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Crossing Over

By Dr. Jeff Rockwell

I have officially crossed a line in my life. I won’t do anything that is not congruent with my soul. Will you join me?

I will walk the path of authenticity, and I will dare greatly. In that spirit, I have zero problems sharing that it scares the crap out of me to write this. In one very real sense, living a whole-hearted life is terrifying. Let’s get real: there a lot of internal and external forces pushing back on us. Take a look at the greatest leaders in our history and you’ll see that a good number of them were ridiculed or worse. The status quo is bent on suppressing authenticity, as are many parts of our own conditioning. It’s heart-wrenchingly weird to step out and tell your truth.  I will do it, though – and I will fail. I’ll step up again, fail, step up again, fail, step up again and again and again. Why? Because I know in my bones that the compelling stories of our lives—my life, the dreams of our hearts, our wounds and our victories, are not there by mistake. They are the poetry of God.  By telling my truth, I liberate myself from the hold of the primitive “fear brain.” I start to disentangle myself from the cultural dictate to be someone other than who I am.


I may feel scared but I will act from love. In fact, the more I do this I realize I have no choice. Why? Because I am love. So are you. To act contrary to this is a flu-virus to the soul. Any dream– any calling that arises within us, comes straight from Source. We may feel it in our gut or in our bones or in our heart. The Heart—let’s give it the respect it deserves and capitalize it– is our instant connection to Source. We are hard-wired to cooperate, to live and create and work and play in peace. That’s what Source wants. But it needs a body to dance its call into the world. It needs hands to offer a hug, a high five, a healing hour of massage. It needs me. It needs you. And our freedom lies in being with the truth of who we are. We are Love. If I want to live a whole-hearted life, I have to be whole – and that means embracing all of my life, not just the happy, shiny stuff. What glitters is the heart and soul. Everything else will pass away.

My bondage lies in the myriad of ways I hide out, play small, and put on a nice veneer. When I get really honest and clear and vulnerable I can see, without flinching, that there are a whole lot of forces in myself, in our media, in our pop-culture, in our families, that want us to keep from breaking free and being radically real and honest, to keep us from knowing and owning our magnificent broken beauty. We live in a culture where we can keep posting on Facebook, for example, only what we want others to see.  Social media is fabulous and we can all use it to share who we really are and to share what we are most passionate about (me: a world that works for everyone). But do not let it become a substitute for realness, authenticity, depth, and the real creativity that comes from whole-hearted, face-to-face living.DSCN3743

None of this means that you need to drop a hand grenade into your life. The greatest change starts right where we are-– in our work, in our families, in our bodies. Courageously, lovingly, gracefully (and, sometimes, clumsily and tentatively), we begin, one step at a time, to live our authentic life. As Mary Oliver said in her great poem The Journey, “One day you finally knew what you had to do, and began/ though the voices around you kept shouting their bad advice/but you didn’t stop/little by little, as you left their voices behind, the stars began to burn through sheets of clouds/ and there was a new voice which you slowly recognized as your own/ that kept you company as you strode deeper and deeper into the world/ determined to do the only thing you could do/determined to save the only life you could save.”


Here are nine suggestions to help you on your precious journey:

1) Find community that supports this and supports you. It is really challenging to do this alone.

2) Find and spend time with leaders who bring their authenticity into the world and, by doing so, change lives. They are out there. Listen to your heart and you’ll recognize who honors your soul’s code and who doesn’t.

3) The greatest way to transform your life is to transform what interferes with you sharing your light with the world. This is NOT a mental process. It’s a whole body process. As the saying goes, “The issues are in the tissues.”  Massage therapy is one way that can assist this process.

4) Remember to breath. As one of my teachers says, “More breath, more God.”

5) Three books that are rocking my world right now are “Daring Greatly” by Brene Brown, “Heed Your Call,” by David Howitt, and “Red, Hot and Holy” by Sera Beak. Read and watch things that stir and nourish your soul.

6) Sometimes, in addition to working with the body, we need to talk to a person who really “gets” it—and who gets us—to further assist our healing and unfoldment. I personally have three mentors with whom I regularly meet and check-in. Why three, and not just one? I’m slow.

7) Eat well. Drink water. Move. Get good rest. Meditate/pray. Care for your nervous system. Don’t over-stimulate it with sugar, caffeine and TV (and other screens), but nurture it with healing touch. As we wake up, we must train our minds to tell the truth about us: we are amazing being our wildest dreams. This last one is non-negotiable.IMG_3265

8) As counter-intuitive as this may seem (or contrary to the spirit of this blog), your life is not about you. Not really. Neither is it about me. And it never will be. This thought keeps us right- sized, connected to one another, and an open portal to Grace.

9) Keep a sense of humor. Don’t be serious; be sincere.

“Daring Greatly” – Brene Brown

“Heed Your Call” – David Howitt

“Red, Hot, and Holy” – Sera Beak


April 21, 2014   2 Comments

Sustainability Through Kaizen: Step Seven of Having a Life You Love

… Continued from “10 Steps to Having a Life You Love”




By Dr. Jeff Rockwell

Anybody can succeed, at least once in a while. But consistent and lasting success in life comes only from a commitment to daily improvement; by being open to and not frightened away, by change; by striving to become a little bit wiser each day. Success means many things to different people but I propose that it is the constant increase in the quality of every aspect of our life – our health, our wealth, our knowledge, and our relationships— including one’s relationship with one ’s self. I am not talking about huge improvements. What I am talking about are very small incremental daily improvements that add up to a Big Life Worth Loving (BLWL).

How do we get ourselves to consistently act in a way that causes us to increase the quality of our life and our enjoyment of it? It is by committing to the philosophy of Kaizen.

kaizen meaning But what on earth is Kaizen? Kaizen is a Japanese term that literally stands for “Constant and Never-ending Improvement.” The term, made popular by the Toyota Company during the days of its breakthrough into the American auto market, loosely translates to “change for the better” and is a slow-and-steady method of encouraging success in workplaces. In those who follow Kaizen, people at all levels of an organization—from the cleaning crew to the company president—use key fundamentals to make productive changes, improve attitudes and increase overall achievement. But the principles behind this practice can also be applied to our everyday life—our interactions with those around us, the attainment of personal goals and our quest to find balance and contentment in daily life. “This technique helps the brain learn habits through small, daily steps we take to improve our health, our relationships and our work efforts,” writes business author Robert Maurer, Ph.D. The way our life gets better is not by occasionally jumping into it with wild enthusiasm. The quality of our life gets better by making a habit of consistently and consciously improving in each and every area of our lives—every day (or very close to it). That is, admittedly, a tall order but really takes not much more effort than “living-by-default” and allowing a miserable life to happen to us. In the words of the late motivational author, Zig Ziglar, “Inch by inch, anything’s a cinch. Mile by mile, everything’s a trial.” Committing to these tiny improvements which, while they may seem like nothing in the moment, will build upon each other until, one day, we discover we are “playing life” at a whole different level of embodiment and expression.


kaizen sayingKaizen implies living by habit. In truth, we all do this all the time, but to what kind of habits are we loyal? Successful people develop the habit of doing the things unsuccessful people don’t like to do. That is a fairly simple, yet profound, formula for success. Who likes to get up an hour earlier to exercise, review goals, meditate or make breakfast for their partners? Not too many people, to be exact. But successful people make small things like these a habit, ones that create energy, enthusiasm, and positive momentum.


