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Body Mind Coaching

Recently I attended a workshop for a training I have been working on since last fall. I have been studying the concepts and techniques for Body Mind Coaching via distance learning, but this was the first time I was able to truly experience the benefits of this work for myself. I had gotten really busy with my home and work life, and the workshop snuck up on me. I nearly didn’t go. I was very busy taking care of my people, and didn’t think I could find a break to get away. At the last minute, something inside me said I needed to do something for myself, and continuing my education felt like an acceptable way to do that.

I am beyond grateful that I went. I got more out of that 4 days in Ohio than I can even explain. The techniques used in this coaching program help people to make connections between what is going on in their bodies and minds. Your mindset affects how your body feels, and how your body feels affects your mindset. I’ve been trying to find a way to frame these ideas to my clients for years, and I think this approach does a wonderful job of helping people who are ready to get in touch with their bodies in order to move forward in life. By examining the patterns my body has been carrying around, I was finally able to understand how I was overworking myself and making my life more complicated than it needed to be. I was able to set goals and a plan of action to address those issues, and wouldn’t you know it, the related pain began to ease almost immediately!

I came home and revamped my wellness programs to reflect a format that I know will be truly life changing for the people who are ready for this kind of work. Who’s ready for this work? If you are ready to identify what patterns in your life are contributing to your physical discomfort so that you can move forward, this work is for you. If you have been so busy taking care of others that you don’t even know what your body needs to feel good anymore, this work is for you. If you want to feel present, connected, and inspired, this work is for you.  I want to cheer you on as you move outside your comfort zone to achieve your goals and dreams. I want to give you the support and tools to recharge so that you can be there for your loved ones with a “full cup and an handful of spoons.” I want to hold space for you to fall in love with yourself. That’s why I’ve created these programs. For you.

If this sounds like something you would want to embrace in your life, I invite you to give me a call/message/email so that we can find a time to talk more. Because of the depth of this work, I will only be taking 2 people into these programs per month. I hope to hear from you soon!

Feel Better,



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Can We Talk About Deep Tissue Massage, Please?

I get asked about “deep tissue” massage at least once a week, and having this conversation over and over again has helped me organize my thoughts on what I consider a fairly complex concept. My philosophy on this differs from many massage therapists, and you can feel free to poll other LMTs you know to see what their thoughts are on the matter. You’ll hear widely varied explanations of “deep tissue!”

Why is that? Deep Tissue massage is actually a marketing tactic used by many spas and private practitioners to charge extra money for doing the exact same massage, only harder. Some bodies require more pressure to achieve the right amount of sensation and pain relief that the customer requires. Everyone is different. That’s great!

In my practice, “deep tissue” does NOT equal “deep pressure”.  I consider deep tissue massage to be a completely different set of massage techniques than Swedish Massage. They are techniques that address deeper levels of the tissue and focus on individual muscles that may contribute to the pain or dysfunction that the client is experiencing.  Accessing these deeper layers does not mean I need to squish through all the superficial layers to get to them. Limbs can be moved to mobilize the deepest layers of connective tissue in the joint, traction to muscles can create relaxation, and active movements made by the client under direction of the therapist can all create profound change in the tissue without pain or risk of further injury. I tell people on a regular basis that I did not get into this field to torture people. I do not believe that you must endure a painful session to release areas that have been bothering you.

I’m happy to increase the pressure for someone that needs “more” for their individual body. I happy to do focused, therapeutic work that is extremely light. This is why I do not charge differently for deep tissue or Swedish massage. Every modality, and every pressure can be therapeutic if applied with the proper knowledge and consideration for the individual needs of the client.

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Why Regular Massage is Better Than Massage for Special Occasions

I often tell people that if there is a time in my life I could relive, it would be when I was in massage school. I had moved away from my hometown, I fell in love with my now-husband, and I began a healthy lifestyle that made many chronic health issues fade away. One of the best parts about that time in my life is that I was getting massage at least twice a week. Receiving massage was one of the most effective ways for me to learn how to provide effective touch for others. It cleared away stress, fixed old injuries from short-lived high school athletics, and made me really confident about my body. It was life changing.

