Upscale Spa’s and Small town Gems!

ahhhh!!! Spaaaaah!!!! I awoke this morning in a strange city. Fortunately I remember how I got there! My husband and I decided to take a mini vacation and we left town to visit the nearby metroplex. I scheduled a 90 minute facial at an upscale spa and arrived 20 minutes early ( I was super excited!) The experience was amazing and refreshing for my mind and body! I have found it difficult in the past to shut my mind off during a massage because I am constantly trying to find ways to improve my own massage. To make relaxation come more easily I opted for a service that I don’t normally get to indulge. The refreshing thing was that despite the price hike, I found that this spa was no more impressive than the “small town” spa where I work. There were a few touches that were a little extra but in the end I realized- a good esthetician / massage therapist is unreplaceable which means a poor one can’t be covered up by fluff. I was lucky enough to be assigned a well trained and talented esthetician that rocked my facial but there were moments where I longed for my regular estheticians touch. I will admit, I thought that by going to an upscale metroplex spa and paying 3x the normal amount I would receive a more than usually awesome facial. The lesson I learned was talented people are not defined by a price tag. It is a passion for their clients that makes them better than successful.  Also, the spa where I work (which by the way won Texoma’s Best Day Spa ( thank you Texoma) is home to some pretty amazing gems!  There were a few tips that I picked up and will be sharing with my colleagues and there were a few critiques that have served as reminders of spa etiquette that I will be keeping in the front of my mind. So if you think you have to go “upscale” to find a talented therapist, think again. Maybe drive a couple hours to a mid size town, do some research and get everything you want for 1/3 the price.  I think next time I need a mini vacation I will just spend the money at home and get 3 services for the price of one. And I know they will be amazing! A birdie told me so!


Love first

I learn so much from my clients. Today in particular. Today was one of those days that every client was a return clients ( I love those days!) One client in particular ( you know who you are) sauntered in today after working very hard for a number of months. She took the whole day ( or atleast most of it) and treated herself kindly. A pedicure here, the gym, tanning, all the things that make her feel good to be alive! I was inspired ( and a bit jealous 😉 ) I am always talking about taking a break but can I honestly say that I take one? Between school, work, and my spiritual activities it is hard to find time ( excuses excuses) … the truth is I have to force myself to be good to me. So tonight when my hubby left to visit a friend and I was alone in the house I decided to do what makes me feel alive! I brought out my foot spa, sat in my massaging chair , poured a glass of wine ( albeit cheap wine, because I wasn’t ready to break out the good wine from the Wine Festival on Saturday) and I began to write this. So thank you anonymous client for reminding me to heed my own words!

Today I also realized what I know is true. I can’t “fix” anything. As a therapist there is a lot of pressure to be clinical and to address physical ailments methodically. I think this is all fine and true. But there comes a point when I have done as much as I can. The rest is out of my hands. Before I go into any treatment I always pray that my higher power guide my hands and my words. When people tell me I have a “magic” touch or something similar I say thank you but really I am thanking my higher power who guides me. In my opinion, massage is a gift. It’s a gift that I enjoy giving to others but for the purpose of living I get paid for it. I understand the importance of loving touch and even what physiological effects it can have on a person. The touch of someone else raises the serotonin levels in your body. This creates a feel good feeling that can combat depression. It is reassuring and creates security in an often cruel and insecure world. As much as I love being able to treat an ailment, my first priority is a loving touch. There are a few clients who may contest that my touch is not always loving but please be assured there is love behind my elbow.

Keep Your Clothes On, If You Want To.

Often times before a massage I will ask if a person has received massage services before. If they answer yes, I will ask them how that experience was. Sometimes, it is not positive. Below is a list of the most common things I hear from clients and my response to them.

Pressure was too deep / or not deep enough:

I have heard this before and what I always tell my clients is that this is

their time. Don’t be afraid that you might offend someone by asking for more or less pressure. We are often appreciative of feed back.

Pressure was too deep/not deep enough even after requesting a change.

Unfortunately we often run into people who just don’t seem to listen, no matter what part of our lives they are in. As with any part of our lives it is up to us to not let these people ruin our experience. If you told them once, tell them again. And if they don’t listen, you may stop the session at any time. It is part of our jobs to be able to listen and respond to clients in an appropriate manner.

