exercise when applied to the arm. The shoulder joint stretch tones the connective tissues, the ligaments, and tendons that attach the bones of the joint. Stretching the arm stimulates the production of synovial fluid, the lubricant (oil) of the joints and extend the joint's range of movement. As with any other passive exercise it is you that does the work your partner should surrender to the movement.

Shoulder Joint and Arm

Having stretched the arm and shoulder joint, you now place it back by your partner's side and work around the shoulder girdle and down the arm. You begin with a stroke that squeezes from the center of the upper chest and back out to the shoulder joint, then continue with some medium-depth work down the whole arm to the elbow and the wrist. At the shoulder you are working on a ball and socket joint which has a wide range of movement, enabling the swing round in a broad circle. The elbow is a hinge joint that allows only up and down movement. The bones of the forearm can rotate over each other.

Wrist and Hand

A hand massage can be very relaxing because our hands are accustomed to being touched and because like the feet the hands have reflex connections with the rest of the body.  The area in the motor and sensory parts of the brain that is concerned with the hands is disproportionately large, indicating a unique sensitivity and functional importance.  The opposable thumb is the main feature that distinguishes us from other animals. Pay special attention to the joints of the hand. Carpal tunnel syndrome is one of the side effects of the computer age and is nothing more than overuse of the wrist massage can help this condition.

Front of Torso

We face the world with the front of the body, exposing the belly, our most unprotected part. The front of the torso is linked to the way we feel and the way we relate. The torso consists of two main areas the hard protective cage of the chest which houses the heart, lungs, and other organs, and the soft unprotected muscle wall of the belly containing our guts and reproductive organs.   When massaging the front of the body be aware that this is an area of vulnerability. Before beginning, take a moment or two to study your partner's breathing pattern and observe which parts of the torso move with the breath, as you will be coordinating some of your strokes with the breathing. Our breathing pattern is intimately linked with our vitality and our emotional health, if your partner is trusting, having this area massaged can be profound experience for both of you.

Rib-cage and Chest

As well as protecting the vital organs in the upper body the ribcage plays an important part in the breathing process. We tend to think of the rib-cage as fixed and static it is not.  The rib cage is in fact very mobile and facilitates breathing. When we breathe correctly the ribs rise up pushing the breastbone forward opening up the chest cavity causing air to be drawn into the lungs. The muscles used in breathing are the large diaphragm muscle that crosses the body horizontally just below the rib-cage. To allow proper breathing, the diaphragm must he relaxed and the rib-cage flexible. Massaging this area loosens the muscles and increases the mobility of the ribs.

The Abdomen

To work on the abdomen you move round to one side of your partner level with the belly. The abdomen is highly sensitive so let your hands come down gently initially and pause for a moment before you start. You begin by moving your hands in clockwise circles around the belly. It is important that you travel clockwise direction for this echoes the direction of the colon - large intestine. After rotating your hands over the belly in a broad circle you gradually increase the depth of your pressure using smaller circles. You end your massage on the front of the torso by working with the rhythm of your partner's breath. Have your partner breath slowly and deeply you glide your hands over the torso in a long circulatory stroke up from the belly to the chest on an inhalation and down the sides on an exhalation. It is up to you to follow your partner's breath with your hands - not vice versa.

Front of Legs

In Western society today, many of us have lost touch with our bodies, and with the earth we stand on. To much of our time and energy are spent five feet off the ground living in our heads. A whole body massages ends on the front of the legs, so that you bring the receiver's awareness right down to the toes and he or she leaves the massage session feeling grounded. The sequence you follow is similar to the one you used on the backs of the legs. But here the terrain is a little different the soft muscle area of the thigh, the bony areas of the shin, and the knee require a different approach.  

Stretching the Leg

When receiving a massage it feels good to have your limbs passively exercised. It is like having someone do yoga for you without you having to make any effort. In stretching the leg you are exercising three joints the ball and socket hip joint and the hinge joints of knee and ankle.  You will find it more effective and less tiring if you pull with your whole body not just your arms. Make sure that your grip on the foot is comfortable to your partner. Some people are ticklish be aware of this.

Working up the Front of the Leg

This sequence basically consists of draining strokes to aid the circulation, and with some more precise work around the knee-cap. On the lower leg, you must be sure to work on the muscles on either side of the shinbone. Direct pressure on the shinbone can be painful for your partner. Work the front thigh using broad deep strokes to push upward assisting the venous and lymphatic flow. If your partner is long-legged you may have to work from the side of the table.

The Hip Joint and Down the Leg

Linking the top of the leg to the pelvis, the hip joint is a large ball and socket joint with a wide range of movement. The hip joint is surrounded by muscles and may he hard to find at first. Press in under the rim of the pelvis to locate the bony protuberance at the top of the thigh bone.  If you go deeper round this bone, you will be working on the connections of the hip joint. Having pressed around the joint thoroughly, you now work down the leg, using broad strokes on the thigh. Use more precise finger strokes around the knee-cap, and then finish by squeezing down the shin muscles to the ankle.  When working on a massage table it is easy to move smoothly down the leg. If working on the floor you will probably have to break contact gently, change position, and then continue.

The Front of the Foot

You round off a massage session with some final attention to the feet moving down to sit or stand facing the foot you are working on. These strokes are intended to ground your partner.  After opening and starching the foot you enclosed it in both hands and pull them soothingly off the toes. Do this for each foot in turn


Having worked on each part of the body in turn, you now need to connect the various parts and give your partner a sense of their own wholeness. There are two ways of connecting the body- by long strokes which flow over the entire body from one end to the other; or by simply resting your two hands on different parts of the body for a few moments. You may also use these connecting strokes as a bridge between working on one part of the body and the next.  Leave your partner to rest for a while and cover them with a sheet or warmed towel.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 21 October 2008 13:12
Home Massage Massage Guidelines Massage Guidlines - The Basic Massage Sequence