From Stuck to Unstuck - The Influence of Habit

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Confessions of a Massage Therapist

Written by Whitney Waugh, LMT

As a professional and an adult, I feel on top of my game most of the time. But can I let you in on a little secret? I’m only human and I can make some careless decisions. The ones that end up becoming a mudslide of destruction to my day.

Do you ever feel the dreaded snowball effect in your life? You know, when you’re just one step behind everything and you can’t catch up. The weight of your life keeps getting heavier and heavier until you are trudging through the mud slower and slower…and slower still.

I know I have. Many times. Too many to count! (But really, I’m not exaggerating…)

Here is a simple personal example:

I went to bed late, mainly because I wanted some peace and quiet. Some quintessential me time. Well, maybe more like me and a few reruns of Friends. I say to myself, “eh, what’s the problem with just ONE more episode? I want to know what happens next.” Yeah, like I don’t know what happens next. I think I could recite full episodes in my sleep.

So it’s now 12:45 am and I’m pretty upset at myself. I knew I should have been asleep at least two hours ago. Nevertheless, I head off to bed, set my alarm (for 7 am - what was I thinking?!?!), and drift off to sleep.

Waking up is pretty hard. Snooze is my annoying best friend. When I finally get up thirty minutes past my alarm, I am now in panic mode. I have so much to do in such little time. How am I going to eat, shower, get dressed and ready, pack my lunch and my bag, feed the dogs, and drink my coffee in only 35 minutes?!

Nothing seems to be going my way. I can’t find my shoes. My bag gets caught in the door. I left my lunch on the counter, even though it was sitting right next to everything else I was taking. The frustration is mounting.

After leaving the house late, I hit every red light on my way to my destination. My mind races, the anxiety is out of control, and my breathing becomes shallow or non-existent.

I find myself in a fit of internal road rage, yelling (in my mind) at the driver in front of me who is clearly obeying the given traffic laws, but is also clearly in my way.

When I finally pull up and park my car, I walk frantically into my office and begin setting things up at a record pace. As I am putting my finishing touches to the room and the office, in walks YOU, my first client of the day. You are greeted with a smile, a gentle welcome and hello, offered some tea and our session begins.

Right now, I am in a 12-week “whole self” transformation program and I am reading a book called “The Power of Habit. Why we do what we do in life and business.” I want to share with you what I’ve learned about how you can change your habits to benefit your overall lifestyle and snowball in a positive way through your daily activities.

I don’t start the majority of my days like the story I shared, but the truth is, it happens. Sometimes it happens more consistently. That consistent stress I put on myself is preventable, if I had only been aware of my behaviors.

Yes, I shouldn’t have snoozed my alarm. I should have prepared my bag, my lunch, and my clothes the night before. And no, I shouldn’t have yelled, even in my mind, at the innocent, law-abiding driver in front of me. But disregarding the morality of those actions, none of that should have happened in the first place. Why?

It all comes down to the influence of a habit, or more specifically, a habit loop. A habit loop has three parts: the cue, the routine, and the reward. For me, the cue is that it’s nighttime and I want to decompress by myself. The routine is watching a familiar, mindless show. The reward is that my mind is able to calm down and my stress of the day washes away.

The key to this habit is that in order to stick, I have to crave it. And, can I just say, I crave that time every night. Remember how I mentioned that this cycle tends to happen consistently?

In order to change a habit, we must first become aware of the cue, the routine, and the reward. Once you can see clearly what the habit loop is, you can begin to change the routine.

My routine of endlessly watching a comforting show like Friends to decompress has to be replaced with another, more beneficial routine, like coloring or listening to a certain piece of music, meditating, or even watching the show but setting a certain amount of time I could do it.

In the end, the cue and the reward stay the same. It’s only the routine that changes. That routine will replace the old habit once you begin to do it so often it becomes automatic.

