Massage Therapy

Free yoga for all furloughed federal workers at the Watershed Wellness movement studio

UPDATE: While it seems the shutdown is over for now, we all know the impacts of stress go far beyond the ending of any given stressful event. So we are extending this offer through the end of February. 👍🏼🇺🇸❤️

 

 

Astoria is a Coast Guard city.

Further, Oregon and Washington are home to many federal workers in the sciences, in the park system and in many other important areas of American life. All of these people and their families are being impacted by the unprecedented government shutdown battle currently playing out in Washington D.C.

The shutdown is ugly, and absolutely unneeded. Fortunately, there is some beauty emerging, particularly in our community, that is helping things be a little easier on those impacted by furlough.

There's so much more we're missing in this brief blog post – but the outpouring of support is truly inspiring.

We want to do our part to help.

Until the shutdown ends, we are offering free classes at our movement studio to all federal employees impacted by the shutdown. Stress is one of the hidden impacts of loss of income security, and while yoga isn't going to put food on the table or help you with childcare, hopefully it provides some respite in a world that seems bent on putting burdens on those who can least afford them. All you have to do is show up.

For all of our existing WW movement studio regulars…

It's possible that class sizes will be a little big during this time, and we might end up reaching capacity during the more popular classes. We'll accommodate everyone we safely can, and ask your patience as we try to help your neighbors and friends have some time for reflection, movement and connection.

Please share with anyone you think might benefit, and thank you.

 

 

September Shoulder Love

 

At the beginning of a yoga class, sometimes I’ll posit the question: Anyone have anything that they want to work on today? Invariably someone will say: SHOULDERS!

What I understand this to mean, in most people’s bodies, is that area between the shoulder blades that often gets mucked up and crunchy, as well as the junction between the upper back and the neck. These two areas, the upper thoracic area and the upper trapezius area, are two common places that most people I know hold some tension. It’s also a common pain area for folks coming in for massage therapy.

In my massage practice, my clients often ask if everyone has tension in this area, or if theirs happens to be particularly bad. In general, most everyone I’ve massaged has some level of tension here.

Let’s look at the anatomy of the shoulder:

The shoulder is made up of three bones:

  • Clavicle (collarbone)
  • Humerus (upper arm bone)
  • Scapula (shoulder blade)

The shoulder blade, collarbone and arm are all part of the appendicular skeleton which rests on the axial skeleton. The clavicle provides a fairly stable strut, while the humerus maintains the widest variation of movement possibility. The scapula helps to keep the peace between the two structures by providing extra stability for the clavicle and support by way of the glenoid socket (where the upper arm bone and the scapula meet) in order to manage the shifting of the humerus. This whole structure helps to provide some stability in movement of the arm on the torso (the axial skeleton).

The shoulder is a complex ball and socket joint that moves in a variety of planes. The muscles of the shoulder and arm are amazingly diverse – they span across the width of the back attaching the scapula to the rib cage, neck, head and arms.

The primary movements of the shoulder joint and scapula are:

Shoulder (glenohumeral joint)

  • Flexion
  • Extension
  • Abduction (bringing your arm away from you)
  • Adduction (brining your arm toward you
  • Horizontal Abduction
  • Horizontal Adduction
  • External Rotation
  • Internal Rotation

Scapula (shoulder blade)

  • Elevation
  • Depression
  • Retraction (shoulder blades towardone another)
  • Protraction (shoulder blades away from one another)
  • Upward rotation
  • Downward rotation

There are 17 muscles that articulate with the shoulder blade

Muscles that articulate with the shoulder blade
  • Serratus Anterior
  • Supraspinatus
  • Subscapularis
  • Trapezius
  • Teres Major
  • Teres Minor
  • Triceps Brachii long head
  • Biceps Brachii
  • Rhomboid Major
  • Rhomboid Minor
  • Coracobrachialis
  • Omohyoid inferior belly
  • Lattisimus Dorsi
  • Deltoid
  • Levator Scapula
  • Infraspinatus
  • Pectoralis Minor

 

 

Vectors of pull on the shoulder blade.

