Category — Massage Techniques
“The darkness of the day is the best time to see”
- Don Juan to Carlos Castaneda
Over the nearly thirteen years I have taught for National Holistic Institute, I have had the pleasure of teaching a number of vision impaired students. And I’ve learned a lot from them too. One student had a seeing eye dog that – not making this up! – would “whoosh” with the group by wagging his tale and giving a single sharp bark!
One day I came into class and found one of my vision impaired students lying on his back. At first I thought he was taking a quick cat nap, but then I saw that he was actually reading. The book was open on his chest as he lay supine, his fingers dancing over the Braille “letters” on the page. I remarked about it, and his answer charmed me: he said that when he reads, he has ten eyes. I thought that was pretty cool.
In China and Japan, people with vision impairment were traditionally trained to be body workers. Even today, many people in those countries will preferentially seek out a blind massage therapist. The expectation is that their touch skills will be exceptional and that their gentle, grounded presence will help soothe the client’s body and mind.
When I used to study the Japanese martial art called jujutsu, my favorite drill was to be attacked while blindfolded. The challenge to the person on the mat was to rely on nothing but their proprioception (the neurological awareness of the body in space) to defend themselves. I was reminded of Obi Wan Kenobi’s classic guidance in Star Wars to trust the feeling of the Force instead of the fickle vision of the eyes. “Your eyes can mislead you,” he tells the inexperienced Luke Skywalker during his first practice with the light saber, “Don’t trust them.”
Vision is a tremendously powerful sense. So powerful, in fact, that it can and often does “unground” us and scatter our attention. As I seek to help my students develop a grounded, centered presence and the quality of touch that goes with professional massage therapy, I am frequently amazed at how consciously disconnecting from this often overwhelming sense can serve us.
In a recent MFT Palpation class, we were watching a video produced by Books of Discovery, makers of our well-loved Trail Guide to the Body. At one point, the presenter Andrew Biel gives the tip to close the eyes while seeking to palpate (touching to gain knowledge) a muscle. It was great to hear this from such an esteemed expert on muscle palpation, and I reiterated it to the group. When we close our eyes, we begin to reduce the flow of information to our brain, allowing us to tune in to some of the subtler signals that we may be receiving, but tuning out.
The skin is an extraordinary sense organ. One square inch of skin on the palm contains over 130 yards of nerves, specialized to detect subtle changes in pressure, heat, vibration, texture, and much, much more. Closing the eyes takes our attention temporarily away from the fast-paced and distracting world around us, and begins to tune our attention to the vast spectrum of subtle sensation that many of us habitually tune out. And so if you are feeling ungrounded, feeling distracted, or just feeling like you want to experience something (like a new muscle you’ve just learned!) with more depth, let me invite you to follow the wisdom of the Jedi, Don Juan, my old jujutsu Sensei, and my many excellent vision-impaired students…
… and close your eyes to “see”!
written by William Mathis, Teacher and Mentor,
National Holistic Institute of Petaluma, CA
October 24, 2013 6 Comments
-written by Lucas Nevarez,
Instructor and Mentor, NHI Sacramento
Sunday September 22nd 2013 marked the very first Ironman Triathlon in the Lake Tahoe area. It will definitely be an event to remember for all parties involved. National Holistic Institute was invited to support the athletes after the event by providing recovery-oriented “post event” sports massage.
To say the event was grueling and demanding on the human body is an understatement.
Imagine if you will:
A race that begins before dawn… It begins with a 2.4 mile swim in frigid waters of Lake Tahoe that is enough to wear down the average body. As they emerged from the icy waters, they were met with freezing air temperature; lows were in the 30’s that morning!
Then they continued with a brisk 112 mile bike ride through the gorgeous windy mountain roads. What lay ahead, aside from the gorgeous backdrop of the Serra Nevada range – were steep, lengthy grade changes that would make most legs quiver.
And… to cap it all off, they finished with 26.2 mile run; a full marathon! At an elevation of 6000 feet, I imagine it was a little hard to breath during the entire event.
Racers finished within 7 – 16 hours. Yes, some worked out from 7am till midnight.
Everybody could have used a massage after a day like that.
