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  • Julie Marciniak

What is Ashiatsu Massage?


I'm currently writing this blog during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since mid-March, many massage therapists have been out of work. And all over social media in various FaceBook groups, they are expressing their apprehension about going back to work and putting their hands on clients. That's ONE thing I don't have to worry about because I use my feet to work on clients!



When I explain what Ashiatsu is to potential clients, I tell them Ashiatsu massage is a form of barefoot massage where the therapist uses their feet instead of their hands to do the massage. It's just a different tool. Sometimes I go into a little detail about the parallel ashiatsu bars on the ceiling used for support and the ability to provide more pressure. I try to explain it based on their issues and how barefoot massage can address their specific chronic pain needs. If you are a client looking for more info about Ashiatsu and what it looks like at our Bull City Soles Massage & Bodywork studio in Durham, NC read our What is Ashiatsu blog.


When explaining what is Ashiatsu barefoot massage to other massage therapists, I start with addressing the one issue that many massage therapists ask themselves or eventually have to deal with during their massage career. 'How long will my body do this be able to do this?' For me, ashiatsu barefoot massage changed my life.


Ashiatsu massage extended my bodywork practice and transformed it far beyond my imagination.


I've been a Rolfing®. Structural Integrator for the past 12 years, but I started as a massage therapist 28 years ago. I was 86 pounds, working on 300 lb clients, and they would tell me that my massages were the best and deepest they'd ever had. Ten years into my career, I started experiencing the occasional sore thumbs and thoracic outlet syndrome symptoms depending on my workday. Then I was rear-ended for the THIRD time since high school. Every day after that, I was suffering from numb hands and arms and neck pain. I knew that my career as a massage therapist was in jeopardy.


I started experimenting with standing on my clients' backs and using my feet to give more pressure. My balance and leverage were limited as I only had the ceiling and wall to use. When I saw someone teaching Ashiatsu massage in a massage magazine, I knew this was the answer! I signed up for Ashiatsu training, and the rest is history. To learn more about how learning my Ashiatsu transformed my career read my blog Massage, Rolfing, and Life Experiences.


Have you ever wondered how you were going to get through a full day of 5-6 deep tissue massages? Do clients continually ask for deeper pressure when you're giving them all you have?


Even as a petite therapist, I never had any issues providing the deep pressure my clients craved. Body mechanics, anatomy knowledge, and technique go a long way in helping you increase your depth during the massage, but the repetitive wear and tear can eventually break down the body of the savviest massage therapist. And even with the best of body mechanics, doing myofascial work can be brutal on the hands and shoulder girdle. But at the age of 52, I have no problem providing up to 4 to 5 Rolfing sessions a day using gravity, my hips, and my feet.


With Ashiatsu barefoot massage, you can provide a deeper pressure using your body weight.



As a Rolfer, long fascial holds lasting 2-3 minutes are effortless when I'm using my feet. And the social distance?!? I love the fact that I do not feel like I'm on top of the client and all up in their space. If I were using my elbow or hands, my face would be about one foot, give or take a few inches from the client's body; it's at least 4'9" away when I'm using my feet! There are many benefits and perks to being able to use your feet, especially when you're working the back, hips, and legs.


But Ashiatsu barefoot massage is about more than just going deep.


The feet have over 200,000 nerve endings. With time and practice, you can feel knots and restrictions in clients' tissue with the feet just as well as with the hands. Short of an opposing thumb, you can get as specific with them as your flexibility allows. So trigger point, myofascial work, and many other types of bodywork can be adapted to using the feet. Like I do with Rolfing Structural Integration! Here's a great blog on the different styles of barefoot massage from the Center for Barefoot Massage.



If you're looking for a long term career as a massage therapist or bodyworker, check out our Barefoot Massage training classes at NC Ashiatsu. Starting with our Fundamentals barefoot massage training, you can pursue ashiatsu certification and advance into our Intermediate, Advanced, Range Of Motion, and future one-day Clinical Tracks through the Center for Barefoot Massage. Follow us on Instagram @NCashiatsu or Facebook for helpful tips, class info, and other fun stuff.

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