I felt sick the next day:

The reason this happens is because like a dam, constricted muscles tense up and restrict the flow of blood and lymph to other parts of our bodies. This causes our bodies to store up toxins and lactic acid. When you get a massage the dam is released and your blood and lymph is restored to its natural state and your body has an abundant amount of toxins to get eliminate. Drinking a lot of water before and after your massage will aid your body in this process and your chances of feeling sore or ill are low.

The therapist talked the whole time

This is the second worse thing I hear. To me when there is unwanted chatter from the therapist it is a sign of disrespect. I and most other massage therapist feel that your time on the table is sacred. We are there to aid you the process of relaxation or rehabilitation. We are not there to talk your ear off… unless you feel better talking then by all means chat away. If you have a therapist that talks to much you can simply ask them for a little time to think quietly ( to put it nicely) If they persist in chatting but you really enjoy their massage, try telling them before hand that though you enjoy your conversations you would like to be in silence today. Usually this will cure the situation but if not, you may have to find a new therapist.

After people get their first massage I often hear about all of the anxieties they had prior to coming to see me. I bet there are a lot of other people who feel the same way! Here are a few things I hear and my response to those who might feel the same way.

I don’t want to take my clothes off.

Great point and good news for you. You don’t have to. After awhile some therapist get pushy and insist you take off all or most of your clothes. Bottom line- undress to your level of comfort. If you asked to continue to remove your clothing simply insist this is what you are comfortable in. A good therapist will respect your privacy. I for one was quite modest when I first started with massage therapy. Especially around male therapists. After a few massages you begin to feel a lot more comfortable and if you wish to remove more clothing you can.

I am afraid I will do the wrong thing.

whether it’s getting on the table backwards or afraid we will take off too much clothing and the therapist will be offended, everyone has anxiety when they get their first massage. I did and in fact I wasn’t able to relax until after I left. Then I noticed the effects and I was amazed! As far as taking off too much clothing, you can’t. I have yet to meet a therapist who is offended by nudity, unless of course you decide to be completely nude and on top of the covers. For the most part, every therapist will ask a few questions about what’s bothering you and maybe some medical history. They will tell you to undress to your level of comfort and begin face down underneath the covers. I usually proceed to point out the obvious of where to put your head and feet. When you are nervous you will forget everything. Have no fear. We are kind, compassionate people for the most part and we will walk you through it!

I am afraid it will hurt

Back to the first point. This is your time. You paid for it. If the therapist is too deep just tell them. They will not be offended and they want you to enjoy your massage. After all, they want you to come back. Drink plenty of water before and after to avoid being sore tomorrow.

I am too fat/skinny or I have an ugly mole.

You name it , we’ve seen it. To be a massage therapist you must have compassion. We don’t care what your body looks like, we just want you to feel like the best you. We will not be judging you or laughing about you in the other room. We want you to embrace yourself as you are in this very moment. If you then decide you want to change who you are or what you look like, ask us for our advice. We are usually health enthusiast who might have some great tips. Bottom line. We have your best interest in mind. We love you and don’t even know you!

There are millions of other things that go through our clients minds.  If you have a comment or question that you want to ask a massage therapist, let me know and I will do my best to answer it.

photo taken in a small spa in Maui- wish I could remember the name.

A Passion For Touch

In a world that seems to be,”take, take, take” it’s often good to just stop and “give.” Tonight some of my colleagues and I were honored in helping bring smiles to 20 girls and their mom’s! We teamed up with a local Children’s Advocacy Center and treated them to a girl’s night out. The kids arrived in a limousine hummer and received a hair style from our salon and we painted their fingers. Some of the girls even tried the new Katy Perry line! It was very fun. The moms each received an aromatherapy massage and we painted their nails as well! Every once in awhile the girls and I get the opportunity to give back. There is nothing more rewarding for a massage therapist than to work on someone who has never had a massage before and who might have never had one until you gave it to them. When I have the opportunity to give massage to someone in need I jump on it. Why? Purely selfish. I enjoy it. It truly makes me smile. I feel like there is some meaning to my life when I can bring a smile to someone’s face. And maybe that’s the key to my selfishness. Helping you makes me feel better about my life. I think that if everyone spent one weekend a year to do volunteer work we would all feel better about the kind of lives we are living. Another benefit to giving massage to those in need is as a massage therapist, you may find yourself getting into ruts sometimes. The best cure I’ve found is to do a community event. And DON’T get paid for it. It will remind you why you do this in the first place. Because you have a passion for it. And although money is nice nothing can replace living your passion. I read a lot of articles about how practitioners shouldn’t undercut themselves by giving free massages. I disagree. The goal of massage therapy isn’t about money, at least not for me and my co workers. The goal is to bring moments of peace to someone’s life. It might be the only moment they’ve got. And that’s priceless to me.

