Wellness in Bloom

Massage & Bodywork for Women

On Becoming a Massage Therapist

Sadly, I can’t remember when I had my first massage. The first one I can remember having was when I was in my twenties.  I loved it then and have ever since. Lucky me - that I also do this for a living and people love to come see me! I went for massage when I was feeling stressed or to treat myself.  I knew it felt good and was relaxing. I didn’t have too many aches and pains to resolve at that time, but I knew I felt more balanced when I left my massage therapist's office, both physically and mentally. I loved to see my massage therapist and I thought, what a great job that would be!

Before I had kids I worked as an Orthotist at Children’s Hospital and New England Medical Center. An Orthotist is a person who designs, manufactures and fits orthopedic braces (also called orthoses). I loved that job.  I felt I was helping people. I loved the artisitic and creative aspects of designing, building and fitting the braces. I loved the personal interaction I had with my patients. They were lovely. They weren’t always happy to be wearing a brace but they were happy with the improvement in their quality of life or health. I hope that their time with me and our interactions were as valuable to them as they were to me. After several years I left my job as an Orthotist to have my kids and be a stay at home mom.

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When I had been home with my kids for a number of years, and I felt that it would be manageable for myself and my family, I attended school to become a  massage therapist. (I always like going to school, taking courses and learning new things...even today)  I assumed that because I loved receiving massage and I liked working with and helping people that I would also love being a massage therapist. I was right! I do love it. People asked me “Are you sure you are going to like touching other people’s bodies all the time?” That had never crossed my mind.  It felt perfectly natural to provide therapeutic touch to people. It makes them so happy, and it improves the quality of their life and their health. How could I not like that?

I learned several things about myself and what makes a good experience for a client from these jobs and from my personal experience in receiving massage.

  1. I love being able to interact one on one with people and feel that I have made a positive contribution to their lives.
  2. I like working cooperatively with people - teaching them as well as learning from them.
  3. Part of what makes me good at my job, and also makes for a profound and effective experience for my patient or client, is the energy I put out to them during our interactions and in their treatment. My massage is entirely different from another therapist’s for many reasons, but I feel one of the most influential factors is energy.  By energy I don’t mean the vigor with which I give a massage, but the manner of my presence.  Each person’s energy is unique. It’s wonderful when you find another person whose energy naturally complements yours and enhances the work you receive. I personally find that I need a certain type of energy in a massage therapist or any other type of health professional I see, for them to be most effective and comfortable for me.

So that is how I came to be a massage therapist.  I may or may not be the right one for you. I'd be happy to help you figure that out. The important thing is that you find your massage therapist and avail yourself of all the benefits massage has to offer. Who knows, you may love it so much that you think…hmmm…what a great job that would be. It could happen.

How Does a Massage Therapist Choose Her Massage Therapist?

I had a chance to put myself in your shoes recently.  I needed to find a massage therapist.  I felt desperate for a massage (some of you know what I mean).  I go for regular massage because it keeps my body and mind healthy and makes me a better therapist, mom and wife.  Having massage reminds me each time what an awesome experience it is and how massage helps me feel balanced and whole.  Having a massage allows me to feel what the experience is like for the client on the table.  Sometimes when I have waited longer than is good for me before my next massage, I start to feel a little off balance; as if there is something unsettling building up inside of me that needs to dissipate.  I think this feeling is a combination of stress, muscle tension, emotion and energy picked up from others.  Massage is a very effective tool for helping me remove these things and get myself back to a more grounded state.

I have a few wonderful therapists that I see on a regular basis.  I am blessed to have these therapists available to me; however, they are not always available on short notice. I looked around online to find a therapist in the area who does the kind of work that resonates with me. Turns out, it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be.  I looked at some websites, checked out the information, but I wasn’t able to find what I was searching for.  What was I looking for?  I think I was looking for a therapist who was somewhat like me, at least in intent and spirit. For me, as for many people, the manner and energy of the therapist can make a huge difference in how I experience my massage.  I was looking for someone who seemed knowledgeable, skilled, friendly, warm and inviting.  I was looking for someone who sounded excited about what they do.  I was looking for someone whose massage sounded like therapy, nurturing and effectiveness all rolled in to one. Also, I'll be honest, there is some quality I look for that I can't even put a name on - I just know it when I see it in or feel it from someone - and I think you probably do too.

