in New York
love giving Ohashiatsu,” says Kumiko Kanayama. Ohashiatsu means
‘touch to heal.’
Kanayama, 37, dressed in a white uniform, her hair tied back,
begins to push her fists on a man’s body, moving around him as
he lies on a futon, face-down on a pillow, a white sheet covering
his body. The 5’1”, 110-pound masseuse first ‘touches’ his back,
legs and arms, searching for muscle tension and stiffness. Then
she begins to massage, using her thumbs to apply pressure on the
man’s lower back while he lies half asleep.
she applies pressure in her fists and begins to massage my body,
I could almost cry because it hurts,” says the 64 year-old-man
who won’t give his name. “When I leave here, I feel really good
and look forward coming back.”
Giving massage is a state of mind, says Kanayama. When she massages
she also meditates. She benefits from it both physically and financially.
“I get a lot of physical exercise when I stretch my client’s body.
I use my arms and legs to stretch as well,” she says. “I’m giving
you a massage, but at the same time you are giving me a good workout
and paying me.”
Born and raised in Hiroshima, Japan, Kanayama came to America
when she was 21, hoping to study journalism. “When I arrived here,
I discovered that the education in America is too expensive,”
she says. Now she works at the Ohashi Institute, on 25th Street.
Her uncle, Wataru Ohashi, who founded the practice, opened the
Institute in 1974.
I was a little girl, my family told me so much about my uncle
and his philosophy. I was curious about his work in America.”
Ohashi invited his niece to sit in one of his sessions during
the summer of 1998. “I was impressed by the way he communicated
with people, showing them how to move their bodies, how to touch
each other, and talking about health problems,” explains Kanayama.
“I felt I had something to learn, not just from my uncle, but
also from the Americans.”
She has observed that most of her clients suffer pain in their
lower back and upper shoulders.
Kanayama, who has been living in New York for 16, calls the profession
her religion. “If this simple touch helps people feel better,
then I feel very honored to be able to touch these human beings
to help balance their lives.”
a glimpse into the career of ohashiatsu, call 212-595-4911.
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