By: Dr. Jeff Rockwell
We often think of “learning” in very narrow terms: it’s what we do in school, and once we’ve got our massage license, the learning phase is over and it’s time to work.
I get that; I really do. You have taken many classes and put in many hours into your education. You may be tired or need a break from the stress that sometimes comes with learning new things. You want to make some money.
But life-long learning is like a nutrient that our mind requires. It’s about exploration, growth and personal enrichment. It keeps us alive, fresh and primed for a great life.
Learning Adds Depth to Your Life
For me, the primary reason to keep learning new things—much of which I do through continuing education classes– is because I enjoy it. It’s not quite the same enjoyment that I get from watching a movie, and there are always frustrating moments in learning anything new. But I’m happier in the long run. I stay current in my field, I get to learn from inspiring teachers, and I nurture a successful career and life. As they say, “Earners are learners,” and “readers are leaders.”
If you take the time to consciously learn new ways of helping your clients, you’ll find that you live life more deeply. Instead of chasing quick entertainment that fails to satisfy, you’ll enjoy the pure pleasure of those “aha!” moments when something that’s been mystifying you finally clicks. The more you learn, the more you’ll be able to make connections between pieces of knowledge – and the more creative and effective you’ll become in your hands-on work. Gandhi wrote, “May your hands be a sign of reverence and gratitude to the human condition.” For that to be so, life-long learning is necessary. Thankfully, there are many excellent CEU providers available to meet these needs, beginning with National Holistic Institute’s very own 450-Hour Neuromuscular Therapy program.
Learning Prevents You from Getting Bored
Learning new massage techniques through continuing education classes keeps you from growing bored with your work. Granted, as a massage therapist you hopefully have work you love, but without a regular “diet” of new information and techniques, your enthusiasm can wane and your work suffer. When is the best time to drink water? Right—before you get thirsty. When you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated. When is the best time to register for a continuing class? Correct—before you grow bored or uninspired.
Learning Puts You on the Fast Track to Success
Another reason to continue with life-long learning is because that’s simply what successful people do. If you settle back and decide that you’ve learned everything you need to know about running a business, about succeeding in your practice or about staying motivated and on-purpose, you’ll lose out to competitors who have a passion for learning.
My friend and mentor Cynthia Ribeiro, the developer of NHI’s Neuromuscular Therapy program likes to tell people, “I never graduated.” That may seem surprising, to say the least, to hear someone who teaches a to admit that they never graduated. Until you realize that what she means is that she made a conscious choice to never stop reading, studying and taking continuing education classes. Nearly thirty years into her career, Cynthia is an acknowledged master in the massage therapy profession, and she is still taking classes. Albert Einstein wrote, “Learning should begin at birth and end only at death.” Cynthia would agree. Massage therapists, what will you study next, and when?
January 26, 2015 3 Comments
Did you know that your daytime eating habits can make a huge difference in the quality of your nighttime sleep? There are four ways that your eating habits can affect your “sleep hygiene” both negatively and positively.
We’ve compiled helpful insights on the timing of meals, the amount you should eat as well as a list of foods that both help you sleep and foods you should avoid to secure a good night’s sleep.
1. Eating and Drinking Hours Before Sleep
You might have known that as a rule of thumb you should not eat three hours before sleeping but do you know why?
Our digestive systems rest between 7pm and 5am as a part of our natural biorhythm and eating during this time reduces the effectiveness of digestion, which can lead to digestion problems.
Eating a large meal before bed will make your digestive organs work overtime and will require other parts of your body to be active in order to digest the food properly. People often believe that a large meal combined with alcohol consumption will aid sleep but this is not true.
2. Drinking Caffeine and Alcohol
Coffee contains caffeine, which is a nervous system stimulant and will keep you up at night if you drink it too close to bedtime. Avoiding caffeine four to six hours before bedtime will help ensure a better nights rest.
Alcohol consumption also results in poor sleep as well. While alcohol may make you fall asleep after, it reduces REM sleep in the long-term creating a more restless night. If you are lacking efficient sleep, try to stay away from alcoholic beverages up to three hours before bedtime.
3. Food that will Increase Sleep Quality
It is particularly important to watch what you consume in the hours leading up to bedtime. Some bedtime snacks will actually help promote sleep. The natural sedative, tryptophan, is an amino acid component that is a necessary ingredient for the body to make serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that makes us feel tired.
This list of food will help you get more efficient sleep:
- Jasmine Rice
- Sweet Potatoes
4. Food that will keep you Tossing and Turning
Alternatively, there are foods that you should avoid before bedtime. Below is a list of food you should stay away from late at night:
- Dark Chocolate
- Spicy Foods
- Processed or smoked meats
- Aged Cheese
Try following these tips and experimenting with your diet if you have difficulties getting to sleep or you are consistently waking up not feeling refreshed.
January 20, 2015 No Comments
As a member and officer of the AMTA-CA Silicon Valley Unit, I get to participate in many AMTA events and workshops throughout the year. This year I attended the AMTA National Convention for my first time.
I attended the AMTA-CA Chapter Conference for the past 3 years in Northern and Southern California where I was able to meet 100-150 of the most involved and enthusiastic massage therapist and industry colleagues. The National Convention was very different. Imagine a grand ballroom with over 2000 energetic massage therapists from around the country. We had about 20-30 attendees from California, including NHI Massage Therapy Ambassadors Bard Williams, Nicole Rancatore and NHI President Tim Veitzer, as well as most of the AMTA-CA chapter board members.
Dr. Oz spoke on the importance of massage therapy for healthcare. In addition Dr. Oz showed data from the medical field of how we can offer suggestions to our clients to improve cardiac health, reduce stress, and most importantly, how to overcome the fear of making change, the basic but powerful way to a better life.
The convention included nearly four full days of continuing education, special events, an extensive vendor expo, and numerous hours of networking and celebrations day and night with peers from every state.
Here is the full schedule of classes I attended at the convention:
- Dimensional Massage for the Hand, Wrist, Elbow, and Radioulnar Joints by Nancy Dail taught us techniques to engage the muscles and joints from various angles and with multiple types of stretching.
- Talking to Your Clients About Skin Cancer taught us to recognize the basic symptoms of possible skin cancer on our clients, and how to communicate with clients properly.
- A Massage Therapist’s Guide to Malpractice by Jennifer Flynn and Lynn Pierce of HPSO (the liability insurance company for AMTA), reminded us of our ethical responsibilities for our clients and practice and showed us several case studies where HPSO defended therapists in lawsuits and the amounts they settled for.
- Lifting Your Clients out of Pain by Deborah Kimmet taught us new ways to use wedges to help restore balance to clients who may have pelvic asymmetries that may cause pain throughout the body.
- Paranasal Sinus Drainage by Sandy Grover Mason taught us new techniques for facial massage and lymphatic drainage in the head and neck.
- From the Heart: Massage and Cardiovascular Health by Tracey Conway, Emmy-award winning actress and comedienne of KING-TV’s Almost Live!, shared in the closing keynote her experience of surviving a heart attack after collapsing a heart attack after taping one of her episodes.
The convention provided a total of 26 Continuing Education hours for me, more than half of my requirement for my AMTA Professional and NCBTMB certification periods. Most of the classes were directly applicable to my massage work, with lots of hands-on practice, and other useful guidance for my private practice.
I was able to network and meet many other famous names such as Andrew Biel (author of Trail Guide), Ruth Werner (author of the Pathology textbook), Cynthia Ribeiro, Carole Osborne, Jeff Forman, Til Luchau, Tina Allen, CG Funk, Bruce Baltz, Taya Countryman, and many others.
There were also many fun activities too throughout the week such as an optional night at Coors Field for a game between the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks, a First Timer Lunch, and a lavish closing night Gala dinner.
This was a great conference, not just for taking classes and loading up on our Continuing Education Units, but like other AMTA events, a great opportunity to meet other massage therapists, educators, and industry professionals.
