Monday, February 28, 2011

Got a License For That?

New York State (along with Nebraska) has the most rigorous education requirements for licensure as a massage therapist.  Before a therapist can take a licensing exam, he or she must complete a minimum of 1,000 hours of education.  For me that translated to 16 months of full-time school (while I was working full-time).

What, you may ask, did I study besides your basic Swedish massage techniques?  The curriculum was broad and intense.  And we were tested constantly.  We lost classmates every semester due to exam failures or simply dropping out due to time and energy constraints.  This program was not for the weak.  Among topics such as professional ethics and various electives (Thai massage, energy work, others), we studied:

Shiastu (massage modality developed in Japan) 1 & 2
Anatomy & Physiology 1 & 2
Myology & Kinesiology
Tools of Assessment
Clinical Strategies: East/West

In addition, we did 3 semesters of both on-site and off-site clinics in a variety of settings (cancer care centers, hospitals, sports events), where we worked with the public.  In the 4th semester we worked with the same client over 12 weeks and developed a treatment plan for specific conditions.  I was told that our training was comparable to the first year of medical school.

In an important development, New York State recently added the requirement of 36 hours of continuing education for every 3 year license renewal.  This ensures that therapists are keeping up-to-date on the latest in massage therapy and are devoting time to their ongoing growth as professionals.

So, when you are looking for a therapist in New York State, look for the "LMT," and if you're not sure if a therapist is licensed, check him or her out at  You can be assured that they have a solid foundation of how the body functions and how to treat it through massage.

(More on the importance of licensure for massage therapists in the future.  And perhaps revelation of my GPA...)

Friday, February 25, 2011

Jojoba: The Wonder Wax

There are many kinds of lubricants that massage therapists use.  There are creams (from Biotone and the like), the lotions, and the oils (e.g. sweet almond, apricot kernel).  I have settled on organic jojoba for my treatments.

If you can get beyond the jokes ("It's got jojoba, Jerry!"), you'll discover that jojoba is a fine substance and is not an oil.  It's actually a wax ester that is pressed from the seed of the jojoba plant.  In its chemical properties, it is closer to human sebum than any vegetable oils used in massage, and it does not clog pores.  The skin drinks it in and is left soft and nourished.

Jojoba has great therapeutic properties beyond being an emollient.  In a 2010 study, it was found that jojoba has wound-healing properties (Ranzato, Martinotti, Burlando, "Wound healing properties of jojoba liquid wax: An in vitro study."  Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 2010).  In other studies, jojoba has been shown to be anti-inflammatory, as well.

So when you receive a massage with jojoba, there's no need to wash it off.  Just let your skin enjoy the benefits!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Organic in the Treatment Room

As much as I try to buy organic for my own food, I also do my best to provide an organic environment for my clients.  I cover my table (and clients) with organic flannel sheets, which are warm and toasty in the winter and breathe beautifully in the summer.  I use organic jojoba for my massages (more on jojoba in a future blog).  And whenever possible, I use organic essential oils for my aromatherapy treatments.

What other organic elements can I add to my treatments?  I'm eager to know.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Physician, Heal Thyself

Okay, I'm not a physician (and may not diagnose as part of my scope of practice), and that quote is not really used correctly...  What I'm trying to say is that I need to take my own advice.  On Friday I had an excellent massage from one of my Swedish Institute classmates (Robert Nowak).  It had been a while since I had a treatment, and I was clearly in need.  Afterwards, I felt so much more grounded, connected to my body, taller, at ease.  Many of the little kinks that I had attributed to overworking were only due to the fact I hadn't had a massage in some time.  I'm constantly amazed at what a simple massage can accomplish!

Thank you, Robert!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Consistency is Key

I've been running my tootsies like mad to keep up with my massage practice and aromatherapy study, and for the past 2 weeks I've neglected -- you guessed it -- regular strenuous exercise, aka the gym.  Last night Coach Antonio put me through the paces with a killer finisher ("tailpiping" -- don't ask).  Today I feel like a truck hit me.  Not that I haven't worked that hard before.  It's just that I haven't kept it up for the past couple of weeks.  A lesson learned.