An imbalance in any of these structures can cause pain and decreased mobility in your shoulder and scapula mobility.

The shoulder blade wants to be in a balanced position, but when one muscle or group of muscles gets chronically shortened or lengthened, the placement of the shoulder blade on your body can be impacted.

In a yoga class, having integrated shoulders is an essential part of your practice. What do we mean by integrated shoulders?

  • Shoulders that have strength, flexibility and MOBILITY that allow you to do the poses that you want when you want.
  • Shoulders that are well balanced both muscularly and structurally.
  • Shoulders that support you with integrity while putting weight on your hands.
  • Shoulders that work well for you in your daily activities, such as reaching for things over your head, or supporting yourself while mopping the floor on your hands and knees (does anyone else do this?!).

Let's look at a few yoga poses that integrate the shoulders. You can see in the images below that poses such as backbends, arm balances and poses that have arms overhead can all incorporate some good honest shoulder awareness.

Interested in feeling better in your shoulders as well as learning more about the anatomy and function of the shoulders? Come to any class during September for some shoulder love.

We've also recorded a few videos of some shoulder exercises that you can view here. Try these out at home and let us know what you think!

See you on the mat soon!

 

New Monthly Focus: Forward Folds, and a reintro to our Astoria yoga studio

 

This month, at the Watershed Wellness Astoria yoga studio, we’re going to be trying out a new focus for our yoga classes. Throughout the month the teachers at Watershed Wellness are going to be focusing on a unified theme. Each teacher will incorporate the theme into their classes in a unique way including discussing anatomy, yoga philosophy and utilizing gentle breath work.

We’ll also be providing some at-home materials for you to deepen your practice and understanding of of our monthly focus that will include:

  • Blog posts and resources that help to explain the monthly focus
  • A fundamentals level video practice that you can do at home
  • A intermediate level flow practice that you can do at home
  • On occasion, monthly workshops and classes to deepen your practice

So, what's on tap this month?

March Astoria yoga studio focus: forward folds

Forward folds are a great way to get to know the back of your body better. We spend much of our day in a forward folded position. Are you sitting while reading this? You’re in a forward fold! Creasing forward at the hips and rounding through the spine while sitting lengthens out the muscles of your back and hips, while shortening the hamstrings and psoas muscles.

We all spend much of our days in this position, but what if we were able to find some balance between the front and the back of the body in a way that feels supportive and sustainable for the health of our lower backs and hamstrings? Let’s look at the anatomy of the soft tissues along the back of the body

One of the technical terms for this part of our bodies is : The Superficial Back Line (SBL)

The Superficial Back Line connects the posterior body from the base of the foot to the top of the brow line. The SBL connects in two pieces: from foot to knee, and from knee to head. When standing the SBL acts as a continuous line of supported muscles and connective tissue.

The myofascial tissues involved in the SBL are:

  • Plantar fascia
  • Calf muscles:
    • Gastrocnemius
    • Soleus
  • Hamstring muscles
    • Biceps Femoris
    • Semimembranosis
    • Semitendonosis
  • Sacrotuberous ligament
  • Erector Spinae muscles of the back
  • Epicranial fascia

The myofascial tissues of the body follow the law of tensegrity.

Tensegrity (a combination of the words tension and integrity) is a the interplay between balance and tension in the body. For example, if you constantly stand on your left foot and lean your weight over into your left hip, the myofascial tissues of your body are going to start to adapt to this imbalance and create patterns in the body that will reinforce this weight transfer. Some tissues will get longer, and some shorter, to try to maintain this pull toward the left side of your body.

