Grad of the Month
How has practicing Ashiatsu impacted your career?
Born and raised in South India where use of the feet for massage is common, I was aware of foot-based massage practices, but it wasn’t until I began to experience burnout in my private practice in Hawai’i that I started to incorporate barefoot techniques in my work. I began experimenting on my outcall clients, setting up in places where I could hold onto beams, low ceilings, or the walls in narrow hallways. I was blown away by how efficient I could be with much less effort, and my clients loved it. Soon after I found DeepFeet on the internet and a training that was scheduled two weeks later on O’ahu with Christina Guerrero. I reached out to her immediately and found out there was just one spot left! But the class was taking place on the same weekend that I had rented a booth to offer massage at a festival. The only way I was going to be able to make it work was if I found someone to cover my booth. Christina mentioned that she had a handful of graduates on the island that may be interested. I wrote to all of them and the only one that responded was Daniel Tsukayama, now my partner and co-founder of Sarga Bodywork. Little did I know at the time that our meeting was going to impact my life so strongly personally and professionally.
What advice can you give to new graduates?
For new graduates my first piece of advice is to practice as soon as you can. This is true for every new manual therapy technique that you learn, but is especially important with barefoot techniques. My second piece of advice is that if you are feeling awkward or clumsy working with your feet, don't be discouraged. It can take a long time to develop foot dexterity, flexibility and strength. For some people this may come easy but for others it may take a while. With practice, you will begin to develop a new relationship with your feet and it will get easier to palpate tissue with your new tools in surprisingly accurate and dexterous ways.
What is your favorite stroke?
The seated posterior work on the upper back is a uniquely powerful technique that could even be considered a stand-alone treatment!
What was your fondest memory of your DeepFeet Training?
My fondest memory during my DeepFeet training was that lightbulb moment when I realized that barefoot massage would forever impact my massage career.
How has your barefoot practice evolved since your training?
After Daniel covered my booth at the festival, we got together to trade and practice bodywork since we had both recently completed the DeepFeet training. I instantly felt a sense of cohesion with Daniel both on a personal and professional level. We started to dream up ideas of a new barefoot massage method that wouldn’t be restricted to a treatment room with overhead support. Over the next 5 years we designed and tested countless equipment permutations and methodologies until we arrived at what we use in our Sarga Bodywork classes today (one of our first equipment iterations weighed about 60 pounds and production costs made it impractical to bring to market). We started with floor-based equipment but wanted to be able to keep the raised-table format for the versatility of using both foot and hand techniques, and we wanted our equipment to easily adapt to the portable massage tables that most bodyworkers use. It wasn't until we started incorporating a fabric strap and employing tensional force that we felt like we were really onto something special. For this we would need to find a way to provide secure tie-offs for the strap and to secure the table at its central hinge so it would not fold when upward force was applied through the strap. That is how we developed the Sarga Attachment. From then on it was a long process of perfecting our product line, filing for a patent and persevering through the many hurdles of entrepreneurship and starting a new business. Little did we know what we were getting ourselves into! Once our equipment was finalized we were able to focus on technique. Our barefoot methods are greatly influenced by our love for myofascial bodywork and Daniel's background in Structural Integration. Designing and writing curriculum in a way that could easily be taught in a class was our next step and it continues to evolve. Today Sarga Bodywork has grown into an educational program that offers NCBTMB approved, continuing education courses for licensed massage therapists in our distinctive methodology. I am grateful for my Ashiatsu training and all the steps that have brought me to where I am today so that I may in turn contribute to the growing world of barefoot bodywork. I know that it will only continue to expand and offer powerful tools and techniques to massage therapists around the world.