Kathy Possamai walks all over people. And they like it.
(ARTICLE FROM WINDSOR STAR – Beatrice Fantoni – Feb 16, 2013)
Possamai is a registered massage therapist in Windsor who performs a unique type of deep tissue massage that involves using her feet to knead the muscles in the back and legs.
In 2009, the former maintenance supervisor at Nemak decided to turn her buyout into a new career opportunity. Since she had always been interested in alternative therapies, Possamai decided to pursue massage therapy.
Kathy Possamai, RMT with Ashiatsu Oriental Bar Therapy windsorevergreen
But lots of people were graduating with RMT certification, she said, so to stand out from the competition, she needed to find something special that no one else could offer.
Then she stumbled across Ashiatsu Oriental Bar Massage while on a trip to Regina. “It was popping up everywhere,” Possamai said. Spas all over that city had it.
Possamai starts clients off with just one foot, since a two-foot massage can be quite intense. (JASON KRYK / The Windsor Star)
Windsor was still a few steps behind, so Possamai sought out the training (the nearest school is in Michigan) and started offering Ashiatsu in 2011. Her clients at Parkway Massage Therapy Clinic range in age from nine to 60-something.
Unlike other forms of deep tissue massage, which use the hands and elbows to do the work, Ashiatsu uses the whole foot, toes, heels and the help of body weight. Through stepping, kneading or gently dragging her feet, Possamai can stretch and pull muscles in more depth.
With the help of two bars suspended in parallel above the massage table, Possamai hoists herself up and steps gently on the client’s back, hanging onto the bars to regulate how much weight and pressure to apply. She’ll start her clients off with just one foot, since a two-foot massage can be quite intense. (Kids only receive a one-foot treatment, for safety reasons.)
Using her feet rather than her hands and fingers also makes for a less “pointy” feeling for the client and protects her own hands, wrists, elbows and shoulders from strain.
Kathy Possamai uses the ceiling bars to steady herself while working on Beatrice Fantoni. (JASON KRYK / The Windsor Star)
Because Possamai prefers to use Ashiatsu only on the back of the body, she will combine it with other forms of deep tissue massage using her hands for the front, using “a little bit of both worlds.”
Ashiatsu massage is especially good for people who suffer from chronic lower back problems, she said, because it opens up the whole spine. Runners will also feel the benefits since Ashiatsu allows her to get right in to the thick thigh and calf muscles as well as the glutes.
A typical Ashiatsu session — which ranges from 60 to 90 minutes — starts at the shoulders, where most stress tends to accumulate. Possamai begins by sitting near the toasty warm massage table and kneading your shoulders with the soles of her feet, using a hypoallergenic cream.
(And while your feet and mine feel like sandpaper, Possamai takes exceptional care of hers. “Pedicures, pedicures, pedicures!” is a mantra. There’s no scraggly nails or dead skin touching her clients.)
Her feet naturally cover more territory than her hands, but they are also fleshier, so the result is a lot of even, deep pressure.
From the shoulders, Possamai will stand up on the table and work her way down your back, with one or both feet, using the bars above the table to hold herself up, slowly and carefully moving all the way to the base of the spine in long sideway strokes.
From there, the back of each leg gets massaged all the way to the feet, and then she will work back up to the spine, encouraging blood flow toward the heart.
Kathy Possamai uses the heels of her feet to get into the deep tissue of the shoulders. (JASON KRYK / The Windsor Star)
“It’s unnerving,” she admitted, describing how she has to tread carefully on her clients, making sure they are always breathing comfortably under the weight and that there is no pain.
Possamai is constantly thinking of her client’s safety, listening for changes in breathing or feeling for any sudden muscle twitches or wincing as she’s kneading her way along.
At first, you might feel a bit like you’re getting squashed, but the trick is, naturally, to relax. Possamai tells you when to breathe in or out to make sure you are prepared for any extra pressure.
So while you’re relaxing on the massage table, Possamai is doing some pretty intense gymnastics overhead, gripping the bars and using her core muscles to keep her legs and feet steady.
Those of you with tight thigh muscles will find the experience downright liberating, and if you thought you had stretched your back to its stretchiest in yoga class, well, prepared to have it blissfully stretched some more.
“You feel alive,” Possamai said of the whole massage experience.
Indeed, even though you just had someone walk (cautiously) on you kind of like a doormat, you’ll come out of it smiling and refreshed.