NHI Massage Therapy Ambassador
NHI Group 37 Alumnus
AMTA-CA Silicon Valley Unit, VP-Education
Are you a massage therapist looking to get a leg up in your career? Our Advanced Neuromuscular Therapy Program will train you to evaluate and differentiate between myofascial pain or dysfunction, as opposed to injury, and to employ effective techniques to address these issues with significant results for your clients.
January 12, 2015 No Comments
Landing your first massage job is a major accomplishment that you’ve been dreaming about since you stepped in the doors at NHI. You’ve spent 108 hours in the supervised student massage clinics getting real life experience, you’ve passed the Kinesiology East test, and now you’re ready to get paid, but before that happens you have to nail your interview. We have compiled a list of tips that will prepare you for the big day, and our Massage Therapy Ambassador, Angela Kingshill, weighs in with some insider interview tips that you definitely don’t want to miss!
Before The Interview
1. Research the company.
2. Update your resume.
3. Dress appropriately and avoid oversized or layered jewelry.
4. Wear natural makeup and keep your hair simple and out of your face.
5. On the way to your interview, listen to your favorite pump up song to boost your energy and confidence. (It sounds silly but it actually works!)
6. Turn off your phone and spit out the gum.
7. Arrive on time (and not too early, 10 minutes is usually best).
8. Be prepared to answer the following questions:
“What does massage mean to you?”
“How has being a massage therapist changed your life?”
“What do you want to get out of this job?”
“What is your personal vision for yourself in the profession?”
“How do you take care of yourself?”
“What is your favorite modality? Why?”
“Why do you want to work here?”
“What do you think is the future of the massage profession?”
“Do you do any volunteer work in massage?”
“What are your plans for continuing education?”
“What is the toughest part of being a massage therapist?”
“What type of clients are you most effective with?”
“What goals have you set for yourself and how are you planning on achieving them?”
9. Prepare a few questions of your own, such as the following:
“How do they get clients? What marketing/ advertising will they be doing?
“Will they supply the table, linens, lotions, music, stereo, and other accessories or will you?
“Where will they get referrals from? What people are they networking with?
During The Interview
1. Be nice to everyone in and around the building. You never know who works at the company or who will be interviewing you.
2. Give them a solid, confident handshake.
3. Smile. You want to be approachable and it will ease your nerves.
4. Be polite and energetic.
5. Maintain good posture.
6. Do NOT interrupt the person who is interviewing you.
7. Remember to ask your questions at the end of the interview.
8. Do NOT ask about money during the first interview.
9. At the end of the interview, ask when a decision is going to be made and when it is appropriate for you to follow up.
10. On your way out, be sure to graciously thank them for taking the time to meet with you.
After The Interview
1. The second you walk out of the interview write a hand-written thank you note and pop it in the mail that same day. Yes, as in snail mail. It may seem old-fashioned, but this is an often-overlooked gesture that is greatly appreciated and highly noted by potential employers.
2. Follow up if you haven’t heard back by the date specified during the interview. Do not follow up before that date.
3. Do NOT tweet, Facebook post, or blog about your interview. We all know that the first thing a prospective employer does after an interview is Google the interviewee.
One of our Massage Therapy Ambassadors, Angela Kingshill, who now works independently and at a chiropractic office gives us some of her insider tips on nailing an interview. “When interviewing with a chiropractor impress them with your MFT skills and body holding pattern recognitions.” Here is an example, “I can them that a person may have an issue in their hands and forearms just by the way they hold their hands and arms.” Or.. “When my client is laying supine on my table I can tell if they are having hip, ankle or knee issues by the way their feet rest.”
Now your turn – What do you do to nail an interview? Give us your insider tips!
December 22, 2014 No Comments
The holidays are right around the corner and with online retailers such as Etsy and Zazzle it’s easier than ever to find the perfect gift for a massage therapy student! We’ve compiled a list of 15 items that will be sure to make any massage therapy student smile.
1. Crocheted Massage Oil/Lotion Holster
2. Spiral Healing Hand, Handmade Clay Ornament
3.Personalized Coffee Mug: Massage Therapist
4. Handmade Massage Business Card Holder
5. Massage Therapist Jacket
6. Hot Cold Therapy Packs for Head, Neck and Feet
8. Massage Therapy Gift Card to NHI’s Massage Therapy Clinic
Price: Prices Vary
9. Massage In Session Please Do Not Disturb Wood Vinyl Sign
10. Aromatherapy Essential Oil Kit, 100% Pure Essential Oils Set
11. Massage Therapist License Plate Frame
14. Of Course I’m Awesome I’m A Massage Therapist Hoodie
What gift ideas do you have for the massage therapy student in your life?
December 18, 2014 No Comments
You may know that the Massage Therapy Foundation advances the massage therapy profession by supporting scientific research but did you know they also provide Community Service Grants, Student Case Report Contests, and Practitioner Case Report Contests – Pretty cool, right?
Through their Community Service Grants they have been able to provide massage therapy to survivors of torture and trauma, survivors of human trafficking, veterans, and they have helped incorporate massage as a part of rehabilitation for paralyzed patients.
At NHI, our massage therapy students and instructors are supporting the Massage Therapy Foundation by giving massages in our student clinics and donating all of the proceeds to the Massage Therapy Foundation. Our students and staff are happy to find a way to give back and show our appreciation for everything the Massage Therapy Foundation has done for the massage therapy profession.
The Massage Therapy Foundation is very important to NHI, in fact NHI’s President, Tim Veitzer serves on the Executive Advisory Committee of the foundation. “The Massage Therapy Foundation continues to do such great work that is integral to the advancement of our beloved field of massage therapy. All of us at NHI are thrilled to continue our partnership and once again give back to the foundation through our clinic fundraising events at each of our seven campuses,” said Veitzer.
You can contribute to our efforts in supporting the Massage therapy Foundation by getting a massage at one of our student massage clinics on the following dates :
- December 9th at NHI Sacramento
- December 11th at NHI San Francisco
- December 15th at NHI Santa Ana
- December 18th at NHI San Jose, and Petaluma
You can easily book an appointment to get a massage here!
The Massage Therapy Foundation’s commitment to promoting scientific research and evidence-informed practice has helped foster the public acceptance of the benefits of massage therapy.
Last year NHI raised approximately $6,000 for the Massage Therapy Foundation! Check out our cool video to learn more about our efforts in supporting the Massage Therapy Foundation.
December 15, 2014 1 Comment
With the new year quickly approaching, you’re probably thinking about what you can do to take your massage practice to the next level in 2015! NHI’s massage therapy instructor, Dr. Jeff Rockwell, provides some great tips to rejuvenate your private practice.
1. Improve Your Social Media Presence
Optimizing your social media presence is critical for any business looking to standout in their field, and this absolutely stands true for massage therapists. Determine which social media platforms are most important for you to get your message out there to your potential clients. There are different ways to boost your social media presence. You can ask your clients to review you on Yelp or you can respond to your Yelp reviews, post pictures of your private practice on Instagram or participate in Twitter Chats about the massage therapy profession.
2. Start Blogging on a Weekly Basis
As an expert in massage therapy, you understand the body in ways that your clients might not. Use your blog as a platform to help your clients understand their bodies better while also teaching them more about the benefits of massage. Blogging regularly helps to position you as a resource for clients to learn from you which helps you build better customer relationships. Your blog can also help drive traffic to your website, increase search engine optimization, and position you as a leader in the industry.
3. Host Lectures and Workshops
Lectures and workshops are great opportunities for self-expression on topics of interest to you and are also great occasions for you to collaborate with other outside experts. Consider conducting or sponsoring an evening lecture. Here are some possible topics:
-training tips and sports injuries
-growing “better”—not just older
-aromatherapy for the seasons
-the difference between health and wellness
-how to thrive because of your stress, and other important topics.
