Several days ago it finally happened… With the right light and the right angle, as illusive as it might have been it was clearly there – not a six pack but an eight pack! As every well trained massage therapist knows, the Rectus Abdominis is really a ten pack. We all have it but for most part it remains hidden. So how did I get to see it?
For the past few years I have been practicing Bikram Yoga. Sure it is nice to get a glimpse of your own six pack (or eight pack) but there is so much more to it. The benefits are countless, and are especially important for massage therapists. During class at National Holistic Institute, my students took part in some Bikram Yoga postures to enhance our massage therapy practice and to maintain a holistic approach to our own wellbeing. I’ve outlined just a few of the benefits for therapists here:
Bikram yoga is a 90 minutes open eye meditation. Practicing this kind of meditation you will notice that grounding in and out of your massage session becomes much more effective. You will no longer feel tired and drained of energy but instead you will feel focused and energized after each session.
This practice implements the same body mechanics principles as massage does and gives us opportunity to solely focus on them. As every new massage therapist knows when we learn massage we need to focus on the technique, on body mechanics on quality of touch, on the flow and rhythm of the sequence. Here in the yoga class we have an opportunity to practice body mechanics and improve our posture before we do massage. With each class we train our proprioception and then emerge into the world with new posture and somatically enhanced way of moving. This gives us the advantage of longevity in the field. From that point every massage we do has a positive effect on us as well as the client.
Stamina is what makes a difference in how much revenue you will be able to produce. Bikram Yoga is a great cardio workout and with time will increase your ability to work for extended periods of time.
Balanced Immune system will help you avoid getting a cold or flu and therefore make you a more reliable therapist (I have not have the need to call in sick or cancel an appointment with client since I started practicing yoga (about 5 years ago). More reliable therapist means more reliable and robust clientele base!
The profuse sweating experienced in this form of yoga has a detox effect on the body. Your skin will be glowing, your eyes will be bright; you will feel like a totally new you.
The best part – anybody can do it! It is a good idea to talk to your instructor about any injuries and they will assure the session is safe for you. If you are ready to enhance your life and massage practice don’t wait… Take your first class! The first class is usually the toughest one but it gets easier. Bikram Yoga is one of the best paths to self care for massage therapists and I will continue my practice for many years to come.
Perhaps I will see you there.
Mentor and Instructor
NHI San Francisco
July 2, 2012 No Comments
Springtime is just around the corner, and with it comes the natural inclination for a fresh, clean start! While this year’s lack-of-a-winter in most of California is an exception, generally spring means an end to the cold, dark part of the year and a rebirth of new life and activity.
This means it’s also a natural time for cleansing… on all different levels. Cleaning the house is a no-brainer, and probably needs little explanation or description. But we also live in our bodies (well, some of us, anyway!), and the body collects the physiological, energetic, and emotional equivalent of cobwebs, dust-balls, and cluttered closets as well!
So how can we give our bodies a good spring cleaning? Here’s a few of my favorite ways:
Up in the mountains of Western North Carolina, the ‘Old Timers’ have an interesting spring ritual. After eating little but pork and potatoes all winter, they would understandably feel a little sluggish come springtime. Some of the first wild plants that push up thru the spring snow are burdock and nettles, which are known in herbal lore for their power to cleanse the blood.
The old-timey mountain folk would make a nutritious and purifying tea from these plants to flush out the toxins their bodies had accumulated over the winter. Burdock, nettles, and other “spring cleaners” grow in California – but it’s probably a good idea to seek some qualified instruction before harvesting or preparing wild plants. Or just pick up an herbal tea from your local health food store’s herb department!
In addition to wild plants, another passion of mine is yoga, and a great cure for the winter blahs is movement. I’m particularly fond of the classic sequence of Hatha Yoga postures known as the Sun Salutation. This flowing sequence of forward folds, back bends, and hip openers is renowned for its stimulatory effects, especially its ability to improve the flow of lymph. Now, if you don’t already know, the lymphatic system is closely connected to our immune system and anything that helps the lymph flow generally helps our immune system function better. Just in time for when that spring pollen fires up the allergies!
Finally, let me suggest that you GET A MASSAGE! Most styles of massage help lymph and blood flow more efficiently, and some styles (like lymphatic massage!) are intended specifically to help support the body’s natural cleansing, detoxing, and immune functions. Of course, almost all massage feels great, lifts the mood, increases the energy, and can help relieve the stiffness that follows the inactivity of winter.
So, whatever method works for you, let me wish you a happy spring cleaning!
