Massage & Bodywork

May/June 2009

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ten for today BY REBECCA JONES INVESTING IN YOURSELF 1. An estimated 50,000 fresh-fingered massage therapists will enter the profession this year, energetic and eager to ease the pain of the world. Yet this cadre of enthusiastic new therapists will barely replace the estimated 45,000 veteran practitioners who will leave the profession this year. They'll leave for a variety of reasons: burnout, injury, and financial disillusionment are a few. This much is clear—if the profession is to slow the high turnover rate, massage therapists must start taking better care of themselves. That means paying attention not just to the obvious physical demands of the work, but also to the psychological, emotional, and spiritual demands as well. Time and money invested in appropriate self-care can greatly extend a career that otherwise might be needlessly shortened. Take time to nurture your own well-being and you'll be investing in your greatest asset. STAY PRESENT When you're receiving a massage, it's normal to critique the other therapist. As a professional, you are attuned to proper technique. But as long as you're in this head mode, you're not fully relaxing into body mode. "Try getting other therapies that you're not familiar with, or take a movement class or a Pilates class—anything that gets you back into your body and allows you to avoid that critical mind," says Barb Frye, an author, massage educator, and therapist for almost 20 years, who now teaches the Feldenkrais Method at Pluspunkt Center near Zurich, Switzerland. For Carole Osborne, a holistic health practitioner in San Diego, tai chi has proven invaluable. Its emphasis on proper balance and alignment translates into ergonomically correct posture when giving a massage, she says. And its emphasis on intentionality and focus are equally important in meeting clients' needs. "Tai chi has a centuries-old record for the kinds of things you need to be a long-lasting, healthy, and satisfied massage therapist: strength, stamina, the ability to quiet your mind enough to stay more present with what's happening with your client rather than being distracted by your own thoughts," Osborne says. 2. STAY STRONG WITH INEXPENSIVE GEAR Hand exercisers, putty, and hand strengtheners can help keep hands and wrists strong and free from pain. Flexbars and reflex balls can strengthen forearms or can be rubbed on tired feet. Resistance bands are cheap, easily portable, and can be pulled out and put to use whenever you've got a few spare minutes. "Exercise balls are a great multipurpose tool to stay balanced and strong," says Joey Hall, a spokeswoman for Orthopedic Physical Therapy Products, a Minneapolis-based company specializing in physical therapy products for professionals. The point is, fitness equipment doesn't have to cost a lot of money. 3. DON'T OVER-SCHEDULE CLIENTS Frye's rule of balance is for every hour spent doing massage, a therapist should allot one hour to some form of self-care. "It doesn't have to be sitting in a Zen state," she says. "Maybe it's hiking or going to a movie. Maybe it's an hour with the kids or walking 90 massage & bodywork may/june 2009

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