If your interests lean toward working with post-whiplashed clients or work-related health problems, put a program together for local business groups, legal associations and other people who could influence the lives of prospective clients. Public speaking is simply the least expensive way to share your story, improve your communication skills, increase your self-confidence and attract high quality clients.
4. Send Birthday Cards to Clients
Your clients are most likely to naturally think about their health and taking care of themselves on their birthday. Be sure to remind active and inactive clients to reward their body, mind and spirit by scheduling a massage therapy appointment with you.
5. Send a New Year’s Resolution Letter
The start of a new year is another key time your clients are most likely to think about their health. In fact, health clubs and workout gyms get 80% of their annual business in January following New Year’s resolution time. Remind your inactive clients of the importance of a massage therapy “checkup” before they start a slimming and toning program so they don’t put unnecessary wear and tear on pre-symptomatic, malfunctioning muscles and joints. It’s a natural fit.
6. Send Bi-Weekly Newsletters to Your Clients
Newsletters are a proven way to keep in touch with active and inactive clients, spur referrals and stimulate reactivations. Commit to sending your clients a bi-weekly newsletter. You can include your latest blog post, testimonials, pictures of your practice, links to your social media platforms and special offers.
Pro Tip: Remember those Research and Development classes you took when you were in school? Be on the lookout for abstracts of the latest research affirming some aspect of massage therapy. Send an email announcing the latest findings and what they mean to a typical client.
The above techniques can all work together to project a positive image of your practice while providing additional value to your clients. The key to following these suggestions is to create an implementation calendar so everything is scheduled in advance.
What do you plan to do in 2015 to rejuvenate your practice?
December 11, 2014 2 Comments
With the last minute gift shopping, the overwhelmingly large crowds, and back-to-back diet busting holiday parties – we understand how easy it is to not feel so wonderful during the holidays. In fact, a survey by the American Psychological Association found that more women than men feel stressed during the holidays and have a harder time relaxing and enjoying the season – which really defeats the whole point. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of 10 ways to help you dodge the seasonal blues and stay happy, healthy, and energized.
1. Boost your mood with sunlight
Sunlight stimulates the production of feel-good serotonin and also helps relieve seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which impacts millions of Americans each year – Between 60% and 90% of people with SAD are women.
2. Get a massage
Stress relief is one of the first benefits that comes to mind when thinking of massage therapy. It’s also a key component for anyone trying to achieve a healthier lifestyle. Clinical studies show that even a singe half hour session can significantly lower your heart rate, cortisol levels and insulin levels — all of which explains why massage therapy and stress relief go hand-in-hand.
3. Take a whiff of citrus
Researchers studying depression have found that certain citrus fragrances, such as grapefruit, boost feelings of well-being and alleviate stress by upping levels of norepinephrine, a hormone that affects mood.
4. Take a walk
Going for a walk in the park could actually shift your brain into a calmer state, according to recent research. A UK study found that walking through green spaces can put the brain into a meditative state. The act is found to trigger “involuntary attention,”meaning that it holds attention while also allowing for reflection. Try following a walking meditation practice in one of your favorite parks to enjoy the health benefits of moderate physical activity while also quieting the mind and increasing awareness.
5. Squeeze here
In traditional Chinese medicine, the fleshy place between your index finger and thumb is called the hoku point. Applying firm pressure there for only 30 seconds can reduce stress and tension in your upper body.
6. Laugh out Loud
Laughing like crazy reduces stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease. It also triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals.
7. Forget perfection
Don’t obsess over making everything perfect. It’s okay if your house is a little cluttered or dinner is on the table a few minutes late. Focus your energy on enjoying the people in your life. Don’t sweat the small stuff and your holiday will be much more enjoyable.
8. Go tech-free
Did you know that constant cell phone buzzes and email alerts keep us in a perpetual fight-or-flight mode due to bursts of adrenaline? Not only is this exhausting, but it contributes to mounting stress levels, especially in women. Holiday get-togethers are the perfect time to turn off your gadgets and spend time with friends and family without worry.
9. Make time to exercise
Working out may be the last thing you want to do when you are stressed out, but going for a run or hitting the gym can actually make you feel better. Research has found that workouts can boost your mood for up to 12 hours.
10. Don’t over schedule
If you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed by your holiday agenda, don’t over schedule your time and take on more than you can manage. Remember: It’s OK to slow down a bit.
What do you do to reduce holiday stress?
December 8, 2014 1 Comment
It’s that time of year again when you probably start stressing out about finding the perfect gift for your significant other, relatives, children, friends, and anyone else that you’re planning on spreading the holiday cheer to! We know that lugging around big packages can be a hassle and finding a versatile gift that is sure to be a crowd pleaser is not always easy. That’s why we recommend giving the gift of massage this holiday.
Whether you’re looking for the perfect gift to bring to your holiday gift exchange or you’re participating as a secret Santa, giving a massage gift certificate demonstrates an investment in caring and health.
At NHI, we offer our Holiday Gift Card Sale to make the gift of massage an affordable option. Buy 5 gift cards, get 1 additional gift card free! Buy 10 gift cards, get 3 additional gift cards free!
To get more information about this offer contact your local NHI campus. We have seven California locations including: Emeryville, San Francisco, Sacramento, Petaluma, San Jose, Orange County, and Studio City.
December 1, 2014 No Comments
At NHI, many of us are cheering on the UCLA Football team as they work to defeat Stanford University this Friday! Behind the scenes NHI students are providing sports massage to help the UCLA Bruins reach their full potential on the field. We have interviewed one of our graduates, John Paulsen, who is working with the athletes to get the inside scoop on what it’s like being a sports massage therapist. Keep reading to find out if sports massage would be a good fit for you!
Q: How did you become interested in sports massage?
A: I became interested in sports massage because I’ve always loved sports and I was very active as a child and throughout high school. It wasn’t until college that I considered a career path that could keep me involved in sports and working with athletes.
Q: What makes working with athletes different from working with other clients?
A: These athletes are different from other clients because they’re very in tune with their body and they train hard. Their musculature is dense and defined and quite visible which makes it easy to locate and tends to respond positively to soft tissue manipulation. I’ve always had a vague understanding of the origin and insertion of the major muscle groups, but after the extensive anatomy, physiology, and kinesiology classes at NHI, I know exactly what muscle I’m feeling tension in and all of that muscle’s actions. This knowledge maximizes the effectiveness my bodywork.
Q: How do you build rapport with the athletes?
A: I build rapport with the athletes by talking to them how I would talk to a friend. I asked them questions like “how are you feeling today?” and I give them feedback on their answers. I tell them what they should expect for the bodywork session and ask them if that is okay and does that meet their expectation’s. I make sure that I address their specific issues first and to their satisfaction. I will check-in with them periodically during the session regarding pressure and comfortability. After the session, I like to offer a brief summary of what I felt during the bodywork and compare with them on what they felt. Those brief interaction before, during and after all help to build rapport. Working with them multiple times is also helpful.
Q: What has been your biggest takeaway working with the UCLA Football team?
A: My biggest Takeaway of working with the UCLA football team has been the confidence to know that I can work with an elite athlete and effectively make a difference in how they are feeling. It’s amazingly rewarding when the athlete gets up off of the table and shows a genuine appreciation for your work.
Q: What was the most challenging part about the experience for you?
A: The most challenging part about this experience for me has been the general size of some of these athletes. Many of them are twice my size and can handle a lot of pressure. It has definitely been a learning experience for me to give effective pressure with proper body mechanics and without hurting myself. This is an area where I can thank the NHI instructors for their dedication to making body mechanics a priority each and every day. This information will give longevity to my career as a therapist.
Q: Are there specific traits that helped you be successful while working with the team?
