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Oct 27, 2015

Teacher Feature: Renee Araneda

This month we are highlighting Renee Araneda, one of our massage therapy instructors at our Emeryville campus. Renee graduated from NHI Emeryville in 2007 and worked in a variety of settings, including integrative wellness centers, acupuncture clinics, and spas.  This valuable experience helped her build a successful private practice, which she continues to maintain today, in addition to being a teacher and mentor at NHI. Renee has also practiced Tai Chi for more than a decade and utilizes its principles and philosophies in life and in the classroom. She enjoys inspiring people to feel empowered in themselves, to experience freedom in their bodies, and to feel open to life’s possibilities. “What we share here at NHI is so much more than the practice of massage therapy. It’s really about discovering the potential you have within you, and learning to share that in the unique way that only you can do. I feel blessed to love what I do and truly believe that we are changing the world one massage, and one massage therapist, at a time.”

Learn more about Renee and why she chose to pursue a career in massage, why she chose NHI for her training, and about the topic of her scholarship winning essay “Growing the Garden of Positive Touch” which won her a trip to Maui for Lomi Lomi massage training.


Q1: Why did you choose massage therapy? 

Renee: Aside from being a dancer for most of my life and being fascinated by the human body and how we move, I have always wanted to do something with my life that would make a difference for other people and the world. I chose massage because I wanted to be a part of creating experiences, whether for the body or mind, that would facilitate healing.

Q2: Why did you choose to teach at NHI?

Renee: As an NHI student, I had a transformational experience. I was a newly-single mother and NHI provided me with the opportunity to change the trajectory of my life. I had no idea then how much, until recently. When I heard about the open teaching position, I was excited about the possibility of becoming a member of the team that helps to create transformational experiences for others. School is often a time of transition, and it’s so wonderful to be a part changing people’s lives and helping their dreams to come true.

Q3: What is your favorite subject of the NHI curriculum to teach and why? 

Renee: It’s hard to choose…I enjoy teaching the soft skill classes where we explore our own beliefs, communication styles, and deepening our self-awareness. Of course, I love teaching the bodywork classes, especially Swedish, shiatsu, and Thai.

Q4: What is your favorite modality of massage to give? To receive?

Renee: Do I really have to pick just one? Since my education was here at NHI and we learn so many wonderful modalities, I don’t know that my work is purely anything. Most of my work with clients is firm Swedish integrated with either Thai, shiatsu, or myofascial techniques. To receive, it depends on the results I am looking for. If I am struggling with specific issues, then I love myofascial and trigger point work; otherwise probably Swedish.

Q5: Tell us about a memorable moment in your massage career, as a practitioner or as an instructor, that stands out in your mind as one of the first moments you realized that you had work you loved. 

Renee: As an instructor, probably the first time a student thanked me and shared with me how I had impacted their life and their learning. It continues to unfold each day, each class, and each graduation. I tell the students, “I often find myself in class, looking out at my students and thinking to myself…wow, this is really what I do! I love this!” I feel extremely lucky to work in an environment that not only challenges me to grow and be my truest self on a daily basis, but pays me to do so. NHI has helped me become a better person, instructor, student, and mother, and I’m grateful for every moment of it. In addition to the students, the people that NHI draws in to be a part of the team are an incredible group of people and I look forward to working and playing with them each day. That’s a special feeling.

Q6: You’ve been a dancer most of your life. How has being a massage therapist enhanced your dance practice and vice versa?

Renee: I think as an instructor it stands out most in how I view and teach body mechanics. I think I have an eye for finding subtle movements or seemingly minute adjustments that can have profound impacts on how a student uses their body, and thus increases the longevity of their career. As a therapist myself, I don’t really see massage and dance as separate. My awareness of my own body and how I’m using it during my massages definitely comes from my dance background; and now when I find myself on the dance floor, my massage therapist mind is constantly at work making sure that I am doing everything I can to keep balance in my body and prevent injury.

Q7: Tell us about “Growing the Garden of Positive Touch,” the topic of your scholarship-winning essay:

Renee: “Growing the Garden of Positive Touch” is something that was born out of wanting to find a way to make massage accessible to as many people as possible. I specifically wanted to come up with a way to bring massage to under-served communities, people who might not have access for whatever reason, and anyone who is simply in need. It is based on the principle of paying it forward and watching the ripple effect in action. Even if I am the only therapist to participate, I am extremely excited about it and truly feel it will blossom into a powerful movement. However, my hope is that I will not be alone in this venture, and that fellow colleagues and students will participate as well. I will be offering one free massage to someone in need per month, and will document it on the “Growing the Garden of Positive Touch” Facebook page. Instead of paying with money, that person will pay forward their experience, using either their hands or their heart, to help someone else in need and document it on the page as well. My hope is that each therapist and those they work on will be able to see how far the ripple of their initial massage reaches, and all the positive experiences that it sparks.



Renee attended Lomi Lomi Classes in Maui.

Q8: Any other hobbies/interests/passions/education you are currently pursuing?

Renee: At this time, my focus is really on my teaching, continuing to keep my own body healthy so I can keep dancing, and on having the best relationship possible with my amazing 10-year-old daughter, Tenaya, before she’s a teenager and doesn’t want to hang out with her mom anymore. At some point, I would like to study Pilates, and add that to my repertoire. In addition to the healing arts, I love visual arts as well. I believe the two come together through the art of creating healing mandalas. Whether that is on the white board in the classroom, in a card to a friend or on a canvas, creating them keeps me centered and brings me joy.

Q9: What do you like to do in your free time? Where have you traveled/plan to travel?

Renee: In my free time I am usually with my daughter. If I’m not with her, then you would probably find me out dancing salsa or by the ocean somewhere. Combine those in any order and you might have a hard time bringing me down to earth. When I was younger I traveled often to Canada, to visit family in Montreal. I’ve also spent time in Ghana, Bali, Zimbabwe, and Thailand, which was the last trip I took out of the country. I have missed traveling since my daughter was born. I love it and would be happy to go just about anywhere tropical near the ocean. Thanks to the Tim Bresenden Memorial Scholarship, I’ll be in Maui shortly and I can’t wait!

Q10: What do you imagine for your life and career in the next ten years?

Renee: I hope that I am still teaching and helping others reach their goals and dreams, in their bodies and their lives.