(PS - there is a lot more nerdy information about this that has to do with the brain and rewiring, etc in the book. So if you are like me and like to “nerd out,” go get that book!)

Now here is the part that most people aren’t ready to hear. It takes time and a true commitment to change an unwanted habit. You probably don’t even know how many “unwanted” habits you actually have and it can become overwhelming to pick one to say the least. But don’t fret! Here are some tips to help you become aware of ONE habit loop that can become the catalyst for a different kind of snowball effect in your life:

1.   Write down 3-5 unwanted habits you currently have

2.   Rank those habits from worst to not so bad

3.   Narrow it down to 1 habit you would like to change

This habit is called your keystone habit and once that habit is working in your favor, the rest will begin to fall in place and will translate into other areas of your life.

Use a tool to help you become aware of your cue for the routine. For several days, write a checkmark on a small piece of paper every time you have the urge to bite your nails or when you want to go binge on potato chips and ice cream.

Provide yourself with an alternative that will give you the same reward and replace the routine with it. Be consistent. Be all in. You’ll find that the habit will quickly change. Before you know it, you won’t have pesky hangnails anymore or you will be losing that extra weight suddenly.

You can use this technique of changing the routine in your own habit loops on anything! From quitting smoking, to exercising more and eating healthier, and even coming to receive massage and bodywork more regularly.

It’s all about understanding your own habits and how to make them work in your advantage. To create a better, healthier, happier version of yourself.

I am pleased to say that after some diligent practice, I have now become less accustomed to watching TV late into the night. I still watch Friends, because let’s be honest, I always will. But without letting myself go too far, I am still able to fulfill my craving to decompress alone. I get a full night’s sleep and am ready for my day, so I can fully be present for you, as your massage therapist.

My goal is to continue to work on myself from the inside out. I’m not perfect. I have my shortcomings. Be rest assured, I will always be growing, learning, stretching the boundaries of my being.

My purpose for that goal is to be the best I can be personally in all areas, so I can be the best for YOU. I want my smile and warm welcome into our space at Embodiwork to be genuine, instead of a cover up of what really happened before you walked in the door. I confess, I have my moments of imbalance and insecurity, however, the one thing I can promise is that I will always strive to improve myself and continuously fill up my own cup, so that I can be present for my clients and have the best possible session together every time you see me. No matter what either of us is going through that day. That is a habit - lifestyle I am committed to keeping.

Here's to embodied living!

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Where Should I Go To Get a Massage?

Thursday, July 27, 2017

If you find yourself asking "where should I go for a massage?"   Read More . . .

Getting Massage – Where to begin?

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Confessions of a Massage Therapist: by Shalene Zarate, NMT, CST

People don't always realize that there are so many important elements to consider before deciding where to get a massage. 

One would hope that finding a massage therapist that meets your needs is as simple as looking up a place close to home and work. Or being referred by a trusted resource, knowing someone who happens to be one, coming across someone's card or website, or some other easy connection.

I've actually found that it's a little more complicated than that finding a really GOOD therapist. One that you want to get to know you and your body. Who plans on sticking around, make a career of it. Because lets be honest here, massage therapist have a high turn over rate. 

These questions are often overlooked. But if asked, might narrow down your choices and help you find someone you like and trust faster. 

• Where should I go? Do I go to a spa or to chiropractors office? To my friend who does it? To the person my friends goes to? The person whose card I found hanging on the community board?

• How do I make sure I'm choosing an office I feel comfortable in and find a therapist I trust, who also provides the type of work I need? This takes deeper thought and consideration.

• Are their questions I should be asking the therapist? Is this person qualified? What kind of work does she/he do? 

• Is their facility convenient to home or work? Is it a nice place? Is it a sanitary place? Will I be able to relax?

• Am I comfortable sharing with this person my pains, health history, likes/dislikes, goals, and such to this person? 

• Is this person someone I feel comfortable touching me? Are they knowledgeable, skilled, experienced, and trustworthy? Do they hold healthy boundaries?

