The Best Massage I Ever Had Was Also the Most Unusual

Updated 04/25/19
walking massage: a woman's back
Free People UK

Picture this: I’m fully clothed, lying face down on a mat while a small blonde woman walks up and down my back, glutes and legs using the desk on one side and treatment bed on the other to take some of her weight. Sounds bizarre, but it turns out this was the best massage I ever had. I like a deep-tissue massage, but this was taking it to extremes. I walked out of Suzanne Wylde’s Camden-based treatment room in Triyoga feeling like a totally new person—taller, looser and totally stress-free.

Walking massage, also known as ashiatsu (meaning foot pressure), has been practised for centuries in the East. “There are walking massage practices in India and Thailand, but I learned this form from the States, where it is called mashing, as a way to warm people up before resistance stretching,” Wylde tells me. Intrigued? Keep scrolling to find out more about the incredible benefits of walking massage.

walking massage: feet in socks
Free People UK

I don’t make a habit of letting people walk all over me, but for Wylde I made the exception. I headed to Triyoga wearing gym gear; I figured I wouldn’t get quite the same results wearing a pair of Levi 501s and a biker jacket. On the floor was a thick pillowy mat; I lied down and Wylde got to work.

It’s an odd sensation, having another person’s feet working their way across your muscles. Once I got used to the idea, I realised that this was better than any deep-tissue massage I’ve ever had. She was able to apply more pressure where needed, but unlike some deep-tissue massages that have felt more akin to torture, this was totally bearable.

“The benefit is that the foot has a relatively large surface area, and combined with the body weight behind it, can get in quite deep yet with a more diffuse (less pokey) feel, so the result is a very deep yet relaxing massage,” explains Wylde.

Wylde, who also practices acupuncture and is a stretching expert (she even has a book on the subject, Moving Stretch: Work Your Fascia to Free Your Body, £15), has created her own walking massage technique.

“I developed it to suit my clients and my practice, which is more like a deep-tissue massage combined with elements of myofascial release. I created it in order to help release adhesions and tension deep within the body. People tend to feel a lot freer and looser after one session,” says Wylde.

And that was definitely how I felt. In fact, after working her way down one side of my body and performing some dynamic stretching exercises with me, she asked me to stand up. I basically felt completely wonky—tall and stretched on one side and hunched and tight on the other. Luckily, by the end of the session, I was evened out and feeling like a fresher version of my former world-weary self.

For me, this treatment really helped my lower back—you see, I can’t sit down for long before my tailbone hurts. I got very excited at an amusement park as a child and jumped into the ball pond from a great height, crashing down onto my coccyx, and it’s never been the same since. So Wylde worked my muscles to ease any tension caused by my muscular imbalances due to my injury.

For anyone who sits at a desk all day, this will be a game changer too. “It is great for working on issues that are created by wide areas of tension; for example, in the hamstrings and glutes or back. It is not the sort of thing you would have if you want your jaw massaged, although often having your quads walked on is great for loosening the jaw! If you are generally tight, have pain due to the body being pulled out of alignment, find yourself stuck in poor posture or have tension from specific sports or tend to prefer stronger massage, then walking massage is likely to be great for you.”

While a massage with whale music and gloriously scented essential oils is a real treat, this will do more than just soothe your soul—it will make you feel born again.

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