The energy of the finishers was a combination of jubilation, elation and relief. In the mix were many cases of hypothermia: (meaning) shock, nausea, muscle cramps and disorientation. We did not work on those people – they went straight to the medical tent.
The good news is that many made it to the finish line and could still walk. They moseyed into the warm massage tent and into our welcoming hands.
I have never seen so many people so happy to get a massage. Having massage therapists present really made a difference for hundreds of athletes. Most people felt better after receiving bodywork, they were able to walk a little more up right and a little less wobbly.
For all you Iron Men and Iron Women…well… all athletes for that matter – I leave you with this thought:
Massage Therapy as part of your training cycle as well as after major events will help keep your body at peak performance.
Have you provided massage for athletes? Tell us about it in the comments below!
September 26, 2013 4 Comments
~written by Sabrina Italia
One thing that stands out most about National Holistic Institutes Core Program is the public clinic. Once students learn a full body sequence, either in Swedish or Zen Shiatsu massage and pass their evaluation, they have a practice clinic.
Practice clinic is a class in the core program that allows juniors to connect with their seniors about any questions or concerns they may have about working with the general public. Juniors get their first taste of greeting clients, conducting a brief assessment, doing a 50 minute massage, and then escorting the client back to the lobby where students practice educating and rebooking with their seniors.
Students also learn how to run the front desk. They book appointments, handle money and deal with any issues, like last minute cancellations, that come up. These experiences are of great value, especially for students that want to have a private practice.
The class starts with an opening circle. In that circle, the juniors speak first about any excitement, nervousness, or insecurity they might be experiencing, at this point the teacher steps back to let the juniors have center stage. As the seniors listen, they start to think back about their first clinic. Allowing the juniors speak out their concerns and have them addressed by their seniors is very powerful.
First, it gives juniors the platform to talk about their fears in a safe space. Then the seniors step in and encourage their juniors with personal experiences and fears they had during their first clinic. There’s usually at least one amusing story that helps to break the tension. Plus it’s nice for students to hear it from a classmate as opposed to a seasoned teacher.
The value in having that experience while still attending school is beyond is one that students carry throughout their career. Many massage therapists out there took their first client at their first job without the support of their mentors and classmates. This creates confidence that is evident when graduates of NHI go out and start working.
Students have the benefit of psychologically ironing out situations like, “what if a client only wants me to work in a specific area for 50 minutes” or “my client has a recent injury, can I work on that area or not?” These questions and so many more come up during practice clinic. A teacher is present for all clinics and frequently checks in to make sure clients and students are getting what they need in the moment.
By the end of practice clinic, students feel much more confident about their first public clinic, not to mention it helps the group to bond together as a team.
National Holistic Institute offers student massages on most days. Visit our website for more information or to book an appointment:
September 3, 2013 No Comments
-written by Tiahna Skye
I remember reading this quote in the forward of Barbara Brennan’s book many years ago. It struck me deeply and is something I still think about. As Massage Therapists we work with connective tissue all the time. We focus on breaking up adhesions, aligning muscle fiber, unwinding the fascia from one point of trauma out though all the related structures in the body. We are effective at reducing pain, bettering posture, increasing range of movement and generally improving overall well being. We are connective tissue specialists.
What would happen if we worked just as conscientiously towards having a positive impact on the connective tissue of universe as well? That might sound like a grandiose aspiration, but really it is quite simple. Each and every time we place our hands on another’s body we have the opportunity to impact their physical tissue, but also their energetic tissue. At NHI we have often say, “Energy follows intention”. When giving a massage we can focus on all connective tissue, physical and universal. We can touch all that we touch with compassion.
Perhaps that seems like quite a challenge. Maybe I have never met this client before and will never see them again. Maybe they have bad body odor, or came to me in a foul temper. Maybe I am tired at the end of a long day and not really present or in the mood to give another massage. And yet, how many times have we all experienced that we feel better at the end of a session, uplifted and energized? That is the beauty of practicing love. In order to offer it to another, we must first fill ourselves with love; we are aligning our own physical and energetic systems and receiving all the same benefits our clients do. Suddenly our tiredness evaporates, our mood lifts and our work becomes a thrilling and fulfilling adventure.