Nothing in life feels as fulfilling and juicy as knowing we are living life by our own code of excellence, or sharing the gifts and talents that lie within us. We feel frustrated when we don’t feel we are growing or fulfilling our potential, and this growth comes from the accumulation of many, seemingly insignificant, successful days.

Hands planter

Most people don’t succeed in achieving their goals because they don’t believe they can achieve them. If you set very high standards and set equally large goals, your brain may rebel since it feels pressured by the possibility of failure. The power of Kaizen, however, is that it is believable.

Here are three questions that we can ask ourselves at the end of each day. These questions help us to stay on purpose and true to our commitment to Kaizen. They are:

1. What did I learn today?

2. How has today added to the quality of my life?

3. What am I grateful for this evening?

The overriding principle of kaizen is that it is daily, continuous, steady, and it takes a long-term view. Kaizen also requires a commitment and a strong willingness to change. As Lao Tzu said, “Each journey begins with a single step.” Or as I like to put it, KMFA!  Keep moving forward always!Published: October 16, 2013

There is an old saying that goes “Once you think you have arrived, you have already started your descent.” One must never think they “have arrived.” This is a paradox: In one sense, we have–spiritually speaking– always arrived, in that we “are where we are,” and there is great contentment to be found in accepting that. As the Buddha said to his students when asked the secret of happiness, “Happy having, happy not having.” But there is another way of looking at this. In the West we say “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” The spirit of kaizen, on the other hand, suggests that there is always something to learn and ways to improve, and that it is also better to prevent problems than to fix them. Thus, no matter how good things may seem now, there is always room for improvement, and looking to improve every day is what the spirit of personal kaizen is all about. It’s not about how far you have come or how far you have yet to go, it is only about this moment and being open to seeing the possibilities and lessons around you.

Kaizen Tree Final

The seventh core belief of National Holistic Institute is “Sustainability Through Kaizen. Sustainability is a close cousin to success, especially when applied to the success or health of our beloved planet. April 22nd is Earth Day, a perfect time to take personal inventory of our relationship (and our community’s) to the planet. Thoreau wrote, “What is the use of a fine house if you haven’t got a tolerable planet to put it on?” This wasn’t—and isn’t—a rhetorical question. What is the point of a successful life if we do not have a tolerable planet on which to live? Any answer we can think of seems too challenging. Remember, however, we are not alone. While there is no single solution to our ecological problems, there are 7 billion solutions. Each of us has been given a piece of this sacred planet to save. And how should we go about accomplishing such a mighty task? One step at a time, every day,                                                                                                                                                                                 in the spirit of Kaizen.



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April 11, 2014   No Comments

Getting Down With Truth

Getting Down With Truth


By Jeff Rockwell


“Motivation is simple. You eliminate those who are not motivated.” – Lou Holtz


Dear Colleague,

I have come to observe an important distinction within the ranks of massage therapists which is really a microcosm of what I see in the world at large. It is a global mindset issue in individuals that creates the lens through which they see the world and drives their actions and behaviors and consequently, will dictate how the world sees them. It culminates into one’s success, or lack thereof.

What I am talking about here is the mentality of entitlement versus the mentality of motivation. Both are very strong forces that lead to very different destinations. One destination is a good place, the other? Not so much. The good news is that mindsets are NOT inborn. They can be consciously chosen and then ‘habitualized’ through consistent practice.

To become a massage therapist, you spend quite a lot of time in school and invest a substantial amount of money in your education. Too often, after this investment of time and money, one is tempted to get a core sense of, “I’ve arrived!” The corollary mindset to this is one of entitlement. “I put in my time. I spent my money. I deserve my reward.” Oh, what a rude awakening the MT of that orientation is in for. The only thing your massage therapy education entitles you to is the opportunity to go out there and build a career by adding value to the lives of others.

motivation 2

    Motivation, not entitlement, is the key driver to launch, build and sustain a long term successful career. And as the above quote from Lou Holtz says in essence, those who are not motivated get eliminated! So, here’s my question for you – do you have habits and systems built into your daily routines that create motivation? Or do you sit back and gripe about a world or a profession that didn’t give you the career and results you feel you are entitled to?

Motivation means you are willing to work hard. You are willing to risk. You are willing to delay gratification today for a better future tomorrow. You are willing to learn. You are committed to growing. You see an urgent problem and you want to be the solution. You have an important purpose… Entitlement means the exact opposite of all these.Motivation


Ask yourself the question right now, and be 100% honest with yourself. In your current mindset and circumstance, is your default headspace ‘motivation’ or is it ‘entitlement’? The good news is, if it’s the wrong one, you can consciously change it now to the ‘right one’ and take action to keep it there. Lastly, I will say that the main tools I use to stay motivated – and it does require tools and the discipline to use them – consists of 3 things:

1. Consistent morning rituals to get my headspace right, starting with getting a good night’s rest and awakening to twenty minutes of meditation, visualization of goals being achieved, and repeating—with emotion—important and personally relevant affirmations.

2. A comprehensive success library of books, audios, and videos that keep me growing, learning, and motivated. This is my main secret weapon for motivation and I will have turned my car into a learning center, as I utilize my two hours of commute time to listen to some of the brightest minds in wellness care and neuroscience.

3. Being in a weekly accountability group with other like-minded people who share my values. I have been doing this for the past four years and it changed my life.


Are you motivated yet??? Let’s go change the world, two hands at a time!

April 7, 2014   1 Comment

Providing a Safe Space; Part Five of Having a Life You Love

…Continued from 10 Steps to Having a Life You Love.