• Am I cool letting this person know about my life lessons, and struggles, and things I am embarrassed by?

• What if I do something embarrassing during my massage? Is this person someone I can be comfortable around?

• What's the difference between a spa massage vs. a therapeutic massage? What are these special modalities people have on their service descriptions? What is Cranio-Sacral Therapy or Lymphatic Massage? Do I need that too? 

Essentially, this will need to be someone you trust and feel safe with. 

Here is a little guide to help you find a better fit faster by applying the questions - What, Where, Who and Why?


• What kind of massage do you need and want? Deep, light, relaxing, invigorating, therapeutic, general, specific, specialized, fluff and buff, spiritual-energy based, professional? 

• What are your ultimate goals? Relaxation, pain relief, stress reduction?

• Do your needs require specialized treatment, such as for TMJ dysfunction, lymphatic blockage, trauma, whiplash, sports injury, etc?

The answers will determine where you begin in your search.


What kind of environment are you looking for?

A few options include:

2. Medical Offices 
3. Mobile Massage/In-home
4. Kiosks
5. Private Practices

Click Here for an overview of the Pros and Cons of each to help you decide which environment will best suite your needs/wants.


How does one select a new therapist?

In some settings, you will not get to choose who you work with, rather you will get who is on duty. Unless you specify otherwise and/or book ahead of time. In the instances when you do get to select your therapist, here are a couple tips to help you narrow your search. Finding a good match, is essential. 

• Be sure to have your goals, needs, and preferences in mind 
• Ask a friend or trusted source (such as your acupuncturist or chiropractor) if they know someone they would highly recommend
• Read business reviews and testimonials for the therapists you find online
• Interview a couple therapists to see if they provide the style of massage you are seeking and to see if you have a good personality match

Questions you can ask:

1. What styles of massage do you provide?
2. How long have you been practicing massage?
3. Are you licensed?
4. Do you have any advanced or specialized training?
5. How do you come up with your treatment plans?
6. Who do you typically work with, or who is their ideal client?
7. How do they ensure their clients wants/needs are met?

Listen to your gut.
Do they seem knowledgeable and professional?
Do you agree with their approach? 
Are they good listeners?

Pro Tip: If they say they can "fix" you, keep searching. A wise therapist knows their role in the process.

Finding a good match, is priceless. If you are new to massage, here are a few further considerations:
8 Tips for Achieving Better Results with Massage


Why are you seeking massage? What are the results you want to achieve?
How do you want to feel before, during, and after?

This brings us full circle. You will want to start with this in mind.

Massage is a time and financial investment in your health. Asking these questions may help you partner with a therapist who will help you achieve your bodywork goals, and will make a world of difference in your overall experience.

There are great benefits to seeing one or two therapists for consistent care. rather than going to someone new every time. 

At Embodiwork Studio, we are a private practice that blends the best of all of them.

We designed our office with the beauty and elements of a spa, but with the aim of making it cozy and comfortable like a home. Our office evokes calm and tranquility. The dim lights, white noise, earthly scents, soothing colors, and simplicity, will allow you to unplug for time to rejuvenate.

Optimum results with somatic therapies (bodywork) are achieved by creating collaborative partnerships. Building a relationship that feels safe, supportive, and allows for open communication is of great importance to us, because it allows us to tailor our techniques, for greatest effectiveness and enjoyment.

We always devise customized treatment plans that address each client’s specific therapeutic needs and preferences, implementing whichever techniques best meet the needs of our clients. We never ever follow routines or take a one-size fits all approach.

In the instance that a person cannot travel to our office, we provide in home treatment on a case by case basis.

You can certainly come for a quick fix. We do offer shorter sessions.

More importantly, we spend quality time getting to know our clients. You are never just a number to us. We get to know your bodies, personal stories, health conditions, and what you respond well to. Our training allows us to integrate various techniques for optimized improvement. 

