What’s Cooking

I’ve been working on some new things over here.

Exploration.

Self-care.

More yoga, more self-massage, buoyed by some old-fashioned book learning and anatomy review.

A commitment to bringing all you lovely people better tools to feel amazing.

I am not 100% certain what it will look like at the end (it’s all still cooking, a new project in its early stages), but I have always been completely certain of the importance of caring for your own fantastic selves. I’ve been delving into the world of self-care lately, from mindfulness to foam roller melting, in structured classes and on my living room floor. It is the best project ever, and one I highly recommend. DIY it, or keep an eye out for new self-care projects here a few months down the line. In the meantime, I recommend you get some movement going (an extra wiggle while you’re doing the dishes or something more advanced if that’s your bag), get a massage, leave some time afterwards to talk about what you can do to help that jelly feeling stick around. Second to massage therapy, self-care is my favorite, and I want to share it with you.

Got any favorite moves or tools? Questions about your own specific aches and pains? Let me know!

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I wanna be your cupid

It’s no secret that I love Valentine’s Day and always have. It all started when I was little and my mom would make heart-shaped egg in a hole for breakfast. That little whole wheat sliced bread heart, kissed in butter in the cast iron pan, only came around once a year. At school, there was the exchange of cards and conversation hearts. And don’t forget public transportation! I’ve always beamed at people on the subway with flowers in hand, faces nervous or sublime behind the crinkle of cellophane. More often than not, Valentine’s Day is not so much a romantic holiday for me as it is a celebration of all kinds of love. Heart-on-your-sleeve Day, maybe. Thank-your-mom-for-countless-breakfasts-even-the-ones-that-weren’t-special Day. Gratitude-for-people-dropping-their-armor-and-declaring-love-in-public Day. Yes, yes, and yes. I’m all for all of it. And as a massage therapist, I would be remiss if I did not put out a special appeal during this week of sweetness for some extra body love too.

This Valentine’s Day, I ask: What would it take to fall in love with your body?

Maybe it’s a new softness between your shoulder blades, which just yesterday felt tough and uncomfortable. Maybe it’s walking with a little less knee pain. Maybe you can fall in love with deeper breaths, finding ribs that have become rigid by bracing you against winter cold newly expansive and open. Maybe you could come to love yourself more by working some new warmth and flexibility into hips that have been challenged to maintain balance on icy sidewalks these past few weeks (it’s hazardous out there). Or maybe some better range of notion in your neck would make you feel good, all the better to cast loving gazes in all directions this Valentine’s Day. Heck, maybe you just need to lie down in a warm place, wholly and completely accepted, in order to nudge yourself toward self-acceptance.

Massage is good for so much of what ails you. Feeling better in your body is a great step toward feeling better about your body. Whether you’re partnered up or single, surrounded by friends or missing your dear ones, in the shape you want to be in or struggling to get there, massage can be your cupid this winter, matching you up with your own body, smoothing the places that feel crumpled, warming and softening the skin you’re in, so you can feel better, more at ease, ready to be your own best valentine.

BigPinkHeart

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New Year’s Resolution, or Reason #527 that I Love Massage

I haven’t thought much about New Year’s Resolutions this year. They’ve just been appearing overnight as if rooted out by my subconscious, surfacing while I sleep.  Two days in a row now, I’ve woken up with a little intention on my mind. Today’s was almost sweet in its simplicity: Do one thing at a time.

Sounds so basic.

And yet.

Where are you reading this? On a phone or tablet, riding the bus? On a computer with several tabs open at once? At work, perhaps, or working from home, a sneaky break from your mind being elsewhere? These are frenzied times we live in. And so, in 2014, I resolve to do fewer things in any given moment, to give fuller focus to the things I am doing. I have a head start, lucky thing that I am, in the form of a wonderful day job.

one thing

Before I became a massage therapist, I worked in a field where the ability to multitask was highly prized. Prioritizing was great, but doing-everything-all-at-once was even better. Sound familiar? It seems pretty common.