By Dr. Jeff Rockwell

The fifth core belief of Team NHI is “providing safe space.” The ability to create a safe space may well be one of the most vital skills needed to create an ongoing successful relationship of any kind. Being a college of massage therapy, National Holistic Institute is impeccable about creating safe space for its students and employees; space in which students may “sink in” to the process of learning the language of touch, and space in which staff can model what it looks like “having work you love.” What I find most compelling about this core belief is that life is comprised of relating and of relationships, all of which may more easily flourish in a trustworthy and compassionate environment.

Providing safe space: As I write this I find myself carefully considering how best to entice the reader into a willingness to develop this skill as a significant priority in one’s life.

The first thing to be really clear about regarding this is: If you do not intentionally create a safe space you will not have one, regardless of whether we are talking about therapist-client interactions, a working relationship, or a marriage.

What, exactly, is a safe space?

Safe Space

At the risk of sounding flippant or silly, I want to emphasize that A SAFE SPACE IS A SPACE IN WHICH PEOPLE FEEL SAFE.

People do not feel threatened. They do not feel judged. They do feel cared for, loved and appreciated. They do feel they are being heard and understood what they express themselves. They do feel that we are sincerely attempting to understand what is “true” or “truth” for them, rather than suggesting their perspective is wrong or that ours’ is somehow better or senior to theirs.

If you are creating a safe space for yourself, all of these things are as equally true. You do not threaten yourself. You do not judge yourself or put yourself down. You do care for and love yourself, you listen to and attempt to understand your “body intelligence,” and you have respect for your truth. You remain open—wide open—to growth and new possibilities, but your emotional center of gravity is grounded in a deep appreciation for the sacred process that you always and already are.

We can judge a person against any existing moral, ethical, or religious code or standard. It then becomes easy to not see or hear that person. Their essence becomes invisible to us because judgment creates separation. Judging someone against any standard separates us from the person or group we are judging. It reduces our empathy and, thus, our love.

This is not to say that we should not discern or establish and adhere to our own guiding values. The author and philosopher Ayn Rand warned about “sanctioning incompetency,” referring to our society—harshly, perhaps—as “drowning in a sea of mediocrity.” But the spiritual truth remains: separation is what happens when we judge. Separation-consciousness is the opposite of love, and love is what makes the world go ‘round (or makes it, at the least, a lot more enjoyable).

At NHI, we strive to make our students feel safe to explore, experiment, and grow. As teachers, we want our students to have the best possible experience in the classroom. Providing that means finding a balance between challenging them and keeping them safe.Mountain Range

We try to set the right mood in the room from the very beginning. We “ground in,” enjoy some quiet, meditative time or a fun, physical activity. Once the mood in the room has been established, the most important issue is physical and emotional safety. As a teacher, it’s our job to watch out for “danger signs in the “learning dojo.” I greet each student by name and listen for the tone of their response. It’s one way I can scan the “community” for weak (i.e. in need of deeper understanding or a word of comfort) links. During bodywork sessions, I observe how both the giver and the receiver are breathing. How we breathe is how we do everything else. If the breath looks or sounds strained or fatigued, I help the student find their way back to gentle belly-breathing. The breath is often the guide; the whole bodywork session is, in a very real sense, an hour-long breathing exercise. Once the breath “feels” right, I check my students’ feet and move upward, looking for any alignment “danger” signs. I go to the students who need the most help and practice with them for a moment to show them what I’m asking. The feet, knees, and hips are most important, and aligning them is the first step; when you adjust them, the optimal working posture comes naturally into bloom.

I also encourage my students to develop their own intuition. They need to listen to their inner teacher and take personal responsibility for their own safety. If something feels wrong, it is wrong. It is always safe to say so.

When my students don’t seem to be responding to my instructions, I always try to remember that most of them are really doing the best they can. Maybe they aren’t in the perfect state of mind, or they are trying in relation to what others can do. I ask them not to compare themselves to other people, but simply to find their edge with enthusiasm, relaxation, and a lack of force. This way they can visit their edge without jumping over it—as teachers, it’s our job to help them peek but not jump.

On the other hand, if most of the class seems to be not getting it, I recognize that I need to change my approach as a teacher.

Creating and maintaining space entails recognizing that such a space is something dynamic, in motion, often changing. It involves dealing with students at different levels of ability. I invite my students to see their work as a form of prayer and a form of dance—a celebration of all they’ve been handed, a reminder of the blessings they’ve received. I remind them to take “safe space” with them wherever they go and to view their practice not as something to fear, but as a chance to blossom or open up, an opportunity to give others the gift of whole-hearted acceptance, as well as the gifts of healing touch..


At the end of class, I ask them to pause for a moment of reflection. In that moment, they can thank themselves for being in class and honor someone in their lives who is suffering physically or emotionally. As they “whoosh” for the final time, they can send some love and support to that person, helping them to understand the inner or spiritual aspects of being a massage therapist. It’s a safe way to help them stretch their conception of massage as simply a physical experience.

It’s a gift to be a teacher—we’re in the heart of the service industry. When we forget that, we’ve lost perspective. We’re there to serve our students by providing valuable information and creating a safe environment for them to use that information to expand their horizons and grow as “bodymindspirit” beings.
Finally, it helps me to remember that students are dealing with deep stuff: their fears and internal demons. We really have no idea what their personal issues are. It’s also a gift to be human, a gift that is not, as they say, for sissies. As teachers, we must simply be prepared to breathe, support them, and keep their spirits lifted so they can vanquish the demons and embrace both their “tigers” and highest selves. As above, so below. As with students, so with all beings. Let’s cherish each other as we are able, and help create a world that is safe for everyone!


Tune in next week for our next installment: “Teamwork Making the Dream Work”

March 28, 2014   No Comments

#LifeYouLove – Step 1: Entering the Heart of an Excellent Life

…Continued from 10 Steps to Having a Life You Love!

STEP 1/10: “Entering the Heart of an Excellent Life”

By Jeff Rockwell

Welcome to the first of a ten-part exploration of the beliefs and values that energize and inform the community called the “National Holistic Institute: A College of Massage Therapy.” Consider yourself a community: a collection of beliefs, attitudes, experiences, dreams and ambitions that just might be in search of an upgrade, a boost in performance, or a stronger dose of personal energy and happiness. Then consider the first of our beliefs-to-be-discussed as the “entrance” to a better—indeed, an excellent—life.


