Over 30 years ago, when Tom Owens was a young Ashland massage technician, he wondered why you had to lay on this flat table, with no allowance for the fact that some of your body, like the pelvis, sternum and knees are strong anchor points and the belly, spine and breathing are more soft and vulnerable and need to be supported, so they can be worked on — or at least just allow you some longed-for relaxation and comfort.

Thus was born "BodyCushion," a collection of foam pads strategically sewn into leatherette cushions that can be arranged to lay on your back, front or side — and leaning forward in the sitting position, with the main objective of “unloading” your spine, says Owens.

It’s been used for a range of healing art modalities, including acupuncture, massage, chiropractic, shiatsu and Thai massage, as well as athletic training and getting ready for baby delivery, he says.

Now the system, which sells for $499 for the basic system, is sold all over Europe and Japan. About 2,000 of them are sold annually. The system folds up into the size of a suitcase and weighs 5.5 pounds. His shop, which has remained loyal to its Ashland location, has seven employees.

As to why massage technicians tend to stick with their flat tables, Owens scratches his head and says, “I think it’s their tradition. They learned it in massage school and workshops in the '70s and are sticking with it. You have to be open to change.”

On his wall are long lists of universities and sports teams — even the Packers and LeBron James — that have bought the BodyCushion and, with that established, he says he’s edging into the medical world where it’s starting to be used in pain-and-spine centers, ambulatory surgery centers (where spine injections have to happen) and other such uses.

Even if you don’t have a procedure or healing technique done, Owens says just laying face down on it for half an hour greatly relaxes the body, soothes the day’s stress, spasms and migraines and can shrink a range of painful afflictions — even reducing need for pain meds. Speaking the language of tai chi, Owens says, “Everything softens. It frees the chi.”

Owens' Body Support Systems, Inc., is partnering with the Oregon Chapter of the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) to sponsor and support their annual board meeting Nov. 4, 2017, at the Ashland Institute of Massage. Body Support Systems will provide an educational demonstration of the BodyCushion, as well as sponsor a “Taste of Rogue Valley” happy hour event from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the institute, 280 East Hersey St., Unit A-8, Ashland.