New Cancellation Policy: Please Read!

Hi Everyone. Due to a recent increase in no-shows, I have decided to institute and enforce a cancellation and no-show policy. I have resisted doing this for a long time, but unfortunately the time has come that I find it necessary. My policy is that appointment cancelled within 24 hours will be charged 50% cancellation fee, and no shows will be charged the full service amount. That will be $35 for a one hour session and $55 for a 90 minute session. I hope you understand why I have taken this step; this is my livelihood, it is how I pay for my home and feed my children. Late cancellations and no-shows cost me money, and I will now require clients to share that cost with me. That said, I am not unreasonable, and if some emergency has arisen or if the fee will cause significant financial hardship then I am open to discussion. Give me a call and I’ll be happy to discuss it with you.

Because of this new policy, I will be capturing credit card information in order to schedule new appointments. You will not be charged at the time of scheduling. I would greatly prefer not to deal with credit cards at all, and as such will continue to ask that you pay by cash or check. If the stored credit card is the only form of payment that you are able to use, then a 3% fee will be added to the cost of the service.

Thanks for understanding!

Energy and the Body

So I work with the body’s energy. For some, this conjures a quasi-mystical (or fully mystical) orientation, where the “real” being is composed of currents of subtle, invisible energy, which can only be perceived through special states of consciousness and spiritual training. For others, the mere mention of energy will relegate me to the “practitioners of Woo” category, with never a hope to be taken seriously by those who value reason and science to understand the world. Neither of these perceptions of energy work really reflects how I understand energy and how I work with it, so I will attempt to clear it up a bit.
I had a client ask me a while back whether I worked with energy or the physical body. I had thought about it before, so I had a response ready. I don’t really distinguish between the physical body and the energetic body. The physical body is alive with energy, and work with that energy what separates massage therapy from meat tenderizing. The energetic body expresses itself as the physical body. Really whether I am doing physical work or energy work is a point of view, not a metaphysical distinction. It’s like whether the zebra is black with white stripes or white with black stripes. Either way, it’s still the same zebra.
When I say that the body is alive with energy, I do not mean this in a mystical sense. Whether or not there is an aura, or how Chi flows through Meridians are interesting questions, but they are outside of my current point of view. The energy that I am interested in is energy that I know how to perceive. After all, if we can’t perceive something, how do we do anything with it? Perceiving energy in the body is actually quite simple. Hold your arm out in front of you, resting on something, relaxed. The muscles should feel soft. Now flex your arm and squeeze your muscles. They have become hard, right? The physical substance of the muscle hasn’t changed. What has changed is the energetic state of the muscle. It was using this much energy. Then it was using a lot more. You can feel the difference.
People ask me whether I can feel tension in the body. Why yes, I can. Tension in the body is not different in theory than the exercise I just gave you. Tissue that is holding tension feels different than tissue that is not. There is more energy in the tissue. It’s like a rubber band that is pulled tight. You could tell the difference by touch alone whether a rubber band is pulled tight or hanging loose. In the rubber band we call that potential energy. Under the right conditions the energy will release and then the rubber band will create some kind of motion. Tension in muscles and fascia is also a form of potential energy. Your tissues are like the rubber band pulled tight. Well, it is a bit more complex than that. Your tissues are like a million tiny rubber bands pulled tight in a lot of different directions, with definite opinions about what is happening. And that’s still a gross oversimplification. There are distinct kinds of tension that feel different ways, with different kinds of treatment that are appropriate to them.
Here’s the thing that twelve years spent quietly focusing on how soft tissue feels has taught me. There is a LOT of energy in the body that we can perceive and work with, if we take the time to find it. Our bodies are alive and intelligent in all of our cells and tissues, and that energy is expressed and accessible if we know how to listen. We can perceive lines of pull and tension, we can perceive guarding and release, we can perceive more energy directly than most of us ever imagine. After 12 years, I feel like I am a beginner at this. The complexity and subtlety of the body is vast. The possibilities for both trauma and healing are similarly vast.
My experience is also teaching me that working deeper means becoming more subtle, not using more strength or pressure. It means not paying attention so much to what the muscle IS, but what the muscle is DOING. It’s not just a hard lump that needs to become soft. It has a purpose and a function, it’s working together with other muscles and joints and bones, is supporting here and compensating there and being supported by this over here, and it is performing well or it is under strain or it is close to exhaustion or it has given up and solidified. This is what I mean by working with energy. It is listening to the story that the soft tissues are telling, and facilitating a transition in their energetic state from one of trauma, excitation, and guarding, to one of release, rest, and healing. This is no simple thing.
So I encourage you not be be frightened off by the mention of energy work as something weird and unknown. Neither should you put it on a pedestal, as something superior to the “merely” physical. We in our bodies and our selves are more amazing and complex than that. I can work more physically or more energetically, it all depends. It could be that some people need a more physical approach and others a more energetic. Or a single person could need a more physical approach one day and a more energetic approach the next. Or your calf might need a more physical approach and your hip a more energetic. Or your shoulder might need two minutes of physical work followed by five minutes of energetic work then four more minutes of physical work. The possibilities are really endless, and the best way to know what is needed is by quietly listening.

Myofascial Release!

So I’ve started practicing Myofascial Release whenever appropriate within my sessions, and I must say that I love this work. I took my first workshop a few weeks ago, and I left feeling greatly inspired and motivated. It gets to something that needs attention, and needs relief, that is difficult to address with regular massage. It also fits in well with my existing body of work. As many of you know, a lot of my practice is based on quietly listening to the body, and trying to respond to the things I hear, the patterns of tension and dysfunction that I can discern. Myofascial Release takes centered listening to a whole new level. We can access things in the body for which traditional massage can only scratch the surface.