We hope this guide helps you find the best fit possible by asking the right questions and starting with the end in mind.

May you embody health and wholeness.

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Peak Athletic Performance with Sports Massage

Thursday, June 01, 2017

by Shalene Zarate and Natalie Vimont Sports Massage is a remarkably effective therapy for enhancing peak athletic performance. Implementing massage into your regimen is beneficial because it facilitates bodily awareness, helps you develop precision in movement, increases your energy reserve, and provides you greater endurance. Not only does it improve your game, but it helps re-fuel your cells so they can function and repair more readily.

If you are one of those warriors who place heavy demands on your body, such as with outdoor summer sports, I hope you’ve considered how you will offset the wear and tear created by taking your body to its limits, day after day.

Sports Massage helps to:

· increase range of motion and flexibility

· release tension and balance muscle tone

· alleviate discomfort in muscles and joints

· improve posture & body mechanics

· increase circulation

· reduce stiffness, swelling, inflammation, soreness, spasms and cramps

· flush out metabolic waste meanwhile helping deliver oxygen and nutrients back into overtaxed tissues

· accelerate recovery and more enable efficient healing from all types of injuries (including surgery)

· reduce restrictions imposed by scar tissue

· boost strength, stamina, and endurance

· support immune function

· stimulate digestion and encourages detoxification

· allow for deeper breathing

· enhance mental clarity, alertness and productivity

· facilitate body awareness and establish mind-body connection

· reduce stress and create calm

· counter-balance the body’s flight-or-fight response brought on by stressful stimuli

· elevate your mood (natural “feel-good” neurotransmitters & hormones, such as serotonin and dopamine, are produced and released).

When combined with hydration, adequate sport’s nutrition, stretching, and ample amounts of rest; bodywork can help prevent injuries. At minimum, it lessens the impact when physical trauma does occur during extreme activity. Effective sports massage dependably maximizes your body’s ability to perform and recover from its physical feats.

Implementing a massage treatment plan around your training schedule

In addition to your massage maintenance routine, during heavier training periods, you may want to receive more consistent bodywork. For example:

  • 3-4 days before your event to iron you out and support peak performance
  • During your event (during half time or at the end of a day) to flush out waste and relax tension
  • 2-4 days after an event to help speed up overall recovery

Some of the techniques used in sport massage...

Petrissage to warm up the tissues, assess the the area being worked, and increase circulation

Myo-Fascial Release and Myofascial Sculpting to create more slack in the connective tissues, restore fluidity, and improved function in all the inter-related systems (such as the nervous, circulatory, lymphatic)

Cross-Fiber Friction for breaking up hardened or adhered muscles fibers/tendons and scar tissue

Static Pressure, Deep Circular Compression, and Manual Trigger Point Therapy to melt away grumpy knots, restricted soft tissues, and alleviate referral pains

Pin and Stretch (Acupressure) and other bodywork exercises that increase range of motion

Muscle Energy Techniques and Kinesiology to increase range of motion, help strengthen weak muscles, and re-set the muscles that aren’t firing properly, or won’t turn off

Ice Therapy to reduce inflammation, swelling, and slow down the extent of cellular damage caused by trauma

Heat Therapy to reduce pain and soften tense muscles

Therapeutic touch shines a light on areas where you have restrictions, directing your attention to muscles that are hard, lack suppleness, and strength.

In its simplest form, it is a great way to thank your loyal companion for carrying you this far and for all that it does for you.

At Embodiwork Studio, we are honored to help you enliven the connection you have with your body, and to be a beneficial influence on your health. May you have your health to back you and take you far. Cheers to living an embodied life!
____________________________________________ This month our June featured special is: Father's Day Iron Out Sessions Peak Performance Series (4-8 Week Program) New Therapist Grand Opening Special Learn More...

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Phoenix Not Failure

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Confessions of a Massage Therapist

After six years of practicing massage, and two failed attempts before, my dream of creating a wellness center finally manifested.

