Comment t’aimé-je? (French for “How do I love thee”)

By Sharon Lively

Can you think of a better way to tell your sweetie that you love them than the gift of a personal massage?

It can be a daunting experience to stand over someone’s back, and see only a lot of flesh and wonder how you are going to make this person melt under your touch.

You are going to learn in this course how to make simple and basic massage strokes that will not only induce pure physical bliss, but your sweetie will also see how smart and thoughtful you are.

Effleurage

We are going to start with Effleurage. Of the five strokes that make up Swedish Massage, it is the most commonly used stroke.  The French translation means literally, “to skim”. It follows the contours of the body in unbroken, long and gliding strokes using the fingertips, palms, knuckles, and/or forearms. It can be lighter/superficial or with the correct body mechanics deep and penetrating.

When done on the back it usually flows from the neck down to the base of the spine. When done on the limbs, all strokes are performed centripetally, (toward the heart) to aid blood flow and lymphatic flow.

2Effleurage is first used when applying lubricant, introducing touch, and it acquaints the therapist with the client’s body, and vice versa. It is a wonderful stroke for exploring the surface of the client’s skin and underlying tissues. It is commonly used to begin and end a massage, this is called “framing.”  It is effective for moving blood and lymph, preparing tissues for deeper massage and flushing out the tissues after using other strokes. Finally it is the preferred stroke for transitioning to other massage strokes such as petrissage, vibration, or tapotement I will discuss these techniques in other lessons.

Information Section # 1:  Basics and Safety 

Hand position:

1.)  Find a table and a pillow doing each step as shown

2.)  Hold your hands in the following manner.

  •  Hand is “L-shaped”

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3.)  Push downward and away; using a lean-and-drag delivery

  • Note:  On extremities pressure is applied centripetally (toward the heart) to promote venous flow 

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4.)  Once excursion is completed, drag hands back using no added pressure(only the weight of your hands)

5.)  Maintain contact during each repetition

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Guidelines:  

  • Deeper effleurage is done by going more slowly
  • Extremities are worked proximally, then distally.  Meaning: work the thighs before the calves
  • Apply more pressure when gliding toward the heart than when sliding away
  • Repeat about 6 times in an area or until tissues soften

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Caution:  Wrist position and alignment are important, keep your wrists straight

Practice Session # 1

View the following videos of arm and leg sequences.  Follow along or watch a few times before attempting on your own.

Testing Session # 1

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Try this simple and very effective effleurage stroke on someone’s arm….OR Grap a pillow!!

1.)  Put 3 squirts of oil into one hand and warm the lubricant, rubbing your hands together.

2.)  Standing at the side of the table in a lunge position with your  palms down at their wrists.

3.)  Place hands in L shapes, finger tips pointing toward their head, and just be still for 10 seconds.

4.)  Lean and drag and with the common L-shape of the hand, very slowly toward their shoulder.  Push toward shoulder keeping each arms straight and wrist relatively unbent. This first excursion should take about 10-15 seconds and you should feel the fullness of the arm in the heel of your hands as you push away from yourself.

5.)  Drag only the weight of your hands back, never losing contact, as you come back to your original starting place.

6.)  Repeat this 5 more times making each excursion last at least 3 seconds longer. The last and 6th stroke should take 25-30 seconds.

Things to Notice:

Each stroke becoming deeper as you progress.

If you need to, close your eyes to focus and concentrate.

Compare the 1st and 6th stroke and describe how the tissues feel different.

Do this sequence again to their leg

Information Section #2:  Effleurage Variations:

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One-handed

Used for small areas, such as the hands or feet.

Utilizing fingertips held together or apart is referred to as “raking”.

“Ironing effleurage” may be done using fist, palm or forearms.

 

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Two-handed

Heart effleurage is so called, because it follows a heart shape. Used on larger areas, such as the back, legs,  or arms.

“Circular two-handed effleurage” uses both hands, one placed on top of or next to the other .

 

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Alternate hand

Glide one hand or thumb across skin, lift up as other hand or thumb follows behind in succession—it resembles a paddlewheel.

“Alternate hand circular effleurage” can be performed as one hand circles & the other moves behind the first in half circle, also known as “the sun and the moon”.

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Nerve stroking

Feather-light finer tracing over skin, usually done at the end of massaging a body area or  at  the end of a massage.

To avoid tickling your client, do not use too light a pressure, or too fast a speed.  It may be used on skin, over clothing or through drapery.

A downward movement that proceeds proximal to distal is more relaxing.

Practice Session # 2

View the following videos of back.  Follow along or watch a few times before attempting on your own.

Testing Session # 2

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Try this simple and very effective effleurage stroke on someone’s back….OR Grab a pillow

1.)  Put 3 squirts of oil into one hand and warm the lubricant, rubbing your hands together.

2.)  Standing at the head of the table with your client face down lay your hands, palms down at the top of their back

3.)  Place one hand on either side at their shoulders, finger tips pointing toward their feet, and just be still for 10 seconds.

