Why Seek Out a Massage Therapist?

Regular massages are beneficial in so many ways. The therapeutic impact that massage has on your immune, nervous, and endocrine systems can be felt long after you are off the table…with time, not only are you able to be more relaxed during your appointment, but you feel more relaxed on a daily basis. Massage can improve your sleep, your digestion, your ability to fight off illness, and your general sense of peace and well-being.

Your massage therapist is trained to listen to your individual needs, identify areas that need work, and communicate with you to deliver the best possible results.  While it is possible to feel immediate benefits from one massage, visiting your therapist regularly is the best way to see continued improvement of pain, tension, and relaxation.

WhyMassageTherapy_infographic_CCW (1).jpg


When In Doubt, Breathe With It.

It’s not uncommon when I’m working on a client, to come across a knot – a little spot in the belly of a muscle that somehow missed the message that it doesn’t need to contract anymore, and is stuck in a state of tension.  What I notice, when I start going to work on these knots, is that my client will hold their breath.  Their reaction to my locating this often painful, bean-sized offender will range from, “Ooh!” to, “What is that?” and sometimes even, “There it is!” And whether these are spoken or silent reactions, the natural accompanying reaction is to hold one’s breath, and wait for it to go away. Continue reading “When In Doubt, Breathe With It.”

New Year, New Look

When it comes to writing, I dropped the ball. I admit it. One minute 2016 was fresh and new, and the next, it was gone.  And here we are, embarking on a new year yet again. I had a lot of ideas in mind for what to write about, and when, but…[insert your favorite excuse here]. Writing tends to ebb and flow, and I guess all I can say is, it was definitely an “ebb” year.

What I will say, is that it was a busy year. It was a year of change and growth. A year to celebrate, to console, to come together, and to fall apart a little. And to look after each other as best we can.

Whether 2016 was one of your best years yet, or you’re ready to close the book on this year and never look back, I wish you the best of everything in the year to come.  I’m starting off with the best intentions for keeping up with my blog, beginning with a fresh new look, and some notes in my margins.

Why Self-Care is a Resolution You Should Keep

“I’m going to take better care of myself this year.”

“I’m joining a gym.”

“I’m going to eat better.”

“I’m going to learn how to meditate.”

“I’m going to treat myself to a massage every month.”

…Sound familiar? Resolution time!  New Year, New You, right?  But wait…cheese tastes good.  So does beer.  And cinnamon buns.  And it’s too cold to go to the gym.  And my mind’s too much of a jumble to meditate.  And the holidays really took a toll on my wallet…and I really don’t have time… Continue reading “Why Self-Care is a Resolution You Should Keep”

Why I don’t Do House Calls

It hasn’t happened very often in my career, but once in a while someone asks me if I do house calls. Many times, upon hearing that I do not, I’ve been met with surprised responses:  “Really?  I’m sure lots of people would love to have a massage in the comfort and privacy of their own home.”  “It seems like you could make a lot of money just doing house calls.”  Both valid points.  And there are certainly some massage therapists who do make a very good living traveling to people’s homes to give them bodywork treatments.  I, however, have chosen not to, for a few, equally valid, reasons. Continue reading “Why I don’t Do House Calls”

Alternate-Nostril Breathing for Relaxation and Centering

I first learned about alternate-nostril breathing, or Nadi Shodhan pranayama, in an ayurvedic massage class years ago. My teacher used it as a way to relax and prepare us for learning the techniques in a specific massage routine called garshana-abhyanga.  I found it to be a very simple and effective method for calming and centering my mind and my breath, and the result was that I was much more focused and relaxed.  Since that time, various yoga teachers have led me through a few cycles of alternate-nostril breathing during classes, and I find that practicing this on my own helps greatly when I need to clear the cobwebs from my head, relax, bring more oxygen to the blood to recover from a headache or de-stress.

Medical science tells us that we don’t breathe evenly through both nostrils – that at any given time, one nostril is able to take in more air than the other, and throughout the day this will shift from one side to the other in a process called the nasal cycle.  Our nostrils also correlate to the left and right hemispheres of the brain, so this means that during the nasal cycle, one hemisphere is getting more oxygen than the other.  By practicing alternate-nostril breathing, one is able to balance both hemispheres of the brain, which calms the mind and the nervous system.  This can result in reduced anxiety, relief from headache, reduction of stress and sleeplessness, lowering of blood pressure, and increased respiratory endurance.

The technique is simple, and can be practiced anytime, anywhere.  Five minutes is all you need.  With a little practice, you may find this to be a very useful tool in your self-care toolbox.

On Draping, Previous Experience with Massage, and Comfort Level

Of the details that I mention in my intake form or when acclimating new clients to my massage room, there are a few that bring up questions.  The most frequently asked questions tend to be about draping, client comfort level, and what I mean by asking a client about how much experience they have with massage therapy.

“Previous experience with massage.”

This is a very open-ended question on my intake form.  I ask because I’m trying to get a sense of how massage has impacted your life, if at all. You can say you’ve had many, few, or none at all.  You can tell me you’ve had really great experiences, techniques you liked, pressure level you prefer, or that you tend to fall asleep during your session.  Or you could say you don’t like a certain technique–perhaps you had a bad session once with a therapist and this is a good opportunity to discuss the reason why.  You can tell me how often you receive massage and why, or you can simply say you’ve always been happy and satisfied with your experiences.  I’m not looking for a particularly long answer, but it’s definitely an opportunity to open up a dialogue about what you like, what you don’t like, and your expectations for the session.  This is a great way to help ensure that your needs are met.  If you’ve never had a massage before, this also the opportunity to tell me so, so that I may answer any questions you have, and more thoroughly explain the flow of the massage so that you know what to expect.

