Ashiatsu (back walking) is a barefoot massage technique in which the therapist uses deep, fluent strokes and compression, frequently feeling like a dance on your back — offering twice the pressure with half the pain. The Japanese word “ashi” translates to foot and “atsu” to pressure, where the practitioner provides deep, broad and consistent pressure, utilizing the feet, gravity and body weight.
The origin and history of Ashiatsu spans several continents, countries and cultures, including Japan, India and Thailand and has thought to have been practiced for almost 3,000 years. Today, a treatment is usually performed on a large massage table, but it can also be given on a floor mat. The therapist massages with bare feet, which may include having support of bars or a rope hanging from the ceiling to keep their balance, providing a hands-free massage. Depending on the type of Ashiatsu practiced, it can be given with or without the use of oils or lotions.
The following are three Colorado Spas who have brought this ancient treatment into the wellness forefront.
SunWater Spa in Manitou Springs is the first heated mineral springs water facility on the Front Range, having garnered “Best of … ” awards in publications throughout the Pikes Peak region. With a view of Pikes Peak from all 10 of its personal, cedar-infused hot mineral springs soaking pools, SunWater also boasts three saline, multi-temperature pools and an infrared sauna to enhance the relaxation experience. Ongoing daily treatments and services include such specialty massages as the Chakra Journey and Mountain Mother.
Recently, SunWater has added Ashiatsu with licensed massage therapist Lea Forrester.
“Ashiatsu allows for a deeper pressure and broader surface,” Forrester explains. “Instead of using the tip of an elbow, you can use the heel of your foot to apply greater pressure, relying on gravity and your body weight. This therapy works best for people who want deep tissue work but without the occasional bruising.”
Using a special cream called Ashi Butter, Ashiatu produces more of a back and forth movement as opposed to pinching with the hands. “I push with my heel and pull back with my toes,” adds Forrester, “to allow for that rocking motion and maintain deep pressure. With arm work, I am usually seated in front of my client.”
Denver Deep in Wheat Ridge is one of Denver’s premiere massage studios, specializing only in deep tissue Ashiatsu, digging deeply into the muscle layers, tendons, ligaments and connective tissues. Using her feet to help people heal, Denver Deep was founded a decade ago by Ashiatsu massage certified therapist Patty Blake. Blake’s goal has been to help people live their healthiest, most vibrant, stress-free life possible.
“When I discovered Ashiatsu in early 2013, I knew that this was my life’s purpose, and I got certified as soon as possible,” says Blake “Fast forward to 2018 when I made the decision to open Denver Deep, as I believed that Ashiatsu is the most effective kind of body work for lasting pain relief. My clients get the benefit of clinical muscle pain relief.”
Denver Deep also specializes in corrective issues of the body, rehabilitating athletes with pain issues and working with clients in concert with their physical therapists for very corrective myofascial relief work.
Heaven on Earth Spa in Aspen boasts a wide variety of services for a day of relaxation, re-hydration or rejuvenation after a day on
the slopes or 9 to 5 workday. Heaven on Earth’s signature massage, Ashiatsu, uses Oriental Bar Therapy to restore your muscles and leave you feeling relaxed. This therapy is a skillful blend of Swedish deep tissue, as well as Lomi Lomi massage techniques. The long, flowing strokes help put your body into a state of relaxation and works on restoring your sore and tired muscles.
Owner and operator Pila Xian, who hails from Honolulu, Hawaii, understands the affect that the Aspen environment, and higher and drier elevations in general, can have your skin and body. Their practitioners apply more weight and pressure than in a traditional deep tissue massage, while being able to maintain deeper, slower and more consistent compressive strokes.
“The effectiveness comes from treating all layers of your tissue and your entire body as a whole,” says Xian. “I have become so adept at using my feet that some of my clients think that I am using my hands. Actually, I do a little bit of foot work with most of my massages while working on my clients’ hamstrings and on their calves.”
Photo courtesy of Denver Deep.
514 El Paso Blvd.
Manitou Springs, CO
5455 W 38th Ave., Suite C
Wheat Ridge, CO
HEAVEN ON EARTH SPA
205 S Mill St. #223
Originally published in Winter + Spring 2022-23 issue.