Love is not really complicated. It does not have to mean romance, obligation or vulnerability. Love is simply an energetic frequency. It is the essential energy we are born into. It is what gives us life. It is yet another word for Chi, Prana, Ki and mana. In physics there are theories about resonance and entrainment. Simply put, they state that energy will align to the highest frequency present. Have you ever wondered why it is so easy to love a baby? The reason is that babies give us unconditional love. As that is the highest life frequency, we resonate with it and in turn experience unconditional love.
Our clients too are ready, willing and able to align with this frequency. Offering love through our touch increases the effectiveness of our work exponentially. When we touch a client with love, we create safety and an invitation to heal. Often there are underlying emotional or psychological aspects to physical tension. When we work with the whole person and not just the musculo-skeletal system, we release the underlying patterns that create and hold tension in the body. When we touch with love, our clients receive the work more easily, there is no resistance, and we can achieve much greater depth and connection with much less effort. In short, we become much more effective at what we do.
All it takes is attention and intention. Before you begin a session take a moment to adjust your own attitude: take a deep breath, be present, practice acceptance – of yourself and your client, hold them in positive regard, and wish for what takes place during the session to be for their highest good. Just like that you have aligned your own energy with the frequency of love that is for your highest good as well.
It is so easy to get lost in the world of techniques. There is always more to learn and more skills to develop, but the effectiveness of all technique is dependent on how it is delivered. A “simple” Swedish massage can be a profound experience when it is performed with love. The most sophisticated technique can pale if it is performed mechanically without love. The most important thing to remember is that it is not what we do but how we do it. Quality of touch is the most powerful tool in our repertoire.
With loving touch we can enhance a massage session, increase our own well being, and maybe even straighten the connective tissue of the universe. We can make a contribution with our lives that will change the world one massage at a time.
June 3, 2013 No Comments
-written by Sabrina Italia, NHI Instructor.
Ever wondered why you feel great for a few days after your massage only to find your aches and pains resurface just as they were before the massage?? Most people believe that massage alone can reverse muscle and fascial patterns. In many ways it can, and does short term.
However, sometimes mechanical massage alone isn’t enough to allow a person to release tension and anxiety. When working out a plan with your Massage Therapist, including different modalties may create extended benefits and maybe even permanent reversal of postural deviations or tissue and muscle “stuckness”. In both our Core and Advanced Neuromuscular Therapy programs, NHI teaches students numerous modalities and how to alter the perpetuating factors that can keep clients in pain if unaddressed.
Last week I taught a class to group 18 on the Emeryville campus. In this class we talk about emotional effects on our muscles and joints. Have you ever walked up to a friend and without even saying anything noticed something’s “wrong” just because of their body language? Often times our first response is a hand on the shoulder or back to show support. Sometimes just that initial touch can begin to help someone feel better. In this class we apply “Compassionate Touch” which is simply addressing tense areas with quiet hands (hands that remain still, or mostly still). We find these areas by visually assessing a client’s body to see if they seem to be holding any tension in their body.
I did a demonstration of “Compassionate Touch” on Richard. We observed that he seemed to be keeping his arms tight against his body, enough to make his left shoulder rise up and his chin was slightly tilted up in a potentially defensive manner. (Before)
After the “Compassionate Touch” was applied, we did see a change in how he held himself, and noticed that his shoulder and chin did drop down into a more relaxed state. While the results were minimal, the long term effect could be very beneficial. (After)
Because we prepped the body by getting rid of that initial layer of tension, it’s likely that the benefits of the massage will go farther.
There are many modalities that “prep” the body for mechanical massage. Either way massage is a great and effective tool in stress reduction and is great at helping restore range of motion in joints and tissue.
Research; choose a well-trained, certified massage therapist and get the most out of your massage!
May 28, 2013 1 Comment
One aspect of a healthy lifestyle is having a healthy diet. And an aspect of the “healthy diet” that has gotten a lot of exposure in recent years is the need to eat locally grown food produced without chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
Local, sustainably produced food has tons of health and environmental reasons to recommend it, and it generally tastes great too. But it does take work. Now, conventional, chemical-intensive agriculture is not easy either, but the work is generally reduced by using huge, expensive, gas-guzzling machinery and expensive, frequently toxic chemicals.