If your life was a home (which it sort of is), and you wanted to “make it new” or to improve its chi, you might hire a feng shui consultant. And where do you suppose he or she would start making changes? Quite likely, they would start with the entrance or the threshold into your abode. This area is critical. It is more than just the entry into your living space. It is the location of your guests’ first impressions and where chi, or vital energy, enters your home. The word “entrance” means to “en-trance” your guests, welcoming them with beauty and positive energy. By making the entrance to your home wonderful, you attract and nourish the positive energy entering and flowing through it.

Let’s apply this to your life. The first belief or value—call it the “the entrance” to our belief system—is “POSITIVE ENERGY FLOWING.”

“Flow” has been described by researcher and author Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi as the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of an activity. It is the experience of completely focused motivation. It is a single-minded immersion in the present moment, energized and aligned with the task at hand. To be caught in the ennui of boredom or the agitation of anxiety is to be barred from the flow. The hallmark of “flow” is a spontaneous feeling of joy, even rapture, while performing an activity: “positive energy flowing.”


Historical sources indicate that Michelangelo painted the ceiling of the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel while in a deep flow state. He painted for days at a time, and was so absorbed in his work that he did not even stop for food or sleep until he reached the point of passing out. Afterwards, he would wake up refreshed and, upon starting to paint again, re-enter a state of complete absorption.

Bruce Lee spoke of a psychological state similar to “flow” and described the importance of adaptability and shedding preconceptions in his autobiography. In his book, he advised his readers, “Be like water, my friends.”

Great athletes like Wayne Gretzky, Peyton Manning, Michael Jordan, David Beckham, and Derek Jeter all spoke of this state as a principle of growth. Basketball coach Phil Jackson wrote, “When one is in a flow state, he or she is working to master the activity at hand. To maintain that flow state, one must seek increasingly greater challenges while maintaining a positive mental attitude.”

Perhaps you are a massage therapist, and want to be the best therapist ever. Maybe you are interested in pursuing a career in massage therapy and want to be a spectacular student. Or, you might be an IT professional, interested in wellness and read our blog to get some inspiration. I suggest the following:

1: Set your intention. Be specific. You will know when you are flowing with positive energy when you emotionally feel grounded and uplifted. If your body is a temple, make yours a “temple of ‘yes!’”

2: Allow. After you have set your intentions in a given area, trust the process (another NHI maxim) and allow yourself to show up in the right place, at the right time, with the right attitude.

3: Practice “right speech.” Be mindful of the language you use when you talk about yourself, especially when you are talking TO yourself. Walt Whitman said, “Every cubic inch of space is a miracle.” That includes you! Look in the mirror and proclaim, “I am a genius and I apply my wisdom daily.” Sound far-fletched? Need proof? Consider this: you are the CEO of a 76,000,000,000,000 member community (called “Your Body, Inc.”) that works  in near- perfect harmony. Yeah, you’re awesome!

4: Avoid cursing (yourself, that is). Eliminate these words from your language: “yeah, but…””I know I should exercise more, but…” “Eating more fruits and vegetables is a great idea, but…” Something is either a great idea or it’s not, but it’s never “a great idea, BUT.” Dump the “I can’t” talk. If you don’t want to do something, just say so. Another term to jettison from your vocabulary: “I’ll try.” People avoid doing things by TRYING to do them.

5: Practice saying the most important words in the English language: “Thank you”and“I love you.” Victor Hugo wrote that “love is the ultimate response one grants to superlative values.” Do you value excellence, health, prosperity, compassion?  I love you!

6: Get enough rest. Balance hard work and exercise with adequate sleep. Sleep researchers are now saying we need NINE hours of the stuff each night. Go for it.

7: See if you can go 24 hours without criticizing or blaming anyone, including yourself.

8: Dance. That’s it. Dance.

9: And listen to plenty of music. Music is the easiest way to shift your energy quickly.

10: Practice yoga; get a massage; learn to give a massage, if you don’t already know how; meditate; journal; set worthy goals (better yet, set worthy VALUES); be a reader; inhale gratitude, exhale gratitude, and repeat.


We are magnets. What do you want to attract in your life? Whom do you want to attract? When we develop the habit of emitting positive energy we attract the best life has to offer. When we flow with what shows up, when we make like a jazz musician and make creativity (as in creating miracles and magic, new possibilities and great memories) our number one priority, we have crossed the threshold onto a path with heart. You become the person you hoped you would become when you were a child. Is this easy to do? Not always. Is it worth it? Heck, yes! After all, your entire life is at stake.



Stay tuned each week for a new blog detailing the ten steps each week.  To get these posts as emails in your inbox, just subscribe!

#lifeyoulove #massage #NHI

To learn more about National Holistic Institute, A College of Massage Therapy, visit

February 18, 2014   1 Comment

10 Steps to Having a Life You Love!

By Jeff Rockwell

“You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”—Steve Jobs (in a Stanford commencement speech)

I am a very lucky man. I haven’t worked since 1978. Don’t get me wrong—I’m not afraid of burning the midnight oil preparing for a class or seminar I’m going to teach, or returning emails to anxious patients. What drives me to get up each morning is a burning desire to be of service. But from the day I took my first bodywork class (Polarity Therapy with Pierre Pannetier, in Ann Armor, Michigan), I “fell” into a swift river of interest that has kept me happily busy and off the streets ever since.

I am just one of many people who have done that, found work that I love, and there are people all over the world pursuing their dreams, working with passion, losing themselves in their work. Are you one of them? Would you like to be?


In a recent Forbes article, only 19% of Americans polled in a research study reported they liked their work. I find that staggering. Consider this: if we work eight hours a day, 40 hours a week, for 45 years (national average), then 81% of adults in this country spend 94,000 hours in their lifetime being unhappy. It’s pretty difficult having a LIFE you love, when you don’t have work that you love.

I would like to introduce you to a new series of blogs, in which I will share with the values that make us tick here at National Holistic Institute A College of Massage Therapy.


Every organization, from small businesses to large corporations, has a culture. The culture refers to the value and attitudes of employers in the organization. In a business with an unhealthy culture, employees act as individuals, performing their duties to meet their own needs, such as a paycheck or health benefits. A healthy corporate culture values each employee regardless of her job duties, which results in employees working as a team to meet the company’s and their own personal needs. Both/and. Win/win. Holistic.

NHI has been thriving as a top tier college of massage therapy for over thirty years. Under the initial leadership of founder Carol Carpenter, worthy values emerged that created a winning, holistic culture. Several years ago, members of “Team NHI” embarked on a “cultural audit,” whereby we asked ourselves “What values do we live by?” “What are empowering sayings we hear on a consistent basis?” “What rituals, traditions, and stories help make up our distinctive culture?”