It is great have a personal recommendation for a therapist.  It is valuable and significant to have met the therapist or even had a few minutes of work from them, perhaps during some seated massage.  This way you can get a feel for their personality, their energy and their touch.  It’s hard to get this online, but a website filled with information can be the next best thing to a recommendation or personal interaction.

Look around the therapist’s website, and see what kinds of things they tell you.  What type of work do they do?  What type of education and training do they have?  What type of clients do they work with?  What are their interests?  How do they express themselves? What do their testimonials say? Do they seem like someone with whom you would feel comfortable?  Sometimes even the look of the website can give you some idea of what the therapist might be like.  If you want further information to make your decision you can call or email them with questions.  They should be happy to answer them.

This experience reminded me that it can be tough to go to a new therapist and feel comfortable. I understand. I hope my website conveys enough information and feeling to people that they are able to tell if I am the right therapist for them.  I am always happy to answer questions by phone or email for anyone in doubt, and I realize it can be a difficult decision to put your trust in someone new.  The thing is, though, if you can, then massage can do wonderful things for your body and soul.  It does for mine (and the many other people who love it). So take a chance with someone new, or ask a friend for a referral to their massage therapist, or call the therapist who gave you a few minutes of chair massage.  I bet you will be really glad you did.

Great Massage Therapist: Good Listening Required

In order to be a great massage therapist I need to listen intently.

I need to listen to what you say about your life and your body. When you come for a massage I will ask what has been going on in your life and how your body is feeling.  Do you have any areas that are bothersome, tight, or painful? Do you have issues or areas on which you want me to focus?  People usually do have at least one, if not several, areas of pain, tension, or injury. It is important as a therapist that I pay close attention to what my client is telling me and showing me.  When you are on the table for your massage, I want to make sure I address the issues we have discussed. I am listening.

Don’t fret that I haven’t listened if I work in areas other than the one where you are having an issue (that spot that you pointed to on your body).  In most cases muscles are not tiny spots.  Quite often they cross several joints or areas in the body, and it is helpful to address the whole muscle, its sites of attachment, and surrounding muscles to properly treat the problem. For example, if you tell me you have low back pain, I will probably work on the fronts and backs of your legs as well.  If you tell me you have neck pain, I will probably work on your upper chest along with many other surrounding muscles.

I need to listen to what you say with your body. When I am working, I watch your body language and your breathing.  I don’t want you to hesitate to tell me if something is too intense, but if you do, many times your actions or your breath will give you away. They don’t usually lie, and I try to listen to them attentively. They are my friends (and yours).

I need to listen with my hands to what your muscles and fascia (connective tissue) say. Are they tight, tense, and knotted or are they relaxed, healthy and supple? Do they want to let me in now, or do they need more time to adjust before I work with them? Do they need more attention or is it time for me to move along and visit somewhere new? Is this really where the problem lies, or is it hidden somewhere else? Muscles and fascia have a lot to say!

I need to listen to you and not speak more than is necessary or wanted.  Some clients want to talk about what is going on in their lives during their session.  I listen and respond as much as I feel they would like.  Some clients are totally silent during their session.  I listen and am quiet as well.  Both of these choices are fine, and I try to listen to the best of my ability and give my clients the amount of conversation they are asking for. I love to talk with my clients, but only if and when they want to talk; I follow their lead. I understand how disappointing and aggravating it can be if a massage therapist doesn’t listen to what you say, ignores the areas or issues which you have asked to address, or talks during your session when all you want to do is relax.  I have experienced all these things as a client and I did not enjoy them. So I promise: I will listen and I will, to the best of my ability, do none of these things.

How Can Massage Help Someone with Cancer?

