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Circle massage is an energising and fun exercise that is good at a point of low energy or after an emotional session. This is a simple massage process, done in a circle with everyone working on the shoulders of the person in front of them. It is good for group trust building.


Group exercise, Icebreaker

Required materials


Key explanation points1

  • Invite participants to stand up and turn to the right. Move closer into the circle so that each person can comfortably reach the back of the person next to them.
  • Ask participants to give the person in front of them a massage. They must first ask the permission of the person to do this, and also ask them to tell them if it is too strong or too light.
  • Tell them to keep it simple, but if they need instructions, facilitators can suggest that they can work on the trapezius muscles and the back; then a head rub; and finish with brisk back circles (clockwise for energy, counter-clockwise to relax) down the spine.
  • After a few minutes, ask everyone to turn to the left, and to do the massage for the person who is now in front of them (this will be the person who had given them the first massage).

Facilitation notes

  • A massage circle can be lots of fun. It is very helpful if the group is tired and needs to be energised. Within this playful context, most people do not have the fears they might have with a one-on-one massage. This is also a good dynamic for some participants who might be embarrassed to touch each other during a seated massage.
  • In using different kinds of massage, it is important for group leaders to be aware of reactions. Always work slowly and respectfully with the person’s permission. Some individuals might choose just to observe the group doing massage, because they fear being touched or their own emotional reaction. Participants should feel completely free to make choices that are healthy for them and should in no way feel pressured to participate in any activity.


From Chapter 3 of Cane, P.M. (2000) Trauma Healing and Transformation, Capacitar, Santa Cruz.