Now, within my massage therapy career, I see clients for all kinds of reasons. I see them for pain, I help after the stress of filing taxes, I prepare them for relaxing vacations, and I treat them to some pampering in honor of birthdays or Christmas. I see some people once a year while others come in more regularly. I love treating people on a regular basis for several reasons:

  • It makes my job easier. The knots, the tight muscles, and the postural issues that clients put into their bodies take a long time to develop! It’s almost always an impossible request to fix something in an hour that took 5 years to develop. Seeing someone on a regular basis for massage allows me to make more and more progress with each session rather than risking overworking a client and making them more tense and sore than they were to begin with in one intense session.
  • I get to know your body! A first session is normally your least effective because I’m feeling around trying to find the genesis of your pain as well as how to best relieve the issue. Just when I’ve figured out that your muscles release better with assisted stretches than Swedish massage, DING! Session’s over! As I become more familiar with my regular clients, I can develop an individualized treatment plan based on how to get the best results while keeping them the most comfortable.
  • I know what your “Normal” looks like. Many times, I have clients that come in fairly regularly for relaxing massages, but one day hobble in with a tweaked back, a crick in the neck, or a mysteriously sore (fill-in-the-blank-with-your-common-muscle-ache). I know these people, and I’m familiar with their bodies! I know that Mr. Jones doesn’t normally have tight back muscles, or that Mrs. Brown usually stands up much straighter. By investing in regular massages when they are healthy, my clients have access to more effective massage when something isn’t right.
  • I remember you. Let’s face it. We’ve all had that experience of going into a professional appointment where someone who is supposed to be taking care of your health doesn’t remember your name or the fact that they saved you from torturous strep throat last fall. Sure, they are looking at your chart, so they know these things…just now. Yesterday? They wouldn’t have been able to pick your tonsils out of a lineup. That’s not because they don’t care or they’re bad at what they do. They just don’t see you that often and they’ve seen many other people with other ailments since they last saw you. Massage is similar. If you’re lucky enough to have a massage therapist who charts their sessions, they should have a good idea when you walk in the door of who you are and what your last session was like. However, if you’re seeing them on a regular basis, even just once a month, that therapist is going to KNOW you! They will remember that you don’t want your scalp massaged or that your right shoulder is tighter than your left. That means you feel more comfortable relaxing, and your session is going to be more successful.
  • Practice makes perfect. Many people are busy. Really busy! I know loads of people that are completely unable to relax and would laugh at the idea of taking time to meditate on a regular basis. Do you know what that does to your body, physically, to never relax? I will save the lecture for another time, but if you’re curious in the meantime, good ol’ Google will be happy to enlighten you if you search “long term stress effects.” Most people need to practice relaxing. They are so unused to doing it, that they have forgotten how. The more massage you get, the better you are at dropping everything, letting your brain hush, and hitting the reset button for a short bit of time. I have personally had clients that were like trying to massage the Tin Man before he got oil for their entire session when they first started seeing me. After several sessions of practicing relaxing, they were as floppy as Bernie from Weekend at Bernie’s (except they were alive, I swear)!

So of course the obvious obstacle here is money. I know. Believe me! Massage is often treated as a luxury item because it is out of the budget for many (too many) people. A very smart massage therapist once told me that he uses an analogy to explain the concept to his clients: People have cars that get them to work. They have homes that keep them warm and dry. They spend money on a regular basis to maintenance these things because they’re important. Some people even pay enough money to make them really nice  and beautiful. However, those same people will balk at the idea of spending money on regular massage. A oil change for your car, new smoke detectors for your house, and a massage for your body are all maintenance items. What’s the difference then? A car or a house may come and go in your lifetime, but you only get one body. Your body is important! It’s okay to budget money to keep it in good working order.

I always recommend that people look for massage therapists that offer discounts on packages or some type of loyalty discount program. I have many peers that offer sliding scale massage or discounts for people who ask for them. I just want to say that again: FOR PEOPLE WHO ASK FOR THEM! Many therapists don’t publish their discounts because they don’t want to be taken advantage of by bargain hunters who can actually afford to pay the full price. Massage therapists gotta eat, you know? However, they are more than happy to work with individuals when it means that they’ll be able to have a regular client instead of a once in a blue moon kind of person. Massage therapists love having regulars! I’m speaking for individual therapists who set their own prices, as spas and chain businesses may run packages or occasional deals, but rarely have the freedom to use a sliding scale.

How often is often? It depends. The clients that are taking good care of themselves at home and just want to relax can get away with once a month, and sometimes even bimonthly. Clients who come to me with pain that is from postural issues that have taken years to form? They benefit from once a week until a better balance is found in the body, and then their sessions can become more spaced out. Frequency of massage for injuries or a stressful time in someone’s life can really vary depending on the specific circumstances, but I can confidently say that if you budget for multiple sessions, your results will be more profound and lasting than just one.

