One of the great things about our ashiatsu barefoot massage class is that we bring in outside clients for the students in a class to work on. These are not random people picked up off the street, but rather ashi-experienced men and women who give excellent feedback on technique, approach, dismounts, pressure, etc.
Other than improving pressure and consistency, which definitely takes practice, I universally hear these things from the class clients after having received a full body barefoot massage session in ashiatsu class:
- SLOW DOWN!
- The massage itself was good, but you slapped on the cream.
- The ashiatsu strokes were fantastic, but the approaches and dismounts were clunky, fast, or unpleasant.
- I can feel you hopping and walking on the table.
- The draping was not good. As in, I felt exposed.
- You pinched my skin / clipped my ear / pulled my hair.
- I can feel nails.
Let’s break it down.
Slower is better. Ashiatsu feels better when you sink in and feel the tissue. Plus, you can go deeper. Taking your time not only allows you to melt into the muscle fibers and tissue, but a slower pace is more relaxing for the client. When he’s not fighting to “breathe into it”, your work will be more effective.
How you apply your massage cream or oil is a big deal, actually. Students in my ashiatsu classes are taken aback when I tell them that I can tell if they’re going to be good at barefoot massage by watching them apply lubricant.
A massage therapist who carelessly executes the lubrication is oftentimes one who is not thinking of what she or he is doing, but ready to get onto the next task. It’s all part of the ashiatsu massage, though. How you use your hands matters as much as how you massage with your feet.
How do you ashi?
We know that when you first learn, you are thinking of the stroke itself and not much else. However, how you approach your client with you feet, as well as how you end the stroke, is all a part of the movement.
Therapists who work with their hands don’t simply plop them onto the client–the movement is graceful and gently. Our feet should be the same.
Same goes for the exit. Your strategy should include a smooth glide with your foot wherever the movement goes: off the shoulder, the olecranon, hip, etc. Avoid bony prominences and pushing down on the skin at the dismount.
One of the most amusing things I see in class is when a therapist is thinking about where she’s going to go next and which foot to use. She’ll stand in one place, stepping back and forth on average 7 times before she’ll commit to the foot that’s going to work.
The problem is that the client can feel each one of these unnecessary movements, and it’s distracting. Same goes for clunkily walking about on the table. And, for the love of all things barefoot, do NOT step in between your client’s legs! It’s not only weird, but you could step on something that’s not the table.
It’s not just the movement, either.
Draping. Oh. My. Gosh. Why do some therapists make it so complicated? The biggest problem I see is that the LMT is trying to make the client less exposed, so she’ll cover up as much of the hip and the back as she can.
Here’s the trouble: the more you cover the client’s hips, for example, the more likely your toes are to accidentally grab the sheet and pull it off. Our techniques for draping (we can show you a couple of different ways in class) work well and will allow your feet to do their work while keeping your client’s modesty intact.
One thing that can be a little tricky about barefoot massage is that some things you don’t have to pay a whole lot of attention to in hands-on massage are things like: ears, armpit hair, hoop earrings, loose skin, and curly hair. Avoid hitting these with your feet if you’d like return clients.
Feet-you know they should be smooth and soft. How about those toenails? If you see little pink marks on a client’s skin, that means your toenails are too long. Cut them. Your client probably won’t tell you about it–they just won’t come back.
If you’d like your clients to gush about your Ashiatsu barefoot massage treatment, really focus on these 7 ways to approach your ashi. Ask your clients how you rate. Our grads have access to client evaluation forms–use them for honest feedback to make sure you’re on ashi-track!