Another easy example to understand is someone who often wears high heels. The plantar fascia and the calf muscles are chronically being shortened, and the pelvis has to do a balancing act to keep you upright. The lower back sways out, shortening the musculature here because your upper back is trying to maintain balance by leaning back. The body has amazing compensatory reactions, but at a cost that might implicate long term lower back pain or knee pain in this instance.

Back to our WW Astoria yoga studio monthly focus: Forward folds

Learning about the musculature of the Superficial Back Line as well as learning how to lengthen and strengthen this connective tissue chain in a balanced and intentful way can help you understand why your lower back always hurts, or why the shoes you are wearing might not be great for your posture. Is it hard for you to reach down and touch your toes? Does this exacerbate your lower back pain? Do you have foot pain or neck pain? The myofascial tissues of the SBL might be part of the problem!

We’ve put together a few examples of forward folds that can help to lengthen out the back of your body. Give them a try at home or come to any class during March to explore these poses in your body.

These poses are also very helpful for finding a gentle inward focus

As we move toward the busy-ness of spring and summer it's nice to cultivate our inner seeds before they come forth into their spring blossoms. This is a chance for you to deepen your understanding of your inner self in a way that feels very grounded as we move toward the Spring Equinox.

We appreciate any comments or feedback about how these poses work for you, or any questions you may have about how to do these poses safely. We'll see you in class at the WW Astoria yoga studio!

WW Podcast episode 13 – Eric & Amanda talk about non-judgment in holistic healthcare

Our podcast schedule got a bit gnarled with the holiday season and the bustle of the New Year – but we're back! In this episode, I sat down with Amanda to talk about judgment, and non-judgment, in the holistic healthcare environment.

In particular, we examine some of the things that commonly hold people back from getting care due to worries about judgment around:

  • Body image, such as body hair, body odor or weight gain
  • Social factors, such as identification as gay or trans, or having low income and so being unable to wear “fancy” clothes
  • Political and intellectual factors, such as having a very conservative viewpoint when you believe your practitioner to be quite liberal

It's just a quick 20 minutes, and we hope it will provoke questions – check out the form on the main podcast page to share your thoughts.

You can access the episode here.

A little tour of our new yoga and natural medicine space in Astoria, Oregon

Today was such a beautiful spring day, after such a relentless winter, that I couldn't help but walk around our new place in amazement. One thing I can say about Amanda and I – the owners of Watershed Wellness – is that we tend to find beautiful spaces to live and work in. Our space nestled into the elm avenues of Ladd's Addition in Portland is resplendent – and this newest space equals it in beauty, energy and enjoyment.

Instead of describe all the great spaces in our clinic, I thought I'd shoot you a quick video with a mildly silly voiceover. I'm no videographer, and our spaces probably deserve a more professional presentation – but I hope you will feel the enthusiasm and wonder in my voice as I show you around.

I hope we'll be shooting more videos around our new home – Astoria, Oregon – to show you all the myriad ways your own local environment, and the nature you see all around, can be a free source of healing and relaxation. In the meantime, check out the page we're building to introduce you to our favorite spots in and around this remarkable town.

Check it out, share it, and by all means – come in for a yoga class, an acupuncture appointment or an ultra stress busting massage. We're ready to help you on your next steps to wellness.

New to Massage at Watershed Wellness in Astoria?

Looking for a massage therapist in Astoria, OR?
massage therapist astoria oregon

Finding the right massage therapist can be a frustrating process. There are only so many to go around! Maybe you used to have someone that you really loved that you no longer are able to see. Yep – we know how it is – you feel that every massage therapist after her has paled in comparison!

…Or, maybe you haven’t ever had massage before. But, you thought you’d try it out for your lower back pain after your doctor recommended it. You don’t really know if it will work, and you don’t want to waste your time. How do you discover the right massage therapist for you?

…Or, maybe something has changed about your body and you are feeling nervous about coming in for a massage. Pregnancy, weight gain, age; all can change the way you feel about showing your body to a medical practitioner, or being touched for any reason.