4.)  Lean and drag and with the common L-shape of the hand, very slowly beginning at the top of the back.  Push toward their feet until you reach just below the waist at the top of the hips.  You’ll be keeping each hand on either side of the spine in the lamina groove. This first excursion should take about 10-15 seconds and you should feel the fullness of the back’s tissue pressing back at you under the heel of your hands as you push away from yourself.

5.)  Drag only the weight of your hands back, never losing contact, as you come back to your original starting place.

6.)  Repeat this 5 more times making each excursion last at least 3 seconds longer. The last and 6th stroke should take 25-30 seconds.

You should notice each stroke becoming deeper as you progress.

If you need to, close your eyes to focus and concentrate.

Compare the 1st and 6th stroke and describe how the tissues feel different.

Final Information

In summary, effleurage’s benefits are:

  • It warms body tissues and relaxes them in preparation for deeper strokes
  • Soothing to an area after deep work has been performed as well as soothing places too painful for deep work
  • Calms the nervous system when done slowly and stimulates the nervous system when done quickly
  • Aids in moving wastes (flushing)
  • Lengthens muscles if applied w/fiber direction
  • Increases blood/lymph circulation
  • Soothes tired, achy muscles
  • Relieves insomnia

Now that you’ve practiced those basic routines find a person or a pillow and try putting it all together for a complete Effleurage massage for the whole body.  Enjoy making your loved ones feel amazing.

Back:

Posterior Arms:

Posterior Legs

Neck

Anterior Arms

Anterior Legs

Feet

COMMENT:

What is your favorite part of the receiving massage?

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REFERENCES

Massage Therapy:  Principles and Practice; Susan G. Salvo; Third and Fourth Editions; Copyright 2007-2012

Community Care College Massage Therapy Resource Center; Community Care College Massage Therapy Department

http://www.alignmentoflife.com/massage-therapy-.html

28 thoughts on “Comment t’aimé-je? (French for “How do I love thee”)”

  1. This is great review of the effleurage stroke. I will endeavor to remember that the longer the stroke, the more neurologically relaxing it will be for the client. I have tried to find out people’s preference when it comes to either effleurage or petrisage strokes and have found them to be pretty equal for the most part. Sometimes it appears to be maybe about 60 percent prefer effleurage over petrisage, however I think it is pretty 50-50. Personally, I prefer just as much petrisage as effleurage. My preferred area of massage is my back. Deep effleurage there can’t be beat!

  2. This is an awesome article and reminder that effleurage is a great and soothing stroke that everyone loves and it helps with blood flow back to the heart along with good circulation. I hope I will always remember to do this as often as I can. I really like it when someone effleurages my back I just melt. Nothing can top the feeling of a slow steady movement of effleurage and all of Swedish massage in general.

  3. I have to agree with Rhonda I have learned when it comes to the client the slower the touch and the more you cover the better they feel about it all. It’s better to cover a lot of area and go at a consistent pace then go at a rushed pace and cover little area it’s more relaxing and soothing when it’s consistant and slow

  4. You are all so right about how wonderful deep effleurage feels! I love deep, forearm ironing up & down the back; giving & getting. Yum!:)

  5. I love deep effleurage with the forearms on my back. That is my favorite part. I like the hand positioning this blog showed. I will have to try it in our next class.

  6. Effleurage strokes are my favorite and they are easy to teach if you want someone to massage you who has no clue what they are doing.

  7. Great article. I love effleurage,it’s relaxing and very calming. I enjoy it and I think the clients do too. Thanks for the review.

  8. Effluerage is the best stroke to apply oil, and transitioning from light to deep effluerage is always awesome for working gradually into tight tender tissue.

    Though, calming palm compression techniques are probably still my favorite.

  9. My favorite part of the massage is definitely the back, more specifically the scapula area. I feel that’s where I hold the most tension and always seem to be a knotted mess there, nothing feels better to me than having that deeply worked out.

  10. It showed some great techniques and a great review on effleuage strokes its great information and know how .

  11. Effleurage, in my opinion as well, is the best way to introduce oil and touch to the body. It’s a nice way to lubricate your client as well as to make them feel at home under your hands. Not to mention it’s very common and easy to use. You can really get pressure behind your hands with this stroke or be light and easy. I love it.

  12. I really like the effleurage stroke . I have found that if you go from the ankle to the neck in one slow fluid motion it is very relaxing! I feel like it is truly the foundation to what we do.

  13. Great review on how important effleurage is. I have to say when I saw the title of this blog I thought ” uh oh dangerous territory !” However, I was impressed on how professional and well written it was. Unfortunately massage still has an unseemly reputation to many people, so writing about giving your significant other a massage takes much tact and courage . Well done.

  14. Effleurage is a very gentle light pressure massage technique and one of my favorites too. You are right to set it on the basis of Swedish massage. It is a basic, yet very efficient way to relax the body. And all of the other techniques are described very OK. Thanks for sharing!

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