Rocking the Booth

By Sharon L. Bryant

Going to World Massage Festival was a lot like going to honor band when I was in high school. There were a lot of people there I didn’t know. Some normal looking folks, some a little odd looking, but everyone was there for the same reason.

This year’s festival was in Cullowhee, NC at Western Carolina University which ended up being a six and a half hour drive from my home in Hartselle, AL. I’m not sure why I had a burning desire to drive that far from home, spend a weekend sleeping in a dorm on the hardest mattress I’d ever met, doing free massages, and working a booth, but I did.

I actually arrived on Thursday evening and after eating dinner in the mess hall wandered over to the vendor hall to see if I could find Ruthie and Julie. I found the Deepfeet booth pretty easily. The portable bar setup is impossible to miss. Ruthie was there alone looking very stressed. I took a deep breath and introduced myself.

You should know that I was painfully shy as a child and have thought about meeting Ruthie for so long I had worked myself into a state and was petrified I would be somewhat star struck and unable to speak intelligently. Considering that I almost wet my pants the first time I talked to her on the phone, my track record wasn’t great.

Ruthie was so gracious and sweet. She hugged me, asked if I was going to be around for a while and then ran out saying something about checking in to their accommodations. As soon as she left, people started pouring into the vendor hall and since the portable bar system is so noticeable, guess where everyone was heading?

I started talking as fast as I could, surprising even myself. Before I knew it Ruthie and Julie were back and boy was I relieved. Some very aggressive people wanted massage and I could tell they were getting unhappy that I refused to unman the booth to give them a massage.

The weekend is sort of a blur after Thursday evening. Once we started massages they didn’t really stop until it was time to go eat and sleep. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I don’t remember that first client. Over the course of the next two days we saw so many clients I lost count of how many massages I did. All I know is that I did Ashi in a huge gymnasium filled with people. You know how when you work sometimes you get in that zone and the world, the room, the day just fades away and it’s just you on the table with your client? I would gently pull myself back to the room and find two or three students gathered watching me work. After that initial discomfort of being caught doing something I usually only ever do in the privacy of my own office, I realized that everyone thought it was normal. And then I felt like a rock star the rest of the weekend.

The coolest thing about the weekend, though, was getting to watch Ruthie and Julie work. I learned so much just watching. When I was in massage school my instructors would show us a move or a sequence and explain how everyone took the same building blocks and made the massage their own. Essentially, everyone does the same move differently. I had never seen that principle so beautifully illustrated as when Ruthie and Julie worked.

It was so apparent while they were on the bars together doing tandem Ashi and then singly when they each worked the same areas just a little differently. It was fantastic watching the subtly different techniques and even getting schooled by Julie. She taught me her signature move! Thanks, Julie, my clients love it!

All in all, it was a lot of fun and a lot of work (if you call doing Ashi work). I learned some new Ashi moves. I learned how to talk about Ashi to students, other CEU providers, and massage consumers. I got to meet and make friends with Ruthie and Julie. I got to meet and make friends with a lot of people. I still don’t know most of their names, but I will never forget them collectively. My friends here at home still think I’m a little crazy for doing it, but to me, it was more than worth it for everything I experienced and learned.

***Sharon Bryant has been a certified Ashiatsu Oriental Bar Therapist since early 2009. She provides AOBT at Harvest Moon Massage Therapy & Reflexology in Decatur, Alabama. She can be found online at or on Facebook.


(If anyone has any pictures of Sharon working her magic on the bars from the World Massage Festival, she’d love to see it!)

You can meet Sharon and Ruthie online in this video interview with the Massage Nerd!

Ashiatsu Deepfeet Bar Therapy® is the leader in Continuing Education for Massage Therapists  nationwide. Our method of deep tissue barefoot Swedish massage using an over head support system has improved the quality of life for many massage therapists around the world. Learn more at