Let me start off by saying that I have had a ton of massages. I’ve been receiving regular massage since I was in my teens, and have been a Licensed Massage Therapist for more than a decade. In that time, I’ve received countless massages from people from all walks of life. I’ve had massage in many different countries and experienced a vast number of different types of massages – from your basic Swedish massage, deep tissue massage, to neuromuscular therapy, myofascial release, Balinese massage, reflexology, Ayurvedic, and dosha balancing massage, Thai, Indian Chavutti massage, and Ashiatsu. Although the latter two are similar, nothing compares to Ashiatsu in its level of depth and technique. It’s also just as much an art as it is a manual form of massage therapy.
When I went in for my first Ashiatsu massage I had an idea of what to expect, but I was curious to learn more as this was different from any other form of massage I had ever experienced. The therapist greeted me and took me back to her treatment room. The room smelled of rich coconut oil and herbs and had thick bars installed above the table. There was a wooden stool at the head of the table, which was also different than what I was used to. We did a normal intake, where she asked what my areas of concern were as well as any health conditions present. Afterward, she had me start face down to begin the massage.
I undressed and laid face down and awaited her reentry into the room. She knocked and our session began. I quietly and patiently waited for her to begin the session, and within a few moments, I suddenly felt her smooth feet along my back. I hadn’t even noticed her stepping onto the table! Her feet slid across my back, and my body began to melt into the table. The pressure was different from other forms of massage, too. Throughout the session, I could tell that she was giving deeper pressure than I was used to, but it didn’t hurt like it would with an elbow. It was steady and deep, yet broad.
This is just a taste of my experience with Ashiatsu massage, but I wanted to share with you some of the history as well as wonderful benefits of Ashiatsu massage.
Ancient Roots of Ashiatsu Massage
Ashiatsu massage dates back many centuries to more than 2,000 years ago and was believed to have originated in Kerala, India. It is closely related to Chavutti, although it has been adapted throughout the ages to allow for an overhead bar system. However, where it comes from and exactly how far it dates back will change based on who you speak to.
Just like other Eastern forms of massage, Ashiatsu’s main purpose is to restore balance back to the body, and work with the energy, or “chi” of the body. Buddhist monks passed down their traditions onto others, and their practice was seen more as a healing art than a therapeutic form of alternative therapy.
Herbs were commonly infused into oils throughout history. Although some modern practitioners still practice this methodology, many use essential oils in their place. Both work wonderfully and have different therapeutic properties.
What Is Ashiatsu Massage?
Ashiatsu massage is a form of massage therapy where the practitioner uses their feet to massage you while standing above you holding onto an overhead bar system. Sometimes the massage is performed on a mat and the therapist uses a cane. However, having overhead bars is the most common method while the client lays on a table.
The therapist uses a special cream or oil designed for Ashiatsu massage so that it allows for just enough pull and traction while also giving a smooth pressure. One of the best parts of an Ashiatsu massage is that it allows the therapist to use more pressure without it feeling too deep. This is because they’re using their broad heel as opposed to an elbow or fingers.
While holding onto the overhead bar system, the therapist uses their body weight to apply pressure, and can also manipulate your body through facilitated stretching. They’re able to use their toes to get into smaller crevices of your body, such as the muscle attachments in your inner calves along the tibia.
Benefits of Ashiatsu Massage
Western Ashiatsu massage has been shown to relieve stress and decrease pain. It also improves posture, helps with spinal problems, and can be a deep massage while still being relaxing in nature. Ashiatsu massage shares many of the common benefits of traditional massage, including switching the nervous system response from sympathetic to parasympathetic – relax and digest. In contrast to traditional Western massage, Ashiatsu brings the body into balance through aligning the chi and clearing blocked chakras and energy pathways.
This is just a taste of what Ashiatsu can offer you. If you’ve never experienced an Ashiatsu massage, we encourage you to try one for your next massage. If you have any questions, please give our office a call or leave a comment below!