Peter Block, the esteemed management and business consultant, said, “Live your values for at least five years, then put them up on the wall for all to see.” That’s precisely what we did, and now they hang framed at each of our campuses. They inform visitors and remind the members of each college what it is that holds us together. You might consider them to be the fascia of NHI’s “anatomy.”

We identified ten things that help us “have work we love.” They apply to anyone’s life, which is why I want to share them with you in this series. Stay tuned each week as I share and comment on “what NHI believes.” Allow each belief–each embodied value–to serve as nourishment for your greatest work: building and maintaining a LIFE that you love!


Stay tuned each week for a new blog detailing the ten steps each week.  To get these posts as emails in your inbox, just subscribe!

February 10, 2014   7 Comments

FSU Football National Champs Use Sports Massage Therapy

With only 13 seconds left, Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston completed a touchdown pass to Kelvin Benjamin making Florida State the 2014 BCS National Champions. The lead changed 4 times over the final five minutes of the 4th quarter. Each team pushed one another to the finish, but ultimately the Seminoles had that extra something to prevail.

Forty-eight hours earlier, a team of highly trained sports massage therapists gathered near the Rose Bowl. Their mission: provide recovery sports massage to the soon-to-be National Champions after their final practice before the big game. They would massage about 40 athletes over the next 2½ hours.



The team medical staff wanted nothing that could injure or impair any player and the coaches certainly did not want to break their confidence. Rest assured, they were in good hands. The 9 members of the National Championship Sports Massage Team had the combined experience of five Olympic Games, FINA World Cups, the Kona Iron Man Championship, USA Swimming and Diving, and the USOC Sports Medicine Team. Two of the nine graduated in the last few years from National Holistic Institute, A College of Massage Therapy.

NCSMT2014 founder Mark Dixon received the call to action only two weeks prior, just before Christmas. George Kousaleos, founder and owner of the CORE Institute in Tallahassee, had worked extensively with the Florida State Seminoles football program for three years. He knew Mark, with whom he had worked the Athens Olympic Games, could pull off such a task in relatively short time.

“My goal was two-fold,” says Mark. “To provide Recovery Sports Massage as similar as possible to what they have become used to for the last three years. And, to attend to the mental and emotional well-being of the players by occupying the training room in a calming, nurturing manner that fostered serenity.”

Mark used his deep connections in the Southern California sports massage community to summons the best. While the holidays proved somewhat of a challenge, therapists felt honored to massage at such an esteemed event, and Florida State generously compensates their therapists. Only the best of the best applicants made the final team.

David Marin graduated last year from the Advanced Neuromuscular Therapy program at National Holistic Institute, A College of Massage Therapy in Santa Ana, California. He remarked on the opportunity, “It was certainly the biggest honor so far in my career. And, I’m glad they won!”

As with any sport, much of the technique and its application is determined by the player’s position on the team; a fundamental knowledge of football is helpful. Do they spend a lot of time in a crouch? Running backwards or forwards? Throwing? Receiving? “Each session is focused on the needs of the player as guided by feedback received through the eyes, ears and hands,” advises Mark.

After winning a BCS Bowl last season, FSU Associate Director of Sports Medicine and Head Football Athletic Trainer Jake Pfeil wrote, “Recovery has been a new focus for the team over the past couple of years. One way that we have focused on this goal is through the implementation of a massage therapy program. Along with the team’s overall success this past fall, we experienced a drastic reduction in lower extremity soft tissue injuries. I think this can be attributed to several changes in our overall training and recovery models, but the introduction of massage therapy for the majority of our team has definitely been a significant factor.”

The 2012 -2013 stats support this theory, showing a solid 75% reduction in soft tissue injuries since the addition of sports massage to the FSU football program. Additionally, in the 2013 season, not a single starting player missed playing time due to a soft tissue injury.

As more teams continue to expand their massage program to additional sports and players, National Holistic Institute looks forward to similar opportunities. By partnering with local massage schools, other sports teams can follow the lead of FSU and make massage practical, affordable, and feasible

National Holistic Institute congratulates our two therapists on this team for helping the Florida State football team become the 2014 BCS National Champions!



written by Joe Bob Smith


February 4, 2014   1 Comment

Meditation versus Inflammation: Meditation Wins Again!

Written by William Mathis
NHI Petaluma Mentor and Instructor


One of my enduring passions has been trying to build bridges between the Eastern and Western attitudes towards the body-mind. Sometimes the concepts of the Western scientific worldview contrast sharply with the holistic paradigms that characterize the various Eastern body-mind traditions. But sometimes these two approaches correlate with dramatic intensity.


This cross-cultural current informs my practice of yoga, of martial arts, and of meditation. And of course, teaching massage therapy at the National Holistic Institute gives me ample opportunities to explore the difference, as well as the coordination, between these mutually beneficial ways of understanding the health of the body-mind.

One of the things that I’ve always found amusing about the oral and written traditions that transmit the Eastern ways is a certain rhetorical tendency towards hyperbole. When the sages and gurus need to make a point, they are traditionally given to overstating their case. It’s important to know this when evaluating those traditional sources. A traditional view of the body from the Yogic Tradition of Vedic India involves 72,000 nadis, or energy lines, in the body. They don’t necessarily mean exactly 72,000. It’s more like a code meaning “a heck of a lot of nadis”.

Similarly hyperbolic descriptions accompany teachings of meditation and pranayama (conscious breathing), as evidenced by such adages as “pranayama cures all diseases” and the like. While a hard-nosed western skeptic would certainly balk at that kind of statement, new research is showing the power of these kinds of modalities in a way that gives some credence to the ancient traditions.

In particular, ground breaking studies have recently shown that skillful practice of body-mind modalities have extremely potent affects on gene expressions relating to inflammation. These findings are the result of a new understanding of how genes work: the field of epigenetics is showing how gene expressions relate to environmental conditions, and the results are adding fresh new perspectives to the old “nature versus nurture” debate.

One particularly interesting study was just released by the Center of Investigating Healthy Minds at the Waisman Center of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In this study, a group of experienced practitioners used mindfulness meditation, and a control group spent their time in other peaceful, relaxing activities. The control group got some benefits, but did not show any epigenetic effects. The “mindful” group, however, showed powerful changes in their expression of genes related to inflammation. It seems that, in essence, intently focusing the mind through a combination of meditation and breathing helps to suppress the proteins that trigger inflammatory responses in the body.

In other words, meditation affects your genes!