One of the things I love about being a massage therapist is the singular focus of the work. When practicing massage, it’s all about just one person in just one room, and it is just complex enough to demand full attention. Reason #527 that I love my job: there is no multitasking in massage. It is simple, peaceful work.

All the lovelier, of course, is receiving massage, phone turned off, tuned out for an hour or so from text messages and email and the steady march of media social and otherwise. There are no groceries to buy or last-minute gifts to pick up. No acquaintances to call back or loved ones to check on. It’s all about breathing, tapping in, seeing how fully muscles can melt. Call it meditation, call it comfort, or emphasize the work in bodywork, actively seeking some bodily change. Whatever massage means to you, just do that thing for a little bit. However complex your inner workings, whatever you bring to the table, there’s a great simplicity to getting a massage. It’s just one thing. And a wonderful thing at that.

This year, I challenge you to do one thing at a time. Not every moment, all year long (let’s be reasonable for goodness sake), but sometime. Whether it’s something great like massage or something as mundane as doing laundry, I invite you to join me in dropping distractions in 2014, bit by little bit.

Wishing you a happy, healthy new year!

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It’s the Holidaze!

Christmas is exactly one week away.

A brand new year is rushing up to meet us within two. Are you ready?

Typically a celebrator of Christmas and a giver of gifts, I myself have only procured one small gift for one family member so far this year. With Thanksgiving so late and Hanukkah so early, I feel like other, now imminent, holidays snuck up really fast. Do you feel the same? Running behind on the holiday front?

I wanted to take a moment during this season of family and friends (or isolation), travel (or staying put), gifting (or feeling scroogey), and all the potential joys and stresses of the end of the year and the dawning of a new one to share a couple of reminders.

1) GIFT CERTIFICATES! GET ‘EM NOW! We can do it all over email, easy peasy. Massage is the most feel-good gift around.

2) MASSAGE + YOGA PACKAGES ARE NOW AVAILABLE! 10 classes + a massage for $200 or 5 classes + a massage for $150, available at Sacred. Both packages are a great deal, and both are an excellent way to experience my favorite yoga studio ever and my home away from home. A wonderful gift for a loved one or for yourself, which brings me to…

3) YOU ARE STILL SUPER IMPORTANT. I haven’t done a survey or anything, but I kind of get the impression that, between presents and holiday parties and various year-end obligations, ’tis the season for putting others ahead of yourself. But here’s my pro tip: self care still matters! Maybe it’s a massage, maybe it’s 5 minutes of meditation, maybe it’s a green juice to interrupt this season of imbibing. Whatever your preference, I challenge you to sneak in some self-care this week.

Wishing you a safe, happy, and healthy end to the year and a sparkling start to 2014!

There’s a New Body Part!

THERE’S A NEW BODY PART! It’s been there the whole time, of course, this ligament in the knee, but we didn’t know about it until now!

Those who do not run in the same social media circles as me may not have been inundated with posts on this a couple of weeks ago. But  some of you have probably seen the news. It was all over my feeds for a day or two. A new body part! The anterolateral ligament had gone undetected despite years of surgeries and scans and dissections, and some knee surgeons in Belgium have documented it, and the word is out!

OK, OK, so sticklers will note that mention was made of this ligament back in the nineteenth century, and that it’s been called other things over time. But even those who exercise restraint and don’t yell in all caps that a new body part has been discovered admit that there’s some new understanding. Knee surgeon Robert LaPrade, in explaining why the anterolateral ligament is more a rediscovery than a brand new thing, notes that “to date, we [knee surgeons] as a profession have not completely defined what all the structures around the knee do in providing stability to the knee.”

And that right there is the part I love.

Sometimes, in massage, I have difficulty answering very simple questions. “Why does that hurt?” “What is a muscle knot?” Things that should be well within my domain as a thinking massage therapist, but I tend to answer with some form of “I wish I could tell you,” or I tell a pretty story that starts with “I think of it as…” because “I dunno” sounds pretty lazy and not very smart. I really do think about these questions and wish that I could answer them with any kind of authority, but there’s just so much we don’t know about the body.

