1. Tell us about your experience as a massage therapist. What motivated you to pursue this career path? What settings have you worked in and what type of work have you enjoyed doing most?
I came from a theater background as an actress and singer in New York City. I was always the person backstage giving backrubs, and then the AIDS epidemic hit, and I lost seven amazing friends. I found during their deaths that touch helped, so I ended my theater career and returned to school to become a massage therapist.
The connection for me between theater and massage therapy was that there was a story–story in the tissue, story in the words and the language, and that that was the commonality in my approach to the work and how I experienced it. When that became clear I realized that’s what I was listening for—this silent recorded memory—and when I started listening as a therapist, people started healing on different levels. I’ve been in private practice for 18 years. I ended up working alongside two psychologists and one psychiatrist, and they began referring clients to me. I worked with a lot of women with a history of abuse and some really traumatic stuff, so my world as a massage therapist unfolded in working where the mind, the psyche and the spirit overlapped.
2. You also have professional training and experience as a counselor. How has this complemented your career as a Licensed Massage Therapist and as Director of Student and Career Services at FLSM?
A client in England, who was a psychologist, recognized some of what was happening on the table during our sessions was not dissimilar to talk therapy, so she encouraged me to pursue counseling training in England. I’m a huge advocate for talk therapy and massage therapy, but there has been resistance in the professional world to combining them. I think there is informed and deeply moving experiences when this is done with compassion and knowledge. Both fields resist that crossover, but somehow that’s where my life emerged.
I think that one of the most important things that happens with a lot of repetitive bodywork—as is true in the FLSM program—is that it inherently creates a shift. A transformation, moving to some uncomfortable places, a recognizing pain in some places where it hasn’t been experienced before or recognizing that your body isn’t numb. Having my own experience of coming awake, this process of self-discovery uproots what people thought was safe and protected. In drawing from my own experience, I try to hold and support that transformation for FLSM students. I’ve seen it happen over and over with bodywork, having practiced myself for two decades and experienced this transformative process over the years: Compassion and integrity brings to the surface whatever the healing needed is. As a healer, you can learn something and create a change in one’s life that also impacts the earth. For me in my role as Director of Student and Career Services, being a networker, cheerleader and an advocate for that kind of dream is exciting for me.
3. What do you enjoy most in your position as Director of Student and Career Services?
I most enjoy the moments when a student’s struggles lift or when they realize that they aren’t in pain anymore, whatever that pain was. It means so much when I give a student a moment of encouragement, and they stick with it and then they graduate and get their license and their lives change because of it. So the cheerleading part is definitely a huge part of my joy in this role. My other favorite thing is that the whole student body is supported from one office, and I feel so privileged to be with both full and part-time students. I love that I know all of the students here, and that I can help them get the most out of this program.
4. What are some common challenges faced by students on their journey to becoming massage therapists? How have students overcome such challenges in the past?
Discomfort with being touched. Sometimes students aren’t ready for what it feels like to experience so much touch, so experiencing the feeling of vulnerability is common. Financially it can get tight and stretched and scary. And it can be a stressful thing to reinvent oneself, which can present as a real challenge for some students. There is no student that is the same person on the day of their graduation as they were on the day of opening circle, and how the external world receives those changes can be daunting for almost anyone.
I encourage a lot of journaling so that there’s a way to look back, and I think there’s a real power in pen and paper since it involves both kinesthetic and verbal action. I encourage a lot of self-care and kindness to self. The habits and patterns that sabotage us around challenges—something that I find manifests in test anxiety—are defenses that the body has put in place that can ultimately harm us. Identifying these patterns, becoming aware that they exist and that they can shift is a big part of overcoming such challenges. I invite students to e-mail me all the time and any time at all! DON’T HOLD IT IN!
5. What do you see as being one unique aspect of the student experience at FLSM?
The call to authentic communication, reflective listening, and non-judgmental observation invites each student into an opportunity for inward growth and outward compassion. It’s pure. Healing.
One of the best kept secrets at Finger Lakes School of Massage is the beautiful bookstore/café/ gift shop, which is open to the public. Myra Oney, the retail manager at our Kisco branch, alongside our retail specialists, Rachel and Jeany, have transformed what used to be a quick stop for a coffee or afternoon chocolate pick me up for our students into a well rounded shopping experience!
