FAQ: Am I too big to learn barefoot massage?

In our FAQ series, we’ll be going over all of our Frequently Asked Questions in depth. We’ll address questions therapists often have prior to attending class, but also give helpful information to educate the public on the benefits of barefoot massage. Today’s question is a popular one: “Am I too big to learn barefoot massage?”

Massage therapists, and actually clients too, often wonder if there is a weight limit for massage therapists. I’ve actually been asked how much I weigh prior to giving a barefoot massage. Quelle horreur! Do not ask a lady (or an ashiatsu therapist!) her weight. Rule for living #1. 😉

Let’s be frank, though, shall we? While there is technically no weight limit per se, we all need to be honest about our ability to move with grace on the table. If you can move like this yoga lady, let’s talk.

Ashiatsu is about comfort for both the therapist and the client. While we’ve had very large therapists graceful as a ballerina and small ones clunking about like Godzilla, you need to assess how graceful you may be in class and afterward.

There are a few things to keep in mind if you are overweight / out of shape and are interested in taking a barefoot massage training course:

👣 Can you easily step onto a table and get off it without hurting yourself? If your leg strength and core aren’t solid enough, you may take a tumble. Embarrassing at the least, and painful on top of it. Don’t forget that you can actually fall ONTO your client. That would be bad for you both.

One of these days I’ll tell you how I fell off the table years after learning barefoot massage. There’s nothing like a client lying naked on the table worriedly asking if you’re ok after you’ve banged into a cabinet, knocked your stereo system onto the ground, and clattered your massage cups everywhere.

Can you say, “MOR.TI.FIED”???

👣 Are you confident in your upper arm strength? Even in our beginner’s Fundamentals class, you need to have some arm strength. While you don’t need to be able to do pull-ups, you should be able to quickly and easily hoist yourself off your client if needed or if you lose your balance or start to slip off the table.

Slippery sheets that aren’t snug on the table can cause a therapist to lose her footing. While I typically use snug massage sheets, I have had sheets slide under my feet. When this happens, you need to make sure you are strong enough to pull yourself safely. It can also happen from an unexpected slippery spot of lotion on the skin, or even a sneeze from your client: always be prepared to remove all pressure!

👣 What is the working weight limit of your table? Keep in mind it won’t be just you on the table. In our student clinics, you’ll have not only yourself but a guy who will easily weigh 200 lbs. Read about suitable ashiatsu massage tables here and here.

👣 What is your client base for ashiatsu? Our style of barefoot massage is best done on massage clients that weigh a minimum of 50 lbs more than you. (It can be really difficult and stressful to learn barefoot massage on small people in class. Even our experienced instructors have a hard time with this sometimes.)

If you have to hold your weight off people, even just lifting your leg weight, it can add to new repetitive strain injuries – so treat this work as a “go deep or go home” massage, and reserve it for the appropriate clients.

My friend Mark, a massage therapist standing at 6’5″ and weighing 280+ lb, kept telling me he’d take my class if I could figure out a way to market it to clients for him. No can do.

👣 How’s your endurance? We both practice and receive for 2.5 hours or so each day. It doesn’t do anybody any good if you peter out or if you’re so exhausted that you’re a danger to yourself or your client. This work is hard at first until you develop the muscle memory and intuitive skill to work with ease – but it will take a lot of time and practice after class to get to that point, no matter who you are!

We’re not saying you have to be a fitness rockstar, but if you get winded going for a walk, consider evaluating your fitness level to see if you can get in a little better shape before coming to class.

Remember that FasciAshi isn’t for every client, and it’s not for every therapist either if your client base won’t support barefoot massage.

And for all you skinny-minis out there, the fitness levels apply to you, too. You can be a healthy weight but have no muscle tone. You’ll struggle as well.


Ashiatsu therapists: was there anything you had a hard time with when you were in your barefoot massage training? Any suggestions for those who are going to learn ashiatsu? Comment below!

Please note: we reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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