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!

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The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread, And Better For You.

Someone asked me the other day what they should eat after a massage. What a great question! I jokingly said, ” Gosh, I hope it’s sushi!” That is after all what I crave after massage. Turns out my stomach hasn’t led me afar. I did some research as to what kind of foods would benefit your muscles after a massage. Most everything I came up with was water, water, water!!! I am sure my clients get tired of me pushing the water on them but it is with good reason. Just like after a workout, your muscles are tired. They’ve been moved around and manipulated. They’ve been poked and prodded , stretched and rubbed. What happens is that now all of those toxins from your everyday life that have been building up and stuck in your constricted muscles are rushing out. There is also a residual build up of lactic acid that is dying to be released. The water helps your body flush these out. A bit of detoxing without the diet if you will. But there are foods that you can eat to help your body continue to detoxify as well as return protein and vitamin D to the muscles. It seemed everything else I looked at came back to fish as well as foods such as garlic and ginger. The fish is extremely high in protein. ( Sardines being one of the highest, but Tuna not far behind) I’ll take the tuna thank you! Eel happened to be very high as well. As far as detoxing goes it doesn’t get more natural than ginger and garlic. Ginger is also an anti inflammatory and can be very helpful ( if consumed on a regular basis) for arthritis. Garlic relaxes the blood vessels and can help your body deliver the nutrients it needs faster. So what do all these foods have in common? Sushi. I knew it the whole time. Not only does it have the ingredients that your body craves after a massage it is also light and won’t way you down with overly processed breads and meats. If you are in the area and looking for a great ( and peaceful) place to enjoy some sushi after your massage check out Sakura Sushi. And don’t forget to order some water! 

Magic Potion

Lavandula Angustifolia- sounds like a spell from Harry Potter! Lavender. I can’t tell you how many times a week I use lavender for relaxation and for it’s healing benefits.

In the kitchen most people reach a band aid and Neosporin and for the tree huggers they reach for their aloe vera plant when they receive a burn or cut. But if you have a brown thumb like me you might try reaching for the Lavender oil. Your cursing and whining will cease almost immediately when the soothing oil touches your skin . Lavender is known to be used “neat” meaning without dilution. That is how I use it but other authorities on therapeutic oils would recommend it be diluted especially if you have sensitive skin.

I’ve mentioned the benefits of lavender tea before: reducing insomnia, anxiety, and nervousness. I usually start my day before a big test with a little lavender and peppermint tea. Some say that it can help with headaches including migraines. Conversely, I have experienced headaches caused by lavender in LARGE doses. Moderation is key.

I have been known to use lavender on the edge of the sheets on my bed and massage table. You can also add a few drops to your hot bath water before bed. If you are crafty, you can make sleeping masks out of a mixture of rice and dried lavender blooms. Just sew three sides of a rectangle, alternate rice and lavender blooms, then hand sew the final side.

Lavender in it’s pure form is naturally more beneficial than the synthetic forms. Buying household cleaners with the name Lavender in it may not necessarily mean you will experience any benefits. In fact synthetics are more likely to cause negative side effects. One household cleaner that I like is Mrs. Meyers Clean Day products.

I have found one website for all you Texas lovers, called Texas Lavender. Check it out for unique gifts from Texas.

I haven’t tried cooking with lavender… yet. But I am open to any recipes you guys might have.

Mind Your Own Business…

Lets go ahead and start with a deep breath. Often my clients can hear me uttering these words as we begin their massage. The intention behind this is to encourage the client to focus on their breath and let go of outside distractions.

One of the most difficult parts of receiving a massage is turning off our minds and letting go of our attachments to the outside world. In fact one of the most difficult parts of living is detaching from things and people outside of ourselves.

Detachment: the act of disengaging. Ok. I kind of get that. So what is Disengaging? Looking through many online dictionaries it seems the definition of disengage is to free oneself or release attachment. That sounds pretty healthy. No one likes to be held down- right?

All right. Disengage from what? People, things and ideas and worst of all DESIRES!. Sounds like you would be a recluse then doesn’t it? Not exactly. Let’s break it down and see what it means to detach from each of the above.

People: We all have loved ones in our lives. People that we think we could never live without. People that we feel obligated to guide and help because of our close connection to them. There are people that we feel like we have the right to pry into their lives because “we’re soul mates,” or “because I care.” The act of detaching doesn’t mean that you stop caring about people, rather it means that you care about them enough to let them make their own decisions and discover their own journey, regardless of whether you think they are on the right path. When we do this we also develop more self love. We allow ourselves to make mistakes. By staying out of other peoples business other people will begin to stay out of yours. No one likes unsolicited advice. Wouldn’t it be nice to make a mistake and not have someone tell you they warned you or tell you how they would’ve done it better? Another aspect of detaching from the people in your lives is that you don’t have to take what other people say personally. A good friend of mine always reminds me that in the phrase ” to take offense” it suggests that you are taking an action and as with all action you can choose not to take it. So set the offense down and walk away. How important is it anyway? Spiritually speaking by attaching ourselves to other people poses a hindrance to ones connection to a higher power. How can you hear God when all your doing is worrying about someone else?

Things: This is something most of us are familiar with. The inability to get rid of something because of sentimental value or fear of needing it in the future. A pivotal point for me in learning detachment was a few years ago when I was in San Diego. I was stuck with no money and no car and I needed to get back to Texas ( Who doesn’t?!) I had an apartment full of things and I couldn’t exactly fit it on a plane and I could only afford so much room in an ABF truck. I was forced to look at my things, things that I have been holding onto my whole life, and decide what was crucial and what wasn’t. At first it was painful to watch my memories be tossed away , but I soon realized that the memories didn’t leave me when I threw away my things. I also began to view my obsession with saving things as a way of saying that my higher power or the universe wasn’t capable of providing for me when I needed something. I knew that wasn’t true.