…Or, perhaps you are a member of a group of people who have traditionally not been treated with respect or care by medical professionals, and you don't know how to find someone who can keep you safe while you're vulnerable on the massage table.

There's no question, even in wonderful places like Astoria, OR, it can be tough to find a massage therapist that is right for you. We hope our website – including this and future follow-up articles – can help you learn how to find a person that works for you. Whether you choose to go with Watershed Wellness, or find another perfect massage therapist, we're glad you're here to learn!

Here are 5 special things about our massage therapists that will help you decide if getting a massage at Watershed Wellness in Astoria Oregon is right for you.

We're non-judgmental and actively cultivate safe space

Our massage therapists have seen a lot of bodies. When we look at your body we are assessing for lots of things in a manner that is non-judgmental about how you look. We look for postural patterns, tension holding, breath patterns and lots of other things that help inform the work we do. Here’s what we don’t look at: wrinkles, fat, unshaven legs, or pedicures. If any of those things are holding you back from getting a massage, know that none of those things is a concern of ours during the massage.

We are also focused on continuing to educate ourselves about the full diversity of human experience so we can be of service to our whole community. We're listed on the the Resources PDX site for trans-informed practitioners (listing currently being updated), and consider ourselves strong allies of the LGBT community. We are consistently educating ourselves about the different economic, ethnic, religious and other facets the Astoria community has – and lending our time and money to causes that make sure that the most vulnerable in the North Coast area are taken care of.

In other words – the massage appointment is a safe space for all bodies, in all states, at all times. You can relax with us – all of you.

We're knowledgable

We like to know how the body works. If you're interested – let us know – we LOVE to share what we know with you. We’ll suggest stretches, show you the bones and musculature, and recommend things that you can do at home or at work that will help you feel better. Our knowledge – and our lifelong learning habits – mean that you're always getting the best of the science and art of massage therapy.

We're experienced

We’ve got a lot of experience under our belts. Our hands know where to find your tension, and we’ve been able to help lots of people with common concerns that massage can address. To name a few: headaches, neck pain, back pain, sciatica pain and stress. When you come in to see any of our practitioners, you will notice how we are able to find the source of your pain and take care of it. Knowledge is great – but it is experience that allows us to adapt what we know to your specific concerns.

We're comfort-oriented

We ask many questions before the massage that will help us provide the massage session that you are looking for – and needing. Along with details about what has worked for you in past massages, we'll work to understand your goals for treatment, and check in with you about any parallel health concerns you have – and anything else we need to know. We like to create an open, communicative environment for massage. Also, we want your feedback about your massage experience in Astoria. We will use that feedback to make sure everyone's experiences with Watershed Wellness are sublime.

We're skillful

One thing is certain – we've got the skill you need for what ails you. We've given thousands of massages of all different types. First timers as well as seasoned massage therapy veterans. We've seen people only once or twice and can adapt to whatever comes our way. Yet, we're also comfortable nurturing lifelong regular treatment relationships. We've seen all types of pathologies, and talked with countless different types of people with dramatically different goals for treatment. Many, many hours in a massage room have given us some great tools that help us to decide how to best approach your massage session.

Most of all, we work hard to make sure that you are getting the massage that you need in a comfortable, non-judgmental way.

We meet you where you are, and address your concerns as best we can. And, if you are open to it, we offer some education that might be helpful to you and your body. We love to answer your questions – if there's anything that you have specific questions about, please reach out at info@nullwatershedwellnessastoria.com. Watch for more expansions on these aspects of Watershed in future articles.

Don't hesitate to sign up for our newsletter – packed with North Coast adventure tips, education about your body and our medicine, and special deals!

If you are ready to schedule your first appointment, you can do so here. We look forward to working with you!