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Are essential oils essential to massage?

Many people associate exotic blends of essential oils with various modalities of massage. In spas all over the world, essential oils are used to perfume the atmosphere, treat emotional or musculoskeletal conditions, increase relaxation, or even just provide a customized experience during massage sessions. Some people absolutely love this aspect of massage therapy while others are less enthusiastic. Personally, I have gone home after certain sessions to wash off blends of oils that were so strong they caused me to have a headache or become nauseated. Other times, I have wished that I could buy whatever the therapist applied so that I could smell like that all the time!

No matter how you feel about the scent of essential oils during your massage session, it is important to also consider the effects of each oil on the physiology of your body. I have talked to many people who feel that oils are benign to their health because they are natural. There are companies that claim oils will only cause harm if you buy inferior quality oils. However, injuries can and do occur from misuse and improper dilution of even the highest graded oil brands. An essential oil is a very concentrated, very powerful substance, and has the ability to address many pathologies when used correctly. Aromatherapists, herbalists, and naturopaths with extensive training on the usage and safety of essential oils and other plant therapies are excellent resources for anyone seeking to use them.

So this is the part where I explain why I do not routinely use essential oils in my massage practice. I’m not speaking about other massage therapists, or condemning what happens on their tables. I think oils are great and useful. I also think they are unnecessary to accomplish your goals during a massage session. While I received a wonderful, well-rounded massage education, I did not receive extensive training in aromatherapy. I know how to address clients’ bodies and pathologies using massage and soft tissue manipulation. Determining appropriate (or more importantly, inappropriate) essential oils for an individual client falls outside of my scope of practice as a massage therapist. I also do not pull teeth, as I’m not trained in dentistry, nor do I fix cars because I’m not a mechanic. However, I am happy to massage your sore jaw or help you with the neck pain that started when you got into that car wreck. Those things are in my scope of practice, and I’m confident in my training around those issues.

I do have exceptions when it comes to oils. I have had clients that bring their own and request I use them during their session. As long as the oil isn’t a danger to me by handling it, I’m happy to help you apply oils that you know are appropriate for your situation! These can be blended into the unscented massage lotion or the rice bran oil that I use in my regular sessions so that they are safety diluted (it’s extremely rare that I would feel comfortable using an essential oil undiluted, aka “neat” on a client).

So, if you are a client or potential client who feels that it is essential (pun intended!) to use essential oils during your session, I encourage you to do plenty of research on potential interactions with medications or effects on your body. Many oils are not recommended during pregnancy, while nursing, or for certain respiratory pathologies. If you aren’t sure, ask a professional with training in aromatherapy (not just your oil sales rep!) and they can help steer you in the direction of safe oils to use. If you can’t consult with a professional before your massage session, just hold off on bringing your oils along. There are many, MANY ways to achieve relaxation, pain relief, and wellness during your massage while keeping you safe. I’m happy to help you with the skills I’ve been trained in!

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My approach to prenatal massage

Frequently, I receive calls or emails from potential clients asking about my experience level giving prenatal massage. I normally tell them that I have additional training on top of my initial massage education that gives me a “prenatal certification,” and I have been performing prenatal massage since 2010. This is enough information for most people, but I want to offer a little extra information on how my experience might be different than other practitioners you have seen, as well as some things I do in prenatal sessions that not everyone does.

My Experience:

I received my training in Oregon state, the second most stringent location in the US to obtain a massage license. To pass my exams and be granted the title of Licensed Massage Therapist (LMT), I completed rigorous courses in anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, pathology, ethics, as well as courses in both Eastern and Western modalities. After massage school, I completed an extra course that went even further into the mechanics of prenatal massage, taught by a woman who has been in the field for many years. This earned me the title of Certified Prenatal Massage Therapist (CPMT).

I went to massage school aspiring to learn prenatal massage because I had already been working as a lifecaster and sculptor. I made castings of pregnant women’s bellies and children’s hands and feet on a regular basis, and I loved my work. I decided that the next logical step in my journey was to study massage so that I could not only help celebrate the amazing transformation of pregnancy, I could also help bring comfort and relief to the women experiencing it.