This also made me think about the consistency of massage.  In the course of a session, we are able to warm up the tissue and work through increasingly deep areas of concern, adhesions, etc.  Think of the changes that can be brought about through regular, consistent massage!  I'm coming to believe that I can accomplish more with a client through 5 weekly treatments and then a long break than I could over the course of 5 monthly massages.  Of course, I have not put this into a study (yet), but it does make one think.

Consistency: one of the most difficult, yet powerful, things in life.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Facial Serums? Yes, I Can!

Body Butters in the Making
A couple of weeks ago, I took a look at the ingredients of a facial serum from one of my favorite skincare companies.  I trust them because they use only natural and mostly organic ingredients.  I was happy to see that not only did they use amazing ingredients, but I had most of the ingredients in my humble aromatherapy kitchen!  So, I put my little hands to work, measuring, blending, reformulating, bottling, and I came up with a delightful facial serum of my own.  I've been using it for the past 10 days, and my skin feels soft and smooth...all from my own kitchen!  And wait -- am I missing a couple of crows feet...?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Massage Environment

I've been putting some finishing touches on my massage office, adding a round bamboo rug, new curtains.  It's feeling more and more comfortable.  I have a diffuser to offer aromatherapy, comfy organic flannel sheets, music.  What else do you love in a massage office to make your treatment the best it can be?  I'm always looking for great ideas!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Keep It Simple

I recently compared the ingredients of a popular brand of body wash and those of a castile gel soap I purchased.

The Castile Gel
Saponified Oils of Coconut, Olive and Jojoba, Aloe Vera, Glycerin/Vegetable Gum Extract, Rosemary Extract

The Popular Brand
Water , Sodium C14-16 Olefin Sulfonate , Cocamidopropyl Betaine , Sodium Methyl Cocoyl Taurate , Disodium Cocoamphodiacetate , Glycerin , Linoleamidopropyl PG-Dimonium Chloride Phosphate , Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract , Anthemis Nobilis Flower Extract , Matricaria Flower Extract Chamomilla Recutita , Citric Acid , Propylene Glycol , Triclosan , Yellow 5 , Red 33 , Fragrance

I've already listed Propylene Glycol as one of the ingredients to avoid.  Among other concerns, this ingredient has resulted in positive cell mutation results on mamallian cells.  Is it worth it?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

I Can't Go Back!

So, I've been working with natural products for a while now, studying aromatherapy, reading ingredients on my various skin and haircare products, and I've been using my homemade skincare products in the meantime.  Today in my hotel room I used one of those little bars of soap, and I realized that I've become addicted to the good, homemade stuff!  The hotel soap felt like an industrial bath, harsh and damaging.  The fact is that our skin is the largest organ of our body, vital to the elimination of the ever-increasing amount of toxins in our environment.  Why wouldn't we want the most nourishing products available?  So, I can't go back to those everyday products.  It's time I did more research about the harmful chemicals we find in them.

Step One: I will avoid the following:

Propylene Glycol (a petrochemical - yech)
Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate (harsh, harsh industrial detergent - are you THAT dirty?)
Mineral Oil (from petroleum, blocks pores - and, again, yech)
Parabens (Propyl, Methyl, Butyl, or Ethyl -- toxic and allergenic)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Aromatherapy Certification

I'm still working on my aromatherapy certification with Andrea Butje at Aromahead Institute (  I'm pretty much through all of the classes, but I must finish up the case studies, write my final paper, and take the exam.  I'm discovering how much of a new world aromatherapy is.  So many people don't know anything about essential oils...or any complementary and alternative treatment options.  I can sometimes see the internal rolling of the eyes when I tell people about essential oils.  What needs to be understood is that a good aromatherapist roots his or her practice in science, referring to research and being grounded in the chemistry.  As Barbara Close, founder of Naturopathica, said to me, "It's ALL about the chemistry!"  So, onward I go to study, study, study my chemistry!  (And finish those case studies!)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Self Care in 2011 (3)

Okay, this isn't really an update on my self-care progress for the year.  But after a full day of massaging on Sunday, my hands were a little sore yesterday.  I reached into my bag of aromatherapy balms and pulled out a pain/inflammation butter (palm kernel oil, arnica, calendula, St. John's Wort, beeswax) and rubbed it into my hands and wrists.  Today my hands feel fantastic!  All this without having to resort to a chemical anti-inflammatory.  Nice!