Watershed Wellness has a new home for healthcare in Astoria Oregon

As we've discussed on our Portland website, on our Facebook account and via our new Watershed Astoria newsletter, we're opening a new clinic here in Astoria! We will be inviting the first appointments and classes in starting January 17 – assuming everything goes more or less according to plan.

But how did we end up opening a second clinic focused on health and wellness in Astoria?

Good question! We'll hope to tell more of the story of how the clinic opening has been here on the blog and on the newsletter in the coming months. But the shortest possible story is simple. In March of 2016, we (Eric and Amanda) manifested our vision of moving our home base to Astoria, OR from Portland. But, instead of closing up shop in Portland – a place we still dearly love – we decided to expand! Thus you have Watershed Astoria.

The two locations will have different modalities, different foci, and yet maintain the same commitment to customer service, quality work done by intentful experts and a spirit of joy and fun in everything we do.

One of the most notable differences between the two clinics is in what we're offering. In Portland, of course, we offer Chinese medicine, Naturopathic medicine, skin therapy and massage therapy. In Astoria, we will be focusing on Acupuncture, Chinese herbs and massage therapy as far as medical modalities are concerned. While we may expand from those initial healthcare offerings, we are hoping to first focus on providing the best possible acupuncture, Chinese herbs and massage as we can.

One of the most exciting things about the new location is that we will be offering Watershed Yoga to the Astoria community

Amanda Barp, co-founder and chief massage therapist at Watershed, completed yoga training at the Bhaktishop in Portand. While she started school at her favorite studio mostly to enhance her own practice, as she went, she discovered how what she was learning about yoga meshed with what she already knew about the human body through her 10+ year long massage career.

This sparked further study and a deep immersion in her studies which resulted in her being asked to teach a class at her alma mater studio! This honor has allowed her to learn so much about yoga in a short period of time – particularly how she can help new practitioners to do yoga safely, no matter their age or mobility impairments. This passion drives her today.

We will be writing a lot about Watershed Yoga on the blog and through expanding the main Yoga page on this site. To give us a chance to make sure the studio is perfect for you, we'll be delaying the start of classes until February 1. Those first classes are already available for you to register if you're excited to get started.

To help jumpstart a vibrant yoga community at Watershed, we're offering 50% single classes and 5 class packs through the entire month of February 2017.

To take advantage, just use the code ASTORIAOPEN if you pay for your class online, or mention the discount if you pay in person.

Sign up for your class by clicking this link

We'll be sharing more about what's new at Watershed over the next several days. Stay tuned – and if you would like to have the latest articles sent direct to your email – sign up here.

Massage for Stress Relief – It’s a Real Thing

Earlier this year, I realized that I needed a change in my life.

Portland, Oregon Waterfront

Portland has been getting busier and busier, and I was starting to realize that this busy-ness, the daily stress, was starting to have a cumulative effect on my body. In essence, I was shorting out. My nervous system couldn’t calm down and I’d developed an eye twitch. In my daily practices of yoga and meditation, I couldn’t let go all of the way. I knew that something had to change.

You may think that the life of a massage therapist has to be stress free, right? We spend long hours in dark rooms with relaxing music facilitating an environment that promotes stress relief, pain reduction and a possibility of letting go. But my life, like any Portlander’s life, is filled with complications, challenges, stress and the realities of living in a burgeoning city. I realized that I needed a change in my life. I realized that stress was starting to creep into my life, and into my body, in a way that was unexpected and that felt potentially harmful in the long term. What I needed was some serious stress management.

The more I learn about the negative effects of stress on the body, the more solid I get in why I chose massage therapy as a profession.

I talk to my clients all of the time about the effects of stress on their bodies, and I was starting to feel those effects in my own body in a real, and serious way. Heart disease, asthma, obesity, diabetes, headaches, depression, anxiety, gut problems – stress is a major contributor to all of these common health problems. Common health problems that we can, hopefully, prevent by managing our stress!