We’ve long known, at least anecdotally, that meditation and similar body-mind skills can reduce the effects of stress. This recent research actually starts to pin down some of the exact biochemical mechanisms involved. Interestingly enough, research on the benefits of massage have recently confirmed similar epigenetic effects, again related to suppressing the proteins that trigger inflammation.

The study begins to shed light on how body-mind skills might help in the treatment of stress-related conditions like obesity, heart disease, and irritable bowel syndrome. But it is important to remember that inflammation (and stress!) is a crucial part of almost all disease processes, especially chronic conditions.

It may be an exaggeration (or maybe just poetic license!) to make a statement like “pranayama cures all diseases”. Recent scientific research is certainly showing that it’s not a stretch to say that skillful application of holistic modalities like mindfulness meditation can make a meaningful difference in most disease processes.

I think the Old Gurus would be ok with that.


Learn more! 






January 21, 2014   2 Comments

Imagine: World Peace Through Massage Therapy

There are certain things I think everyone should learn how to do: play a musical instrument, plant and care for a garden, make art, give a great massage.


Interestingly, they all involve the use of the hands. Gandhi said, “May the work of your hands be a sign of reverence and gratitude to the human condition.” Another great sage, my colleague Julie Porter, often says, “Imagine what the world would be like if all the world’s leaders received a massage every day.” It is her personal dream.

Indeed, just imagine. Consider the possibilities for peace-making if EVERYONE received a daily massage. Jack Benny and George Burns did, and they lived robust and very colorful lives, even as entenarians.

Thirty years ago, massage was considered a fringe thing; a luxury reserved for the well-to-do. In 1978, when I began my studies in bodywork, only two books on massage were available, and neither even broached the subject of draping (if you catch my drift).

Today is a very different world. Hundreds of thousands of people enjoy the benefits of massage therapy every month. Medical and sports massage have emerged as popular modalities. Now, more than ever, the need to test our theories through research is upon us. The Dalai Lama has been known to say that if modern science disproves any of the long-cherished tenets of Buddhism, then Buddhism must have the integrity to change. The same reasoning should apply to our field.

Enter the Massage Therapy Foundation. Since its inception, the Foundation has funded many research projects, ranging from massage for peripheral neuropathy related to chemotherapy, to postural control in elders, to migraines, cancer, and spinal cord injuries.


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During the month of December, all of the National Holistic Institute campuses held fund-raising clinics and donated all proceeds to the Massage Therapy Foundation. Current students, graduates, faculty, and campus managers alike, all gave freely of their time and energy to support the research arm of our profession. At San Jose, I enjoyed the sight of enthusiastic therapists of varying degrees of experience—some still in school, others with many years in the field—having a great time simultaneously serving their clients and the future of massage therapy. Take a peek at this video highlighting the fundraiser clinics at a few of our campuses:


I’d like to conclude with a story about one of my heroic figures. In the early 20th century, a young seminary student in New York was stricken with polio and could no longer continue his studies. In the midst of great suffering and despair—truly a dark night of the soul—he discovered that his sacred vocation was to be a dancer. The only problem? He could not even walk. Through months of experimenting with small and awkward movements, he succeeded and developed his own form of dance. His name was Ted Shawn, one of the founders of modern dance.

The field of massage therapy never had to endure being crippled, but it certainly had to limp for a while, burdened by old and unflattering notions of what massage was and what its practitioners do. Thanks to the integrity of many massage pioneers, increased standards, schools grounded in contemporary science, and the dedicated research efforts of the Massage Therapy Foundation, our profession touches—literally—the lives of countless people around the globe. Indeed, it dances, and our clients are better able to dance to the heartbeat of their callings. At this rate, I think Julie Porter’s dream just might come true!

-Jeff Rockwell

December 23, 2013   1 Comment


Last week I briefly spoke to a woman who was touring the San Jose campus of NHI. I asked her why she was interested in pursuing a career in massage therapy and how long had she been interested. I wanted to know if she had any questions for me and she surprised me by asking what personally interested me about this field. I answered as best I could, but in the short time we had together I felt that my answer was insufficient. I promised myself I would be better prepared “next time.” Well, here is the response I would have liked to have given to this young, future bodyworker:

Being a bodyworker has helped to develop my sense of attention. Like many “boomers,” I have sampled many personal and spiritual growth seminars, workshops and teachers but, without a doubt, sitting with clients, hour after hour, day after day, has proven to be the best personal development “technology” I have come across.

To what do I pay attention while working?

I begin each session perceiving, as best I can, the organismic intelligence within the client’s body. At NHI we have a saying, “Trust the process.” By paying attention to what is “right” or “well” about the client—this cellular wisdom–the body begins to tell me its story. Gone are the client’s ideas about what needs “fixing,” as well as my own “expert” opinions about what they need. A third thing emerges: the silent voice of the person’s tissues guiding me to assist them on the completely unique process in which they are currently engaged.

Rockwell Pay Attention

Being a bodyworker has helped me develop the capacity to pay attention to that intelligence in my clients, in a redwood tree by home, and among the people with whom I work. It is non-verbal, or better, pre-verbal. I liken it to a river of aliveness, always and already perfect, that connects everything to everything else.

I pay attention to the gift of the client’s embodiment, the miracles that have gone into stitching 70-plus trillion cells into a human being. By extension, I come to pay attention and to respect the gift of my own embodiment. Just as today is the only December 10, 2013 that will ever exist, each client I have the privilege to work with is an unrepeatable nexus of intelligence and radiance.

Rockwell Pay Attention Hands

Lastly, I pay attention to the very act of HOW I pay attention. I go slower. I use all of my 26 senses. I read between the lines and pretend every conversation is a song, or a poem. Mostly I slow down and trust the sacred process that I am, that we all are, even when things are not “going right;” indeed, especially when things are not going the way I think they should. As the saying goes, “An unexamined life is not worth living.” Neither is an inattentive one. If we are not in awe, we are simply not paying attention.

~Dr. Jeff Rockwell



December 16, 2013   5 Comments

Introducing Certified Massage Blogger Dr. Jeff Rockwell: “A Fellow Traveler”

“Please allow me to introduce myself….”

My name is Jeff and I’m a recovered doctor and therapist. Allow me to explain. While I have spent most of much adult life in education and have practiced as a member of the Structural Integration, chiropractic, manual osteopathic and somatic communities, today I seek a different, more “right-sized” identity. I am a music lover, a poet, a step-father, and a shameless tree-hugger from Santa Cruz.  I have work I love, teaching at the San Jose campus of the National Holistic Institute (NHI). I try to be useful, as well, at my offices in Santa Cruz and Los Gatos. And now I am happy to announce that I’ll be the new blogmeister for NHI, and am look forward to conversing with you in these virtual “fireside chats.”  As such, I invite your comments, suggestions for future posts, or questions as they arise below each post.

