The Barefoot Method is a style of bodywork that I developed from my experience as a Rolfer that blends the most effective structural techniques from Rolfing® into a dynamic, floor-based method. Using my feet as the primary tool, I apply slow, deep, sustained pressure to unlock the postural patterns that cause your tension, pain and movement restriction.
The Barefoot Method involves using body weight and leverage to give clients the pressure they need while preserving the body mechanics of the practitioner. Deep, sustained pressure can be delivered with little to no strain on the practitioner’s body. The result is a deeply satisfying bodywork session.
I began developing The Barefoot Method because of the tension and pain that was building up in my body as a result of practicing Rolfing in the traditional way (using elbows, forearms, knuckles and fingers.) I loved doing deeper work with clients but my wrists, hands and shoulders would always feel tired at the end of the day and I started having pain in one of my wrists.
According to a recent study published by the Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals, 70 percent of bodyworkers report "significant symptoms of occupational disability" within their last 2 years of practice. That bodyworkers would have to sacrifice their own bodies to help their clients with their bodies never make sense to me.
So, to get rid of my own pain and to work on a safer method of helping people with their bodies, I started experimenting by having friends step on me. Because the friends that were stepping on me were not professional bodyworkers, I just had them stand still while I took it upon myself to position my body under their feet and guide their pressure. Then, I started to move, stretch and twist to create the space exactly where I needed it. I told them to move to a new spot when I was ready. As my tension and pain quickly began to disappear, I realized that I had discovered a powerful technique that could empower my clients to participate more in their own healing process.
The Barefoot Method versus Ashiatsu and Thai Massage
The Barefoot Method is quite different from Ashiatsu or Thai Massage. Ashiatsu is done on a massage table while the practitioner uses overhead bars for balance. Many of the strokes of Ashiatsu are sliding strokes. Thai Massage is based on following energy lines and while Thai Massage therapists use their feet a bit, they also do a lot of work with their arms and hands and use a rhythmic pressure.
The Barefoot Method is done on the floor while clothed without any oil. The method follows anatomically-based structural patterns. The pressure is slow, compressive, firm and sustained. Practitioners use two bamboo staffs for balance. Keeping the arms overhead for several hours a day puts too much strain in the shoulders.
Other things to note about the Barefoot Method:
I sometimes ask clients to move and stretch in sessions rather than laying passively. When you move, you get to find precisely the places that need to open the most and you can fine tune the level of intensity.
I work asymmetrically. The Barefoot Method sessions are custom tailored treatments that strategically address tension and pain while considering overall postural patterns.
While I do offer full body sessions, I believe that custom tailored treatments that focus on strategically relevant anatomical regions are more effective at changing structural issues and tension patterns than generalized full body treatments.
I encourage clients to communicate with me about what is working and what is not so that they receive more of what works and less of what does not. This means that I don’t just do a routine. I work with clients to find what speaks to their bodies the best.
The feet have clear advantages over the hands in terms of strength and leverage, but they are also surprisingly sensitive. I am able to provide a wide range of pressure depending on body type, the region on which we are working, and each client’s personal level of sensitivity. I can also adjust the specificity of the pressure by using the ball of my foot, the arch of my foot or my heel, depending on what is needed. Also, I still use my hands for neckwork, backwork and other detail work as needed.
The phrase I use to describe good bodywork is “productive intensity.” Good bodywork should not cause you to wince, hold your breath or flinch constantly. You should be able to say “yes” to the sensations that are happening. Pain is often caused by using too sharp of a tool, like an elbow or moving faster than the tissues are able to release.
What to Wear
It’s best to wear comfortable clothing like you would wear for a workout or a yoga class.