Massage for relaxation and stress reduction is often less valued than deep tissue or therapeutic massage. I often have clients who tell me that they don’t feel like they’ve had a massage if they don’t feel like you’ve “worked it out”. Sure, I’m all for getting into those points of pain and tension that we all feel, but I’m going to do it in a relaxing context. I’m going to facilitate and promote a sense of letting the body sink in and let go.

How does massage relieve stress?

Massage induces a relaxation state that slows your heart rate and breathing rate, your blood pressure goes down and your muscles relax. Massage also releases oxytocin into the body. Oxytocin is a hormone that is produced by the hypothalamus and is, interestingly, a stress hormone that is pumped into your body as part of the stress response. It motivates you to seek support in times of stress. Oxytocin is a natural anti-inflammatory and helps blood vessels stay relaxed during stress. It is enhanced by social contact and is known as the “cuddle hormone”. When you choose to connect with others when under stress, you become more resilient to stress. Oxytocin release lowers anxiety, facilitates healing, enhances digestion and increases trust.

Massage is one of the best ways to get oxytocin release into the body.

High Resolution -103Seeking out massage for stress reduction is a safe way to connect with another person. Massage therapy is one of the few ways that we are allowed safe, non-agenda touch from another human. Even light touch has been shown to be helpful in releasing oxytocin.

Massage (even relaxation massage!) is not a luxury but rather a natural and enjoyable way to get some much needed stress relief in this world that seems to be moving very fast.

The massage therapists at Watershed Wellness are committed to providing therapeutic massages in a relaxing context. We love to work out the aches and pains, but we also realize that we provide a much needed reprieve and repair from the stressful things in life. We love what we do, and it comes through in our work. In fact, we get a similar oxytocin release by giving massages!

If you want to know more about how we can help, please reach out to us at info@nullwatershedwellnesspdx.com and we're happy to answer any questions you may have. If you are ready to schedule, you may do so online here.

P.S. There's a great TED talk that changes perspective on stress that we found to be helpful for this article.

Save

How to Get a Great Massage

I’ve had a couple of conversations with friends and colleagues about recent massages that they’ve received. Some of the feedback I heard about their massages with other practitioners was problematic, if not a little alarming.

A few things that I consistently hear about massages that weren’t the best include:

  • the massage therapist talked too much
  • pressure was off – either way too much or too little
  • care was not taken to make sure you were comfortable – from the temperature being off, to the therapist leaving the room or not providing any closure to the session, to draping issues (it’s Oregon law to drape appropriately, by the way)
  • being massaged in places/ways that you weren't comfortable with.

There’s certainly work that goes in to creating a comprehensive massage session. An artful massage will not only include skillful techniques that are effective and relaxing, but will also combine education about what the therapist is seeing in your body, as well as make sure you are comfortable with what’s happening in the room at all times.

Here’s the Watershed Wellness primer on how to get the massage you need:LowResolution-99

First and foremost, make sure that the therapist understands why you are coming in for a massage.

I’m usually overt about this, asking “what were you hoping I could do for you today?” If your therapist doesn’t ask right out, make sure that you let them know. Maybe you’ve been extra stressed and just need some relaxation time. Maybe you’re training for a marathon and need some muscular tension relief in specific areas. Whatever it is for you on that day, make sure that your therapist knows why you are coming in.

Let your massage therapist know what kind of pressure you like.

Again, a good therapist will address this in the intake, but if they don’t ask please let them know. Also, if during the massage the pressure is off either way, be sure to ask for an adjustment. Don't feel like you have to grin and bear a painful pressure, and conversely don’t feel like you have to withstand the irritation of pressure that is too light and not quite getting to the problem spots.

If you feel uncomfortable at any time, let your massage therapist know.

If the temperature is too hot or too cold, if you hate the music, or if something is distracting you from completely letting go. Your massage therapist won’t be irritated or give you a hard time about this – they’ll just adjust to suit your needs.

Feeling chatty?