Dr. Jeff Rockwell Blog

When I was younger, growing up in the—believe it or not—countryside of New Jersey, I loved running through corn mazes set up at pumpkin patches in honor of Halloween. I ran in at a full sprint, fervently trying to outsmart the twisting labyrinth. Inevitably however, there would be that moment of panic in which I felt stuck in the maze. I’d reach a dead end, or get turned around, such that the path to the exit seemed obstructed or unclear. In those moments, even though the maze had an exit that I was perfectly capable of finding, it felt like I would be stumbling up and down the green pathways forever. It was guidance from those around me that eventually helped me to find the exit.

I often use a similar metaphor with clients when we talk about where they are stuck, how they got there, and how we can work together to find a way out: The exit to the maze is there, and although it may feel so far away in the moment, each of my clients has the tools they need—a body, a nervous system, and a mind that is in union with the body– to triumphantly emerge into the sunlight. Perhaps what I value most about the holistic vision taught and embodied at NHI is that my role in the healing process is not to run in the exit, find the person, and drag them out. Rather, there is a respect for their process and a basic assumption that individuals will flourish as they become more in touch with the cellular wisdom beneath their skin. Perhaps Neruda said it best when he likened a healer to a fellow traveler:  ”Our real job in life is, first, to live an awakened and golden life and to walk with those in need, never ahead of or behind, on their life path, humbly pointing out obstacles in the road as we see them, bearing witness to this difficult, miraculous journey.”

My name is Jeff, and I am a fellow traveler. 

December 10, 2013   4 Comments

NHI at Bike MS and the Nike Women’s Marathon: Sports Massage for Athletes

October 19 & 20 marked the annual Bike MS 150 Bay to Bay tour. Bike MS will take you farther than you’ve ever gone before. It’s not just the miles that matter; it’s the unforgettable journey. National Holistic Institute Santa Ana and Studio City campus students and Staff joined in together for an event that is more than a ride. It’s anticipation, camaraderie personal accomplishment and the knowledge that your changing lives… making every massage that much sweeter. Don’t just ride, Bike MS is their motto and this past weekend was definitely a weekend to remember.

studio city and santa ana well represented

Bike MS Bay to Bay tour is a one or two day journey down the gorgeous coastline of Southern California from Orange County to San Diego. Twenty-six students from Studio City and Santa Ana shared two days working on a total of 476 cyclists who are fundraising for the Multiple Sclerosis Society, making a difference in the lives of people affected by MS!

arriving cyclists day two

A great weekend was had by all, especially the joint effort of both campuses coming together for such a worthy cause. NHI is a proud Gold Sponsor for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, now celebrating its third year.

day two working on cyclists


With the Fall season comes many sporting events, our favorite of which includes the Nike Women’s Marathon which took place in Northern California the same weekend was also a blast!   The NHI Sports Massage Team, made up of 105 of our amazing students completed over 1,100 massages over the course of the event!!  Now that is what I call making a difference!

Check out some highlights from the NWM event below! Or see the video at

November 13, 2013   No Comments

What Does Massage Do? The Greatest Massage Video. Ever.

By now, we all know what the fox says….

But until now, nobody had an answer to the worlds greatest question – What Does Massage Do?

The National Holistic Institute staff in Sacramento took it upon themselves to answer the question. Check out their #ylvis #whatdoesthefoxsay #massage #parody video and spread the word!

Just go get a massage. Or, just go learn massage. for more information on our Massage Therapy Program and student massage clinics.

Vocals – Joseph Stewart and Amy Atkins
“Sound effects” – Sara Frazier and Sean O’shea
Backup dancers – Sacramento staff and faculty
Sound production and editing – Matthew Draving
Video production and editing – Amy Atkins


*We promise, no EarthLite Massage Tables were harmed in the making of this video.

November 7, 2013   2 Comments

Anatomy in Braille: Close Your Eyes to See

“The darkness of the day is the best time to see”
- Don Juan to Carlos Castaneda


Dana Schutz, Blind Foot Massage (2009). Oil and acrylic on canvas

Dana Schutz, Blind Foot Massage (2009). Oil and acrylic on canvas

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   5 Comments

Massage: No Bones About It? Think Again.

-by Sabrina Italia,
NHI Mentor and Instructor

What do bones have to do with massage therapy anyway? After all, massage therapists focus on soft tissue like muscles and the tissue that attaches muscles to bone, not the bones themselves. However, it’s essential for budding therapists to know the location of bones to provide safe touch.

National Holistic Institute’s 900 hour core program starts with the basics such as name and location of bones. The first anatomy class new juniors have is “Bones Class”. In this class students receive their first Anatomy textbook “Trail Guide to the Body.” They learn to navigate through the book, eventually using it as an assessment tool and even to educate clients in a visual way.

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Once students can easily identify bones and muscles, they move into more advanced anatomy. Immediately following the foundational bones and muscles classes, they transition into Kinesiology. This is where they learn the details of how muscles attach and move bones.

Students are encouraged to continue their education in National Holistic Institute’s 450 hour Advanced Neuromuscular Massage Therapy program where they get the opportunity to label a cadaver as opposed to a chart.



You may think of a pirate ship or Halloween when you think of skeletons, but when we take a closer look, our existence relies on our healthy bones in many ways. Let’s take a look at some ways our bodies would not be able to function properly without healthy bone function.

Bones provide an important defense system protecting organs which would otherwise be left vulnerable. Aside from that, we would be immobile without them. Our bones provide attachments for muscles; together they create the lever and pulley mechanism that allows movement. The relationship between bones and muscles is undeniably linked…literally!

As a matter of fact movement and exercise provide needed chemicals in our bodies for healthy emotional and mental function. Ever been stuck in bed for a few days?? Most of us get sick of being in bed and need to move around so we don’t go stir crazy.

Did you know that our bone marrow is directly responsible for all of Red Blood cell production and 60% white blood cell production? That’s right; any dysfunction with this process could be devastating! Have you thanked your bone marrow today?

The next time you see a skeleton remember that bones are as alive as you are!

If you’re interested in learning more about the program, contact admissions to get a class pass!