With seasonal, chemical-free farming, that chemistry and machinery is replaced by the farmer’s energy and exertion: digging, hoeing, weeding, shoveling, hauling, picking, and so on. In other words, many of the health and environmental benefits of small-scale, sustainable farming are due to the fact that the process rests on natural cycles… and lots of manual labor.
When I was in massage school up in the mountains of North Carolina, I spent some time working on an organic farm. The work was fun, active, outdoors, and I often came home with a bag of fresh veggies too. Wielding shovel and hoe, I did battle with weeds and insects. Naturally, I deeply appreciated my newfound circle of massage therapists-in-training. But what really surprised me was the difference that was made by learning to move efficiently… in other words, using good body mechanics. If you aren’t familiar with the term, check out this great video introduction to Proper Body Mechanics For Massage Therapists.
When I brought my massage therapist’s Lunge and Weight Transfer out to the spinach field it was nothing short of a revelation.
Suddenly it seemed like I had a boundless reserve of energy to apply to all of manual-labor challenges that farm work provides. The actual work became more fun, and the attention to the body mechanics made me more present with my work, and in a paradoxical way, being present rather than daydreaming made the work shift fly by. And at the end of the day I wasn’t exhausted, but energized, like I had done several hours of Tai Chi – the only difference being I had a hoe or shovel in my hand the whole time!
Now fast forward some fifteen years… My path of teaching massage has led me to Sonoma County, which may as well be the center of the sustainable farming universe. A multitude of small, sustainable farms are scattered across the wine country. Many are certified organic, and at least a few describe their practices as “beyond organic”.
As an effort to give something back to the hard-working men and women who are fighting on the front lines of this Food Revolution, National Holistic Institute’s Petaluma Campus is sending Student Therapists out to local small farms to do massage and offer coaching on body mechanics and self-care. This is a chance for sore, tired bodies to get massage, as well as get the movement education that might help them be a little less sore and tired next time. It’s also a chance for the students to practice their massage, networking, and health educator skills… and maybe to come away with some nice fresh veggies too!
Do you want to get involved in supporting our sustainable farmers?
Here are some ideas that you could easily implement in your area:
• Farmer’s Markets have become a big hit in many urban areas. This is a great opportunity to meet and market to healthy-minded people in general, and many markets feature on-site massage for customers. Bring your business cards!
• Farmer’s Markets are a prime way to meet your local farmers. Most of these folks would be happy to have you tour their farms. With a little clever marketing, you could easily set up a chance to do free chair massage for their workers as a promotional activity. You could also make a pitch to offer a little mini-class on body mechanics and self-care. Bring your fliers and Powerful Presentation skills!
• Most farms have a farm store on-site that could make a good externship site. Many organic farms have volunteer, internship, and work-trade options – and some might even be open to trading massage for farm produce. “Will work for food! (if it’s sustainable, local, and organic!)”
I hope that inspires you to “lend a hand” to the sustainable farming movement! Happy Eating!
Mentor and Instructor
June 20, 2012 No Comments
To become grounded is to let go of the stresses of life & to be present in the moment with the client. Taking precautions to operate within the moment & clarify the goals of the session are absolutely crucial when one considers how much massage is affected by intentions. The method to ground oneself can be different for everyone, require different levels of concentration, and will vary day by day.
The thinking behind grounding is to bring positive intentions to the client & increase the level of focus on the therapist’s goals. Without properly grounding, the therapist runs a risk of injury, on a physical level or possibly on an energetic level. The risk of injury is only one motivation to support the healthy habit of grounding. A much more exciting reason to ground is the prospect of increasing the positive outcomes of the body &/or energy work. Practitioners can use a variety of techniques to enter a grounded state to help achieve amazing results.
Methods of grounding can be as simple as entering a meditative state, concentrating on your breathing, or going through a specific series of motions (ie: Tai Chi, Yoga, Qigong…). Some people also get themselves pumped up, as if they are about to enter an athletic event. The goal is the same, to reach a state of clarity that will allow the therapist to bring the client the best experience possible. A term commonly used to describe the feeling of living in the moment, or reaching a grounded state is Zen.