The number one complaint I hear from clients is that their massage therapist was too chatty. It's awkward to tell your massage therapist that you don't want them to talk so you can relax. An easy way to deal with this is during the intake. Let your massage therapist know that you prefer a quieter massage, as this helps you relax. Remember: your massage session is not your massage therapist's social time, it's time for you to unwind and get great bodywork. Setting the framework from the beginning about your expectations are will go a long way – hopefully resulting in getting the quiet time that you are looking forward to.

Draping is not an option. Period.

MassageTxRoomIn Oregon, we’re legally bound to cover our clients in a way that protects their modesty. To put it frankly, if your breasts or butt crack are showing, that is not ok. If you feel uncomfortable with your glutes being massaged, for instance (and there wasn’t a question about what you would prefer not to have massaged on the intake form) tell your massage therapist. There are ways to address areas like the gluteals and the stomach without compromising your own comfort. And always, if these are places that you’d rather not have your massage therapist work on, let them know!

Massage works best if you can to find a massage therapist that can work with you consistently.

Your massage therapist will get to know your body, your tension patterns, your comfort around pressure, music, temperature etc. You’ll have less of the “getting to know you” part of the session each time you come. Your LMT will be able to start to tailor the sessions to your needs with even more detail after a few sessions.

Your massage therapist will want to know if you had any adverse reactions to the massage.

One friend I spoke to had recently had a massage that caused her neck to spasm shortly afterwards. She felt that the massage therapist had not taken enough care when massaging in this area and had gone too deeply. Even though your massage therapist may have touched hundreds, if not thousands, of bodies, they don’t know your body more than you do. If you are feeling any discomfort during or after the massage, we want to know!

P.S. As a side note, we also like to know if things were awesome. If you feel better, that’s great feedback!

Our massage therapists at Watershed Wellness are all very adept at making sure that you have a great experience and leave feeling better in your body. It is our goal to understand what brings you in for massage, and to meet those needs in a way that is thoughtful and comfortable to you. If you are interested in scheduling with one of our excellent massage therapists, you can check out our online schedule. We hope that you'll have an excellent experience and let others know. If there are ever ways that we can improve, I sincerely hope that you'll let US know!

10 Years In: What I’ve Learned from Massage

This November celebrates the official 10 year anniversary of my career as a massage therapist. I am so grateful to be able to High Resolution -103sustain this practice that I love in a way that works for me. Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers, talks about achieving mastery. He posits that it takes about 10,000 hours of practicing something to achieve mastery. I figure that I've averaged between 800 and 1000 massage hours per year. While I may be getting close to Mr. Gladwell's mastery number, I also delight in how much more there is to learn about my clients and how I can help them.

Countless massages and conversations with people have helped me to understand not only how amazing the human body is, but how many commonalities we have with one another. This job is incredibly unique, and I wouldn't be able to do it without the support and dedication of my many clients over the years.

 Ten years in, here are a few observations I’ve made:

We’re all worried about getting older.

Maybe it feels too late to get in shape, or you’re starting to have some aches and pain that you used to not notice after normal activites. Bottom line: we’re aging, and we don’t always handle it very gracefully.  We live in a culture that values youth over the wisdom we gain from aging. Getting older isn’t something that most of us look forward to, and yet it’s coming for us all. Having open, honest conversations with ourselves and each other about the changes that are happening to our bodies and the way we are able to relate in the world can be a first step. Recognizing that we’re not always going to look and feel like our 20 year old selves forever is the hardest part. I always ask people when they express concern around aging: what would you go back and tell your younger self if you had the chance? We are the younger version of our older selves RIGHT NOW, so that advice might be still be relevant.

Movement is really important.

Truly. The difference between my older clients who have had active lives and those who have been sedentary is quite stark. They have more mobility, their quality of life is better, in general they are on less medications, and they aren’t having the same issues in their muscles and joints as my clients who don’t move their bodies. It’s never too late to find some sort of movement that inspires you.