For years, I had entertained the idea of a coming together with a group of holistic health-care providers to form a one-stop-shop wellness community. I envisioned a single location where a person could experience high-quality, personalized, alternative care. Not only would a client be able to have a team of people supporting them on every level of their health; the practitioners themselves could support each other in their own self-care. The idea was that we could leverage our strengths, share the overhead costs, and operate the office collaboratively. A co-op of sorts.

There was a suite vacancy in the building I was renting space in. Taking that suite over would allow me to grow from a 3 treatment rooms facility to 7+ rooms. It seemed a rather opportune time, so I decided to go for it. I began posting the rooms for rent and sharing my ideas with an acupuncturist I had been associating with. And what do you know? This “thing” began to take hold.

This new empty space was a blank canvas brimming with possibility. Designing it all from scratch, a little elbow grease, and the help of many, we really spruced up the place. I used my own line of credit to furnish it and build a website. After countless hours of sweat equity invested, the Resonance Center for Bodywork was up and running.

As with any new business, there were plenty of kinks to iron out. All of it, unknown territory for me. I had never been to a wellness center like the one I was creating. Nor did I have a mentor who had paved the way before me; who could teach me the ropes, help me examine potential pitfalls, or navigate the challenges I would encounter. Which is not to say I didn’t have support. Quite the contrary. What I didn’t have, was someone who modeled what I was attempting to create. But I didn’t let that stop me. As the founder of a seven-room wellness space, I often had to take my focus off my own business and shift to operating the center. At one point we had 15 practitioners working there. It was a lot of personalities, with very different backgrounds, who were all at different levels in their career.

Although I was not accountable for the success of the other tenants, I oftentimes took on more responsibilities than I should have. I wanted all of us to thrive and couldn’t stand the thought of any of us failing. Being an ambitious, empathetic, solution-oriented person, I would go home every night and attempt to come up with ways for us all to grow.

While exploring ways to move forward, and alleviate the challenges we faced; plans to continue expanding sprouted. 3 years in to this venture, I partnered up with a couple of amazing woman. Who, if we had, had enough time together, would have undoubtedly created something significant. We each contributed a well balanced set of skills. But for reasons unknown to me, this union came to an abrupt end when one of them decided to leave.

My other business partner and I survived this stumble, but I had reached a point of irreversible imbalance. I tried to course correct, but too much damage had been done. I gave her an out, mustered all the energy I had left, and attempted to rekindle my vision. The problems was, I wore too many hats, juggled too many balls, for too long. This eventually led me to burnout.

After six years of blood, sweat, and tears, many injured relationships, and the lack of administrative support I needed to get to the next level, I was running out of steam. It took me breaking my foot while pregnant with my youngest child and moving my family to the mountains before I finally admitted that I needed to let this dream go.

In the end, I sold my last group of tenants a good chunk of the furniture and decor. Taking the remainder of my belongings, and all my experiences: I moved my practice west.
It didn’t take me long after leaving, despite all the grieving I was still going through, to realized I still had a vision and mission in me.

Like the myth of phoenix bird, who at the end of its long life-cycle builds it’s own nest and sets itself aflame, my business vision had been reduced to ashes. What emerged after a period of healing, was a newly regenerated and a more evolved business.

Embodiwork Studio for Integrative Massage, Inc. is my phoenix.

Looking back, I realize how naive and idealistic I was in my youth. But despite my lack of experience, I possessed tenacity and vision. Those experiences were the blueprint for what I am creating now. As tough and humbling as some of the lessons were, I wouldn’t be who I am today, if it wasn’t for what I went through.

I was blessed to meet and work alongside so many wonderful people. I was able to get my hands on hundreds of bodies, giving me the massage skills I have today. I learned a ton about different holistic modalities, and the many facets of healing. For this, I am eternally grateful.