Ideas: We all come across ideologies that we disagree with. People with strong opinions about controversial issues, corporations with questionable motives , political figures with radical notions. We can’t get away from the ideas of other people or groups of people, but we don’t have to carry our resentment or opposition to these ideas. We can acknowledge them and  let them be. Of course their are times when we need to take a stand for issues but we don’t have to let it eat us to our core.

Desires:We all have them. Their harmless right? Everyone should want more and work hard to get it right? Um. Sort of. Many if not all religions encourage you not to covet or lust. But we all do don’t we? Whether it’s that cool necklace or a million dollar home with the jacuzzi and outdoor kitchen, we lust after things everyday. But do we ever think about whether or not it is detrimental to our spiritual health? When we tie ourselves to what we do not have we are focusing on lacking rather than abundance. We tend to attract what we think about. So when it comes to desires it’s one thing to desire something and then let it go. It is another to become obsessed with an idea and let it consume you. When there is something that I desire I try to practice imagining exactly what it would feel like to have this object and then I let it go. Rather than thinking about what you do not have imagine what you could have ( especially spiritual freedom.)

Often times when we are told to detach we associate it with being aloof and not caring. I believe quite the opposite is true. The art of detaching focuses more on attaching to yourself and if you choose, a higher power,  giving others the  dignity to make their own lives. Excessive worry over things outside of ourselves has never led to a resolution of said problems. In fact by attaching ourselves to our problems we often miss the obvious solutions.

Detachment can be found in every religion. There are several verses in the Bible that tells us to let go of our worldly possessions and attach ourselves to the holy spirit.

Buddhism refers to this as non-attachment. I think this is a great word to describe what we are trying to achieve.

The TAO TE CHING by Lao Tzu (Chapter 44. Contentment) is translated as follows:

Health or reputation: which is held dearer?
Health or possessions: which has more worth?
Profit or loss: which is more troublesome?

Great love incurs great expense,
And great riches incur great fear,
But contentment comes at no cost;
Who knows when to stop
Does not continue into danger,
And so may long endure.

(http://www.zenguide.com/zenmedia/books/content.cfm?t=tao_te_ching&chapter=44 , Feb 22 2011)

Today as I pulled into a parking space, a few minutes before my appointment, my Ipod began to play a relaxing song, one I often use for meditation. I decided to take a few moments to tune into myself. I noticed how I judged people that were walking by. I decided to practice acceptance. As each person walked by I imagined them as a spirit and I said to myself, they are on a spiritual journey. The more I did this the less I judged and the more love I felt for people I didn’t even know. I felt detached from my own ego and judgements. I felt free to be what was natural to me. Love. I realized that you can have detachment without acceptance, but you can’t have detachment with love without accepting people, things, and ideas as they are.

Your massage therapy session is a perfect opportunity to practice detaching from our fears and worries and from our desires and connections to the material world. It is a time to allow acceptance. You can start by allowing acceptance of your body and then detaching from any negative attitudes you have about it. It is a time to focus on you.

photo by goldsaint

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.

Check In With Your Pen

You might be thinking, what does journaling have to do with massage? I feel like from the perspective of self improvement that they go hand in hand. Or pen in hand if you will. Most , if not every, massage practitioner will emphasize the importance of the mind body connection. We understand that achieving a high quality of life means balancing the physical, mental , and the emotional. Sometimes getting a massage can help you release your mental chatter so that you can  gather your thoughts and write with purpose.

So you’re thinking, “I don’t have time.” or “I don’t want to write about my feelings, that’s for pansies.” Well, Pansies have to go through a lot of dirt before they can bloom. So let’s get dirty. Writing about your current thoughts and reflections about the past can be helpful in processing events, painful or not. When you put something into writing, we immediately feel like it’s permanent. Like we can’t erase it. So use a pencil. You have a right to change your mind about any perception or idea that you have. You can always revise your journal. I personally keep mine for reflection to see how much I’ve grown or to see where I might be making the same mistakes. Other’s destroy their writing. This can be a significant symbol of being free from the past and can help you to let go of old ideas that are no longer useful. My friend recently posted on her blog a beautiful picture with a captivating caption about this very same idea, take a look.

So you don’t want to journal about the past. You have self actualized and no longer need to stare backwards. That’s great! Journaling can be even more beneficial when you write about the future! I often write about goals that I have as if they have all ready happened. This helps me to visualize what it would feel like to succeed! It is a great inspiration.

Journaling about the present can also help you keep life in perspective. You might think that nothing in your life is exciting enough to write about. I dare  you to try to find something funny or bazaar everyday and just write that down. I used to practice this in place of a Gratitude List ( also a helpful journaling subject). My favorite funny moment, I was waiting for the bus and there was a man having a sneezing fit. There was also a train in the distance and every time he sneezed the whistle on the train would blow loudly.  The vision of this man’s sneeze was for some reason hilarious to me.  This may seem like a simple memory but finding humor in everyday life will bring you joy. It does me!

Maybe you’re into a different kind of journal. One that combines the physical with the mental and emotional. Try a food or exercise journal. Write down what foods you eat and then record how they make you feel. Or you may try writing how many reps you’ve done who how far you’ve run, then record how you feel as compared to the day before.

The importance of documenting our life and our thoughts is almost a way for us to validate that we exist and the events we’ve experienced really happened. It’ s a way to check in and make sure we are on the right path.

Many people have given me beautiful journals over the years, but I always come back to the same kind. A spiral notebook. As Paul Simon would say, “find a quiet place, use a humble pen. ”