A: I would have to say that what helped me the most with working with the UCLA football team has been the extensive curriculum of massage modalities that NHI has taught me. I typically use almost all of the modalities that I have learned in each of my sessions. From Swedish, deep tissue and sports massage to shiatsu, MFT and Thai massage… I use it all. Each modality that I learned in the 900 hour core program is a tool and I’ve got to say that my toolbox of moves and techniques feels pretty good right now.
Q: What advice would you offer other massage therapists looking to specialize in sports massage?
A: If I had to advise another massage therapist who is just starting out and looking to specialize in sports massage, I would stress the importance of choosing the right education and training. For me, the 900 hour core program at NHI was the best choice. Not only was the education thorough and the experience enjoyable, but the closeness to all of the instructors and the sense of family that I felt had a positive affect on me and made me feel good about myself everyday. For a therapist who already has training, the Neuromuscular Therapy Program will give you the edge that you need, especially in the sports realm. This month at NHI, I will be taking advantage of the monthly NMT Sampler – the sampler classes cover great information, are good for CEUs and most importantly continue to add to my toolbox of moves and techniques, while increasing my confidence in my ability as a massage therapist and health educator.
If sports massage sounds like something you would be interested in then schedule a time to visit a campus. During your visit you will get a personal tour of our campus while learning more about our program and a career path in sports massage.
November 24, 2014 No Comments
At NHI, our massage therapy ambassadors have a unique opportunity to ask questions and learn from a panel of massage therapy experts. This month’s panel at our Emeryville campus included Teacher/Mentors Julie True, Frankie Menzel, Sabrinia Italia, Curriculum Coordinator, Sharlene Philips and NHI’s Training Manager, Melissa Wheeler. The discussion was so in-depth that those who participated got the full benefits of attending the panel but we wanted to share a few highlights with everyone.
Massage Therapy Ambassador, Felicia Cursi, asked: Can I live on a private practice as my only source of income? Is that realistic?
Melissa: Yes, it is absolutely possible to support yourself with a private practice. I supported myself for five years with my private practice before I started teaching at NHI. What I recommend is that you get a position as a massage therapist while you build a small private practice – this way you are getting an income while working up to having a successful private practice.
Sharlene: With my private practice what I did first was decide what I would like my schedule to be like, since I am a mother and wife it was important for me to have flexibility. I would allow my clients to schedule appointments for up to three months in advance. I would not allow my clients to book past three months but I would put them on a waiting list. With this set up I was able to feel financially secure. You have to decide for yourself what would make you feel financially secure then base your practice around that.
Julie: What I love about massage therapy is that you don’t have to stick to one schedule and you can get income from clients you have regularly or corporate gigs. What I liked to do was have something that I relied on for income such as my corporate gig where I provided massage at Google and have my classes at NHI where I taught massage then if I had free time I would take clients. I liked that I could take a month off if I wanted to and not take any clients then they would always be there for me next month. It’s really cool because I moved from San Francisco to the East Bay and my clients still followed me! The same thing will happen to you – your clients will follow you.
Massage Therapy Ambassador, Keiko Hamano, asked: A private practice is similar to the nature of a startup; do you need to have Facebook, Twitter, Google +, a website, and a blog?
Julie: The most important thing is to have a website with online booking. My close friend saves up to 4 hours a week with online booking. For me I had enough clients with my private practice that I didn’t need more clients so it worked out that I didn’t need to use social media.
Sharlene: Don’t lose sight of the power of word of mouth! First work on gaining that client base and then let it expand. What I liked to do to gain more clients was to offer them a free massage if they referred three new people to me. I found that referral based promotions worked great!
Massage Therapy Ambassador, Cat Gardere, asked: Am I devaluing my work by giving specials?
Julie: I’ve found that if you offer a deal someone will take the deal and they may not become a regular client but they will refer other people who can afford you. The person who got your deal will end up telling coworkers, friends and family members about their experience. Another thing I’ve done is run specials when I want to get more practice. I would send an email out telling my clients that I would like to introduce them to Thai massage so I offered them specials. Doing this helped give me practice while getting paid and it introduced my clients to a new modality of massage. During tax season I would send out an email that said It’s Tax Season – Who has tension in their shoulders? I would offer a special and then get extra practice massaging shoulders.
Melissa: Be judicial about offering deals. You only need to give deals about one time a year. Instead of offering deals what I like to do is offer a free massage to someone in related professions such as chiropractors, yoga instructors, personal trainers, Pilates instructors or spin class instructors. They will spread the word fast about you and will single handedly build your private practice. Since the holidays are coming up this is a great time to sell massage gift certificates just make sure you add time frames.
Massage Therapy Ambassador, Cat Gardere, asked: Were the majority of your clients requesting specific modalities? If you wanted to specialize in a certain modality should you do it?
Sabrina: If you have something that you want to specialize in go for it! There will always be people out there who want what you are specializing in. Don’t dabble in anything that you want to specialize in because the more you know the more you will be able to help and educate your clients and the more you can market yourself.
Massage Therapy Ambassador, Bobbi Knowles, asked: What do you think about continuing education?
Melissa: Continuing education is vital! I have thousands of hours of continuing education. From continuing education classes I was able to learn more about the body in a new way. I was able to slow down and apply what I learned to my clients.
The panel also offered the massage therapy ambassadors insight to networking, marketing yourself, and what it means to take care of yourself as a massage therapist.
Networking tips from the panel:
Frankie: When I was a student at NHI, I knew immediately that I wanted to work at the school so what I did to help make that happen was introduce myself to key people that I knew could make that happened. It’s important to identify who you need to rub elbows with and introduce yourself to people. If people don’t know you then you have to approach them and let them know who you are. Join LinkedIn groups for massage therapists and don’t wait to start networking.
Tips on marketing yourself from the panel:
Sharlene: Start marketing yourself before you graduate. You can start taking clients and offering them Swedish massage. Just be honest with your clients and let them know that you are a student. Use every opportunity you have to tell people what you do and why you do it. If you are in line at the grocery and you see someone rubbing their neck use that opportunity to share with that person that you are a massage therapist.
Tips on taking care of yourself as a massage therapist:
Melissa: In order to be a successful massage therapist you must take care of yourself. The more massage you get the more clients you will get. Once your private practice starts taking off and you are able to afford massage therapy regularly get it! You must practice what you preach. You can’t tell your clients to get massage if you don’t. You can come to the massage clinics here or you can partner with another massage therapist to trade, but take care of yourself. Plan meals, get exercise and don’t over-book! No one wants a sleep deprived massage therapist. You must take care of yourself.
Our Massage Therapy Ambassadors are an elite group of NHI alumni volunteers who are committed to supporting the integrity and positive growth of the Massage Therapy profession. If you want to join this special community, obtain leadership experience and professional exposure though Massage Therapy networking events, actives, and training then Apply now!
November 17, 2014 No Comments
With the new year just around the corner you’re probably thinking about what new years resolutions you plan on setting to keep you healthy and happy in 2015. This year, pick one of these worthy resolutions, and stick with it. Here’s to your health!
1. Stay in touch
If you feel like old friends have fallen by the wayside make 2015 the year you reconnect with them. Research suggests that people with strong social ties live longer than those who don’t. With social media platforms and Skype it’s never been easier to stay in touch – or rejuvenate your relationship with friends and family.
We tend to think our own bliss relies on bettering ourselves, but our happiness also increases when we help others, says Peter Kanaris, PhD, coordinator of public education for the New York State Psychological Association.
There is a direct connection between your health and happiness. A 2010 study found that people with positive emotions were about 20% less likely than their gloomier peers to have a heart attack or develop heart disease. Other research suggests that positive emotions can make people more resilient and resourceful.
3. Stress less
Having stress is an inevitable part of life but chronic stress can increase your risk of insomnia, depression, obesity, heart disease, and more. Long work hours, little sleep, no exercise, poor diet, and not spending time with family and friends can all contribute to stress. Make 2015 the year you stress less by hitting the gym, getting frequent massages, eating healthy and making an effort to connect with friends + family.
