I was describing Ashiatsu to someone recently, and I used the term ‘Gliding Compression’ to explain part of DeepFeet Bar Therapy’s technique. With a sideways look and one raised eyebrow, the response I got back was “How can ‘gliding compression’ be something that actually is possible in one move? They are two different things.”

Huh. Guess I never really thought about that.

Sometimes the word “compression” is used to describe a static massage stroke. Something we tend to think of as being done through clothing or the sheet, (like with chair massage) or ischemic compression (like with trigger point work.) Pressure is directed toward the source, aiming through tissues in between your point of surface contact and that intended source. Compress and hold, don’t slide, just maintain pressure.

Gliding strokes in massage do just that: they move, they glide. Sometimes deep, sometimes not, they at least move around. There is usually a shearing force and somewhat diagonal line of pressure being applied.

OK, so after thinking about what my friend literally thought about the terms “Compression” and “Gliding” and how he related them to massage strokes, I kinda get where he’s coming from! Seems contradictory, right? Wanna know my answer to his question?

I think Ashiatsu DeepFeet Bar Therapy’s gliding compressive strokes include a direction of pressure that pushes tissue against underlying bone. While standing on the massage table during an Ashiatsu massage, we have an advantage of being above the client, so we can apply pressure straight down when necessary – not just from a slightly diagonal plane (like how we do when standing on the ground during Swedish massage.) If the gravity and line of pressure are directed at a 90 degree angle through the muscle tissue down to underlying bone, we can engage the tissue with a broad compression from our foot. Then, since our center of gravity is above that contact, we can initiate movement from our core and legs to give the stroke momentum… and now you can slide. Voila. Gliding compression the Ashiatsu way.

I went on to explain that the multitude of benefits that barefoot compression therapy delivers makes Ashiatsu a popular massage among those who crave deeper work. Using deep effleurage strokes with gravitational forces on strategic points along the body, Ashiatsu creates the “deepest most luxurious massage on the planet” while creating a structural change in chronic soft tissue damage.

(GAH! Did I just say “deep effleurage” strokes?! As I said it I realized how that probably sounds like an oxymoron that I haven’t ever noticed before. Isn’t Effleurage supposed to be superficial!?!?)

Oh well. He got the idea by then. He said “Sounds Awesome!”

Soooo, I guess there’s no need to over think Ashi, it’s just awesome, that’s all.


Ashiatsu Deepfeet Bar Therapy® is the leader in Continuing Education for Massage Therapists  nationwide. Our method of deep tissue barefoot Swedish massage using an over head support system has improved the quality of life for many massage therapists around the world. Learn more at www.deepfeet.com.