“Undress to your comfort level.”

Once the intake conversation has taken place, we move into the massage room and decide whether the massage will begin with you face-up, or face-down.  This will differ depending on where you are experiencing pain and what your specific goals are for your massage session.  Before I step out of the room to wash my hands and let you get comfortable on the table, I say “Undress to your comfort level.”  By this I mean that you do not have to take off any more clothing than you want to in order to feel safe.  Many might scoff at the word “safe” in this instance, but being unclothed under covers on a table can be a very scary thought for some.  Whatever level of vulnerability you may feel in this situation, know that your comfort is what is important in your massage session.  I have worked on clients who didn’t want to take their socks off, left their pants or leggings on, left their shirt on. Removing your undergarments is up to you.  I will work around anything as long as you are comfortable.

Regarding Draping.

As I work my way through your massage, I undrape only the part of you that I am working on at that time.  The rest of you stays under the covers.  So, you will only ever have one arm, a leg, or your back or shoulders exposed at one time.  Also, what I uncover is no more than you would expect to have exposed at the beach or the pool–so yes, I may work on your hips or your outer glutes, your lower back or your pectoral muscles, but you will remain modestly draped the entire time.  You may be someone who feels comfortable with having as little covered as possible, either because you are too warm, or you simply don’t like being under too many covers.  This is also fine; you are entirely free to have your arms and/or legs uncovered, but you will still be otherwise modestly draped.  These are the rules of my profession as outlined by the state, who licenses me to practice massage, and they are in place for both your protection and mine.  Your massage is always approached with professionalism and respect, and this is what you should always expect from your therapist.

Simple Laundry Soap Recipe

I’ve been making my own laundry soap for some time now, and I will likely never go back to brand-name laundry soap again.  My clothes and massage sheets come out clean and fresh, I don’t worry about allergic reaction to perfumes, dyes, and other unnecessary ingredients, and it’s ridiculously economical – I don’t know the exact math, but it’s estimated at less than 10 cents per load.  This is not a recipe I made up, I’m just passing it along for anyone who would like to try it out, along with a few tips that I learned making my first few batches.  

massage laundry soap recipe

Simple Laundry Soap

1 Cup Arm & Hammer Washing Soda

1 Cup Borax

1 5.5 ounce bar Fels Naptha soap*

1/2 cup baking soda

*You could also use Ivory bar soap or another natural bar soap if you like; you’ll want to use between 4.5 and 5.5 ounces.

Grate bar soap into fine flakes.  You can do this by hand, or chop it into smaller pieces and put it into a food processor.  

(Another option is to put the smaller pieces into a large bowl and microwave for about 3 minutes so that they puff up.  Wait for them to cool, and crumble into powder.  *Note* if you do this, wear gloves to keep your hands from drying out, and a mask; the dust makes quite a cloud.  And open a window for ventilation.  For all this trouble, I’m actually happier to hand-grate.)

Combine the grated soap flakes into a large bowl with the other ingredients and mix together well.  You can add a few drops of orange or lavender essential oil if you like; 40-50 drops is sufficient.  I prefer to add a few drops to the scoop right before putting it into the laundry, so that it doesn’t evaporate.  

This recipe makes enough soap to fill a 32-ounce mason jar.

Use 1/8 cup per wash.  Works best with warm or hot water, but if you think it’s not working as well with cold water washes, try dissolving the soap in a little warm water before adding it to the wash.  To deodorize and soften fabric, use 1/2 cup of white vinegar as fabric softener in the rinse cycle.  Use caution with the vinegar if laundering synthetic fabrics (like yoga pants), as the vinegar smell will sometimes remain after drying, until the next wash.

On the Integration of My Bodywork Practice with Herbal Medicine

In early 2012 I  began a period of self-exploration which included my career and my personal needs.  I was busy working my two jobs, balancing the career I loved with the steady paycheck that came with a stable retail job. I was comfortable with my skills, and I was building my reputation with the local community.  Still, I was wondering when my chance would finally come to break away from the work I had to do to survive, and finally set about doing the work I love to do, full-time.

Up until that time the thought of becoming an herbalist had never crossed my mind.  The suggestion took root in me one day as the mention of herbalism came up in a casual conversation. That day a voice somewhere inside me suddenly said something:

“Herbalist.  I could do that.” Continue reading “On the Integration of My Bodywork Practice with Herbal Medicine”

What’s the Difference Between a Relaxation and a Deep Tissue Massage?

Like many massage therapists, my two most often requested services are Relaxation Massage, and Deep Tissue Massage.  These are offerings that can be found on just about any massage service menu, anywhere in the country.  And in my years working on people, I still sometimes have trouble summing up the difference between the two, when discussing which massage a client should choose.  However, it’s good to know the basic differences between the two, so that if you’ve never had a massage before, or even if you are accustomed to having them, you can make an informed decision as to which massage will suit your needs.  So, here is my (lengthy) explanation of how my massages differ from one another. Continue reading “What’s the Difference Between a Relaxation and a Deep Tissue Massage?”