Break away from your daily routine by traveling somewhere you’ve always wanted to see. Traveling makes you feel rejuvenated and replenished. “It gets you out of your typical scenery, and the effects are revitalizing. It’s another form of new discovery and learning and great for the body and soul,” Kanaris says.
5. Go back to school
Heading back to school can help revamp your career, introduce you to new friends, and even boost your brainpower. At NHI, we offer classes throughout the year so you don’t have to wait to start! In as little as eight months you can have a rewarding career as a massage therapist.
By going back to school you are gaining a sense of accomplishment by gaining new knowledge, and you are out there meeting new people and creating possibilities that were never there before.
5. Get more sleep
You probably already know that a good night’s sleep can do wonders for your mood and appearance but sleep is more beneficial to your health than you might think.
A lack of sleep can put you at risk for Heart disease, Heart attack, Heart failure, High blood pressure, stroke and Diabetes. It can also age your skin, make you forgetful, make you gain weight, and impair your judgment.
What New Years Resolution do you have set for 2015?
December 29, 2014 No Comments
No Shave November is in full swing! If you haven’t noticed men rocking longer beards and mustaches then maybe you’ve seen #Letitgrow in your newsfeed. This annual tradition is a unique way to raise cancer awareness. Men can get involved by starting a team and raising funds together and see who can grow the longest, silliest beard. Ladies can show your support by picking up some limited edition N0-Shave November gear. Not only do you get some sweet merchandise, the proceeds are donated to the American Cancer Society.
At NHI, we want to help raise awareness of cancer and offer insight as to how cancer patients can benefit from massage therapy. We are excited to host a live Twitter Chat where we will discuss Massage Therapy and Cancer on Thursday, November 13th from 1:30pm – 2:30pm PST. Follow us @NHI_Massage and use #NHIChat to join in on the conversation. Phil Okazaki and Julie Porter will be leading the conversation and answering your questions.
Phil and Julie are both instructors at National Holistic Institute in San Jose. Phil graduated from NHI Emeryville in 2002 and began working as a therapist immediately afterwards. Phil has focused his practice within the health and fitness industry, working with the Western Athletic Club franchise and Club One Fitness. Additionally, he has had the opportunity to work with athletes of every level and currently works with NFL, NHL, and MLB professionals. Julie has been a registered nurse since 1991 and a massage therapist since 2006. She has a private practice in Campbell, continues to work at the hospital, and teaches at National Holistic Institute.
Here are a few things that Phil & Julie will be covering during the chat:
1. Benefits of massage for cancer patients
2. Massage during chemotherapy
3. How to get training
4. How to find a therapist
5. How to advocate for these services
Are you on Twitter? Leave your Twitter handle in the comments & NHI will start following you!
November 11, 2014 No Comments
The Seven Gifts of the Nervous System
By Dr. Jeff Rockwell
Massage therapy seems to be the thing right now. Up from 10% in 2004, massage therapists now see 20% of the American population. Clients appreciate the time therapists spend with them and the caring attention to detail they receive in each session.
Massage therapy is also a holistic thing, for the very same reason that it is THE thing: it targets the nervous system which, of course, controls and regulates all of our physiology, and helps us to heal ourselves. Whether we are performing a deep tissue or neuromuscular session, shiatsu or myofascial therapy, we touch skin, and skin is the “outer covering” of the nervous system. During embryological development, we grew from three distinct stem cell layers: endoderm, which became our organs; mesoderm, which formed our muscles, tendons, bones, and ligaments; and ectoderm, which turned into our skin and nervous system. That intimate relationship is maintained throughout our lives: touch the skin, touch the brain.
In order to help others better appreciate their innate healing genius, I have defined “seven gifts of the nervous system.” I believe that anyone can apply these principles to their existing style of practice and reap rewards.
These “gifts” are:
1) Physiological function
3) Emotional literacy
Bear in mind that the nervous system is the first to develop in the embryo and rapidly develops to adulthood. Given the right stimulus, or the right touch, the nervous system can continue to develop and improve. If all seven of these gifts are acknowledged and engaged, wellness and human and social potential become unlimited.
The brain and nervous system are essential to all vital functions in the body, unconsciously and automatically coordinating diverse functions such as breathing, digestion, heart-rate, immunity and so much more. To ensure optimal function, we can begin to take better care of our nervous system by receiving regular massage therapy. Nothing “touches” us as deeply as…well, touch itself.
Given no interference from stress, poor diet, or trauma, the nervous system makes it possible for us to “dance with” a fast-paced society. It helps us to bounce back from setbacks and, given proper care (i.e. read: massage therapy), to actually turn our stress into fuel for attaining our goals.
Emotions are “Energy in Motion.” They are feelings and sensations that move through our nervous systems. They are the key to the actions that we take, or don’t take, in life. As hinted at in the first sentence, emotions involve—require, in fact—motion to properly feel and act upon. We respond to stress through versions of fleeing, fighting, or freezing. The brain is hard-wired to first respond through a freezing response that we carry around as our posture. When our posture has us “frozen in time,” we are often unable to feel our emotions accurately and run the risk of leaping into (or avoiding) action that later causes regret.
Picking up from where we just left off, when we look at someone’s posture or body language, we are looking at a “snapshot” of their nervous system, of who and what, in fact, we think we are. As we connect with undiscovered (or forgotten) aspects of our humanity, our posture changes. So do our lives.
The age we live in has earned many nicknames. It’s been referred to as The Consumer Age, The Information Age and The Digital Age, among others. Philosopher Richard Kearney has another take on it that to me seems not just descriptive, but actually diagnostic. He refers to our modern era as The Age of Excarnation. Literally, the “out of body” age. The phrase perfectly captures the unexamined normal in which our culture conducts its affairs: 24/7/365, we predominantly live in a mode of being in which we are out of touch with our bodies; as a result, the world exists for us more often as an idea than as a felt reality. We are preoccupied elsewhere. We are not awe, but distracted. Massage therapy and movement not only help get us back in touch with our bodies, but with the world as well.
Cutting-edge research in epigenetics shows that how we perceive ourselves, our lives—even the world, plays a large role in determining our expression of health. Once believed to be at the effect of our genetic blueprint, science now tells us that our health is the genetic expression of our lifestyle choices, starting with our perceptions. Massage helps us to see the best in life, because it relaxes the part of the brain that is stressed out and wanting to fight, flee from, or freeze because of a perceived threat to our well-being.
Massage therapy is “consciousness medicine.” We are sentient beings, even when we don’t act like it. Through the function of our nervous system we experience our life. Increasing awareness through therapeutic touch, consciousness expands, as does our ability to engage the world with embodied clarity and compassion.
Touch is the original medicine. It helped humans evolve to where we are today. Yes, the world has serious problems. Serious. Problems. But imagine how different this world would be if every world leader received a massage each day? If every person received healing touch once a week? Call me a blind optimist, but this is doable. We just need a lot of hands on deck, no pun intended, and a willingness to serve. As Gandhi said, “May your hands be a sign of reverence and gratitude to the human condition.”
September 22, 2014 3 Comments
By: Dr. Jeff Rockwell
Next month, NHI’s very own Jim O’Hara and Cynthia Ribiero will be presenting at the American Massage Therapy Association annual convention in Denver. Both Cynthia and Jim are “rock stars” in the field of massage therapy. Cynthia is a recent president of the AMTA and the developer of NHI’s Advanced Neuromuscular Therapy program. Jim not only has been at the forefront of developing educational programs for the profession for the past twenty years, but his book In The Land Of Shiva: A Memoir was recently released to rave reviews.
NHI is home to many of the best teachers in the field of massage therapy—by design. One of the most gratifying aspects of being part of this community is observing the number of students who go on to become leaders in their communities and in the profession. And two of the most prominent “leaders creating leaders” are Jim and Cynthia.