Even the muscle knot, the pinnacle of a massage therapist’s purview, isn’t easily explained. I was taught that muscle knots are trigger points, a widely accepted explanation. But trigger points themselves are murky in definition and a subject of doubt these days. I’ve heard some people question whether knots are even real.

More often than not, I think of a “knot” as a place where tissues get stuck, a snag in a figurative sweater. I like this imagery, but it’s really just that — imagery, as opposed cold hard fact. But it’s what I’ve got for now.

I started this post with excitement about the new body part because I tend to think of surgery as something that’s heavily scrutinized and documented, and knowing that there’s been ambiguity about about something both palpable and visible puts my hazy understanding of fascia into a new perspective,  makes me comfortable with my metaphors, my lofty ways of looking at the body. If surgeons don’t know, after years of physically cutting open and examining the knee, where and what all the ligaments are, then it makes sense that we who simply touch might not be able to say with conviction what a muscle knot is, and I think that’s OK for now. I am all for discovery and excitement, all-caps yelling about mysteries revealed and new things named. With so much unknown about the body, there’s always room for revelation.

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5 Things You Can Do Instead of Leaving Me a Tip

Tipping is a hotly contested issue in massage therapy. Some massage therapists depend on gratuity to make ends meet. Some think tipping is altogether inappropriate for our profession. Others just find the whole thing awkward.

Where do I fall? It depends on the setting. When visiting a spa spa, unless they have an actual no tipping policy, your therapist is probably making an awful lot less than what you’re paying for your massage, and you should really (pretty please) leave a tip there. Private practice is a different story and varies from one massage therapist to another. When I’m working for myself, I fall into the “tipping is never expected, but always appreciated” camp. What does this mean? It means that I do actually find money useful, and tips are a great way of saying “thank you,” and I appreciate them, truly, but it does not hurt my feelings or offend me in any way if you don’t leave a tip. I don’t believe in hidden costs, and I don’t love feelings of obligation around money. If you’re in the habit of tipping for massage and if it makes you feel generous and warm and fuzzy, do it! But if you’ve set aside your $100 for your massage, and that’s what’s in your budget, or if you just feel weird about gratuity as a thing, don’t fret.

Working at Sacred is a joy. I do work part-time at a spa, and it’s usually lovely, but practicing massage at Sacred? With all of you awesome people? With the candles in the room and the community right outside the door? In the very studio where I do my own moving meditation? Well, that’s just about as good as it gets. Showing up and giving me the opportunity to do work I love is a gift in and of itself. If you really liked your massage and you like doing the gratitude thing, here are some alternatives to leaving a tip:

  1. Tell a friend. Maybe they want a massage, maybe I’ll just bump into them, and they will say “omg, I hear that you are amazing.” Either way, it will make my day.
  2. Write me review. I’ve used online reviews for years to find decent coffee in faraway lands, to make my way to Julia Child’s favorite tacos, and even to find my own massage therapists. But I’ve been a little slow to put my own practice on there, and I could use some online love. You can do it here.
  3. Get a gift certificate for your nearest and dearest. Holidays are coming. Massage is the best present ever. For real.
  4. Come on back! We can set up a series for you at a discount. By the time your last (essentially free) massage rolls around, the investment will have paid off long ago.
  5.  Stay for a yoga class. It doesn’t benefit me financially in any way if you stick around to sweat it out at Sacred, but it might be good for you, and I ♥ self-care.

Of course, you don’t have to do any of these things. You can just show up and be you. That works too.

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A Little Rest

I fell asleep in yoga class today.

Final savasana, hot room, rain pattering ever so gently outside.

It had been kind of a tough class, one of those days where I was acutely aware of tension in the upper traps and some lower back stiffness, and working through and releasing shortened muscles was a challenge. I only slept for five or ten minutes at the end of class, just long enough to find that the room had emptied and the music had stopped. Just a couple minutes of me and the rain. Yet, waking up from that very short catnap, everything felt softer, the possibility of releasing tension more within reach. Breathing felt easier. Sleep, even in tiny, unexpected doses, is amazing.