To schedule a massage at one of our California locations: http://nhi.edu/massage_clinic/index.html
March 19, 2012 No Comments
12 Great Resolutions You Shouldn’t Make On New Years Day – Why You Broke Last Year’s Self-Help Promise
New Years Resolutions
We all make them….and we all break them.
In United States at least 80% of people make New Year’s resolutions related to health and fitness. Perhaps you belong to that group. Most of us start on January 1st with good intentions, high hopes and enthusiasm. What better way to start a new chapter in life than to sign up for a gym membership, yoga, dance, or Zoomba classes, just to mention few! We also commit to new healthy ways of eating – no more sugar, no more fats, no more alcohol, no more this and no more that.
We imagine feeling wonderful and looking great. We know what will get us there. We’re sure we can do it… But by February, the enthusiasm starts to fade and after a few more months most people forget their promises to themselves and return to their old ways.
So how do we stick to a plan that works?
The kind of resolutions that we tend to stick with are the less drastic ones. Make small changes from your regular routine and take baby steps. Make only one small change a month and by the end of 2012 you will have 12 new healthy habits!
January: Get a massage! If you’re going to make changes this year, why not start with an easy one? Plus, you need to de-stress after the busy holiday season. And regular massages are an excellent first step on the road to better health. Studies have shown that massage can relieve stress, reduce tension, ease pain, increase circulation, improve movement, and even promote weight loss! Keeping your resolution of a massage a month is easy at an affordable student massage clinic like the one at National Holistic Institute.
February: Take a few extra steps whenever possible. Park at the far end of the parking lot. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Walk around the block at lunch time. As you start to do more you will naturally want to do more. Exercise will no longer be a “have to” and will become a “get to”.
March: Drink more water. Ideally aim for 8 glasses of water a day. Staying hydrated can lift your mood and give you more energy. All your organs and systems will function better. And as an added bonus, it also makes your skin look better!
April: Make it a daily practice to think of at least one thing you are grateful for. Gratitude is a shortcut to happiness!
May: It’s Spring! Take time to notice flowers as you take that walk around the block that you started in February.
June: You are half way there. Take a minute to reflect on the changes you have made so far this year and take inventory of how you are feeling. It really wasn’t hard and the next six changes won’t be either.
This month add five minutes of quiet time to your daily schedule. Take a few deep breaths and just do nothing for five minutes – you might be amazed at how refreshed you feel.
July: Add a little stretching to your daily routine. Touch your toes, roll your neck, and reach for the sky. Keep it simple; every little bit counts.
August: Fresh fruits and vegetables abound in the summer. Add a salad to your menu once a day. Fruit salad for breakfast? Yum! A large green salad for lunch? Yum! No cooking over a hot stove? Yes!
September: Remove refined sugars from your diet. If you have sweet tooth opt for fresh fruit or treats made with stevia, honey or agave syrup in stead of refined white sugar or high fructose corn syrup. This is easy when you use your August resolution of natural fruit as a sweet when you crave it!
October: Practice weekly random acts of kindness
November: Time to clean out a closet and make way for the new. Find at least three items which you no longer use and recycle or donate them.
December: Switch to whole grain products rather the highly processed ones.
There are many simple things we can do to greatly improve the quality of our lives. Follow the monthly plan above, creating a lasting habit out of each small change, or create your own resolution calendar:
Instead of butter try using avocado, this unique fruit is loaded with minerals and vitamins especially vitamin E. It has healthy fats and protein that will satisfy you for hours and keep your hunger at bay. Eat large salads with your lunch and dinner. Skip the bread basket at the restaurant. Next time you go to grocery store, make sure to check the label ingredients. Choose cereals that are low in sugar.
Practice yoga or Pilates, or join a walking group. Spend less time in front of the TV and more time at the gym. Remember that texting does not count as exercise; you really should be working your larger muscle groups.
Skip your morning coffee house stop and start a vacation fund instead.
Health and fitness are especially important for massage therapists. Our work is physical and can be demanding on the body. Taking good care of ourselves is part of the job. As we become more fit we become stronger and more aware of our body mechanics. We are then able to do more work with less of a possibility of an injury. Sense of well being and balance infuse not only our bodies but also our minds. Suddenly we are enjoying our work much more. With the improvement of mental agility we uphold boundaries with our clients with ease. At the end of the day we feel energized instead of drained. Clients will know the difference…they are presented with a therapist who is grounded, patient and full of poise. We are role models for our clients; as they see the spark in our eyes and our healthy glow they are encouraged to make positive changes for themselves.