“My vision for the store is that it is a place that reflects and supports the mission of Finger Lakes School of Massage as a place where people are called upon to discover and be their best selves in an atmosphere of joy, curiosity, respect and discovery. Whether you are a student, alumni, or a member of the community, we are here to help you on your journey”
While we still sell all the books and supplies that a massage therapy student needs for the program, you can also find fresh, delicious muffins and breads from “Baked by Susan” in Mt Kisco and Wegmans in Ithaca, as well as fresh fruit and gluten-free, raw and organic food choices. Great gift items abound at both stores, Mt Kisco has Himalayan sea salt candle holders, lamps and bath salts, handmade face and hand creams, and beautifully scented soy candles (including “massage candles” that melt into a yummy, warm massage oil!). Ithaca has beautiful note cards created by local artists, handmade mugs, and herbal remedies made by one of our own staff. A wide range of pure essential oils and accessories and self-care items such as Beastie Balls, Theracanes and Rumble Rollers to ease out the knots and tensions of life are available at both locations.
If you are a massage therapist please come in and visit for your business supplies as well. We carry pesticide-free 100% jojoba oil, organic shea butter (all unscented), Sacred Earth Vegan Organic creams and oils as well as flannel sheets, Serasoft blankets, towels and hot water bottles and covers. Used tables are also available for sale at a substantial discount.
Whether you are thriving in a busy massage practice, or in need of a gift for someone you love, you won’t be disappointed with the beautiful selection of items for sale. One of our favorite and most popular items at both locations are the shawls from Tibet. They are a huge hit with our yogi’s, especially for the shavasana pose! And check the store in the spring for lightweight pashminas and scarves, all supporting women and their small businesses in Tibet, India and Nepal.
The next time you are in need of anything from work supplies to beautiful gifts please visit one of our school stores and check out our new and improved gift shops! If you can’t make it in you can always check us out online at www.massageoutlet.com.
The FLSM stores are located inside the Finger Lakes School of Massage at 272 North Bedford Road, Mount Kisco, NY and at 1251 Trumansburg Rd, Ithaca NY. Hours are 8:30 am to 5:30 pm seven days a week or you can call Mt.Kisco at (914) 241-7363 Ext. 12 for more information.
Here at FLSM, students learn very early in the program the physical and emotional benefits of massage and the importance of creating connection through healing touch. As a clinic supervisor, I have the privilege of seeing these benefits made manifest as students massage one another as well as the general public in their after school clinic sessions. Along with using their exquisite massage skills, our students must utilize the communication skills they learn here to connect clearly throughout each session and create a feeling of comfort and safety for their client. The focus students give to each client and how present they are each moment of the session reinforces to me not only how vital touch is to the recipient feeling connected with their own body, but also how imperative touch is in creating connection between people and therefore feeling connected them to the larger world.
I get to see this marvelous human connection happen on a regular basis in the classroom of the school, but I find that the time I spend with students while they work with the residents of Clarebridge Cottage to be the most clear insight into the power of touch. Clarebrdge is a home for people with Alzheimer’s and dementia and one of the sites where our students spend several weeks doing community service clinics. The residents of Clarebridge are at varying stages of their disease and many are unable to communicate with the same effectiveness as a client that our students would encounter in our general public clinic. Although these residents are loved and well cared for, due to their disease, their lives and interactions with the world are hugely different from when they were able to live on their own. Many are confused as to when and where they are, and those who are lucid and communicative still may have a tenuous relationship with reality; chronology and especially short-term memory are often affected. Regardless of where the client is in the progression of their disease, I am always blown away by our students’ willingness to dive in and be present with the client, whenever and wherever they may be in their own mind. By focusing on the present moment and giving the client the attention and loving care they have learned in the massage classroom, students are able to create connection almost exclusively through touch.
Every week spent at Clarebridge the students feel more connected to their clients. It can be tough when we return the next week and the client has no memory of the student, but is once again excited to be receiving their very first massage. It is a unique type of thrill to give a client what they believe to be the brand new experience of receiving their first ever massage, five weeks in a row, but it is a challenge to not be able to build the rapport that is the basis for most client/therapist relationships. Recently one student who had been providing gorgeous and healing massage work for weeks was elated as she told me “My client remembered me!” after their final session together. It was a triumph for the student, but moments like that are the exception. Mostly I get accounts from students saying they had the same conversation in a loop restarting every couple of minutes–and it was fantastic. Students know that they are making residents feel good in their body while remaining present and in the moment. Being present with a client is a practice that we teach our students from the very beginning of their time at FLSM, and at Clarebridge it is not just a good practice, it is essential to the work. Most clients won’t remember their therapists name, or even that they had a massage, but the students giving their focus, loving intention, compassion and understanding each moment they are working leaves an indelible mark on their client. Every client, every week creating connection, regardless of memory.