Massage has much to offer a person living with cancer by improving many of the side effects of cancer and cancer treatment. Massage can reduce pain, anxiety, and depression. It can bolster the immune system and control nausea. It can also relax, energize and improve sleep.  At a time when many treatments used cause pain and discomfort, massage therapy provides nurturing and restorative touch. Massage can empower a person to provide him or herself with a therapy which is effective, soothing, non-invasive, and has no side effects. Massage therapy can make a significant and positive contribution to the life of a person living with cancer.

Many people wonder whether massage is safe for someone with cancer, or whether a person with cancer is allowed to have massage. Massage therapy is a safe for people with cancer when provided by a trained massage therapist. Modifications can be made to work around the side effects of cancer and cancer treatments in order to provide an effective and safe massage. A qualified massage therapist will do a thorough intake, and collect all necessary information to make sound decisions about a client’s treatment. The therapist will design the treatment based on the medical information and what the client needs or has requested at the time.

Massage does not spread cancer. Old myths speculated that an increase in circulation might spread cancer. Regular daily activities like movement and exercise increase circulation more than a session of massage; physical activity is often encouraged in people with cancer as part of their treatment. Some type of massage or caring touch is always safe for a person living with cancer. Because of its many benefits massage is recommended and frequently used, during and after treatment for cancer, at many hospitals including the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Memorial Sloan-Kettering.

If you are interested in finding out more about oncology massage for yourself or someone you care about, you can find information in the following places.

Integrative Oncology: Massage Therapy

Massage Benefits Women with Breast Cancer

Tracy Walton: Cancer and Massage Therapy

 

If you have further questions about massage and cancer please feel free to contact me or visit Massage & Cancer FAQs.

Cinnamon Rolls and Collard Greens as Self Care

So you probably know by now that I am a fan of self-care. Yay, self-care! Self-care can take many different forms and may vary from person to person. Generally it involves any way we choose to improve our health and well-being, on our own, on a regular basis. Self-care can include the foods we eat, physical activity, social activity, learning new things, using tools such as massage, acupuncture and yoga and many other wonderful choices and practices. Self-care includes things that make us happy and improve the quality of our life and our well-being.  

One of the things I try to include in my every day self-care (besides my Maya self-care massage) is eating well and eating foods that I love. You can have both. I believe (and I don’t think it’s just wishful thinking) that you can boost your well-being by really enjoying and savoring something like a cinnamon roll, and you can often adjust a recipe so that it’s a fairly healthy choice as well. Some foods are self-care because they are nostalgic and involve happy memories. My self-care foods include a variety of things from dark chocolate and cinnamon rolls to sweet potatoes, beets with goat cheese, berries, and my new favorite - collard greens. 

Yes, you heard me, collard greens.

This is a fast, easy, delicious and healthy way to prepare collard greens. Even my kids love collard greens made this way. On some days, when I haven’t managed to get as many vegetables or fruits as I want, a heaping serving of these greens makes me feel a whole lot better. I actually crave them sometimes they are so yummy. In fact, I made them just last night. I have leftovers, and I’m going to eat them right after I finish this.

Easy Collard Greens

You will need:
One or two bunches of collard greens
Five to ten garlic cloves, minced
A few tablespoons of olive oil
Salt and pepper

Wash and dry the collard greens. Cut out the stems in the center by running a knife down each side. Take the half leaves and stack them on top of each other until you have about ten leaves.  Roll them into a cigar shape (the long way). Cut across the roll, with each cut about 1/8” from the last so eventually you end up with ribbon like strands. Heat the olive oil and garlic over low heat until the garlic just starts to brown.  Then add your collard greens and keep stirring over low heat.  The collard greens will reduce down quite a bit as they cook and you can add more into the pan as needed. They are ready when slightly wilted and not too tough for you to eat. Add salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy your self-care!

If you have any tasty recipes you consider part of your self-care, please share (and send the final product to me for testing).

