The benefits of massage are many: It helps release endorphins, the body’s “feel good” neurotransmitters from the brain to release stress, and it activates the lymphatic system, to help move toxins into the bloodstream, where they can be moved out of the body through the liver.
To give a good massage without using oil, make sure the room is warm and if needed, have the person receiving the massage take a hot shower or lie on warm towels, a hot pad that provides moist heat or even a hot water bottle. Heating the body will make it easier to massage stiff muscles.
If the person receiving the massage is fully dressed, ask her to wear loose-fitting clothes. Or drape her with a large cloth to fully cover her, such as a flat bed sheet or very large towel.
Start the Massage on the Back
Start with the person lying on his belly, draped if needed. Work on the neck by using wide “pinching” movements around the base of the skull and neck. Move down to the shoulders and use your thumbs to press into the upper back. Work using broad movements and massage the tops of the shoulders and then the upper back.
Next, press your thumbs on either side of the spine, so that you move the thumbs away from the spine. Work down the spine to the sacrum. Repeat several times.
Do a spinal flush: using your elbows, dig them into imaginary “railroad tracks” on either side of the spine and move down the back to the tailbone several times. This creates a lymphatic flush, moving toxins out of the tissues and into the bloodstream.
Return to the tops of the shoulders and alternate squeezing and pressing movements along the bulky deltoids of the shoulders and move down each arm. Once you reach the palms, press your thumb into the center of the palm and lightly press each fingertip firmly.
Keep one hand on the person’s body throughout the massage session so that there are no abrupt breaks; this is less disruptive. Press the heels of your hands into the center of the back of the hips: this releases a lot of tension that many people carry. Alternate pressing and squeezing the backs of the thighs, calves and rub your knuckles along the soles of the feet. Gently squeeze each toe.
Have the person lie on her back and make certain she is still warm--if not, place warm towels on her chest and legs. Proceed to work each arm from shoulder to hand to fingers, pressing and squeezing. Work the chest down to the tops of the thighs to the legs and feet.
Be sure she is OK with having her face massaged. Lightly press your thumbs from the center of the forehead away to the temples and from the center of the cheeks to the sides of the face.
Complete the massage by rubbing your hands together to generate heat and cupping them directly over the eyes for several seconds. Place your hands over the ears for several seconds and finish by hovering your hands over the eyebrows--she will feel the heat of your hands. Allow her to rest for several minutes.
Ask the person receiving a massage to refrain from eating a heavy meal directly before the massage. Allow at least three hours after a large meal. It will be too easy to fall asleep right after a heavy meal.
Have the person lie on her stomach with her head supported on a soft towel or pillow. Place another rolled towel under the ankles. Keep the room comfortably warm--at least 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Remind the person to move her head to the other direction so she does not have her head turned to one side for the entire session.
Do not massage anyone with cancer, broken bones, or injured ligaments or tendons. These must mend before doing deep tissue massage.
Providing massage to pregnant women requires very specific training to protect both the mother and child.
Sava Tang Alcantara has been a writer and editor since 1988, working as a writer and editor for health publications such as "Let's Live Magazine" and "Whole Life Times." Alcantara specializes in health and fitness and is a certified yoga teacher and personal trainer. She does volunteer work regularly and has taught free public yoga classes in Santa Monica, Calif. since 2002.