Deep Feet

Ashiatsu massage offers relief from stress and chronic pain

Posted 6/19/19

For Steve Baker, Ashiatsu appointments not only are pleasant, but essential.

Baker, 36, of Port Townsend, has been a client at Alchemy & Ashiatsu for about the past six months. As a carpenter and landscaper, his body is regularly beat up and in need of relief, he said.

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Deep Feet

Ashiatsu massage offers relief from stress and chronic pain

Posted

For Steve Baker, Ashiatsu appointments not only are pleasant, but essential.

Baker, 36, of Port Townsend, has been a client at Alchemy & Ashiatsu for about the past six months. As a carpenter and landscaper, his body is regularly beat up and in need of relief, he said.

‘Ashiatsu is actually a necessity,” he said. “If you don’t do it you are kind of stupid. If you work hard you have to take care of yourself, and this is part of it.”

After a session, Baker said the major issues affecting his muscles have been resolved.

“A lot of the imbalances are fixed and brought back into the middle. Also, it is cleansing. It cleanses a lot of the toxins out of your body.”

When he leaves, he said he is in a “weird transformative state. It is really hard to describe.”

Rebecca Lippens, 26, a licensed massage therapist and owner of Alchemy & Ashiatsu, said her favorite part of the job is seeing the difference she makes in her clients.

“I see how much more relaxed they are in their bodies, and how that affects their personal life, their family life and their work life. It has a lasting visible and tangible effect on people.”

What is Ashiatsu?

Ashiatsu is a barefoot massage technique by which a therapist applies deep, broad and consistent pressure to a patient while standing atop them and keeping balance by holding a set of overhead bars, according to deepfeet.com.

Ashi is the Japanese word for leg or foot and Atsuryoku the Japanese word for pressure.

During the process, a cream or oil is applied to a client’s body. Since this makes the client slippery, the practitioner must have great balance.

“If I didn’t have bars to hold onto, it would be like trying to balance and roll on a log because the body is oiled,” Lippens said.

The practice has strengthened Lippens’ feet, hips and core, she said.

With each foot, Lippens does long and deliberate strokes to ensure a knot does not run away, she said.

“Think of it like a steamroller or a rolling pin. The knot doesn’t have anywhere to run to.”

Knots have a tendency to travel into the center of a muscle, becoming hard to reach, Lippens said.

“That is why you have to start at the origin or insertion point and have to follow the stroke all the way through to the end to really squeeze that fluid out of the muscle.”

Knots are really adhesions which are formed when a muscle is contracted and released repeatedly, Lippens said.

“You are squeezing blood in and out and new interstitial fluid in lymph fluid in and out.”

When that happens over and over again, it dehydrates the muscle, she said. Friction resulting from the lack of lubrication causes the muscle to get sticky, Lippens said.

“Whenever you are getting a massage and moving the fluid around and lengthening the tissues, you are relubricating the muscle tissue that is sticking together.”

One or two feet?

Depending on the practitioner or client, either one or both feet may be used at a time, Lippens said.

“With basic ashiatsu, or anybody who is my size or smaller, I am just going to do one-footed strokes. The two-footed strokes, which is advanced ashiatsu, that is preferable for people who are 50 pounds heavier than me or who have really dense muscle tissue and need that heavy pressure.”

Two-footed strokes also are more difficult to perform, Lippens said.

“It takes much more balance and control to keep my feet together, because if you slip off you can hurt somebody. That is where the bars come into play the most for stability and control of the movement.”

Those who have not tried ashiatsu should not be worried about it being painful, Lippens said.

“People have an image. A hundred-plus pounds on my body? That sounds terrible. But compared to other forms of deep tissue, ashiatsu is the deepest you can get, but it doesn’t feel as deep as it is.”

Ashiatsu has an advantage over traditional massage because of the way the practitioner’s weight is distributed through the feet, Lippens said.

“You are getting through layers of tension-holding patterns. Instead of having an elbow or a knuckle on them, you are having the soft cushy surface of the foot, which has much more padding.”

And, having a bird’s eye view, Lippens knows exactly where to apply pressure, she said.

“When you are working with your hands or your elbows, you are always going to be working from the side of the body or behind the tissue that you are working with. With ashiatsu, you have an aerial view of the body in response directly under foot.”

This allows Lippens to approach the knot from any angle, she said.

“You can apply as much or as little pressure as you want. You can see in real time the reaction of how they are experiencing that.”

The therapy is good for those in chronic pain, chronic stress or who experience both, Lippens said.

“I find I have all kinds of different people, mostly working-class people in their 30s, 40s and up to their 60s, who lead an active lifestyle.”

Such folks are looking for physical and mental relaxation, Lippens said. While ashiatsu can be relaxing, that isn’t the point, she said.

“Do you want to feel better for the rest of the week or do you want to pay for a nap?”

Many clients come to Lippens at their breaking point, she said.

“They have so much tension they have trouble sleeping or they have trouble breathing or they have trouble focusing. I have had mothers with multiple children, executives, college students.”

With the unique form of massage, Lippens suggests those who have never experienced it before come in and try it out.

“I don’t make people sign up for a plan. See how you feel and wait to make an appointment a couple of days later.”

Lippens also doesn’t want her clients to become dependent on ashiatsu.

“I don’t want people to become dependent on my therapy, which sometimes they do because they love it but not because they have to have it. It is good to maintain, but my end goal for people is making sure they feel great and their main issue is eliminated in as little amount of time as possible.”

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