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Business & Real Estate

From Google to First Street: Massage therapist sets up studio in downtown Los Altos


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Upuia Ahkiong is slated to open Kua Body Studios next month at 106 First St. Ahkiong is sharing space with Evolve Classical Pilates.

A massage therapist with ties to Google Inc. is slated to open a new – and shared – studio at 106 First St.

Upuia Ahkiong is scheduled to open Kua Body Studios Sept. 5 as part of a grand-opening weekend celebration. Ahkiong, who previously spent 10 years as the massage therapist for Google, plans to share studio space with an existing Los Altos business – Evolve Classical Pilates.

Reached by the Town Crier, Ahkiong said her foray into Los Altos is part of a larger overall expansion. Earlier this month, she opened another Kua Body Studios location in Pleasanton, where she currently resides.

“The opportunity just presented itself and I really wanted to build my practice,” said Ahkiong, who specializes in Thai massage and several other modalities, including prenatal and therapeutic massage, as well as shiatsu and craniosacral therapy. “For me, it just made more sense to stay local – close to Google. After all, the majority of my clients are here.”

Ahkiong, who has more than 1,000 hours of comprehensive massage therapy training, said a career in massage therapy was the furthest thing from her mind more than a decade ago when she was working as a school counselor in South San Francisco.

“I wanted to be a principal … and I was on track to become a principal, but I just took a detour,” she said. “I didn’t see it coming.”

That detour, she noted, occurred when she started taking a massage therapy night class for fun. Ahkiong said she always had “a curiosity” about massage, adding that she was inspired in part by her Samoan paternal grandmother, Upuia Tuialu’ulu’u, considered a healer in her village.

Soon after her first class, Ahkiong began to pursue an education in massage therapy more vigorously, taking more night classes at Palo Alto’s Body Therapy Center while simultaneously continuing her work as a school counselor by day.

“It was just random – just for fun,” said Ahkiong, who graduated from the center in 2002. “That first semester the light just came on for me.”

Faced with looming school budget cuts shortly after completing her training, Ahkiong said she decided the time was right to become a full-time massage therapist instead.

“I just told myself that I’m going to take a risk and jump,” Ahkiong said, adding that she spent her first nine months working as a massage therapist for the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Half Moon Bay before joining Google as its lead massage therapist.

With the opening of her Los Altos studio around the corner, Ahkiong said she’s eager to see what the future holds.

“I’m on a huge high right now,” she said. “This opportunity and everything that’s unfolding really excites me.”

Ahkiong said she’s in the midst of building a team of “seasoned” massage therapists over the next several months. In addition, she plans to team up with Evolve owner Allison Gonzalez to offer various workshops and classes in the near future. The duo is slated to host massage and Pilates demonstrations 3-5 p.m. Aug. 30 at the Third Street Green pop-up park.

For more information, visit kuabody.me.

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