Zen is the ultimate goal, and as most people who try to attain that state of clarity discover, it is rarely achieved in its purest form. As with massage & every other worthy endeavor, grounding before each session becomes more effective with practice.
By implementing this activity into your massage routine you will undoubtedly achieve new success stories from your clients & you might just find a sizable amount of personal growth as well.
May 31, 2012 1 Comment
If you hadn’t heard yet, April was National Autism Awareness month. Currently, we are in a trend of a growing number of children being diagnosed with developmental disorders which include Autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, attention deficit disorder (ADD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), pervasive development disorder (PDD), and nonverbal learning disorder (NLD).
These disorders used to be rare. In the 1980s, the diagnosis rate was 1 in 5000. Today, we are at 1 in 110. With this rising rate, it is becoming more common for us to know at least one person in our life that either has Autism or is the parent of an Autistic child.
Tina Allen, founder of Liddle Kidz™, Pediatric Massage Master Teacher, and Massage Therapist says, “Many autistic children have sensory malfunction and dysfunction of the tactile system making them averse to certain sights, sounds, smells or touch. Given that autistic children have been reported to be opposed to physical contact, it is interesting that many massage therapists, and parents, are finding great success in the use of massage therapy with autistic children.”
She also states, “Research has found that these children show less autistic behavior, are more social and attentive after receiving massage therapy. This safe, nurturing touch and regular sensory integration is beneficial in reducing inattentiveness, touch aversion and withdrawal.”
The Liddle Kidz™ foundation offers Massage Therapists NCBTMB-Approved Training on Massage for children with Autism. These courses review what Autism is, what type of therapies are currently used, how to communicate, educating tools to help empower the parents, as well as hands-on practice time.
With this rising rate becoming as common as other pathologies, it is important that Massage Therapists become educated and prepared for this potential application to their practice. It very well could change the life of a family in a very positive way.
To introduce children to therapeutic touch, Tina suggests combining storytelling with touch to make the experience very positive for the child. Read our blog post, A Different Kind of Bedtime Story to find out how!
For more information on LiddleKidz™ and class schedules visit: http://www.liddlekidz.com/autism-massage-training.html
National Holistic Institute Sacramento Instructor
April 30, 2012 No Comments
With the first rains of the season in the Bay Area recently, we started getting a little chilly! And what better way to fight off the winter blues than a steamy Thai Herbal Compress Massage! NHI Instructors Kristine TenBrink and Darlene Campo recently led a special lab for Group 30 Seniors in Luk Pra Kob (as the modality is known in Thailand). Both teachers have had extensive, but slightly different experience working with the compresses: Kristine was trained in Thaiyurveda while working at the exclusive Preston Wynne Spa in Saratoga, while Darlene studied Thai Herbalism at Spirit Winds School of Thai Massage in Nevada City and recently attended a lecture given by Ajahn Supamas Kananurak at the Second Annual Traditional Thai Medicine & Massage Symposium organized by the Thai Institute of Healing Arts in Arlington, Virginia.
Students used authentic, handmade herbal compresses from Thailand which were purchased at Bua Thai Wellness Center in San Mateo. Each cotton muslin sachet contained indigenous Thai herbs such as Siamese ginger, tamarind leaves, lemongrass, and kaffir lime peel, along with generous portions of camphor, borneol, sea salt, and turmeric. (Note: For more information about the healing properties of Thai herbs, please see A Thai Herbal: Traditional Recipes for Health and Harmony by Dr. Pierce Salguero.)
The poultices were placed in a vegetable steamer to heat, which released the aromatherapy and medicinal properties of the herbs. After testing the bundles on their forearm to ensure that they weren’t too hot for the client, the students addressed the Sen lines (energy pathways) of the back, softening the musculature, and encouraging the free flow of energy. The combination of moist heat and compression was not only therapeutic, but also highly relaxing for the client. Even Kristine and Darlene left the lab happy and calm from just being in the room with the herbs all morning!
To learn more about NHI’s curriculum including both Eastern and Western modalities, check out Our Curriculum Page.
