Ashiatsu: A different kind of massage therapy
I had been a massage therapist for about 6 years when I went on a road trip with a few friends to Tucson, Arizona for the world’s largest gem and mineral show. (How amazing are crystals? We will have to talk about that another time!) We were invited to stay with Brenda Blakesley, a friend of theirs who I had never met. I couldn’t believe it when I walked into her home! The front room was large and open with 4 massage tables lined in rows. Attached to the ceiling were beams of wood and metal brackets and long poles running the length of the tables! What was this? This, I was to learn, was Ashiatsu!
Ashiatsu, or massage using the therapist’s feet instead of hands
Massage is dated back thousands of years. There are ancient writings and images depicting massage used for health benefits and in religious practices. The term Ashiatsu comes from Ashi- meaning “foot”, and “-atsu”, meaning pressure. So ashiatsu means “foot pressure”! Although this is a Japanese term, the history of ashi actually goes back to ancient India
Some history about Ashiatsu
Kalaripayattu is the most ancient form of martial arts that is still practiced today. Warriors’ training was incredibly strict and intense. These fighters were believed to be able to kill a man simply by contacting one of 107 vital pressure points of the body. Because of this and the extreme flexibility necessary for this fighting style, the warriors of Kerala were well trained in medicine and anatomy. Using this knowledge, they began to incorporate massage in their practice to help with the flexibility and healing of the soldiers. (Note: the lifestyle associated with Kerala is based on yoga and Ayurveda principles; therefore, force was only used when absolutely necessary.)
Our American style of Ashiatsu is similar to how it was done in India long ago. Massage therapists use their feet to provide the massage while using ropes or bars to hold onto for balance. This allows the therapist to provide deep pressure in a smooth relaxing flow. The patient’s muscles feel elongated and refreshed.
The foot is a wider “tool” than a pointy elbow making the deep pressure provided to the rhomboids or QL feel fluid and sedating. This massage is ideal for people looking for deep pressure, athletes especially runners, and anyone suffering with tight pecs and shoulders. If you don’t like deep pressure have no fear! The therapist has full control of the pressure provided in this massage and it can be modified for people looking for a relaxing, fluid massage without deep pressure.
Ashiatsu is not recommended for pregnant women, people with recent surgeries, or currently going through cancer treatment. A licensed therapist will be able to assist you with any questions.