I’m really excited by this new path, and I have to admit, I feel a bit like a kid with a new toy that I’m playing with. I’ll be putting up more detailed descriptions of the work, what to expect, what it can achieve. Feel free to ask more about Myofascial Release, what it is, what it can achieve. I look forward to working with you!

Take the Pain out of Pain Relief

So there is an ongoing, let’s call it a difference of opinion, about whether massage should hurt or be uncomfortable.  My practice is dedicated to reducing chronic pain.  Pain makes the body defensive, it makes the body withdraw from the source of pain.  Or pain makes the body fight back.  It is rare that pain makes the body more easy, more relaxed, more free.  My work reflects this principle.  If a massage stroke or technique causes pain, then the body hardens, resists that painful stimulus.  As a therapist it then feels like I am battling against the muscle, that I am pushing and the muscle is pushing back, and I don’t feel like I am getting anywhere.  What I want is to promote ease and relaxation.  In order for the body to feel like it can open and unwind, it needs to feel safe.  If I as a therapist am causing a pain sensation, the body is going to interpret me and my work as a threat, and we are not going to accomplish our goals.

Now, on the flip side, it is often essential for massage to recreate the painful symptoms that led a person to seek help in the first place.  In order for improvement to happen, there needs to be some change, and the body often needs to be nudged into seeking that change.  Massage that does not help the body to be aware of where and how it is restricted is going to be less effective.  It is important to note, that in this case the massage is not strictly causing the pain.  It is showing the body where the pain is, and asking the body to make some kind of adjustment to ease the pain.  If this is done right, then the body deals with the pain by relaxing, easing, the area whose tightness is causing the pain.

Now for a final consideration, a really deep and intense massage does give a LOT of stimulation, and for a lot of people this level of stimulation feels great.  For some clients, they do not feel like a massage is doing anything without this very high level of stimulation.  If this is the case, then sure, I will get my elbows in there and work.  After all, no massage is going to be good if the client is disappointed in not getting what they wanted from the massage.  I would just make the point that intensity is not the only way to get things done in bodywork, and in my experience subtlety and patience creates way more lasting change than speed and intensity.

Hold to your Health Goals

For me, this is about the time of year that my New Year’s health goals start to contend with the weight of my old habits, and I start to lose focus on improving my health and vitality.  Whether I’m taking care of one of my many responsibilities, or I’m trying to get to the next level on a phone game, it becomes easier to put off the time I need to work on my health.  And I don’t think I am alone in this.  I for one am going to work hard to make sure that 2014 is a year that realizes some positive change, and I encourage you to do the same.  Whether it is a new exercise program, a re-commitment  to an existing practice, a new outlook on diet and nutrition, or something else entirely now is a critical time that will decide whether we will create lasting change or add to our pile of delayed resolutions.   Now, when we have lost the immediacy of our drive and the sense of possibility that comes with the turning of the new year, now is the time where we truly choose between old habits and new.  Now, when the choice is the hardest to make.  I invite everyone to take a moment to recommit to whatever health goals you have made for yourself, to make time to work on those goals.  I for my part will use bodywork to support those goals in whatever way I can, whether it is easing anxiety from trying to kick an addictive food, or easing the achy soreness of a new exercise program, to helping heal and prevent injury.  Best of Luck to us all!

The Importance of Hands

Hand and Foot Work


My clients might have noticed recently that I’ve added a lot of hand and foot work to my pain relief massage protocols.  A little while ago, a colleague of mine cued me into a phenomenon that I’ve been exploring since.  While working around the shoulder blade, my colleague said that she could feel the tension extending all the way into the hand, and that if I worked out the hand, it would help alleviate the tension in the shoulder.  That is exactly what I did, working through the muscles of the thumb and the fascia of the palm.  What I found was amazing:  the muscles around the shoulder had loosened more effectively from working the hand than they had from working the shoulder.  Since then, I have been incorporating more and more hand work into my routines.  This tendency for massage of the hands to loosen the back and neck has been repeated with numerous clients.  People frequently say when I work on their hands that they can feel things happening in their shoulder, neck, head, and jaw.  Muscles that were stubborn and contracted in the shoulders will melt and release more easily after massage to the hand.


Most schools of holistic thought speak of the interconnectedness of body systems.  In traditional Chinese medicine, the half of the major energy channels of the body either begin or end in the hand (The other half begin or end in the feet).  Many spots in the shoulders where tension accumulates exist along a meridian that has powerful points in the hand and forearms.  The art of reflexology is all about working the hands and feet in order to affect body systems.  The concept that I have been thinking about a lot with respect to this, though, is the concept of the cortical homunculus.

The cortical homunculus refers to a visual representation of how much brain matter various body parts take up, both in the sensory cortex (where our brains process information we receive from our senses) and in the motor cortex (a major center the brain controls the muscles, and thus controls the movement of the body).  On the homunculus, the hands take up a disproportionately large amount of cortex.  We use our hands to interact with the world.  And when you think about it, many times the actions of the rest of the body serve mostly to place the hands where they need to be in order to do what they need to do.  If we get up to turn on the light, our entire body will rise and move, merely to place the hand in the position it needs to be in order to do what we want to do.  Same for if we open the fridge, make food, and transport it to our mouth to eat.  Our brain has been orchestrating a complex series of motions in the whole body so that the hands were where they needed to be in order to cut, toss, mix, serve, and eat.  So if our shoulder is sore from some activity, it is likely that the activity that made it sore involved putting the hand somewhere in order to do something.  And if the hand also carries tension from that activity, that hand tension will relate to the shoulder tension in a pattern that establishes itself in the nervous system.  Working out the tension in the hand can be a key to releasing tension in the entire system of movement of which the hand is a part.