Self-care, Joy and Cinnamon Rolls

In my last post I talked about food as self-care and which foods I use in this way.  Some of these foods I eat more often than others.  Some are healthier than others. I guess you could also call some of these foods comfort foods.  (Sometimes comfort and self-care are the same thing.) Sometimes my self-care includes a… ahem… cinnamon roll.

Here is the recipe I use for cinnamon rolls (a.k.a. sticky buns in my family). We make this recipe about two times a year.  Everyone in my family loves these and they disappear very quickly, sometimes becoming the stuff of which battles are made. My grandmother, Aldea, used to make these on holidays. I have made only two small changes to the original recipe, one for health and the other for preference.  I have substituted white whole wheat flour for the white flour.  I do this quite often in recipes and they turn out just as tasty as the original, if not better.  Quite often the foods we love can be made healthier with a tiny change such as this. I also began putting my finished but unbaked rolls in the fridge overnight so I could bake them right before eating.  This way everyone gets a warm and gooey cinnamon roll.  What could be better? (Getting a massage while eating your cinnamon roll?)

I consider making and eating these with my family a few times a year to be part of my self-care.  In making them and teaching my kids to make them I remember doing the same thing with my grandmother which makes me very happy.  I loved my grandmother with all my heart and she taught me many things.  She taught me to bake, to sew, to garden and to knit.  She sent me to massage school. I think of her every time I do these things. Teaching me these things, she shared her time and knowledge with me, showing me how much I was loved and valued. It is wonderful to know that you are or were so greatly treasured by another. Remembering her, I experience sadness because I miss her but I also feel joy.  Feeling joy and knowing how much I am loved is part of self-care for me. I am always looking for ways to find joy.  If that means eating some cinnamon rolls - then so be it - and thank you grammy.

 

Aldea’s Cinnamon Rolls (a.k.a. Sticky Buns)

Dough
3 pkgs dry yeast
3c. water
3/4 c. sugar
3 tsp. salt
10-10.5 c. white whole wheat flour
2 small eggs
3/8 c. veg. oil

Soften yeast in warm water- add sugar, salt and half of flour.  Beat thoroughly, add egg and oil.  Gradually beat in remaining flour until smooth.  Knead the dough for a few minutes and then cover with damp cloth, let rise.

Glaze
2c. packed brown sugar
12 Tbs. butter
6Tbs. light corn syrup
pecans

1c. sugar
2 Tbs. ground cinnamon

In small saucepan combine brown sugar, butter and corn syrup.  Cook and stir until butter melts and mixture is blended.  Pour mixture into 13x9x2 inch baking pan.  Sprinkle with pecans.  Divide dough half and roll each into a rectangle on lightly floured surface.  Brush each rectangle with 1.5 tbs. Melted butter.  Mix together sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle ½ mixture over each rectangle.  Roll up and pinch ends together.  Slice into 18 pieces.  Put rolls in pans with syrup.  (You can cover now with tin foil and keep in the refrigerator overnight if you don’t want to bake them until the next day.) Allow to rise about 1.5 hrs. in a warm place. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for about 12-15 minutes.  Allow to cool 30 sec. before inverting pan.

Enjoy!

Try Just One (part 1)

I try to be environmentally conscious. I am always looking for more earth-friendly alternatives, especially if they are ideas which are easy to incorporate into my life or the life of my family.  Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start or what to do and we feel overwhelmed. I try to remember that even one change for the better can have a big impact (so true in all aspects of our life and health).  I’d like to share with you some of the ideas that have worked in our home, and have been quite easy to integrate.

1. Use reusable water bottles whenever possible. This one isn’t too hard these days. I have often found water bottles at places like Old Navy and TJ Maxx.

2. Use reusable containers instead of plastic wrap, tin foil and plastic bags. This is great for the kid’s lunches. 

3. Use reusable bags when shopping. Keep them in the trunk of your car so they are handy. I have been best at using them for the grocery store, but I’m trying to remember to use them at other stores too.