For this blog, Jim O’Hara was interviewed. I’m sure you’ll find his comments enlightening!
Jeff Rockwell: Jim, you and Cynthia Ribeiro are giving a (sold-out) workshop at the National AMTA convention this September on “Instructional Design” for massage teachers.
What’s the backstory on this? Why is this topic so crucial and so in-demand?
Jim O’Hara: Teachers the world over really want to do a good job in the classroom, but are not always given the tools they need. It’s unfortunate that in some massage schools, the eager teacher is simply handed a text book and told to teach from it.
While some publishers now offer lesson plans for teachers using their books, seldom do those lesson plans exactly fit the needs of the particular school. Teachers are left wondering how to take a lengthy chapter and put the material into 4-hour classes.
JR: So, why is NHI leading this training?
JOH: At NHI, we have a long, successful history of designing classes. Part of the reason is that we have been in business for 30+ years, and have had to create effective classes long before the relatively recent explosion of textbooks geared to massage schools! It may surprise you, but many schools do not have a full-time Curriculum Coordinator, nor a full-time Teacher Trainer on their staff as NHI does, and has had for many years. Put simply, I believe we really do know what we are doing in the area of curriculum and training.
JR: Why you and Cynthia?
JOH: My 20+ years at NHI both as instructor and the former Curriculum Coordinator are the background I bring to this, as well as my own graduate studies in education. Cynthia had run her own 1000-hour school for 20 years previous to coming to NHI, and has long taken a leadership role in the AMTA, so she knows well the needs of massage schools in the country. Also, both Cynthia and myself recently spent over 2 years on a nationally-selected panel of experts who created a blueprint for what the core pieces of massage education are.
JR: Can you give us some key ideas from the workshop you are presenting at the Denver convention?
JOH: Two of the most important concepts in designing a class are these: Scaffolding and Anchoring. “Scaffolding” means to structure each piece of information or skill-training in “bite-sized” pieces that build on each other.
A simple example of this would be how we teach our Swedish sequence. One Swedish massage class is just practice on learning moves like effleurage. The next class applies those strokes to the back. The following class reviews the back, and applies the strokes to the legs, and so on until we have a “full body” Swedish massage! This is clear scaffolding, and is obvious for learning a sequence. Perhaps not so clear is the importance of scaffolding to learn physiology, or business practices, or customer service.
JR: Tell us about “anchoring.”
JOH: “Anchoring” is making sure there is an activity that solidifies the concept or skill in our minds and/or bodies. For example, the instructor may explain the characteristics that differentiate between muscle Origins and Insertions. An anchoring activity could be to have students partner up and explain these distinctions to the other person – perhaps multiple times if that’s what it takes Jeff. Again, the instructor might talk about the importance of “weight transfer” for proper body mechanics, demonstrate it, and then have everyone stand and do it even though they are not actually doing massage at the moment.
JR: Aren’t these concepts pretty basic? Don’t all teachers automatically do them?
JOH: The “anchoring” activity is often forgotten, or left until the end of the class, because the teachers feel they must “cover” so much material. The most powerful anchoring activities, interactive exercises, are short, and done “in the moment.”
I like to think that NHI instructors do see these concepts as basic, because they are so often already built into our lesson plans and are part of our teaching culture. Come to the convention!
Thank you Jim!
Look for our next interview with Cynthia Ribiero. And remember: Be. Here. Wow!
August 29, 2014 1 Comment
By Dr. Jeff Rockwell
Last week I saw one of greatest films of my life. You may have already read or heard about this movie, how it was filmed over twelve years, how you can see the characters age during this time. But have you heard about the magic it exudes?
Boyhood is another masterwork from Richard Linklater who has already gifted us with his Before Trilogy (Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Before Midnight) about the complications, joys, and perils of intimate relationships in our times. His new, nearly three-hour film probes the childhood of an East Texas boy from elementary school through his arrival at college. Boyhood is an invitation to lighten up, notice the world around you, and master the art of improvisation. Welcome to a new world of possibilities and a portal into the magic inherent in life.
Seven-year-old Mason (Ellar Coltrane) lives in East Texas with his single mother Olivia (Patricia Arquette) and older sister Samantha (Linklater’s daughter Lorelei), who outshines him in every way with her high grades, verbal dexterity, and energetic spirit. Mason hangs out with his buddies spraying graffiti on walls, collecting arrow heads, and such. Olivia has taken stock of her life and found it lacking. She decides to move the family to Houston where she can enroll in college while her mother takes care of the kids.
Mason’s teacher is upset with his behavior and bad habits at school. The boy is a daydreamer who spends a lot of time looking out the window. In addition, he does odd things like try to sharpen rocks in the pencil sharpener. Mason seems destined to live a life outside the prescribed standards of school and culture. Even at six, he is a “thinker,” marching tentatively to the beat of his own drum.
Mason Sr. (Ethan Hawke), his father, has returned from a trip to Alaska where he did a variety of odd jobs. He’s a laid-back man who is fun to be with. He regales his son and daughter with stories and has gifts for them. They go bowling and then pig out on junk food. Both kids are glad when he says he’ll be sticking around and they will see more of him. They’d like their parents to get back together again, but they know in their hearts that they won’t.
Bullied at his new school, Mason finds solace in video games, but also is attracted to animals, his collections, and elves. He shocks his father one day by asking, “There’s no such thing as real magic in the world, right?” His dad struggles to respond to the question and finally says that in the real world there are not things like elves. Mason, who has experienced plenty of magic in the natural world, wrestles with this answer. We sense that something precious is lost when magic and the more-than-human world that spiritually sensitive people honor is not acknowledged.
While attending college, Olivia meets and marries a professor who has two children of his own. Mason and Samantha get along with their new brother and sister but are deeply shaken when their stepfather turns out to be a raging alcoholic with a violent streak. Watching him explode at dinner, we are reminded that many children, like these four, have to come up with ways of winging it in the face of abuse and violence in their own homes.
In contrast to the professor and the Iraq War veteran Olivia marries next, Mason Sr. turns out to be a lovable companion, taking his children to purchase Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and treating them to an Astros baseball game. Over the years, he shares folk songs he’s written and on Mason’s fifteenth birthday gives him a mixtape of tracks from the Beatles’ solo albums. This playfulness cements a bond between father and son that is a boon to this adolescent as he begins to blossom into his own person.
The art of creating a life is a path and not a system, one we all hope to be successful at. But the world is filled with responsible people who label those who walk this path as “slackers” and “losers” who lack discipline and perseverance.
Mason picks up an interest in photography and stands out from others in terms of his talent. A teacher compliments him on his photographs but criticizes him for not working hard enough: “It’s hard to make art.” This is the same message Mason has gotten his entire life. Even the manager at the restaurant where he buses tables joins the chorus of those who are disappointed with what they see as his “easy come, easy go” attitude.
By the time Mason comes of age, however, he is ready to fall in love with a beautiful young woman, to handle a break-up, to try and console the emptiness his mother feels thinking about her empty nest, and to savor a moment with a girl he goes hiking with on his first day at college. When Mason asks his father how to deal with all the mysteries and all the challenges of life, he’s told, “We’re all just winging it.” Mason, however, has discovered this path on his own and is now ready to let it take him where he is meant to go. He has become a jazz musician of life, a stellar improviser, and a whole-hearted, heart-felt young man.
Boyhood is one of the Best Films of the last 10 years. I cannot imagine it not winning the Oscar this year. Filmed in sequence across 12 years with the same actors, it is a creative drama that captures and conveys the everyday lives of children as they grow, change, and struggle with events they cannot foresee or control. Best of all, Boyhood is one of the most memorable films ever made about the art of improvisation and spontaneity as a path of wisdom, creativity, and personal transformation.
