Scroll over and click on the Question to view the Answer to each of the following Frequently Asked Questions.
1. Can you feel muscles and knots with your feet?
Yes. We have a plethora of free nerve endings in our feet which send messages to our brain and help us to read the quality of the tissues. Within the first few hours of training your feet to massage and palpate, your sensory ability begins to increase. By the end of the four days of Foundations 1, you will be able to palpate contracture, adhesions, scar tissue, trigger points and knots with your feet! Smaller muscles groups, including the neck and shoulders require a therapist to develop greater dexterity, so we spend more time applying techniques to these areas during our courses, so the brain and feet have time to develop these connections or neuro pathways. We are taught in Massage School that it is acceptable and even recommended to palpate and treat using our elbows and forearms. When looking at the cortical homunculus, you can see that the feet have a relatively large number of sensory and motor neurons, compared to the elbow or forearm. In fact, there are more nerve endings per square centimetre in the foot than any other part of the body.
2. Can you treat specific conditions using the feet?
Yes. Unlike our elbows and forearms, the feet are multi-jointed, meaning that joints have play and can mould around any surface. There are 106 bones in the body, of which 26 are located in each foot, for a total of 52 bones in both feet. More similarly to the hands, the feet have a multitude of joints: 33 joints, 107 ligaments, 19 muscles and corresponding tendons hold the foot together and allow it to move in a variety of ways. Using the different surfaces of the heel will create a different sensation and effect on the tissue, much like using the different surfaces of the palm i.e. the heel of the palm versus the ulnar side of the palm. The toes and first metatarsals are also great tools for targeted work to the smaller muscles in the body. The physical structure and innervation of the foot enables a diverse range of movements and advanced dexterity, so treating specific conditions can be done so in an extremely effective manner, using the feet.
3. Is Ashiatsu only a relaxation massage?
Not at all. The long flowing strokes and smooth rounded broad surface of the foot make Ashiatsu one of the most relaxing forms of massage, however it can also be one of the most therapeutic when applied thoughtfully to target specific areas. A common misbelief amongst the massage community is that Ashiatsu is a sequence of strokes that doesn’t change from client to client. In fact, an Ashiatsu treatment should be adapted to address a clients therapeutic goals, just as the therapist would do using a hands-on modality. Simply put, Ashiatsu should be considered an alternative to using the hands, to accomplish the same goal(s). A long elaborate Ashiatsu stroke, can be broken down and modified to treat specific areas, just as you would do with manual effleurage or petrissage.
4. Does Ashiatsu hurt the client?
No. Pressure can be modified to suit each clients preference and need. The therapist can deliver anything from feather light pressure to the firmest pressure possible, depending on how much body weight they hold up in the bars or if they leave one foot resting on the stool or table. The broad and rounded surfaces of the foot cause far less soft tissue irritation and muscle fibre breakage than when we apply the same amount of pressure using a bony prominence or the elbow, thumb or knuckle. Clients rarely report feeling sore, even after the most deep tissue Ashiatsu session.
5. Is Ashiatsu more work for the therapist than doing hands on massage?
No. Ashiatsu is the same amount of work or effort, only it’s redistributed throughout the entire body, instead of repetitively overusing or straining the small muscles and joints of the hands, forearms and shoulders. The ergonomics of barefoot massage using the overhead bars, allows for the therapist to be standing upright instead of leaning over the table which helps alleviate the common lumbo-sacral issues that many massage therapists experience. Ashiatsu can transform your painful massage work into an enjoyable low-grade full body workout, in which you can be stretching your hips, legs, pecs and arms, while you improve the health of your client.
6. How many Ashiatsu therapists are there in Canada?
There are a few hundred Barefoot Massage therapists in Canada, who practice the various forms of Barefoot Massage. Since 2013, Nicole has trained and certified over one hundred Registered Massage Therapists.
7. Is Ashiatsu considered to be within the Scope of Practice of Registered Massage Therapy?
Yes. As of March 2013, the College of Massage Therapists of Ontario (CMTO) recognizes Ashiatsu as an RMT modality.
8. Do Massage benefits cover Ashiatsu?
Yes. Ashiatsu can be invoiced as Registered Massage Therapy (see #7 above). Clients can use their massage benefits with RMTs who are certified in Ashiatsu Massage Therapy.
9. How long does it take to get trained and be able to perform a full body Ashiatsu massage?
Foundations 1 is the prerequisite for Foundations 2. Foundations 1 is a four day course (8 hour days), in which you will learn how to perform a 90 minute full body Ashiatsu Barefoot Massage Therapy treatment. The course covers client positioned in prone, supine and side-lying. Upon completion of the four days, therapists feel comfortable to return to their own practices and will continue to apply their new skill set with the certification “test” clients they choose. Usually, therapists will feel comfortable to treat paying clients within a few days to weeks, depending on how much practice they feel they need. This is based on the discretion of the RMT. Foundations 2 is an elective training, which focuses on teaching students to apply safe and effective two-footed strokes. The two-footed strokes allow for greater levels of depth of pressure as well as increased sensation of flourish or finesse.
10. Do I have to complete my Certification once I complete the training? Is there a cost to add it to my list of covered modalities?
It is recommended that each Ashiatsu therapist completes the Certification process in order to have Ashiatsu added to their list of “covered” modalities with their RMT Insurance company. Each insurance company is different but typically requires a copy of the Certification in order to add Ashiatsu to your coverage, however there is usually no additional charge to do so. The fee for the CIAMT Certification process is included in course fee.
11. Do I have to be exceptionally fit to be able to do Ashiatsu? Is there a weight limit?
In order to do our Foundations 1 course (one-footed strokes), a high level of fitness is not required as one foot is always safely placed on the massage table or a stool, while the opposite foot performs each stroke. As you practice more often, your endurance, strength and flexibility will all gradually increase. Ashiatsu done properly is a full body, low-grade workout- so you will get fit doing it! However, in preparation for Foundations 2 (two-footed strokes) a higher fitness level is needed as the therapist must be able to hold up their full body weight in the bars. It is recommended to focus on strengthening your core and upper body prior to attending Foundations 2.
12. How much will the bar installation cost me?
Total cost depends on the specs of the room you plan to put your bars in. Generally, with a straight-forward, residential or drywalled ceiling with wooden studs, the cost will be approximately $150-200 including materials and labor (using your own handyman or contractor).
13. Do I need a special table and/or any other equipment to do Ashiatsu?
The table that you are going to use should have a recommended working weight capacity of at least 500- 600 lbs, which most tables have. We often recommend an economical yet high quality table such as Earthlite Harmony DX to our students. A bar stool and/or step stool are the only other items you will need in order to start practicing Ashiatsu.
14. Will I be given instructions on how to install bars?
Yes. Included in our Foundations 1 Course, we provide a 90 minute in-depth lecture of how to install each students bars, depending on the specs of their room.
15. Do your feet get sore from doing Ashiatsu?
Most strokes we use during an Ashiatsu session are done with a relaxed foot, in anatomically neutral position. If we use any of the smaller jointed appendages, we recommend to avoid using them in an “unstacked” position. For this reason, most Ashiatsu therapists report that their joints stay healthy and feet are rarely sore.
16. Do you have to have "nice" feet to do Ashiatsu?
YES. Your feet should feel like hands and be treated as well as you treat your hands as an RMT. This means feet should be smooth and callous-free and nails should be kept short and filed without nail polish (polish is a bacterial trap just as it is on our finger nails). Foot health and hygiene is paramount- strict foot washing and hygiene protocols should be implemented and contagious infections are not acceptable.