4. Use cloth napkins in place of paper napkins. Also great for the kid’s lunches.  Everyone in the family has a different color napkin so we can keep track.

5. Use cleaning cloths, dish cloths, rags or old towels instead of paper towels whenever possible. I have a set of dishtowels and facecloth type towels that I use every day in my kitchen.  I use fresh ones each day. I have a great collection of old t-shirts, socks and facecloths for cleaning around the house.

6. Use earth friendly or homemade cleaners whenever possible. I use vinegar and baking soda quite a bit and I also buy prepared natural cleaners like Method (at Target) and Seventh Generation.

    Following is a recipe for natural glass cleaner we recently used at my house and really liked. It is environmentally friendly and very inexpensive to make. That is another benefit of making environmentally friendly choices; frequently they will save you money.  Who doesn’t like that (more money to put toward massage)? 

    Natural Glass Cleaner

    Combine 1/4 c. rubbing alcohol, 1/4 c. white vinegar, 1 Tbsp cornstarch and  2 c. warm water in a spray bottle, and shake well. Shake well before each use, too, as the cornstarch might settle at the bottom and plug the spray bottle if it’s not mixed in well.

    I think this is enough to ponder right now. I'll share more ideas in my next post. I don’t want you to feel overwhelmed, only good about any change you are able to make. Changing just one thing can have a big impact on your health and the health of the earth. Let me know if you have any ideas that have worked well in your home, or if you try any of these ideas, what you think of them. Have a wonderful Earth Day!

    Try Just One (part 2)

    In my last post I shared some ideas that my family has used for becoming more earth friendly. Have you tried any of them?  If so, how have they worked for you? Here are a few additional ideas which we like at our house and I hope you like too!

    1. Recycle as many things as you can.  This can be through curbside recycling, at a transfer station or anywhere else that accepts items to be recycled.  Places like Target will take plastic shopping bags to be recycled.

    2. Group errands together so you are not driving needlessly. One of our cars is not very environmentally friendly, so I try not to drive it more than I need to.

    3. Buy paper and paper products made from recycled material. Staples sells printer paper made in part from recycled material, and Marcal and Trader Joe’s make or sell toilet paper and paper towels made from recycled content.

    4. Buy local produce whenever possible. If you have a farm stand or farmer’s market near you then try to get your fruits and veggies there. They usually taste better too.

    5. Grow something edible.  Try an herb at first - maybe the one your family will eat most often.  Last year we grew basil and used it all summer with tomatoes from a local farm stand. My kids loved to pick and eat it.

    6. Use natural alternatives such as corn gluten for lawn and garden care. I would really like to start composting but haven’t gotten there yet.

    7. Reuse items you no longer need in a new and different way. 

    8. Donate clothes and household items to your local food pantry or goodwill, swap them at your town dump, or list them on a site like Freecycle, instead of throwing them away. We have given away tons of furniture, toys, decorative items, and even a set of garage doors this way.  I can’t tell you how excited I was to have someone take and use the set of garage doors instead of having to throw them away at the dump. Does that make me a geek?  Maybe so, but happily! I love, love, love Freecycle.

      If you have any ideas to add to the list that have worked for you please let me know. If you are able to try even just one of these or other earth friendly ideas, feel good about that. Even one of these changes can help make the earth a healthier place for you and your family.

      It's the Little Things

      In seeing clients over the past few months and introducing them to Maya Abdominal Therapy I have realized something; how easily we become accustomed to things being slightly off, bothersome or not in balance. We dismiss things if they hover below a certain threshold. When we live with something every day or every month, and it is not something too severe then we may adapt to it. But should we? Clients have come to me to experience Maya Abdominal Therapy and learn self-care, thinking they have have no specific issues...
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      Herbs, Massage oil and Obsession

      I love herbs. I am drawn to them (right now my husband says obsessed), but I never know as much as I would like about them. During my trainings for Arvigo Maya Abdominal Therapy I learned about the herbal formulations developed by Rosita Arvigo, and bought several herbs for personal use. I made tinctures from these herbs which was really fascinating and exciting for me. A tincture is a plant extract made by soaking herbs in liquid such as alcohol, vinegar, or glycerin.  This liquid can then be used therapeutically.  I decide to learn more about herbs and bought the book Homegrown Herbs: A Complete Guide to Growing, Using, and Enjoying More than 100 Herbs by Tammi HartungThis book was easy and extremely interesting to read and provided me with a lot of valuable and useful information. I now have many more books about herbs which I love!

