Feets Don’t Fail Me Now

Feet on BackIf you’re a fan of all types of bodywork, like me, then you’re probably constantly on the lookout for the latest, greatest treatment, no matter how far out out there or unusual.   I deeply appreciate anything remotely geared toward helping me relax, transporting me into a new relationship with my muscles, bones, and tissues, and showing me tools and techniques with imagination and cleverness.

Ashiatsu Oriental Bar Therapy is just such a thing.  It’s a type of massage therapy in which the practitioner suspends herself from a bar on the ceiling and massages the patient with her feet, offering a deep compression massage that is done in a push-pull-pumping effect on the patient’s muscles. Although the roots of Ashiatsu Oriental Bar Therapy came from the Far East, this American adaptation is truly a western phenomenon.

Ashiatsu Oriental Bar Therapy is one of the most recently created forms of massage therapy practiced in America. It was developed by long time massage therapist, Ruthie Piper Hardee in the 1990’s. While Ashiatsu is also a massage done with the feet (also known as barefoot shiatsu), and Hardee was aware of this type of massage, she expanded on it and made it different: there are different strokes, the patient does not lie on the floor, and it is not performed through clothing. Protocols and sequences were created as a result of Hardee’s own scoliosis and disk pain associated with bending over to deliver deep tissue massage to her clients for many years.

For a session of Ashiatsu Oriental Bar Therapy, the recipient will prepare much as they would for a typical table massage (removing clothes, lying on a sheet draped massage table). The practitioner will climb up onto the massage table and, stabilizing themselves by holding onto two, 5 foot-long steel or wooden parallel bars suspended from the ceiling above, will begin to massage with their feet. This barefoot massage technique uses deep compression effleurage strokes that glide over the body – massage oil, lotion, or balm is necessary for proper friction.

This deep compression effleurage course using bars on the ceiling was the first of its kind approved by the National Certification Board for Massage & Bodywork in 1995. The root word “Ashi” means “foot” and “Atsu” means “pressure”, so together they symbolize foot pressure. This massage is designed for people who enjoy a deep, yet relaxing massage. Large, very tense muscles effortlessly relax under gravity pressure.

Why are the feet more effective than the hands? This method provides more control for the therapist and longer strokes over the body. Using the pressure of the therapist’s feet creates soft tissue that surrounds the muscles and disc space around the spine. The foot makes it simple to work out knots created by years of tense muscles.  Because of the shape of the foot, it provides a much broader surface, deeper pressure can be applied without it being pokey like a thumb or elbow. It’s a more comfortable, relaxing, deep pressure instead of being painful.

This is an amazing bodywork experience, that opens up whole worlds of engagment with your body.  I highly recommend looking into this method.

“Hang Ten” takes on a wholly new meaning now!