Watch the trailer here! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y0oX0xiwOv8
August 11, 2014 No Comments
Step 10 of 10: Embracing Tiger
By: Dr. Jeff Rockwell
Many people are afraid of change. I know I often am. Instead of feeling and naming the emotion of fear, I merge it with the state called worry or anxiety and—wham!—I’m off to the races, going in the wrong direction. Instead of going from head to heart, I run in the opposite direction. It’s no fun, and not a bit productive.
We all have our own examples of how fear can seem such a huge, impenetrable barrier. Fear: some would rather bury it, walk around it, build bridges over it, cover it with medication or a substance, stay busy to not feel it; anything rather than name it, or even embrace it.
Al Huang is a Chinese philosopher, dancer, and Tai Chi master of great note. He is also a friend of National Holistic Institute College of Massage Therapy, having gifted the college with our famous “Whoosh!” ritual. He is also the author of the 1973 classic “Embrace Tiger, Return To Mountain.”
“Embracing Tiger” is another core belief and ritual that we live at NHI. We create space safe enough to embrace what scares us, to be supported in the process, over and over again, until a skill or attitude is mastered—until the “mountain” is reached.
Today I’m going to ask you to be open to the idea of embracing one of your fears. Not to let it go wasted in a maelstrom of anxiety or worry, but to consciously—even gratefully—embrace it. First, we need a safe space. At any NHI campus, safe space is a given. A deliberate, mindfully created given. When we embrace a fear (i.e., of public speaking, of apologizing to someone or speaking up for our self, of touching or being touched), we strip it of some of its power. We become intimate with it, learning to relate to it, rather than run from it. Be gentle and patient with your self: this is a process, not a singular event. You are learning to dissolve it, bit by tiny bit, until one day what previously seemed an impossible obstacle becomes an ally. In its place is the change that you have been longing for.
“Living a balanced life” has become a popular self-help mantra. Thinking that I could somehow control life (or people, places, and things), I nurtured a completely unrealistic vision for my life. I should be able to live in balance, or homeostasis, at all times. I began to imagine that I could walk a tightrope that never swayed, fly through life without ever encountering turbulence.
But reality—that great guru– taught me otherwise. Life is homeodynamic, bumpy and often uncomfortable. I didn’t accept that truth gracefully, but kicking and screaming. I got really good at kicking and screaming until I pushed loved ones away and met reality with a deafening thud. I am still recovering, and I am grateful for the thud.
So far, I have survived. Today, my balance is wobbly and unpredictable. I’m learning to embrace tiger and on especially good days even search it out.
Every time I feel my life sway from balance into chaos, I remember that it is an opportunity to learn; even if I learn nothing more than that I can endure and return to “mountain.”
Every time I feel overwhelmed by what my day has presented to me, I remind myself to have faith in the path that I am on. There is an intelligence to each of our paths or destinies, I have discovered, and I appreciate the strength that I have gained from falling down and getting back up, even when I do it in full view of people I know and love.
Every time I start listening to the voice that tells me I can’t do something, I focus my attention on all of the voices that lift me up and tell me I can. I choose to let the “community of mentors” called NHI and others support me, knowing that we all grow in the process.
Sometimes the best way to regain our balance isn’t by standing still, but moving forward into the arms of the tiger, discovering that the tiger was really a great big heart awaiting our presence all along.
August 1, 2014 1 Comment
Step 9/10: EVERYBODY HAS A STORY
By: Dr. Jeff Rockwell
“The body is sacred.”
Let’s try a little experiment. I was tempted to call it a “thought experiment,” except I want to focus on something deeper than thought: namely, the often-unexplored world of our bodies’ stories.
Read the quote by Walt Whitman again. Let it land in your body. Where do you feel it? What does it feel like; truth or fiction?
While it is true that everybody has a story, so does every body. Whether you feel your body to be sacred or not has a lot to do with the stories you’ve told yourself over the years. “I am sacred. I am scared. I am whole. I am a victim. I am perfect as I am (and I could use a little improvement). I am too fat/thin/young/old.”
Over time, what we tell ourselves, in addition to what has happened to us, becomes the “issues in the tissues” that massage therapy works so well to help resolve.
A recent article in the Atlantic explores a study as to where people “feel” emotions. Interestingly, almost always there was a strong correlation between an emotion and a location within the body.
Years ago, I heard a little formula for healing: “Attention plus Intention Equals Healing.” Of course, the attention and the intention meant loving attention and intention. Most of us have received very mixed attention and intention around our bodies. We all have been saturated with societal, religious and family expectations, abuse and disregard for the sacredness of our bodies. Thus, removing interferences to loving our bodies is the antidote.
What you say to your body and how you say it through your words, self-talk, actions and behaviors can be a source of nourishment that results in more wholeness. In my opinion, more wholeness equals more love which, in turn, equals more aliveness. The changes in this direction that massage therapy can facilitate are described in numerous studies by the University of Miami’s Touch Research Institute (for more information, go to https://www6.miami.edu/touch-research).
We were all brought up in one relational field or another. Our particular family system is one of those fields, as is the media and the culture we live in. Often—sadly—these relational fields are toxic, contaminated by fear, neglect, or abuse. When a new client comes for their first massage, it may very well be their first experience of a completely safe and non-toxic field. Their physiology shifts from “fight or flight” to “heal and feel.” They come to court relaxation in their life and to trust the wisdom of their cells. The issues in the tissues become less of a threat. Tension becomes gradually replaced by bodily joy; granted, this experience is not an all-at-once” event, but a process.
Below are questions to consider. Which ones resonate with you? As you consider each question, focus on where in your body you experience a physical reaction or emotion:
1. Do you sometimes wonder why you cannot find true meaning or a place for yourself in this world? What is your body telling you? What part of your body responds to the question? How?
2. Are you easily depressed or agitated by specific people, events, memories or comments? Where and what is your body experiencing as you ask yourself this question?
3. Do your neck and shoulders ache all the time? Are those muscles responding to this question? How? Do you tend to put things in your life on the “back burner?” Do you realize that your body is that back burner?
4. Do you have severe back problems or the everyday “ordinary” headache? What or who are you thinking of when this pain occurs? What is going on in your life? Do you know that the leading causes of low back pain include job dissatisfaction, financial stress, and relationship troubles?
5. Are you worried about why you can never seem to lose weight? What is your body telling you? What part of your body responds to the question? How?
6. How does your body respond when you pay your bills? Where and what is your body experiencing as you ask yourself this question? What might be your body be trying to say to you?
7. Do you feel safe in your world and within yourself? This is a very important question. Many of us don’t realize that we live fear-based lives in which we are afraid to express ourselves.
Deepak Chopra has written, “Now we know that the mind and the body are like parallel universes. Anything that happens in the mental universe must leave tracks in the physical one.”
The accumulation of negative emotional energy is often referred to as emotional baggage, a contraction of muscles and the life force that becomes our body language and posture. This holding onto unresolved or repressed emotions such as anger, resentment, unresolved grief, feelings of not being good enough, guilt, and shame can cause pain. Persistent pain is the brain’s way of getting out attention. It is an invitation to change. When we allow the safe and healthy release of these emotions, the energy that was trapped there also releases and we feel more vibrant and alive. It’s been said that “emotion is energy in motion.” To restore healthy balance we need to be able to process those emotions. We need to move, and otherwise nurture, our bodies.
There are many useful strategies for liberating and learning from our “body stories.” Some people may benefit from somatic (or body-centered) psychology. Running, hiking and, even, walking can be very helpful. But the place to start, in this writer’s mind, is with a wellness lifestyle that includes regular and consistent massage therapy. While our biography often influences our biology, receiving (and giving) massage can turn our life story into one we can really love!
Want to begin taking care of yourself and your story? Book a massage at any of our campuses! Visit here!
