What is Ashiatsu?
The ancient art and therapeutic practice of barefoot massage is best known in North America as the Japanese term “Ashiatsu”, “ashi” (foot), “atsu” (pressure). Barefoot massage also has many other names depending on its country of origin.
Ashiatsu is a type of massage therapy in which the practitioner balances themselves using parallel bars mounted above the table or using aerial silks attached to the table, and massages the patient with her feet. Strokes are compressive, broad, consistent and flowing; giving the sensation of being massaged by very large hands. Using the feet enables the therapist to deliver varying therapeutic levels of pressure, leaving tissues feeling invigorated, yet deeply relaxed.
The therapist uses bare, lubricated feet to engage the tissue with compressive effleurage and petrissage create structural change in the soft tissue. The broad, rounded surfaces of the their feet, allow the therapist to administer greater pressure without causing the tissue damage and consequent pain that clients often report following a deep tissue massage using bony prominences like elbows or fingers. The gliding strokes of Ashiatsu Barefoot Massage Therapy offers the experience of incredibly consistent pressure and an incomparable sensation of flow.
The Roots of Barefoot Massage
Barefoot massage has been used for thousands of years all over the world as a recuperative therapy. It originates in India by the Kalari Martial Artists for healing after a battle. Barefoot massage has been used for many different purposes, ranging from recuperating from battle or to relax on a vacation in Thailand or the Philippines. It made it’s way to North America decades ago with Asia-trained therapists in major China Towns like New York and San Francisco. More recently, specific innovations have been made to create a form of Barefoot Massage that North Americans could be more receptive to.
Barefoot modalities throughout history differ vastly depending on their country of origin. Some use lubricant, some work through sheets or with a stocking foot. Support systems range from overhead bars (single or parallel), to ropes hung over a beam or tree branch, aerial silks that hang from the ceiling, parallel waist height “physiotherapy rehabilitation-style” bars, a walker, or longer walking stick. Massage tables with face cradles are a recent Western adaptation, while the more traditional styles tend to use floor mats with the clients’ head turned to the side.
Ashiatsu in Canada
A fusion of several traditional forms of barefoot massage adapted to North American standards has been created and continues to evolve. Ashiatsu has only recently in 2013 become recognized in Canada as an RMT modality. For more information, check out: http://ashiatsucanada.com/ashiatsu-in-canada/
Two major changes have been implemented in Canada, in order to be in accordance with the Standards of Practice set by our professional regulatory bodies. Firstly, foot hygiene protocols and the usage of lotion holsters with pumps, have helped minimize concerns about contamination of lubricant that may occur form dipping and re-dipping the foot into bowls of oil, as done in India. The second issue that was addressed was that of Draping Standards and expectations. Our methods only undrape as needed instead of lying fully nude, and exposed on a mat for the duration of the treatment.
Take from The Canadian Institute of Ashiatsu Massage Therapy
Important Barefoot FAQs
What can I expect from an Ashiatsu Barefoot Massage Therapy session?
This therapeutic treatment provides broad contact (of my feet on your body), firm to deep pressure and can treat many of the same issues that you would see me for in a regular therapeutic massage.
I do use my hands if someone requests scalp/face treatment, however all neck and shoulder treatment is also done by my feet. As always, if anything feels uncomfortable, please let me know and I will adjust accordingly.
What should I know before booking a barefoot session?
It is best to be completely nude on the table so my toes don’t get caught on underwear or socks as I work the low back and top of the hip regions. Also, in a full body treatment, some of the strokes go along the entire lateral aspect (outside edge) of the body and undergarments would prevent this flow. Of course, if you are not comfortable being completely nude or need to have underwear on, I completely understand – but please know that this may affect the flow of my treatment for you. You are still covered by a top sheet and blanket and all the draping is as it would be in a regular therapeutic massage, and according to our Standards of Practice.
I use a massage “gel” instead of my normal fractionated coconut oil because the gel provides a glide but not too much slip. This allows me to provide a confident stroke with my foot without slipping. If you have any specific allergies or sensitivities, please let me know. I have looked at many different products to find a gel with least ingredients.
For now, Ashiatsu will only be available on SUNDAYS. Please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org to book an appointment. 60 or 90 minute sessions are available.
All about hygiene
Please know that all linens are fresh and clean, as they would be in a regular massage. The floor mats are disinfected. The aerial silk is a fresh silk for each appointment. My feet are washed, put into socks and then I keep them warm by wearing sheepskin slippers. When I walk on your mat space, my socks come off and after the treatment, I put the socks back on to walk to the washroom to wash my feet.
I care for my feet as I would care for my hands – arms – elbows. Toenails are trimmed/filed back and the ball and heel of my foot are always polished to keep them soft and smooth. You are welcome to let me know if they are ever rough or scratchy! As I am a dancer as well, I do soak and care for them regularly!
Is Barefoot Massage covered by my insurance provider?
As a certified Ashiatsu practitioner, I have studied the safety of providing massage therapy using my feet. Additionally, my certification in Canada permits me to bill Ashiatsu sessions under massage therapy. For information on my rates, please see my Investment page.
If you have any questions about this process or any of the treatment, please reach out! I’m happy to answer any questions and share information.