Also move your hands a little with each stroke, left hand going to the right and right hand going to the left. If you alternate hands, beginning a new stroke with one hand slightly before finishing a stroke with the other, you will find yourself falling into a slow, lazy, natural rhythm in which the hands are always in motion.
After a few rounds in this fashion you can introduce a change into the stroke. Change your kneading into simple stroking, and instead of moving your hands horizontally (i.e., parallel to the table) along the sides of the torso, begin sliding your fingers under your friend’s back right at the waist and drawing your hand vertically up the side of the torso and an inch or two on to the stomach.
Follow the waistline and press slightly with the fingertips. Start each massage stroke from points progressively farther under the back, and start the last two or three from just beside the spine itself.
The shift from the first to the second version of this stroke need not be abrupt. Try doing three or four rounds running horizontally from hip to ribs and back; and then gradually make your strokes more and more vertical until you end with one or two rounds running along the waistline itself.
Then around to the opposite side of the table and do the same on your friend’s other side.
10. This last stroke is actually for the back, but it feels nicest when done immediately after the previous stroke. Reach both hands under your friend’s back, one from one side and one from the other, right at the waistline. Palms up, fingers pointing towards each other. Bring the fingertips just to either side of the spine.
Now, keeping the backs of the hands against the table, press the fingertips of both hands as hard as you can just to either side of the spine. Press hard enough to actually raise the middle of your friend’s body a tiny bit into the air. Press for about one full second and release. Then again for a second and release. Then again. After the third time or so, slide your hands, still pressing with the fingertips but pressing much more lightly now, out from under the back and, again following the waistline, on to the stomach. As with the previous stroke, articulate the waistline as you go.
If you are working on the floor, here is – at last – one place where you have an advantage over someone working on a table. After (or even instead of ) pressing your fingertips next to the spine, squat so that you are straddling your friend’s body, lace your ringers together behind the spine itself, and lift the middle of your friend’s body several inches off the floor. Then slide your hands along the waistline, pressing slightly with the fingertips, as you let your friend down again. For your friend, the sensation of being lifted will give this stroke an especially pleasant feeling.
Don’t bother with this variation, however, if you are working on a table. Because you are forced to reach from the side it’s both more tiring for your own back and more difficult to do correctly. Whichever version of this stroke you are using, a nice way to finish is to keep following the waistline with your fingertips until your hands meet at the centre of the stomach. Go more lightly while crossing the stomach itself. Once your hands meet, you can then find some graceful way to massage them to wherever you plan next to work.