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        |  |
        | "|_
        | ,__)
        | \,   -See you 'round the massage table!
        |  |
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September 30, 2013   2 Comments

Welcome Weary Athletes: Post-Ironman Sports Massage with National Holistic Institute

-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.


To learn more about a career as a Sports Massage Therapist, click here to visit our website!


Have you provided massage for athletes?  Tell us about it in the comments below!

September 26, 2013   5 Comments

The Mentor and the Pupa: Metamorphosis Through Massage (School)

A brief article by David Bloomer, mentor and teacher at NHI Petaluma

A few years ago I had the opportunity to visit Jamaica.  During my brief stop over I walked through a butterfly house.  There were several varieties of butterflies, some indigenous to Jamaica, others from similar climates around the world.

Our guide talked to us about the lifecycle of the butterfly, something that often has fascinated me.  From a tiny egg, which hatches into a caterpillar, which turns into a chrysalis, or pupa; the final stage before it becomes an adult butterfly.


A caterpillar builds its chrysalis on the plant that will be its food source when it emerges.  Just as it lays its eggs on a leaf of the plant from with the newly hatches caterpillar must feed.  While it is crawling about there is a purpose for everything it does.  Throughout its brief time on the ground it is preparing itself for the process of metamorphosis which it is about to begin.

It is what occurs during the chrysalis phase that I find most fascinating, not that the entire process is anything less than wondrous.  While within its chrysalis structure the entire being melts into a sort of soup.  It no longer has a body.  There are no eyes, not legs, no furry outside, just a soupy, melted down mixture.  It is literally rewriting its own being.

From this soup comes the beautiful butterfly.  It has the ability to fly instead of crawl.  It feeds and drinks in an entirely different manner.  In short, its entire way of existence changes as it moves from crawler to flier.


What does this have to do with massage therapy, you ask?

Quite a bit, actually, but that is for another time.  Today I am thinking about what it has in common with massage therapy school.

When a new pupil walks through the door, entering the classroom for the first time, they are very much the caterpillar.  What they will become they may only be starting to imagine.  While it is sometimes too easy to pass judgment on people based on appearance or on apparent ability or lack thereof, in truth, like the caterpillar, with the right set of circumstances they can become whatever they can imagine themselves to be.

Thank goodness no one is limited based on someone else’s opinion of their abilities, their strengths and weaknesses that might seem apparent at first glance.

It is difficult to fully relate the feeling of walking through this process, as every teacher at NHI has done, or of being witness to the process.   It is nothing short of amazing.

As the butterfly must struggle to break the bonds of the chrysalis when it is time to emerge, so the student goes through challenges, whether relating to curriculum or to life outside the classroom.

Yes it is amazing to watch the caterpillar transform itself into a butterfly.  It is also quite a thrill to what a human being transform from a single parent, struggling to make ends meet with a life in turmoil to a thriving therapist, making a powerful difference for others with their work.


That is metamorphosis: a striking alteration in appearance, character or circumstances: (Mirriam-Webster).  Sometimes all three happen simultaneously.


September 16, 2013   1 Comment

Remembering 9/11: A Massage Therapist’s Story

Remembering 9/11
A true story written by John Lambert, CMT

US Flag

12 years ago our nation suffered a horrific tragedy. At the time I knew it was significant, but in the moment I had no clue how much this event would affect my life. In the weeks before the terrorist event, I recently gave up my day job to take on massage therapy full time. I was still enrolled at NHI, and I was taking a position at the fitness center where I completed my externship. I got a call that morning letting me know about the tragedy that had happened and that my workplace was closing for the day. This was shocking to me as I had a fairly full schedule which was totally wiped out and I was processing this great event that had happened. I did not see a client for the next 2 weeks.

This made me question my decision of leaving my day job. As we all know if we are not massaging, we typically do not get paid and I was not fully prepared to go without income for 2 weeks. Then I finally got to work on my first client after 2 weeks of nothing.

John Lambert CMT

This client was referred to me by her husband. She was not sure about getting a massage, but he insisted. She had been having headaches and he really wanted her to get some relief. I told her to undress to her comfort level and lie on the table. She left her clothes on, and reluctantly let me begin my work. I could feel the tension in her back and her neck, and she finally started to relax a bit. I knew she was not from the United States, so I asked her where she was from. She shyly replied … Afghanistan.

In that moment, I knew that I had made the right choice to pursue this profession. I took my training, my grounding, and compassion and finished her massage. When she came out of the treatment room she was so appreciative of my work. Her headache and tension were gone. I was left with an appreciation of my craft that I still carry with me to this day.

If I had not began my journey with National Holistic Institute and taken that risk of giving up everything to start this journey of massage therapy, I would never have had this moment that I cherish. It keeps me centered to this day and every year I think back on this story. For me, this is what our work is all about.


September 12, 2013   3 Comments

From Massage Student to Massage Therapist: The NHI Public Clinic

~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

How To Find Work You’ll Love Before You Graduate Massage School

National Holistic Institute’s missions statement, “Helping People Have Work They Love” would never work without considering a truly holistic approach.  Not only do all of the mentors, staff, and peers at NHI contribute to the success of each individual, but we also reach out past the NHI community.

Massage Envy is one of our many Preferred Partners – employers that know and trust that graduates of NHI are the best out there.  The mutually beneficial nature of these relationships are proven in the success that many of our graduates continually find with our preferred partners.  In addition to offering students of NHI unprecedented access to their massage therapist positions, Massage Envy also gives back to our students in many ways.

Nick Navas, a Senior in Group 40 at National Holistic Institute in Petaluma recently attended a Massage Envy Hiring event on campus and came out of it not only with a job as a massage therapist before he graduated, but was also able to take advantage of their tuition reimbursement program which helps recent graduates pay off $1500.00 of their tuition in their first year at M.E.!  Check out this interview with Nick to learn more about their program and to hear how he did it!


Two more students who just graduated from the Petaluma campus of NHI are already employed by Massage Envy. One of them, Darcy Blain, qualified for the tuition reimbursement program, $1500.00!  She additionally won the quarterly M.E. scholarship of $500.00, totaling $2000 to apply towards her tuition. Darcy is one very happy grad.  You can read more about Massage Envy’s quarterly scholarship for NHI grads by clicking here.

The tuition reimbursement program is made possible by Gina Drohan, owner of Massage Envy locations in both Napa and Novato – all NHI students and grads are encouraged to apply for the program and can get more info via email for the location they are interested in:




Congratulations to Nick, Darcy, and many other NHI grads who have work that they love!

August 27, 2013   No Comments