If you have very limited time in your schedule, incorporate physical activities throughout the day. Use the stairs instead of elevators or escalators. When you are watching TV or have a couple of free minutes at work stand with your knees slightly bent, bring your arms out to the side and do arm circles. Doing this few times a day for several minutes will increase blood circulation and build strength. When you start any fitness program start slowly and build to where you want to be. Most people get discouraged because they start with a plan that is too difficult for their fitness level. Gradual progress will give you a sense of accomplishment and ease the body into more strenuous activities. You should feel great after a workout not sore for days; “No pain no gain” is a fallacy!
Most importantly, don’t get discouraged. Stay present in the moment. It does not matter if you forgot about your New Year’s resolutions…today is another day. If you missed a workout or made a wrong food choice, do not dwell on it. Continue with your healthy plan the rest of the day and the damage will be minimal. After all, if you ran a red light you wouldn’t continue to do so for the rest of the day.
Focus on all the little things you can do today. It is best not to wait for big dates like New Year, Monday, first of the month…you have the power to make change right now.
Make everyday of the New Year your personal health and fitness day!
December 16, 2011 1 Comment
Before sunrise on a crisp San Francisco morning, 109 students representing all six campuses of the National Holistic Institute were busy setting up the massage tent with 80 massage tables at the Finish Line Village at the Nike Women’s Marathon.
This year marked the eighth year for the event that draws over 22,000 runners from around the world to the half and full marathon. The course is filled with steep climbs and beautiful views of the city and the Bay. The finishers of the race are rewarded with Tiffany necklaces and post-race massages. Kaiser Permanente, a major sponsor of the Nike Women’s Marathon, contracted The NHI Sports Team to provide these post-race massages.
By 9:00, the massage tables are littered with runners and student therapists working to relax and stretch strained muscles. When the last runner was escorted off of her massage table at 2:15, the NHI Sports Team had performed collectively over 1700 massages.
The students were joined by seven instructors from the various campus, Beth McNeill (SJ), Kristine TenBrink (SJ), Curtis Hisao (SJ), Mark Nielson (PE/EM), Lucas Nevarez (SAC), Phil Okazaki (SJ), and Gabriel Posner (SF/EM) and 15 Teaching Assistants who supported the students by coaching bodywork, issuing and managing breaks and injuries. The San Jose Campus Student Services and Career Life Coordinator, Chris Pavao acted as Master of Ceremonies directing the line and finding open massage tables for the athletes. The average wait time was a mere 15 minutes.
The NHI Sports Massage Team prepped for this event by holding sports-specific training sessions where students learned about the marathon, athlete training plans, common injuries and massage techniques. While it was a mild morning in the city, the team was equipped with skills to combat thermal injuries.
The student therapists had fun, worked hard and finished the day with a sense of accomplishment. They each provided at least 15 massages through out the day, more clients than they see in a regular week. Emily Luckett from On Board, who is the event planner for the Nike Women’s Marathon, “Thanks for all of your hard work, NHI! Everything seemed to be managed very smoothly. We appreciate your efforts!”
In response from the post-event report given by NHI Staff lead, Beth McNeill, Curshanda Woods from Kaiser Permanente had this to say, “Thank you, NHI. Great job, Beth! Everything looked great.” The NHI Sports Massage Team ended the day taking a group picture and a group WHOOSH! Kudos to NHI and to the students participating in the Sports Team.
November 3, 2011 1 Comment
Haven’t you heard?? Wellness is in!!! You read about it, see it practiced by others, talk about it, and you may even dream about it (“Someday I’ll….”). So, how does one get past the “I’m-too-busy” or “I-don’t-have-time” syndrome and actually put “wellness” into action?
At the National Holistic Institute SF Campus, this past summer was designated “The Summer of Wellness,” a fun, interactive campus experience designed to bring about greater personal awareness and ownership of realistic, healthier habits.
Everyday at NHI, some level of inspiration is brewing, simply through the daily exchanges of a typical day on campus. Izabela Rapacz (NHI teacher/mentor) has been known to have inspired more than a few at NHI with her passion for making physical activity enjoyable and attainable, so her idea to integrate one thing that we feel we all do so naturally, “inspiring others,” with some healthy fun couldn’t have been more openly received.
July’s focus was Physical Fitness, August’s-Nutrition, and September’s will be Mindfulness. With three weekly announced “tips of the week” and one specific exercise/physical movement encouraged be performed at the drop of a weekly “code word” (frog, circles, etc.) it’s safe to say that there’s been greater awareness around this topic. The inspiration kicked in as students were asked to share their personal new practices at the end of the month.