Oops, you did it again. How to make up for forgetting Valentines Day!

Today’s the day. If you haven’t planned a date for your loved one, it’s ok! It’s not too late! There is plenty of time for this upcoming weekend, just remember to get a little love token today! In fact, if you weren’t prepared for today, (myself included), I recommend doing a small romantic gesture everyday leading up to this weekend. Maybe a card today with some chocolates, cook dinner for your significant other tomorrow, make a cd of songs that remind you of them, Compile pictures and make a slide show or have some of your favorite pictures framed nicely. All of this leading up to a couples massage! One of my favorite types of massage. I tell my female clients that the best way to introduce their husbands to the benefits of massage is to invite them to a couples massage. Most men are hesitant to get a massage. They often associate self care with”pampering” which is a feminine thing to do. The word “Spa” often raises images of ladies walking around in a robe and slippers. Men might fear that they will be considered less masculine by associating themselves with such “girly” activities.There is nothing wrong with taking care of your mind and body. Most guys cringe at the thought of being dragged to the “spa,” but I will let you in on a little secret. Once your there, you won’t want to leave. In fact, most of my regular clients are men. I always think of it as an underground club. Most guys will fib to their friends and co workers, telling them they have to go see the chiropractor or physical therapist and make up a condition to be treated! A majority of my male clients were introduced to massage via a couple’s massage with their wives. Not to mention, most women really just want someone to share in an activity that they enjoy… without complaining! It’s one of the nicest things you can do for your loved one. As experts in setting the mood, we will assure you that you will have a warm bed, candle light, and if you like some aromatherapy. As a practitioner, the best part of working a couples massage is the moment when one spouse looks over at the other. They smile as they observe their partner sinking into bliss. They feel good about their decision to treat their loved one to such a beneficial experience. Afraid you will embarrass yourself by doing the wrong thing or heaven forbid SNORING!? Have no fear. The process of massage will be explained to you and to be honest, everyone snores! It’s the highest compliment. I recommend eating a light snack before your massage and saving your main meal for later! After your massage your stomach will probably be growling. If you are a meat eater you could probably talk your lady into going for a steak and pint! Or how about some aphrodisiacal sushi to continue your romantic mood! Happy Hearts Day Everyone! Love to All!

Your Wife Called; She Wanted Me To Tell You This..

One of the funny things about being a massage therapist is the things people tell you. It ranges from funny to personal to too much information! But alas, I enjoy being trusted with everyones thoughts and meanderings. The one thing that I hear over and over, ” Can you teach my husband to do this?” I always laugh and tell them no, otherwise I’d be out of a job. But it does make me wonder… What are all these husbands doing anyway? So I asked people and I’ve come up with a few tips that might interest a few guys out there, and lets be honest, a few ladies as well. These tips are not for sensual massage because that’s not what I do. What happens after that is none of my business.

First off,

  • Turn off the Television.

I can’t say it enough.  Atmosphere, Atmosphere, Atmosphere. Nothing frustrates your wife more than you watching the TV while you’re “pretending” to rub her shoulders. She can tell your hearts not in it. Whether your heart is or not, Fake it.

  • Use the right stuff

I know we’ve all done. Pulled out the big bottle of lotion from Walgreens to use as massage lotion, but it just doesn’t feel good. Take the time, and a little bit of cash, to get the good stuff. You can go to your local massage school and purchase a small bottle of professional lotion. Or you can head to your health food store and stock up on good oil, such as Almond or Jojoba. If they have essential oils, I recommend Lavender, because it is safest. Add a couple of drops to your oil. I don’t recommend anything that has a mineral oil base. It clogs up the skin leaving you feeling gross not relaxed.

