Taiwan is full of massage parlors and reflexology places. And they’re pretty cheap too. So I, and three friends, finally decided to visit one last night, since we didn’t have anything else to do. I’ve had one massage in my life, and it was a deep tissue massage for my birthday that was, to say the least, pretty painful. I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I went to this place last night.

First of all it was 500 NT for a foot soak, shoulder/neck massage, and 40 minute foor reflexology (which is equivalent to about 17 USD–crazy right?). The shoulder/neck massage was nice, I didn’t realize how tense I was or how many knots I had either. They really worked them out. Plus it was probably the first time someone did hand percussion on me and it was good–not like when people decided to karate chop your back and it’s just painful. It was really cool because it was so rhythmic and they would change how their hand was shaped (cupped, straight, knuckles) and it would change how it felt. I swear if you replaced my body with a set of congos, it would’ve been some really great music.

Then we went upstairs and laid on these big plush couches and they brought us hot tea. This was where it got to be a little uncomfortable. First, as a side note, if you’ve been reading my posts, you’ll know that I’ve started barefoot running with Vibrams (although I haven’t actually been running in awhile given finals and travelling and what not). As a result, the muscles in my feet and ankles have been worked a lot more than they’ve ever been.

The foot reflexology was kind of weird. They would focus on such small parts of your toes and find all these nooks and crannies on your feet and ankles to dig their fingers and knuckles in that you would never have thought to massage if you were doing a self-massage–in between your toes, the space right underneath your ankle, and so on. The first few strokes would feel good, and then they would rub harder and deeper and that’s where it got pretty painful. Half the time I spent feeling tickled and the other half pain. But at a certain point I told myself to focus on relaxing, which seems counterintuitive. But more so it was about trying to be aware of where and when I was tensing up and to relax those muscles. It was pretty hard, especially to relax my foot and leg muscles when they were doing something painful, because you instinctively want to tense up to help mediate the pain instead of just feeling it.

So that’s what I made my goal, was to just allow myself to feel the pain in its entirety and see if the reflexology points would actually make me feel the pressure they were putting on my feet in another part of my body. Most of the time the pain just made my quads and hamstrings involuntarily twitch. It was kind of cool.

Once they finished the detailed work, they wrapped our legs in hot towels and put more pressure on them. Then they sat our legs at a weird angle on their lap and drummed on them like they did our shoulders. Again really cool to see their hands in action. AND it felt really cool because the drumming made you have to relax your legs.

Overall, I would say I was thankful for the deep foot massage given how much I have been working my foot and ankle muscles from running. After it was over, my feet and legs felt so light. I will definitely have to try it again–I think in subsequent visits I could get more physical benefits out of the pressure and massage.