Three years after walking away from Resonance Center, I’ve been able to distill down the parts of my original vision that still remains intact, what needed to fall away, and what needed to be added. I discovered my strengths and my weaknesses as a visionary-business owner, learning a great deal about running a business. In fact, I haven’t stopped. I am much wiser in these matters after recovering from this. I no longer play so many roles and I now have a team of people who help me run my practice. My networks don't all have to be under the same roof and I am better focusing on what I know best - massage.

Yet, in order for me to consciously continue forward, to embody my vision, it has been required for me to:

  • Reconcile some of my deep grief, shame, regret, diminished self-worth, fear, and limiting beliefs

  • Heal the aftermath of failed relationships

  • Face the many ways I have abused myself

  • Work on cultivating healthy boundaries

  • Learn to forgive myself and others

  • Make peace with my many character flaws and shortcomings

These things remain a work in progress and have become daily spiritual practices. I understand how important it is to have the right allies in my life. And how to be a better ally myself. Priceless!

Today, I focus my energies on providing stellar bodywork. I have discovered that I love writing both as therapy and creative expression. I am also at a stage in my career where I have much to offer my industry and have begun to consider how I will pass on what I know.

Above all, I am dedicated to my own personal healing, so that I can continue to support those who are on a similar journey. I hold sacred my beautiful family, and my duties as a mother of four.

Here’s to living an EMBODIED life! Phoenix, Not Failure.

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Do you experience frequent headache and neck pain?

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Pain in the neck, head, and jaw can be incredibly nerve wracking. Making simple everyday activities challenging. Like chewing...sleeping...talking...turning your head, sitting peacefully...concentrating...listening...or even being able to stand in daylight without sunglasses. 
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Wrapping up 2016

Thursday, December 29, 2016

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5 Tips for Maximizing the Results of Your Massage

Monday, November 07, 2016
There is so much one can do to MAXIMIZE their results when participating in body-centered therapies such as massage, acupuncture, yoga. To get more bang for your buck.
If it is your desire to the take the utmost care of your body – say for wanting to age gracefully, repairing the wear and tear that has occurred, managing pain, reducing tension and stress, or enhancing athletic performance; than bodywork is a necessity.

These 5 tips can help take your bodywork sessions to the highest level:
#1. Keep yourself well hydrated. Hydration undoubtedly makes releasing tension happen more readily and with less resistance. Arriving to your body work session well-hydrated helps:
• Progress happen more readily, with less discomfort, and regression between appointments
• Reduce tenderness during your treatment - making for a more pleasant experience
• Promote elimination of toxins that are likely to be stirred up in the blood stream, preventing re-absorption
• Increase circulation of all fluids in the body such as blood, lymph, cerebral-spinal fluid, extracellular fluid, etc.
• Create the medium through which hormones and other micro-nutrients are transported to maintain all cellular functions, regeneration, and repair
• Minimized soreness post-treatment [FYI: Drinking a big glass of water 2 hours before your massage doesn't count as well hydrated. You’ll have to hydrate 2 days before your massage to experience the benefits that I’ve mentioned]
Learn more about muscles and proper hydration here.
#2. Stretch, Massage Yourself, and Move Often Daily stretching combined with self massage, is a great regimen for keeping soft tissues supple, and all pathways in body open and flowing with ease. It certainly supports your organs in functioning optimally. Which in turn, helps preserve your health, and makes you feel more alive and vibrant.
These self-care activities aren't limited to flexibility of muscles and joints. They also enhance bodily-awareness, mental cognition, and physical performance. Connecting with your body in this way has psychological, emotional, and spiritual significance too.
No matter the age, stretching before and after strenuous physical activities cannot be emphasized enough.
#3. Nourish Your Body With Wholesome Foods and Supplements (Especially Green Food)
Proper nutrition is the cornerstone of optimal health. When muscles and organs are not supplied with the necessary nutrients, they begin to malfunction, lose their ability to repair efficiently, and symptoms of disease begin to develop. Malnutrition and over-acidity (pH imbalance), caused by too much processed, fried, or high sugar foods, is the underlying cause of numerous inflammatory conditions such as chronic fatigue, osteoporosis, arthritis, and depression. pH imbalance leads to sticky blood, and sticky blood will make the body to hurt all over.
Not supplying our cells with adequate nutrients (especially minerals) is the major cause of:
• perpetual fatigue
• muscle spasms, cramps and tingling
• ischemia (see definition if not familiar)
• systemic inflammation
• an inability to relax (further continuing a vicious cycle of health problems)
• inadequate or slow repair
Unfortunately, many of us were never taught how to take of our bodies. We really have to take it upon ourselves to become educated about what the body requires to survive and thrive. In many cases, it is necessary to eliminate certain foods from our diet. Getting tested to see if we are accidentally causing injury to ourselves by continuously fueling the inflammation with allergens/irritants may be worth looking into. In some cases, healing crises may require us to course correct in our entire concept of what food is or isn't. #4. Make Sure Your Magnesium and Calcium Levels Are Sufficient
On a cellular magnesium and calcium balance are a requirement for relaxation to be physiologically possible.
Magnesium deficiency is something I see on a daily basis in my practice. I really cannot emphasize how necessary it is that that you understand the importance of these critical nutrients, and the consequences of having low of levels. Your heath depends on it.
Learn more about calcium-magnesium balance here {do watch the video}
#5. Soak in Mineral Rich Waters A great way of ensuring optimal mineral levels, magnesium in particular, is by regularly taking epsom salt baths, soaking in hot springs, or other mineral rich hydro-therapies. This can help assist the body in staying soft, and fueled with key nutrients for relaxation and proper function. There are a great deal of resources out there to learn more about the healing properties of soaking. Here is an article with some great photos to help explain.