My special projects in school were focused on prenatal massage, and I was able to get hands-on training by massaging multiple women throughout their pregnancies while getting feedback from instructors. When I finished school, I began working in a chiropractic clinic where I worked as part of a healthcare team to relieve the pain of people recovering from serious motor vehicle accidents. Many of the clients were pregnant women ranging through all three trimesters. After moving home to Oklahoma, I was able to learn the relaxing techniques of spa massage, which has added to my “toolbox” of techniques when I have a prenatal client on the massage table!

In 2013, I gave birth to my beautiful daughter at our home with the assistance of a midwife. This posterior labor produced something sometimes called “back labor”, which made for a very intense experience without any kind of pain medication or anesthesia! Luckily, I had received massage throughout my pregnancy, which was massively helpful in training my body to relax in uncomfortable situations. I’m thankful for the uncomfortable experiences I gained in both pregnancy and labor because it makes me more empathetic for the mothers who seek me out for prenatal massage.

Things to Expect During Your Prenatal Massage:

There are pillows and bolstering systems on the market that allow pregnant women to lie face down while receiving a massage, even after they have started to “show.” I do not use one of these systems, and I’ll explain a couple reasons why.

  • Lower back pain that accompanies pregnancy is often caused by the shifting weight of the abdomen putting stress on uterine ligaments and pulling the lower vertebrae into a “swayback” position. Lying face-down with your pregnant abdomen unsupported causes the uterine ligaments to become even more stretched and the spinal posture is even more distorted. It may feel good during your massage, but it drastically increases your chances of having even more back pain a day or two later.
  • Many of these pillow systems have limited options for customization. This means they are not one size fits all! Some lucky women will have just the right proportions to fit their tummy and their breasts in the cutout areas of the cushions. However, many women will feel uncomfortable as ill fitting cushions push into their lower abdomens, their ribs, or their breasts. This does not make for the most ideal situation if you are wanting to relax!

So what’s the alternative? After pregnant clients are no longer able to lie on their stomachs, I position them in side-lying position. Much like when you sleep in bed at night, you lie on the massage table on one side with cushions under your top leg, neck, and arm to align the spine and provide maximum comfort. This allows me to massage half of your body while you rest comfortably without extra strain on your back. Halfway through the session, the cushions are removed so you can turn and have the other half of your body massaged. For the last portion of the session, you will move to a reclined seated position on a wedge cushion so that you can relax while I massage your neck, arms, and if you’re comfortable with it, your abdomen.

Massaging the lower legs, ankles and feet can be a touchy area in prenatal massage due to accupressure points that can stimulate labor as well as changes to the circulatory system. Pregnant clients are at a higher risk for blood clots, so to keep you safe, I will ask questions about your daily activities to assess your risk factors during your intake. Light massage to these areas is perfectly safe and very helpful in relieving soreness and swelling. Deeper massage techniques can be used on a case by case basis.

I will often use hot towels wrapped on the feet during my massage sessions, and this is safe for prenatal clients as well. The heat relieves tension in the tissue that surrounds the bones of the feet and ankles while also loosening the pathways for lymph drainage to take place. An added bonus is that this feels very relaxing! If you are sensitive to heat or prefer your feet not be touched during a session, you can opt out of this part of the massage.

Another form of heat that I often use in a session is the hot stone. Traditional hot stone massage sessions use large, warmed stones to compress and release tissue by placing them all over the body and using them as a massage tool. I incorporate a few stones into my sessions as tools to relax tight muscle groups and loosen knots that are brought on by stress and postural imbalances. This adds heat to isolated areas rather than heating up the body as a whole, which pregnant clients can be sensitive to. Again, as with the hot towels, clients are free to refuse hot stones during a session.

Craniosacral therapy is a type of bodywork that uses very light pressure on suture lines in the skull to produce a feeling of relaxation and balance in the body. It is helpful to relieve migraine headaches and encourage better sleep at night. I finish my prenatal sessions with a few, brief CST techniques that compliment the previous work from the massage. My training in Craniosacral therapy is basic, but it is still a powerful method of bringing relaxation to the body during a session.

In Conclusion

Pregnancy represents a transition in a woman’s life to another phase, and I am delighted when I can be part of that transition. If a woman is needing to find a way to relax, de-stress, relieve physical discomfort, or even find acceptance for her changing body, massage is a wonderful avenue to addressing those needs. If you have any further questions regarding prenatal massage or my massage practice in general, please do not hesitate to contact me so that we can talk further!