February 15, 2012 2 Comments
At NHI we pride ourselves in making Anatomy fun and easy to learn for everyone. We are fortunate enough to have a great collaborative relationship with the publishers of our Anatomy book we use, Trail Guide to the Body. The staff at Trail Guide to the Body is happy to train our faculty on any new learning tools and advances in the field of Anatomy. The Trail Guide is such a user friendly book, and now we have a companion Student Workbook and on-line tools for students and teachers alike. Learning anatomy has never been easier and more rewarding! And it is so much fun to learn about our own bodies work and then the bodies of our future massage clients!
Rhoni Hirst from Trail Guide to the Body recently wrote a warm email to NHI’s President and Vice President, sharing her regard for the devotion that our mentors showed toward the curriculum.
“Hi Mason and Tim,
I am not sure if you are aware but I have been holding some short trainings with your instructors regarding the complimentary online tools we offer for the Trail Guide to the Body text. We have 3 trainings completed and we have 3 more to go.
I spoke with Melissa this morning about how impressed I am with your crew and thought I would share this with you as well. Melissa has expressed how beneficial the trainings have been for the instructors and I told her how inspirational they have been for me… [I am amazed by] the focus, interest and enthusiasm I hear and feel from your instructors. It is very obvious to me that your instructors feel connected and know that they are a part of something bigger than just the classes they teach individually. There is also no doubt that this is filtering directly into your students as well.
I am sure it is not easy to keep such a big program so well connected but I have to tell you that, whatever you are doing over there, is working! Kudos to all of you!”
We feel honored to hear such wonderful words and would like to thank Rhoni for doing such a wonderful job bringing us up to speed on the latest Anatomy learning tools. We’d also like to congratulate all of our mentors who were in the training sessions with Rhoni for showing their NHI spirit. Here’s to many years ahead working with the Trail Guide to the Body and to making Anatomy accessible for everyone!
~National Holistic Institute
January 23, 2012 2 Comments
At first, it may seem counter-intuitive to teach your clients self-massage techniques that they can do without the therapist there to assist them. You might be scared that they will become satisfied with the techniques that they can practice themselves. Any great massage therapist understands that their mission is to create the greatest change and sense of wellbeing in their patients and this in turn will keep them coming back.
Self-Massage techniques can not possibly provide the same benefits as a full massage session, but they are a great way for clients to relieve temporary headaches, stress and pain, and for them to maintain a holistic sense of well-being. After all, graduates of National Holistic Institute are not only massage therapists, but also health educators!
If you or someone you know is struggling with headaches, sinus allergies, or stress and tension throughout the body, here are some simple self-massage techniques from AMTA presiden-elect and NHI Advanced Program Instructor, Cynthia Ribiero that will provide fast acting relief until that next massage is booked…
During all of the following techniques, apply light to moderate pressure to avoid aggravating any issue. You should feel a “good” pain; if it hurts too much, back off.
For temporal headaches: Press four fingers against the temporal muscle and move them back and forth, up and down or in a circular motion.
For frontal and sinus headaches: Put three fingers of each hand above the eyebrow line and press left to right, to the hairline, without gliding.
For tension headaches, tired eyes and sinuses: Press your thumbs up against the underside of the brow bone in the eye socket.
For stress and tension throughout the body (if you have time for only one exercise, this is the one to do): Using your three middle fingers arranged in a triangle, apply pressure just above the bridge of your nose, known as the “third eye.”
For sinus headaches and allergies: With your index and middle fingers, press along, above and below your cheekbones.
For more on Cynthia’s endless log of massage therapy knowlege, check out our post about her work formulating the Massage Therapy Book of Knowlege (MTBOK) here.
October 6, 2011 No Comments
John “The NHI Guy” Caguin will be starring in a new video series, showcasing massage therapy techniques, massage school facts and tips, and other NHI related videos. To make sure you receieve updates when new videos are released, subscribe to the NHI Youtube Channel and subscribe to the NHI Blog.
For the first video, we thought it would be appropriate to show you something that will help no matter what type of massage you are giving. Proper body mechanics can keep you from becoming fatigued or injured as a massage therapist and also increase the effectiveness of the massage so that your client is 100% satisfied.
Even if you aren’t an expert in massage therapy, these tips will give you more confidence and strength while providing massage.
Without further ado, let me introduce The NHI Guy!
September 16, 2011 2 Comments