Massage & Bodywork

September/October 2012

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education PATHOLOGY PERSPECTIVES | BODY AWARENESS | FUNCTIONAL ANATOMY | SOMATIC RESEARCH Feet as Massage Tools By Barb Frye Ready to try something new? Explore using your feet as massage tools. In modalities such as ashiatsu, ayurvedic, Chinese, and Thai massage, practitioners use their feet during sessions. These methods are extremely popular among clients, and therapists who use their feet for massage report very few ergonomic challenges. The advantage of using the foot is that, unlike the hand, it is designed to bear weight, meaning you can use it to apply pressure without causing joint stress. Like your hand, your foot provides you with several surface options. Specialized training in barefoot massage is essential (for more information, visit specialists like www.deepfeet.com), but for starters: • You can use the sole of your foot to apply lengthening strokes and light to deep pressure. Use the sole to mold itself to the contours of the body, for example on the back or leg, to create a comforting and relaxing feeling (Image 1). • The lateral and medial sides of the foot are effective for pressure and lengthening strokes. Using either side can be effective on the arms, back, and legs (Image 2). • Use your heel like your elbow to apply static and moving pressure (Image 3). You can use it effectively on thick, large muscles, as well as thin, smaller muscles. PARTNER PRACTICE Try practicing on a partner to get the feel of using your feet. Ask your partner to lie prone on a floor mat. Start by sitting on a chair and use only one foot to work your partner's upper back. Once you're comfortable and confident, try using both feet. After practicing while sitting, try a standing position. When using your foot in a standing position, make sure your ankle, knee, and hip stay relatively aligned and keep your toes relaxed. It's helpful to use some kind of extra support, such as a hiking 1 52 massage & bodywork september/october 2012 2

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