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Ashiatsu Oriental Bar Therapy Becomes Portable
On the outskirts of a busy summer festival, what looks like a photo by Molly Hart

canopy bed, or maybe a strange swing, is set up in a grove of tall trees. Onlookers linger nearby and a long line winds through the wide patch of shade surrounding the structure.

The Hardee-Ashiatsu Portable Bar System, which made its debut in Golden Ratio’s fall catalog, is favored with an element of the unknown, drawing crowds to find out firsthand exactly what the barefoot massage is about.

"[The bars] are not only eye-catching, people stand in awe," said Ruthie Piper Hardee, founder of Ashiatsu Oriental Bar Therapy, a Western-based barefoot massage done with the heel and instep of the foot, and sometimes the toes. The technique focuses mostly on the posterior muscles, as the therapist holds onto bars above her head for balance and pressure control.

"I was doing massage for four or five years and was having some fatigue in my wrists," said Gail Warren of Sonora, California. "This whole technique has given me a renewed sense of doing massage. I don’t feel fatigued like I used to, and my clients love it. I think it has something to do with the consistent, deep pressure."

And with the advent of the portable bars, a ceiling is not required to perform the technique, making the modality and the training available to more people in a variety of settings.

"It’s helping us reach therapists in foreign countries," said Hardee, who held an October Ashiatsu Oriental Bar Therapy workshop in the Dominican Republic.

Michelle Mace-Lambert, a massage therapist in Naples, Florida, said the barefoot massage has been a huge hit at triathlons. "It’s entertaining," she said. "You get out there on those bars and people just crowd around, mesmerized."

Mace-Lambert said she plans to take the portable bars poolside at Florida’s hotels. "As soon as [tourist] season starts, it’s going to be wild," she said.

In Kekaha, Hawaii, two graduates of the three-day seminar in Ashiatsu Oriental Bar Therapy have set their portable structures up on the beach, said Hardee, where they perform the massage to the sound of crashing waves.

"What’s nice about this is that it’s revolutionary; it’s different," said John Fanuzzi, owner of Golden Ratio.

Fanuzzi was approached by Hardee to design the portable bars, and after a few months the structure was streamlined down to 61 pounds of maplewood, requiring no tools for assembly.

"The bars are all hand-crafted wooden legs, arches and frames that fit into each other with starburst screws," said Hardee.

The structure breaks down to fit into a ski bag for transport, and it takes about 15 minutes to put up and 10 minutes to take down, after a little practice, she said.

The Master Bodyworker massage table, also by Golden Ratio, is designed to fit the system’s crossbars, although other tables can be modified to work, as well.

"Any deep-tissue table will work for compression work," said Hardee. "However, if they have extra upgrades, like three- or four-inch foam and thicker plywood and center struts, it would be better for durability."

The portable bars, shipping and handling included, cost around $1,000, and therapists are required to sign a disclaimer if they have not taken Hardee’s course in Ashiatsu Oriental Bar Therapy.

"We don’t want to discourage anyone; we just want them to get the training," she said.

Therapist Gail Warren said she was ecstatic to hear that portable bars were available. She received her set in June 2002 and made her way around the circuit of California’s summer music festivals.

"It’s kind of carnival-esque," said Warren. "People haven’t seen anything like this."
 – Brandi Schlossberg 

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