Spread oil on the chest, the stomach, the sides of the torso and the shoulders.
1. * Begin the chest and stomach with what I will call the main stroke. Because it covers large areas of body surface easily and quickly, this is one of the most effective strokes in massage. With slight variations it can be done on the chest and stomach, the arm, the front of the leg, the back of the leg and the back.
Stand above your friend’s head. (If working on the floor, kneel above the head with your knees to either side of the head.) Place your hands with palms down in the middle of the chest. Have the heels of your hands resting just below the collar-bone, your fingers pointing towards the feet, and your thumbs lightly touching each other. Now glide both hands slowly forwards, pressing firmly on the chest and then more lightly on the stomach. Keep your hands together until you reach the lower half of the stomach; then separate them, moving both hands straight to the sides.
Bring both hands over and down the hips all the way to the table. As soon as your hands touch the table, begin to pull them along the sides of the torso in the direction of the shoulders. Pull firmly, using your strength; at this point the massage stroke should feel to you as if you were actually about to tug your friend several inches down the table.
Just before reaching the armpits pull your hands – heels of the hands still moving first – up on to the topmost part of the chest. Then, pivoting each hand on its heel, swing the fingertips from the sides to the centre of the chest. By gliding the hands forwards, and straightening them and bringing the thumbs together as you move, you can go from here straight into another round of the same stroke without breaking the flow of your movement.
Two reminders that will help make this stroke feel just right. First, be steady. Move at an even and confident pace. Second, remember to mould your hands so that they exactly fit the contours they are passing over. Let your hands tune in to your friend’s shape as if you were moulding his or her body out of clay.
Here is an interesting variation. After pulling your hands back on to the upper chest, send them over and down the sides of the shoulder instead of pivoting them towards the middle of the chest.
Continue without a break right under the shoulders and on to the topmost part of the back, slipping your fingers between the table and the back.
As soon as your fingers have reached a point right beside – but not directly upon – the spine itself, slide your hands gently over the trapezius muscles (the muscles curving from the neck to the shoulders) and back on to the upper chest.
Another variation, more interesting still. Go down the sides of the shoulders and on to the back as before. Again stop just short of the spine. This time, however, pull your hands lightly on to the back of the neck and then between the back of the head and the surface of the table. Keep your hands moving towards yourself until your fingers are completely clear of the head. Don’t lift the head up; keep the backs of your hands against the table in order to disturb the head as little as possible as you slip your hands from beneath. Once you have broken contact return your palms immediately to your friend’s chest.
Do the main stroke from three to six times on the chest and stomach, with or without variations. Occasionally I also repeat it between other strokes on the chest and stomach; sometimes I even return to it after having gone on to massage other parts of the body. Returning every once in a while to a major stroke like this one gives a massage a certain pleasing unity. For both your friend on the table and yourself it can have much the same effect as the repetition of a basic theme in a piece of music.
2. Run the tips of the thumb and forefinger of both hands several times along the collar-bone. Have the thumb on one side of the bone and the forefinger on the other. Move your hands first towards each other and then away from each other. Press lightly.
3. Work the upper chest with the fingertips of both hands. Press firmly, moving the fingertips in tiny circles. Start next to the collar-bone and work systematically so that you cover the entire upper half of the chest. Omit the breasts for a woman, however, as this stroke does not feel good here.