July 15, 2014 No Comments
Part 3: The Final Installment
By Dr. Jeff Rockwell
Recently, I taught a workshop on the “wellness revolution,” and discussed ways we can make room for new vistas in holistic well-being to emerge in our lives. I mentioned two axioms, or self-evident truths: that we are self-healing and self-regulating; and that the brain makes this possible. It stands to reason, then, that if we interfere with the brain and the rest of our nervous system, we interfere with our ability to heal, regulate and transform ourselves and our lives. Another way of saying this is that “as goes the brain, so goes our health.” In that spirit, I described nine ways we can make a good brain great; increase our longevity, creativity and mental flexibility; and boost our overall health. Want to know what they are? This way, please
7. Vitamin B12
Lack of Vitamin B12 has been called the “canary in the coalmine” for your future brain health, and recent research has bolstered the importance of this vitamin in keeping your mind sharp as you age. According to the latest research, people with high levels of markers for vitamin B12 deficiency were more likely to score lower on cognitive tests, as well as have a smaller total brain volume, which suggests a lack of the vitamin may contribute to brain shrinkage.Mental fogginess and problems with memory are two of the top warning signs that you have vitamin B12 deficiency, and this is indicative of its importance for your brain health. In addition, a Finnish study found that people who consume foods rich in B12 may reduce their risk of Alzheimer’s in their later years. Research also shows that supplementing with B vitamins, including B12, helps to slow brain atrophy in elderly people with mild cognitive impairment (brain atrophy is a well-established characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease).
Vitamin B12 deficiency is widespread and many have trouble absorbing this nutrient properly from food sources. Blood tests for vitamin B12 are not always a reliable indicator of B12 status, so watching for symptoms of deficiency and increasing your dietary and supplemental intake is a practical alternative to blood testing.
B12 is available in its natural form only in animal food sources. These include seafood, beef, chicken, pork, milk, and eggs. If you don’t consume enough of these animal products (and I don’t recommend consuming seafood unless you know it is from a pure water source) to get an adequate supply of B12, or if your body’s ability to absorb the vitamin from food is compromised, vitamin B12 supplementation is completely non-toxic and inexpensive, especially when compared to the cost of laboratory testing. I recommend an under-the-tongue fine mist spray, as this technology helps you absorb the vitamin into the fine capillaries under your tongue.
8. Listen to Music
It’s long been theorized that listening to music may boost your brainpower. You’ve probably heard of this with the “Mozart Effect,” which suggests listening to classical music can make you smarter. Indeed, research has shown that listening to music while exercising boosted cognitive levels and verbal fluency skills in people diagnosed with coronary artery disease (coronary artery disease has been linked to a decline in cognitive abilities). In this study, signs of improvement in the verbal fluency areas more than doubled after listening to music compared to that of the non-music session. Listening to music has also been associated with enhanced cognitive functioning and improved mental focus among healthy adults, so take advantage of this simple pleasure whenever you can.
9. Challenge Your Mind
One of the simplest methods to boost your brain function is to keep on learning. The size and structure of neurons and the connections between them actually change as you learn. This can take on many forms above and beyond book learning to include activities like traveling, learning to play a musical instrument or speak a foreign language, or participating in social and community activities.
Another important method? Brain aerobics. As with learning, challenging your brain with mind-training exercises can keep your brain fit as you age. This can be something as simple as thinking of famous people whose first names begin with the letter A, doing crossword puzzles or playing board games that get you thinking. Research has even shown that surfing the Web activates regions in your brain related to decision-making and complex reasoning. So, unlike passively watching TV, using the Internet is an engaging task that may actually help to improve your brainpower.
July 3, 2014 No Comments
Part 2: How to Optimize your Gut Flora
By: Dr. Jeff Rockwell
Recently, I taught a workshop on the “wellness revolution,” and discussed ways we can make room for new vistas in holistic well-being to emerge in our lives. I mentioned two axioms, or self-evident truths: that we are self-healing and self-regulating; and that the brain makes this possible. It stands to reason, then, that if we interfere with the brain and the rest of our nervous system, we interfere with our ability to heal, regulate and transform ourselves and our lives. Another way of saying this is that “as goes the brain, so goes our health.” In that spirit, I described nine ways we can make a good brain great; increase our longevity, creativity and mental flexibility; and boost our overall health. A simple three part series will cover these nine life-style changing practices. Want to know what they are? This way, please.
4. Coconut Oil
One of the primary fuels your brain needs is glucose, which is converted into energy. Your brain actually manufactures its own insulin to convert glucose in your bloodstream into the food it needs to survive.
If your brain’s production of insulin decreases, your brain literally begins to starve, as it’s deprived of the glucose-converted energy it needs to function normally. This is what happens to Alzheimer’s patients — portions of their brain start to atrophy, or starve, leading to impaired functioning and eventual loss of memory, speech, movement and personality.
In effect, your brain can begin to atrophy from starvation if it becomes insulin resistant and loses its ability to convert glucose into energy. This commonly happens with diets high in refined sugar and processed foods. Fortunately, your brain is able to run on more than one type of energy supply, and this is where coconut oil enters the picture.
There’s another substance that can feed your brain and prevent brain atrophy. It may even restore and renew neuron and nerve function in your brain after damage has set in. This substance is called ketoacid or ketones. Ketones are what your body produce when it converts fat (as opposed to glucose) into energy, and a primary source of ketone bodies are the medium chain triglycerides (MCT) found in coconut oil. Coconut oil contains about 66 percent MCTs. Therapeutic levels of MCTs have been studied at 20 grams per day. According to research by Dr. Mary Newport, just over two tablespoons of coconut oil (about 35 ml or 7 level teaspoons) would supply you with the equivalent of 20 grams of MCT, which is indicated as either a preventative measure against degenerative neurological diseases, or as a treatment for an already established case.
Everyone tolerates coconut oil differently, so you may have to start slowly and build up to these therapeutic levels. My recommendation is to start with one teaspoon, taken with food in the mornings. Gradually add more coconut oil every few days until you are able to tolerate four tablespoons. Coconut oil is best taken with food, to avoid upsetting your stomach. Fuel your brain while you fuel your stomach!
5. Vitamin D
The National Institutes of Mental Health recently concluded that it is vital that a mother get enough vitamin D while pregnant in order for the baby’s brain to develop properly. The child must also get enough vitamin D after birth for “normal” brain functioning. In older adults, too, research has shown that low vitamin D levels are associated with poorer brain function, and increasing levels may help keep older adults mentally fit.
Appropriate sun exposure would take care of these issues, as the sun is irreplaceable when it comes to the body’s ability to produce adequate amounts of vitamin D. Appropriate sun exposure is all it takes to keep your levels where they need to be for healthy brain function. If this is not an option, a safe tanning bed is the next best alternative, followed by a vitamin D3 supplement. It’s important to realize that there’s no magic dosage when it comes to vitamin D. What’s important is your serum level, so you need to get your vitamin D levels tested to make sure you’re staying within optimal and therapeutic ranges.
6. Optimize Your Gut Flora
Your gut is your “second brain,” and your gut bacteria transmits information to your brain via the vagus nerve, the tenth cranial nerve that runs from your brain stem into your enteric nervous system (the nervous system of your gastrointestinal tract). There is a close connection between abnormal gut flora and abnormal brain development, and just as you have neurons in your brain, you also have neurons in your gut.
Quite simply, your gut health can impact your brain function, psyche, and behavior, as they are interconnected and interdependent in a number of different ways.
Your gut bacteria are an active and integrated part of your body, and as such are heavily dependent on your diet and are vulnerable to your lifestyle. If you consume a lot of processed foods and sweetened drinks, for instance, your gut bacteria are likely going to be severely compromised because processed foods in general will destroy healthy microflora and sugars of all kind feed bad bacteria and yeast. Limiting sugar and processed foods, while eating traditionally fermented foods (rich in naturally occurring good bacteria), taking a probiotic supplement and breastfeeding your baby are among the best ways to optimize gut flora and subsequently support brain health.
What do B-12 and Music have in common? Find out next week in the conclusion to this three part series!
June 26, 2014 2 Comments