Alex Tompkins Deepfeet Bar Therapy Graduate

Graduate Spotlight

Alex Tomkins

Kailua Kona, HI

Who did you study under? (Instructor name/location)

Abby Parker - Oahu, HI

Where do you see clients? Do you own your own practice?

My own practice. Kona Wellness Center

How did you first become interested in barefoot massage, and what motivated you to pursue it as a specialization in your massage therapy career?

I honestly just saw a picture of someone doing ashiatsu on Instagram with the portable bar set up and thought it looked really cool. I’d been experiencing sore thumbs and fingers and just thought it would be good to add some new tools to my toolbox. Also, no one else was currently offering it in my town so I was excited to offer a unique service!

Are there specific techniques you find particularly effective for certain conditions?

I just really love all of the long, deep gliding strokes. I find that making sure I have enough grip and staying behind the wave of tissue is great for myofascial release.

Can you share some key insights or moments during your training that significantly impacted your understanding and proficiency in the barefoot massage modality?

Personally, I don’t really enjoy workshops or trainings where there is too much talking and theory. I learn by practicing. So I was really excited that we got to dive right into it. From the first morning of our class we were practicing on each other and then we practiced on clients. Getting feedback and just feeling it for myself was the most impactful for me.

What challenges did you face while learning barefoot massage, and how did you overcome them to successfully integrate this modality into your practice?

The challenge for me was learning how to give deep pressure. You’d think it would be really easy but at first for me, it wasn’t. You aren’t really aware of how much of your weight people can handle at first. I was surprised sometimes when I would ask “what number are we at here” and people would say only a 3 or 4. So learning how to transfer my weight into the working leg/foot to give that deep pressure was really important for me.

In your experience, what specific benefits have you observed for both yourself and your clients since incorporating barefoot massage into your sessions?

For myself, the first thing would be less pain in my hands and fingers. I still perform hands on massage but I would say about half of my massages every week are with my hands and half are ashiatsu. Not having to rely on my hands 100% of the time means I’m not experiencing any pain. I’m also enjoying massaging again. I noticed I had got to a point in my practice where I wasn’t feeling very engaged with my massages. I felt like I was kind of just doing the same thing for every client. After learning ashiatsu, I am enjoying massaging a lot more. It’s fun for me! And it’s even made my hands on massages more enjoyable because some of the things I learned can be applied with the hands too, for example, I am much more conscious of my effect on the fascia now. For my clients, I think they are just loving the deep but broad pressure. They’re all surprised by how good the foot feels. And a lot of them have confirmed that they feel the positive effects of the massage for a lot longer than if they had received a hands on massage.

What advice would you give to other massage therapists who are considering incorporating barefoot massage into their practice? Any tips for a smooth transition or effective implementation?

I think if you feel excited about it, then your clients will be excited to try it too. So don’t be afraid to talk about it to them. Even before my class I was telling people that I was going to learn ashiatsu so there was already this buzz about my new service once I’d completed my training. My first priority once I got my bars set up was to get some good photos and videos to post on social media and that fuelled the excitement even further. I decided to offer a discount to the first 20 people to get an ashiatsu massage and made sure they knew that I was still new to it. Everyone was very patient and understanding as I was finding my flow and within the first few massages, I felt a lot more confident.

What are your future goals and aspirations as a massage therapist specializing in barefoot massage? Are there specific areas or techniques within this modality that you plan to further explore or master?

I’m actually in the process of opening my own massage studio here in Kailua Kona. It’s in the renovation process at the moment but I should be moved in by mid February. I’ll have 3 treatment rooms and 5 massage therapists are coming in to rent from me. I’d love to host ashiatsu classes there. And I’d like to become well known in my town as the “barefoot massage place”. Once the studio is all set up, I’m going to start saving up for Ashi 2, ashi 3 or ashi thai. I’d love to learn as much as I can!