National Holistic Institute Students in SF have shared the following:
- “I carry around a bag of nutritious snacks prepared for easy snacking (sugar snap peas, carrots, nuts, seaweed, trail mix, etc). The ‘crunch’ is so gratifying!”
- “I go to bed 30 minutes to one hour earlier. Since I’ve been doing this, I feel more deeply rested and can focus better.”
- “I contract abdominals while in traffic, sitting at a desk, or while waiting in line. It’s amazing how my body feels stronger when I engage my core.”
- “When I crave a soda, I just read the Nutrition Facts on the side panel; I quickly choose an alternate. Easy.
- “I dance, and dance and dance— especially when no one’s looking!”
The buzz of wellness is certainly alive at the NHI San Francisco Campus. While simply talking about wellness is “cake” (and we do like cake), using a fun, simple, gradual approach to practicing wellness has proven to be as “easy as pie!” (Pie is good)!
October 27, 2011 1 Comment
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
Aromatherapy is defined as a form of alternative medicine using various essential oils to alter a person’s mind, health, and cognitive mood. But, how exactly does it work?
Sit back in your chair and picture a few fond childhood memories. Maybe it’s baking some treats with a sibling or playing in the grass with old friends or running through a cornstalk maze during a crisp fall day. Imagine the details of each sense – particularly – your sense of smell.
Fast forward to today. What do you feel when you smell something like those baked treats, or the grass, or that familiar fall day smell that you know so well each year? Comfort. Happiness. Nostalgia. Peace. Your mood is altered. The presence of stress is cancelled out by this smell-induced reaction.
Our sense of smell is called the Olfactory sense. Our Olfactory sense is intertwined by something called the Limbic System which supports smell, long-term memories, behavior, and emotions. There are special neurons that are meant to pick up different scents and translate them to the brain which in turn reacts with different parts of our body to create the proper response.
In Aromatherapy we work with essential oils. They are derived from various organic and natural materials and on a cellular level they are incredibly complex. Lavender is the most common essential oil in our modern day. When inhaled, it can create a response of relaxation, calmness, and reduced stress. These are just some of the benefits of Lavender.
Starting today, I would recommend carrying around a small bottle of Lavender oil. Whenever you are stuck in line, stuck in traffic, feeling down at work, or feeling stressed with the kids, just pull it out and smell your way through the day. With your lavender in hand, relax and breathe deeply (see our “Breathe” blog post to learn how this alone can help with stress reduction). Take a note on how you feel after a day…a week…a month.
Ultimately, we all know we need to take care of ourselves. This is a simple and quick way that we can do this. It is one step closer to a calmer, more peaceful “You”. If aromatherapy is your first step towards a healthier, happier “You” then I consider this article a complete success.
September 29, 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
NHI Teachers practice what they teach during their annual Staff Day in Tilden Park. Every year, NHI staff gather together to reflect on the past year and discuss how we can improve the student experience. This year we were inspired by our guest speaker and had presentations given by each campus on Connectivity.
The San Francisco Campus ended the day by giving a Dance Lesson. Dance, at a Massage School? Hmm…?
One of the many lessons we try to impart on students is the importance of helping clients live healthier lives through massage but also through self care! Dance provides us with the opportunity of incorporating a fun physical activity in our busy days. It also lifts the spirits and balances the energy in our bodies – not to mention letting us tap into our inner child!
Traditionally, before class we might do some Tai chi, Chi Gong or Yoga to prepare us physically for bodywork and mentally for learning. So we thought, why not dance? Dancing provides not only an entertaining way of getting physical activity in our lives, it also helps us with flexibility, stamina and gracefulness.
We chose Bhangra, a dance originitating from the Panjabi region of India – it was first danced by men as a celebration of the harvest. Its movements mirrored the activities performed in the fields for a particular crop. We were inspired by the music and the grace needed to dance to it. We found ways of connecting traditional steps to moves done during massage like the all so famous Effleurage and Body Mechanic Principles like working from Neutral and using your Whole Body.
June 27, 2011 No Comments
Health and well being are some of our most valuable resources. Without them it is difficult to enjoy life, to be productive and to flourish as individuals and communities. Yet often self care takes the back burner as we prioritize everything else in our busy lives.
National Holistic Institute, Petaluma Campus is offering a free monthly Community Education night. Our goal is to contribute positively to this wonderful community we work in, and to offer a respite from this busy hectic world we live in. Come and join us to learn about: [Read more →]
April 6, 2011 No Comments