I thought of a client who recently asked me why she felt so tired after a massage.

“You’re probably just tired,” I said (I am the queen of complex analysis). Because, as far as I know, there actually are no magic inner workings of massage that leave you fatigued. And my yoga class, while challenging, was not exhausting. Sometimes, taking an hour or so to focus on the body tells you a little more about how it’s feeling. It’s as simple as that.

Sometimes these slivers of insight are wonderful: noticing that you can breathe a little deeper after massage frees intercostal muscles, or discovering through new relief that pain can actually go away. Sometimes the realization is kind of mundane: that you could really use a nap. What’s great about massage (or yoga in a heated room where you know there’s no rush to leave) is the opportunity to soften even into something as tedious as tiredness, to enter that state that floats between sleep and waking, or even to fall fully into dreamtime. There can be comfort even in the tiredness that emerges during bodywork — less fatigued-from-working-a-very-long-day, more lazy-stretching-on-a-Sunday-morning, soft-as-a-kitten, a chance to wake up all over again and step out into the day anew.

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It’s Pay what you Desire time! Sliding Scale massage at Sacred

Pay What You Desire week has arrived at Sacred once again.

New classes, the triumphant return of some fabulous former teachers, all kinds of goodness, all pay what you want, what you can, what you desire.

Inspired once again by Sacred’s offer of affordable access to feeling good, I’m offering massage on a sliding scale this Friday and Saturday, because you — yes you — deserve a massage.

Sliding scale is $40 -$100.  You decide what you can pay, no questions about your finances or what you can afford, trust that you value the work, honor system in effect.

Here’s how to get your spot:

  • Book your massage here.
  • When you get to the payment screen, enter Sliding Scale Saturday in the promotion code box. Your booking will be adjusted, and you will not be charged at this time.
  • Come in on Saturday. Pay in person, whatever you can afford.

Here is the fine print: Show up. That’s it. Space is limited, and missing your appointment makes someone else’s day sad. Please give 24-hours notice if you need to cancel. There’s no financial penalty for skipping your appointment, but you will be blocked from signing up for future sliding scale sessions. That doesn’t make anyone feel good, so let’s just avoid it: give me a call if you can’t make it, and all will be well. 917-755-2012. Or you can email me here.

I hope to see you at Sacred this week, paying whatever your heart desires.

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The Jiffy Lube of Neck Fixing

The other night, I was hanging at home watching Al Madrigal’s comedy special, and he mentioned hurting his neck while sleeping.

“As a man,” he said, “You have very few massage options.”

I braced myself. Massage comes up in comedy from time to time, frequently in borderline offensive ways. I tend not to get riled up over these things, but I do raise my eyebrows at whomever is watching with me and huff a little or cluck disapprovingly if it is actually offensive. I thought Madrigal was pretty funny. I was watching with my husband, who knows the comedian tangentially, just enough to follow his career and root for his success, so I lowered my eyebrows a little from the get-go, and his jokes were novel — he outlined the bad deal that is trading massage with his wife, the downsides to mall chair massage, the excessive time commitment involved in a “real” spa, and the perils of strip mall massage. Here’s the clip if you’re interested.

I think jokes are funniest when they resonate with your experience or beliefs; the bit about limited massage options most likely caught laughs because lots of people share the feeling that a good massage is not always an option. As such, here’s what I want people to know after watching: Whatever your gender, wherever you are, you have more massage options than you think. 