  • Set the mood

So playing some new age music might seem a little cheesy, I get it. But what about some really good jazz , I’m talking Miles Davis, not Kenny G. Perhaps Spanish guitar or what ever the both of you enjoy. Light candles. Yes it seems like a lot of work to just give a back rub but mood is part of relaxation and she will appreciate the effort and attention.

So lets say you skip the last part, and you probably will. What are some other obstacles to overcome when it comes to massage. Here are some common complaints:

  • He complains about his hands hurting before we even start.

I get it. Your hands hurt. They don’t have to. The more elevated the body is the easier it will be on your hands. If you are fortunate enough to own your own massage table make sure you raise the table to where the table comes just below fingers. You should be able to touch the table without bending your body or arm. Use your legs to push your body thereby adding force to your hands. If you don’t have a table a tall bed will work. Must of us have to settle for what we have. The floor. Thats ok. Keep reading.

  • He is always rushing.

Well no wonder you are rushing, your hands hurt and you wanted to watch the television. Too bad. Slow down. It helps me to close my eyes during a massage. I imagine the muscle underneath my fingers and follow it along until I feel a knot or congestion. Then I slowly work the fibers between my fingers. Another common complaint is that the pressure is not enough. If you become adept at finding knots and trigger points you won’t have to use a lot of pressure.

  • He is so random. One second his working on my back, the next second my feet.

It is so important to have “flow.” This is something that can be explained but must be practiced. When you give someone a massage you are nonverbally communicating with their muscles. Your goal is to communicate “relax.” To do this you need to go either top to bottom of bottom to top. The flow of your strokes is important. I emphasize strokes because so often people just knead. The first part to any swedish massage is long flowing strokes. As a rule, when you are applying pressure always apply more pressure going toward the heart than away from the heart. Always complete your strokes. If you are going up the spine, go all the way up the spine, then start again. Same thing with arms, legs and feet. Going toward the heart, start from the bottom and with one long stroke go the top of body part. Then you can add in some kneading. Another tip for flow is to always keep one hand on the person and if both hands are on the person keep them both moving. Nothing is weirder than a hand thats just laying there. The only time I can think of this being okay is if you are stretching the muscle. I digress, the importance of constant touch is this: Imagine you are sitting in the middle of a room with a blindfold on. No one is in the room until you hear the door open and some footsteps followed by the closing door. Does this raise your blood pressure? You don’t know where that person is or if they are going to approach you. You don’t know what to expect. The same thing happens when someone is relaxed and then you stop touching them. Their senses become alert again and their blood pressure may raise.

I hope you find some of these tips helpful and please feel free to leave a comment , question or suggestion. If all else fails, buy her a gift certificate to the Spa. Enjoy this Valentines Day and be good to each other!

Rosemary, a jack of all trades.

Rosemary from the garden

Most of you who know me, will remember that my husband and I recently moved into our first home. One of the best things about our lovely home is the pre-made herb garden! Aromatherapy has always been one of my favorite things to explore. When my nieces come over, they always ask to make something using oils. We always have a good time and the girls always learn something. One of my favorite herbs is Rosemary,and luckily for me, it grows abundantly in my backyard! Most of us use rosemary in our cooking, I know I put it in almost everything. If you are lucky enough to have Rosemary at your disposal, you might try a Rosemary Tea. Take 1-2 teaspoons of Rosemary to a cup of boiling water. It is known to warm the body from the inside, stimulating digestion and improving circulation. It can be used as a household cleaner when mixed with borax and makes the perfect potpourri in a cinch. In my practice, I often use rosemary for circulation issues and breathing problems. It is stimulating, coming from the mint family, and many feel that it helps relieve fatigue. Often, I employ this oil near the end of the massage, as a final gesture of health and relaxation and to bring the mind and body back to the present. I know our estheticians at Spa Bella often use rosemary in their facial treatments. It has the same benefits as massage but it is also good for acne and skin balancing. Special care should be utilized when incorporating essential oils. They should always be diluted properly and administered by a professional. Some things to be advised when using the essential oil Rosemary are that it can be a skin irritant to some people and it should be avoided during pregnancy and lactation as well as those with epilepsy.