Massage is an invaluable piece of the puzzle for maintaining a healthy high functioning body. To receive the maximum benefit, massage and bodywork are best done consistently. How often should one get a massage depends on a persons needs and goals. However, by employing the tips mentioned above, one can get the most out of their experience, extend the benefits, and gain longer lasting results. And overall better health.

May you embody health and wholeness!

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Healing Trauma Through the Body

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Over the past Labor Day weekend, I had the honor of teacher assisting Trauma Touch Therapy™ (TTT) at the Colorado School of Healing Arts with the amazing pioneer of their program, Chris Smith. I originally took her class back in 2003, while I was in my rookie year as an MT. For at least a decade, I have wanted to return to the course to brush up and deepen my understanding of trauma, especially in the context of bodywork. Although I do not plan to become certified in TTT (as of right now), I felt that returning to the course was critical for these reasons:

  • It’s like being CPR/First Aid Certified. In order to be prepared to help in an emergency, we have to go back every couple years to review how to perform life saving procedures like the heimlich maneuver, CPR, wrapping a gaping wound, or how to handle when someone goes into shock - to know how to remain helpful the situation. Not that TTT work is this extreme, but, my point is we have refresh on these skills in order to be equipped when an event occurs.

  • I need to know how to navigate through a situation when traumas no longer remain latent in a person’s body. Each and every one of us carry wounds that have effect on us today. Bodywork can make way for memories or old traumas to surface. Being able to support my clients (within the scope of my practice) when such an event takes place on my table, is of great importance to me.

  • Because I work with the head, neck and jaw, I am directly working with the central nervous system, and an area that expresses every single emotion. The likelihood of someone experiencing an emotional release during a session is higher. Emotional releases are rare, but they do happen, and a therapist must be know how to respond - how to hold space for someone in such a tender state. To make sure no further harm is done.

What is Trauma Touch Therapy?