The trading with the wife thing was funny and relatable and a story I hear all the time. The other options are all pretty viable. I don’t practice much chair massage,  but people I know who use chairs keep their “doughnuts” clean by changing cradle covers for each client just as you would with a table and by wiping down the chair. Not as germy as you might think. As far as strip malls go, we don’t really have them where I live, but I’ve had lots of interactions with massage therapists around the country, some of whom practice in strip malls. Some of these are franchise locations, some are private practice (The Times posted a little peek into strip mall healing fairly recently). There are lots of great professionals working in all kinds of buildings. Some don’t have a brick and mortar location at all, choosing instead to practice out of their homes or to travel to yours. There are many tools available to point you toward quality and legitimacy; location alone is pretty flimsy. You can figure out who’s legit by checking directories — AMTA or AMBP, for example — or looking up massage therapists online just as you would any other business.

As for the “real spa” experience described in the bit, I have to say that four hours in a cucumber-water Utopian environment sounds pretty good to me, but I recognize that not everyone has the time. I giggled when Madrigal pointed to his neck and declared, “I want the Jiffy Lube of neck fixing!”

Here, perhaps, is the biggest secret of all: A really great massage therapist, whether using a massage chair or table, working in a strip mall office or a fancy spa, in the span of four hours or a mere 30 minutes, will listen to you and work on what you want to work on.

I tend not to use the word “fix” very much (for reasons that warrant a whole other post), but this totally resonated with me. Sometimes you just want to work out that one thing. I am not a large-scale operation, a chain of franchises, or a speedy mechanic, but I’m a good listener and a skilled massage therapist, and I can be your Jiffy Lube of Neck Fixing. If you’ve only got 45 minutes and you slept funny and woke up with your head cocked to one side, unable to move it back to where it belongs, we can spend every one of your precious minutes warming and softening that neck of yours, easing your head back toward its upright position. We’ll do that whether you come to my yoga studio room on its industrial little block or to the spa where I work part-time in the land of magazines and snacks and herbal tea. I can focus on the issue at hand, zoom in on the neck (or shoulder or feet) and get you in and out in the amount of time you have with attentiveness and care, regardless of locale. You have a lot of massage options.

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Obsession of the Week: Breath

In all lines of work, we can form obsessions. I’m not talking big, unhealthy obsessions, but little ones, tasks or concepts we relish because we believe they are the key to so much more. In my previous career as a fundraiser, the database was my baby — I developed an actual passion for getting data squeaky clean.  I love these little passions — they give us a point of focus, keep us ticking.

Lots of massage therapists are prone to this kind of focus. Absorbed in the work of a good massage, the bigger release that comes from unlocking a particular muscle, say, or the discovery of a new way to use forearms, can seem downright critical. I’ve seen a number of people develop a bit of a psoas obsession (you know who you are). There are times when releasing the scalenes seems like the most important work in the world. Muscles I’ve highlighted on this very blog — pecs and quadratus lumborum come to mind — illustrate some obsessions of my own. This is not to say that we then only use that new forearm stroke or declare that the psoas is the key to all lower back pain to the exclusion of what’s going on with your unique self or spend the whole massage digging into your pecs and QL. But these are things we think about when we are not actively practicing massage, picturing the slant of the psoas connecting lumbar spine to thigh, spinning out from that the whole world of the hip and lower back, viewing posture through that lens. I may have a week when I think about the role of the lung in eastern medicine, how it can impact posture, breath, emotion. I may think about the role of sub-occipitals in alert response as well as headaches.

And through it all, I think about breath.

Is there anything more vital to life? I think not. I could write a hundred posts about breathing — the way we hold breath when afraid or anxious, how muscles of inhalation and exhalation get stuck over time when breath is chronically shallow, how focusing on deeper breathing slows heart rate and improves, well, everything. I stumbled upon an article in the Huffington Post this week about breathing as a healing exercise, and it felt particularly timely as I am taking a class this week on myofascial release of the ribcage, abdomen, and pelvis. We will undoubtedly discuss intercostal muscles and diaphragm. I have wanted to take this class for years, to better understand restrictions that keep us from breathing deeply, to learn more about release and better breathing.

I am very much looking forward to getting back into the classroom, and I will report back soon on new tools to improve breath and healing. In the meantime, on this here spring equinox, I wish you deep breaths and much oxygen as we move into a new and brighter season.

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