Tuesday TOESday: step it up with Ashiatsu Step Stools

Stepping up to your massage table to start an Ashiatsu massage can be tricky sometimes. Placing ashiatsu step stools near your massage table can help make your life easier. Maybe the table is set real high. Maybe you aren’t the type of person who takes 4 stair-steps in a single leap when you run up the stair case! Lunging that far repeatedly overtime might put some extra strain on your knees (or KNEE if you tend to always step up with the right more than the left!)

Honestly? I was stubborn about this for years. I never had my table set obnoxiously high. I have long legs. I used my Ashi-strap (read more about that here) to help me up. I love to sneak in secret work-outs by engaging my own muscles to create a slow-mo stair climber exersize when I got up on the table. I would try and remember to take turns stepping up with my right foot this massage, and my left foot during the next massage. I would reverse the action when I was getting down off the table, and lower myself in a controlled, eccentric movement to play with that secret strengthening idea during each session. It was a nice meditative focus to maintain while I worked… and help me stay toned.

I never thought I ~needed~ any step stools.

One small ashiatsu step stool for woman… one giant leap for Ashi-kind

I admit it… I wasn’t always alert or paying attention to my perfect mounts and dismounts to the table. All my awareness went out the window if I was in a rush to get up or down during a session with a client. Sloppy exits off the table would happen if I was more focused on students rather than myself when I was teaching Ashiatsu classes. Once or twice here or there isn’t really a big deal. It’s the long game repetitive strain that is what you want to be on the alert for.

After lunging up onto a classroom full of massage tables set at different heights many times during 8 hours of training for 3 days in a row while teaching 1-2 times a month for the past 8 years on top of also doing 12 massages a week (phew!) THAT is when I started to feel some strain in my knees and hips.

It wasn’t from the actual act of massaging – my body mechanics were checked and triple checked: it was that dang giant leap on and off the table over and over while I was teaching.

This little bad habit of mine awoke some old ballet injuries that I had dormant in there, and I needed to go to my chiropractor for hip and foot adjustments more often. Of course this example is more extreme than any of you may encounter because you’ll be safe in your massage rooms, undistracted from the busy classroom vibe, able to slow down and concentrate. Speaking from my own experience, take it from me: I’ve been there, done that, and took one for the team. My knee pain stubbornly taught me that step stools aren’t just for short-legged or inflexible therapists: these little things are a big help for everyone!

So where do you use the step stools for Ashiatsu?

Where ever you want! I’ve seen many of my students create a ladder up to their barstools to help themselves up. They set their step stool next to the tall 29″ bar stool that is in place for the massage. That works if you are trying to get right to the few seated or standing bar stool strokes, but it can make for a mess of clutter at the head of the table, especially if you also have the shorter 24″ bar stool up there somewhere. These can get in the way, though, if you need to swap out the tall stool so you can stand on short stool. (See Mary-Claire’s tip on how to use a booster bolster pillow on the short stool to make it taller when you sit, then you can ditch the tall stool altogether!)

If you feel nervous stepping up onto the barstool from a step stool, then over onto the table, it might be easier and safer to reverse that idea. Try to step across from the massage table onto the bar stool, rather than stepping up from floor level. So rather than clattering around by your clients ears, moving stools around, clunking the wall, or worrying about how close you are to their head, maybe try using a step stool to help you get up onto the table somewhere else.

I like positioning the placement of my step stool at the mid-point, or down at the foot of the table. With the help of those few inches of elevation – plus the strap to help hoist myself up or down – that makes my life a little easier. I don’t usually start with the seated strokes anyways.

I tend to start massaging at the clients feet or their sacrum, so the step stools are right where I need them. When it’s time to have my clients “make like a pastry and turn over” I’d rather exit off the side or bottom end of the table (rather than right over their head) so the step stool is down there waiting for me. (Plus, I’m a lot more stealthy with the help of a step stool, since my old dancers ankles, knees and hips don’t make as many creaking noises during little steps versus big lunges!)

Now with a step stool, I like to think of my secret workouts during my FasciAshi sessions more like step aerobics versus a mega-stair climber. 😉

What kind of Ashiatsu step stools should you use?

It doesn’t matter! Just make sure it is stable, strong and sturdy. There are so many options out there – get creative. Yoga blocks. Encyclopedia Brittanica’s. You probably already have something around the office or house that would work fine. Check out the video above to see what I have at the Texas campus for the Center for Barefoot Massage!