TTT is a client-centered therapy that utilizes conscious touch, breath, movement, and play to help usher the release of trauma held within the cellular memory of the tissues so that it can be processed and integrated. As an adjunct to traditional psychotherapy, TTT is able to access levels that the mind alone cannot. Trauma isn’t purely psychological. The body is the battleground, the record keeper, and therefore the most immediate pathway to recovery. Through gentle contact/touch, the therapist is a catalyst (and compassionate witness) in helping the client take residence in their body once again. Never does a therapist encourage a big cathartic release. Rather, this work allows an individual to get anchored or grounded, present in the here and now through sensation, and safe by keeping them from dissociating. Sometimes a session is quiet and slow, while other times it can be quite silly and playful. The work may remain on the softer more subtle layers of awareness, while other times, may travel to the deep underbelly, the abyss of the hidden wound. Sometimes there are no conscious memories associated with the muscles memory that appears, while other times old buried memories come to light. This work reveals to us pieces of ourselves that remain fragmented. The treasure is in allowing ourselves the time and space to finally look at the wound. Allowing us to feel it. Cry for it. Forgive it. Love it unconditionally. Learn from it. Heal that we can gently bring those lost parts of ourselves back, embody wholeness, and LIVE the life we were meant for.
Traumas (large and small) can affect us by: • Shortening our fuse, our ability to handle life challenges, and leaving us feeling overwhelmed
• Causing us to be hyper-vigilant in our relationships and environments
• Interrupting our sleep patterns, causing us to be overtired and failing to experience restorative sleep  
• Wreaking havoc on our ability to connect with other people (isolation, need to control, and inability to be vulnerable)
• Making it uncomfortable to make eye contact or experience intimate moments with others
• Creating emotional imbalance such as anger, depression, numbness, and complacency
TTT provides a safe container for people to explore and re-connect to their body by bringing attention to sensations (the language of the body), and to create a safe haven within themselves. To re-discover their voice, inner child, healthy boundaries, build trust, to honor themselves, and gain clarity. This is self-love at it’s finest. The biggest reminders I received from re-taking this wonderful class was that healing happens in relationship.  
It was such an honor to be a student, a teacher aid, a client, a therapist, a colleague and a witness to such beautiful work. Work that is so important. Work that we can’t do alone.
Together may embody wholeness.    Read More . . .

Afraid of Doing Something Embarrassing During a Massage?

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Confessions of a Massage Therapist

Have you ever had any fears about doing something embarrassing during a massage? Or feel insecure about the state of your body?
If you harbor any of these fears, I invite you to to surrender them. Being that bodyworkers have a body themselves, I assure you, we experience all of these vulnerabilities too. It’s one thing to be concerned, if you have an infectious skin disease, or really don’t enjoy touch, but an entirely different matter when it comes to feeling concerned about prickly legs, fuzzy backs, scarred skin, or cellulite.
It’s true, we do get closer than most. However, massage therapists aren't standing there judging all the tiny things wrong with your body. Rather, we are observing and assessing what’s underneath your skin - the muscles. We have a solution orientation and are focused on helping you feel better. [I will admit, we do appreciate good personal hygiene.] Let me also confess, that snoring, drooling, gurgling stomachs, flatulence, accidental sighs, or grunts, and muscle twitching; are all natural responses when the body becomes relaxed. And quite frankly, are compliments in our profession. There is no need to apologize or feel embarrassed. Most, if not all of us, are all a little self-conscious about something - our size, shape, body hair, and other imperfections. Wishing we are little more or less of this or that. And for men, though they to have some insecurities around body image...even more discomforting can be their fear of being caught with an erection during their session. Until I had read about it, it had never occurred to me (because I am not a man) that this was a fear for men. And that for some guys, prevented them from ever getting massages all together.
Honestly, this doesn't come up in conversation. And in all of these years that I have been providing massage, I have never noticed when it has occurred, as my attention is never focused there. Nor is it an issue for me to have a male client re-position his man parts, if need be. I am not looking, am not interested, and I am not going there. But more importantly, I want my clients to be able to relax. I think I speak for almost all professional massage therapists when I say this. Back to my point...
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