Who just loves Ashiatsu?

When I first learned Ashiatsu, I thought that really large men who like a lot of pressure and can’t get it any other way would seek it out. That is definitely one type of Ashi fan! Men with big muscles tend to really like it.

But that is a stereotype. I’ve also worked on small women who love the deep pressure. I’ve even worked on a couple of women smaller than I am, using carefully controlled pressure to their liking. Larger-breasted women find that deep pressure on their backs can feel more comfortable by using my breast pillow.

Ashiatsu is a favorite massage modality of many athletes. Runners like the firm pressure on their leg muscles — every runner I’ve worked on has loved it, both pre-event and post-event. (They hate/love the work on the IT band.) Cyclists like the work on the shoulders, back, and legs. Swimmers tend to love the shoulder work.

I’ve had other health-oriented people including professional dancers and dance teachers, yogis and yoga teachers, massage therapists, acupuncturists, martial artists, and people who work out regularly request Ashiatsu sessions.

But many seek Ashiatsu for the stress relief it provides. I’ve worked on airline pilots, chefs, coaches, college students, day traders, dentists, engineers, executives, firemen, government employees of all kinds, investors, judges, musicians, nurses, police, private eyes, many clients working for technology companies, teachers, trainers, waitstaff, and writers (so far, and I’ll keep adding to this list as I work on more professions!).

Also, massage therapists who learn Ashiatsu love it because delivering deep pressure with your feet is w-a-a-a-y less stressful on your body than using your hands. You let gravity work for you, avoiding repetitive strain injuries. You can work more hours with less wear and tear on your body while giving a deeply satisfying massage. That sure put the fun back into giving massage!

If you want to learn more, check out my home page for The Well Ashiatsu Barefoot Massage Austin.

The dancing genes, sociability, transcendence, and genetic flexibility

A recent article published online says that dancers are genetically different. Some Israeli researchers found that dancers show consistent differences from the general population in two genes.

The researchers said this did not surprise them, because studies have found that athletes and musicians have genetic differences.

I can only speak for myself, but my dance is very connected to music — my movement is a way to participate musically, as if I were playing an instrument. It’s also very physical.

I did a little Googling to see if I could find which specific genes differ in athletes and musicians, but I didn’t find anything that was very clear. Race seems to be the biggest issue in the media when it comes to genetics, athletes, and musicians.

The researchers studied dancers and advanced dance students and found they had variants in two genes, those affecting serotonin transport and arginine vasopressin reception.

Serotonin (“the happiness molecule”) is a neurotransmitter that contributes to spiritual experience — the capacity for transcendence and a proclivity to spiritual acceptance. (See this Psychology Today article for more about that.) It also affects optimism, the healing of wounds, resilience from stress, metabolism, sleep, and more.

“Serotonin transport” sounds like a dance inside the body!

Interestingly, exercise can raise serotonin levels in the body, so dancing itself reinforces dancers’ high serotonin levels!

I admit — I get into an altered state from ecstatic dance. That’s why they call it ecstatic dance, I suspect. 😉

The vasopressin receptor modulates social communication and affiliative bonding. Wikipedia says “…accumulating evidence suggests it plays an important role in social behavior, bonding, and maternal responses to stress.” It has a very similar structure to oxytocin (“the love hormone”), and the two can cross-react.

When the results were combined and analyzed, it was clearly shown that the dancers exhibited particular genetic and personality characteristics that were not found in the other two groups.

The dancer “type,” says Ebstein, clearly demonstrates qualities that are not necessarily lacking but are not expressed as strongly in other people: a heightened sense of communication, often of a symbolic and ceremonial nature, and a strong spiritual personality trait.

I know this is controversial, but I want to weigh in on the side of flexibility when it comes to genetics. For much of my life, genes were thought to be destiny, unalterable. Now it is known that the expression of genes is much more dynamic than previously believed. They can switch on and off.

I don’t know that much about it, except that stress tends to switch on the bad genes. I don’t know which or how many genes truly create destiny and therefore cannot be influenced, except that there probably are some. We just don’t know enough about this in our current level of understanding.

I want to encourage people who believe they don’t have the dancing genes to give dancing a try.

Two left feet? That’s a myth. If you can walk, you have rhythm and coordination.

If you think you can’t dance, try just moving to some music alone in your own home if you feel self-conscious. Play something catchy, like “I Heard It Through the Grapevine.”

Start simple, just swaying your hips to the beat, keeping your feet in place. Do you like it? Do you feel any sense of pleasure? Play with it. Add your arms. Walk to it. Make it fun and goofy!

Those dancing genes may be just sitting there waiting to be activated, for all we know, and they might help you become happier.