      I am always very excited to see the herbs emerge in my garden each year. It was delightful to choose the herbs and make space for them near my kitchen where I could watch them grow and have easy access to them, and each year I add a few more.  My son has taken a special liking to mint and likes to pick and eat a few leaves as he passes by. I have also planted rosemary, thyme, chives, lemon balm, basil, parsley, sage, catmint, calendula, elderberry, skullcap, feverfew, valerian and lavender.  Most of these are perennials so they should come back again each year. I love to see the things that I plant come back year after year- it’s like getting a bunch of presents every spring! I have used these herbs quite a bit in my cooking over the last few weeks, which by itself has huge health benefits. I just choose two or three herbs that I think go well together which will also complement whatever I am cooking.

      These same herbs can be prepared in different ways and used medicinally. I use rosemary all the time when I roast chicken and vegetables. It is also said to have antibacterial and antiseptic properties. It is useful for the treatment of colds, flu and headaches. It can be infused into oil and used for massage of aching joints and painful muscles. I’ve found rosemary very easy to grow and use in my everyday cooking.  You can too! Choose an herb that you like and are most likely to use in your cooking.  Grow it somewhere convenient (often this can even be indoors).  Snip a few leaves to use next time you are cooking and you will be increasing the healing effect, and the flavor, of your food.  Let me know what herbs you love and how you like to use them. I can never know too much about those lovely herbs!

      Five Easy Ways to Improve Your Health (and a Laugh)

      Here are five simple ways you can improve your health every day.  Even if you add only one or two of these to your daily life you will be doing yourself a terrific favor!

      1. Moving Along.  Drink warm or hot water every morning before you put anything else in your body. This helps to cleanse your system and get things moving along. For a greater effect add some lemon to your water.

      2. Breathe Deeply.  Proper breathing is one of the most important contributors to good health. Breathe deeply, letting your belly be soft and expand as your lungs fill with air.  Allow your lungs to fill all the way to the bottom.

      3. Spice It Up.  Use spices (such as turmeric, garlic, cumin, ginger and cinnamon) often and generously in your food and drink.  Food is medicine and spices have multitudes of antioxidants and healing properties.

      4. Five Minute Massage.  Give yourself a five minute foot massage or belly rub each night before going to bed. Use plenty of warm oil such as olive, safflower or jojoba (organic if possible) and add a few drops of essential oil such as lavender or sweet orange for enhanced benefits. Both types of massage help you relax, destress and be present in your body.  Foot massage can access the reflexology points which correspond to all parts of your body; abdominal massage can improve digestion and elimination among many other benefits.

      cactus.jpg

      5. Plant Yourself.  Buy some indoor plants; they purify the air and increase the humidity, reducing allergies and sinusitis. Bringing nature into our homes helps us to feel happier, more grounded (my favorite word) and less stressed.

      BONUS:

      Laugh. Laughter decreases stress hormones and can act as a powerful muscle relaxer. Laughter can help you breathe deeper, strengthen your immune system, forget about pain and lower blood pressure. If you need a little help with this one and you like the plant tip then watch this little number.

      Wellness in Bloom Massage & Bodywork for Women - Bolton, MA - 508.410.1138
      Copyright © 2014, Rebecca Susi.  All rights reserved.
      ARVIGO® and THE ARVIGO TECHNIQUES OF MAYA ABDOMINAL THERAPY® are trademarks owned by the Arvigo Institute, LLC and are used herein by permission of The Arvigo Institute, LLC. ©2016 by The ArvigoInstitute LLC.  All Rights Reserved.