Earthlite® Massage Heroes - Ruthie

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Earthlite works with many massage therapists and business owners that we think deserve to be highlighted. We wanted to recognize a few people that we consider “heroes” of the massage world: business owners, innovators, sports therapists, and local massage therapists that provide to the general public. These interviews allow us to exemplify the wonderful work that they’ve done and receive insight into the minds of these fascinating people. We started with our great friend Ruthie Piper Hardee

How long have you been doing massage?

I have been doing massage since 1990, but that was not as a CE provider, developer, or founder. That was just me in private practice.

How did your career as a therapist come about?

My path to massage originally came about in Hollywood back in the late 90’s.  It’s because the city went through a writers’ strike for almost a year… Well, it’s a crazy story.  I worked on the television show “Married with Children” for 9 years and I was a secretary to the producer.  In the early 90’s the WGA (Writers Guild of America) went on strike and every show in Hollywood went down for almost a year. Over 60 television shows were shut down from filming and networks were forced to air black and white re-runs to fill gaps of air time. The State of California and the LA economy was losing billions of dollars in unemployment so they offered a relief program to anyone collecting unemployment to learn a new vocation and stop taking unemployment.  They gave career choices like truck driving school, photography, real estate, massage, and other vocations.  I jumped on the opportunity and went to a massage school in Santa Monica. Soon after completion of the program they lifted the strike and I was able to go back to the show and my job in the production office. Years later I moved to Florida and reconsidered the health industry. In 1992 I had to go to massage school all over again as Florida didn’t accept/recognize most of my California hours or credits. However, it was a great learning experience to do it all over again.

Can you describe the Ashiatsu massage that you do?

Well, we have a clinical description for the technique on the website and in all our class manuals, but it is simply an amazing barefoot technique of a gliding motion created and researched with arrangements, compressions, and protocols that were all a result of doing my own case study clients.  I was lucky in that I had many doctors and nurses as clientele during the time of development stages because my office was right across the boulevard from Tampa General Hospital. I wanted to create a progressive technique for those professionals who couldn’t perform deep tissue anymore because it seemed they were always in pain.  Most hurt from hyper extending the wrists and hands but also had lumbar pain too. That was my big deal – my back hurt every day from standing and bending over at the waist to give pressure.  I knew if I was hurting due to working deep there had to be others. I wanted to share with other therapists how I was pretty much pain free now that I was using nothing but my feet on all of my clients. It felt amazing to give effortless long and beautiful strokes to muscles and it was super easy to adjust pressure at any time.  Therapists didn’t really think of their feet as a tool and didn’t grasp that they could simulate almost every hand technique they learned in school but use feet instead.  It’s like learning most things – if you’re used to learning something a certain way, when shown differently, it feels completely foreign. It was difficult for them to wrap their mental and physical capacity around learning to use their feet as hands.

What has been the most rewarding aspect of your job?

The fact that without knowing it, the Deepfeet technique was helping to save careers of people I didn’t even know. I knew it was a going to be a cool new approach to massage that no one had really seen before, and that it was going to resonate with people, but I didn’t realize the widespread effect it would have. Students felt the need to reinvent themselves once they learned barefoot work. The satisfaction of their clients all saying it was the best massage they ever had…. well it was all surprising and humbling. I get thank you notes and cards from therapists I’ve never met thanking me. They train with various instructors and write things like “Dear Miss Hardee, I’m a single mom and massage is the only means I have to support my family. I was going to have to get out of the business; I ruined my thumbs and joints and didn’t know how I was going to stay in the game. By taking your class I have totally invented a new me. I’m a happy, healthy practitioner ten years later and I’m still in the business. I’ve paid for my training investment 10 fold over.”  I would say that’s the most rewarding thing-- just knowing my instructors and I have made such an impact and people and they felt so much compassion telling us so.

Why do you prefer Earthlite?

I was attracted to Earthlite in the beginning because of the environmental aspect. But after I saw firsthand the wear and tear we put tables through in our workshops teaching first time students and the fact that those tables lasted workshop after workshop and never broke – well I was sold! It’s a joy that instructors and our students can relax and not worry about the table breaking and we all can focus on learning and teaching. It’s just been an amazing 16-year relationship with Alex Fuchs and Earthlite. Earthlite strives to give us superior customer service and our graduates get amazing follow up post workshop care should they need a table or massage supplies.  We think it’s an affordable, sturdy table that gives the best bang for its buck in the market place. We have 13 instructors and 14 training studios all equipped with various Earthlite tables and we don’t bother to ask students to bring their tables anymore because we couldn’t trust anything else. And of course everyone fights over who gets to use the Elloras when it’s time to do the practicals.