What you see here is the kind of body work you need IF, like me, you’re in a constant state of soreness, have tight muscles that limit your movement and getting out of bed every morning is a discovery in: what else hurts now?! This is a transformative healing experience, when massage is cute but doesn’t cut it and foam rolling isn’t going deep enough; this is KiHara & Mashing and its my thing fit friends.
I’m 100% a work-out-aholic. I move my body every damn day in some form or another. My “day’s off” usually involve a bike ride and yoga. Since moving to Miami, I’ve been running & biking outside, boxing, taking barre & megaformer classes, and yoga. Shit hurts more and just like my nights out (and in!) drinking too much wine, its takes me much longer to recover these days. OK, and yeah, I’m getting older, and bouncing back isn’t as instantaneous as it once was.
I had no clue what Mashing and KiHara was until, as a newbie to the hood, I was asking around for a sports massage therapist. My friend Cody, who owns U-Fit Health & Performance, personal training studio here in SoBe, said “Unless I need some relaxing pampering, which is pretty much never, I don’t waste time on any other kind of body work other than this.” My eyes lit up and my body said I want it I need it I have to have it.
Al is the man (I quote you Matt). I let Al step all over me, dig his body parts into my body parts, pull/push and otherwise manipulate me in every single direction possible. Its fucking amazing and I leave feeling like nirvana, walking, no floating, on clouds.
OK that was exciting. More on my sessions with Al in a bit. First, let me give you a bit of background. Yes, feel free to google to your hearts content on this, but here’s a quick explanation of KiHara and Mashing and a little bit about my own personal experience with Al (he works with clients at Cody’s gym, U-Fit).
WHAT IS IT?
Mashing and KiHara go together like peanut butter and jelly. Mashing is a form of body work in which the practitioner uses mainly feet, but also hands, elbows, knees and his/her own body weight as leverage to compress muscles. Using different angles and positions, mashing goes much deeper than massage can and like foam rolling, **this is the most important part** reaches and breaks up the tightness in fascia, which is the soft connective, cushioning tissue between all your muscles, bones and organs. It is your top layer , just under the skin, and needs WAY more attention than you realize. Healthy fascia enables your natural alignment and frees up movement keeping all your body parts in sync. When it is too tight, overused, out of whack and all knotted up, injuries are right around the corner and there is NO way you can perform at your best. Most KiHara practitioners prepare the body with mashing and spend about 1/3 to 1/2 of the session essentially walking all over you with their bare feet. Yummy.
Once mashing gets those muscles and fascia warmed up, loose and supple, KiHara is next up. It is actually an ancient “centering” practice:
Ki: the circulating life energy that in Chinese Philosophy, is inherent in all things.
Hara: the vital centre of the self, the focus of existence. The hara designates the part of the lower abdomen and pelvis region near the genital organs. It is an area located one and a half inch below the navel and one and a half inches inward toward the spine. This point also happens to be the body’s central axis (centre of gravity / balancing point). Energy (chi/ki) is stored in the hara where it is heated before spreading throughout the body – hence a warm glowing feeling.
According to Ki-Hara.com – where Al was trained under co-founders/creators of The Ki-Hara Method of Resistance Stretching, Steve Sierra and Anne Tierney – Ki-Hara is assisted “stretching that utilizes a person’s own resistance to elongate, lengthen and increase flexibility in muscles”. The theory behind this work is to “truly stretch a muscle, you must CONTRACT the muscle throughout the entire range.” The process combines strength training and flexibility and, as you can see in the above pictures, Al helps move my body in both concentric and eccentric directions. During this phase, its actually feels more like a workout.
The benefits are pretty cool, and can include increased blood flow and mobility, which lends itself to improved performance in most athletic or fitness endeavors. The focus of this kind of body work is definitely on recovery and minimizing the stress we put our bodies through with the super intense workouts that are now very “on trend” in the fitness world.
MY EXPERIENCE WITH AL
Throughout our first session, knowledge just poured out of Al. He explained the process throughout our 2 hour session and made me feel very comfortable (emotional, not physically ;). I am not going to lie, it was insanely uncomfortable at times. There were moments I questioned exactly how far we were going with some of the stretches. But if you are like me and enjoy the feeling of getting tight deep knots and soreness pushed out of your body, then this is the thing for you. Finding a qualified, certified and knowledgeable practitioner you trust and is paramount; I can only imagine how much body damage could be inflicted by an unskilled therapist. Al has been practicing this kind of body work for many years and was clearly trained by the best; both Steve and Anne are credited as being Olympian Dara Torres’ “secret weapon.” Check out their site for way more information than I can give you here.
With just a few sessions under my belt, I no longer feel my hamstring pain during runs and my tight hip flexors have ceased screaming bloody murder the minute I move. I’m curious to see if, with more consistent weekly sessions, this will have any visible lengthening effects on my physique, but that is much less important to me than how I am physically functioning. Maybe its the chill vibe here in SoBe, but I’m starting to pay a lot more attention to recovery and downtime in an effort to keep my body in one, healthy and thriving piece! Let me know if you end up trying this and how it works out for you. Personally, I’m hooked and need this in my life.
Final Note: If you want to contact Al directly for a session, he can be emailed here firstname.lastname@example.org