We rarely receive positive touch in a way that doesn’t have an agenda.

I have people who come to me who are very overt about their need to just be touched by someone. I can’t really think of another opportunity that we have to have meaningful touch with with another person that isn’t driven by some agenda or desire. Massage is very unique in this way, and it’s a way to connect with another human being who has been trained to provide a safe space and help you feel good in your body.

how-your-smartphone-is-affecting-your-mind-and-body-science-text-neckWe’re moving really fast, almost all of the time.

We’re constantly connected and often multi-tasking. There’s really nothing to do during a massage but settle in and relax. It’s a opportunity to shut off the constant chatter of to-do lists, email checking and constant status updates. We’re over connected, and this can be a nice time to unplug from that for awhile.

We all have stress, and it manifests in our bodies in very similar ways, but also in very unique ways.

Every person I’ve massaged has, at some point, had a request for upper back and shoulder work. It’s just a place where we hold our stress. It’s most likely due to computer usage, driving and doing most of our tasks in front of us. Every time we reach forward, we have the opportunity to roll our shoulders forward. This creates a stress and tension pattern between the shoulder blades and in the neck. Many of us have this stress pattern. But we also manifest stress in unique ways, and that’s one of the fun parts of being a massage therapist: unlocking these patterns that are unique to your body, and yours alone. You earned these patterns by imprinting your life on your body. The way your body presents its stress tells a story of your life and how you’ve adapted to everything that’s thrown at you on a daily basis.

IMG_3477In general, most people don't know that much about their body.

I’m always surprised when I realize that my clients don’t know much about what’s happening under their skin. They have some thoughts about the general area that might hurt, but don’t know much else. I’m always happy to whip out an anatomy book with anyone who shows even the slightest interest in knowing more. If you’ve always wondered what exactly it is that is hurting you and what you can do, we’re happy to do our best to explain it to you and show you pictures, as well as help you find ways to stretch and be more in tune with that part of your body to help alleviate some of your pain and tension.

We still think that taking care of ourselves is often a luxury that we either don’t deserve or can’t afford.

It takes both time and money to take care of yourself. These are two things that many of us don’t have in abundance. I’ve heard many people talk about massage as a luxury that they get as a treat. I’m not sure when taking good care of ourselves became a luxury, but I somewhat blame it on the spa industry. This industry caters to indulgence and pampering yourself. It’s great that so many people are receiving massages and other treatments in a spa like setting, don’t get me wrong, but I do think that their marketing efforts have done a disservice to the efficacy of regular massage from a health perspective.

As for the affordability of massage and other self care practices – in the long run taking good care of yourself is much more affordable than a potential, and possibly preventable, health problem down the road.

We still think that it has to hurt in order to be doing something.

Push through the pain and we'll come out on the other side a better person, right? I've learned that deep tissue massage is the not the answer to everything. I think that it has it's place, but there are many instances where I think another approach might be better and more effective. Many of the more subtle bodywork approaches can be just as, if not more, beneficial.

We don’t take enough time to connect with one another, especially in a healthcare context.

This is one of the great things about working with massage therapists, acupuncturists and naturopathic doctors. We all take the time to understand the bigger picture and how we can fit into it. Here at Watershed Wellness, we take the time to sit and understand your concerns, how we can help, and most importantly, how you can help yourself. It’s been a pretty consistent critique of conventional healthcare models that they don’t have the time to follow through about what happens after you get surgery, or what you can do to make your situation more comfortable. Taking into account the larger context of your quality of life is important to us.

 

LowResolution-99I feel so incredibly lucky to be able to do a job that is so closely aligned with my own values. Working with people in such intimate proximity has given me perspective and empathy that isn't common in many careers. And of course, many thanks and lots of love to all of my clients, mentors, coworkers, friends and family who have given me advice, encouragement, and feedback over the years.