When you walk into any modern supermarket you’ll likely see thousands of labels shouting claims of good health: Superfoods! Powerfoods! Whole grains! No trans fats! Essential vitamins and minerals!
The term “superfood” is defined as a food considered beneficial to your health. In other words, a superfood is a food that when added to your diet is an easy way to turbo boost the nutritional value of just about any meal. All it takes is a sprinkle here or a spoonful there and you can seriously up the antioxidant ante on most anything you eat. It can be a bit overwhelming keeping up with the constant food fads and changes in “what’s in” in the world of nutrition. Learning all the “superfoods” can be a task within itself. However, with a little knowledge of the more accessible superfoods out there, anyone can enjoy adding these items to their diet.
Health and body conscious communities have been raving about and utilizing this nutritious grub for some time now. The benefits are countless. Massage therapists and other body workers may enjoy the benefit of increased energy, allowing them to see more clients with less fatigue. And for our massage clients, a healthier diet will mean less toxins in their systems to be released when they receive our work. Incorporating these vitamin packed foods is easier than you may expect! Some of these foods you may have heard about already and some may be completely new to you. As the trend towards healthy living and clean eating becomes more popular, keep a look out for these amazing “Superfoods”:
*Hemp Seeds: Packed with protein, heart healthy omega 3 fats and great for hair, skin and nails.
Gogi Berries: Contain more beta-carotene than carrot which helps fight inflammation and encourages new skin cell growth.
Quinoa: A rich source of plant based protein for non meat eaters. Full of essential amino acids.
Coconut oil: One of the healthiest fats around, coconut oil is antiviral, anti-fungus and antibacterial meaning that if you apply it to your skin it can assist with healing. When you eat it, it lubricates you internally and can even assist with weight loss (yes, you heard right!) Not all fat is bad, this fat could be considered your friend.
Broccoli – may help protect against various cancers, boost your immune system, beat off peptic ulcers, and is packed with essential vitamins and nutrients. Broccoli is an absolute fiber powerhouse.
Artichoke –like natural yogurt in the sense that they’re a digestive aid and provide health benefits to the digestive tract.
Cacao: Cacao or cocoa nibs can be ground. Mixing a couple of teaspoons full into coffee, almond milk, yogurt, or smoothies will give you much more antioxidant power than even berries.
Wheat Grass – restores blood alkalinity, helps detoxify the body, stimulate metabolism, helps reduce blood pressure and stimulates the thyroid gland.
Spirulina – boosts immune system and helps with detoxification, improves energy levels and helps build protein.
Acai – slows aging, reduces inflammation, regulates cholesterol levels
Blue Green Algae – helps lower blood pressure and bad cholesterol, sometimes used to control blood sugar levels and weight loss.
Learning about these power packed foods is simply the first step. Incorporating them into an everyday diet can lead to a life of increased wellness and better fitness. As a massage therapist and body-worker, improved energy, health, and stamina is extremely important to me. It can increase longevity in a career that at times can be physically demanding on the body. It’s kind of like taking supplements or vitamins but even better as these are whole foods. Increasing general wellness can help most everyone, but in the realm of massage therapy where body balance plays such a pivotal role, it is vital to remain healthy. With some minor adjustments to your diet, by adding some of the above mentioned foods, enhanced health can be achieved and you may also find that it can be quite delicious!
(*cited from nutrionist Catherine Saxelby)
The past two weeks at our Ithaca campus have been both sad and joyful as we remember FLSM instructor Sue Bissell, who passed away unexpectedly on the morning of Sunday, January 19, 2014 at the age of 66. Sue was a much-loved massage teacher at FLSM for 18 years, having previously taught elementary school for 25 years in Kenya, South America, and Ithaca. She graced the massage classroom with her deeply impactful teaching in several modalities, including Swedish, Kinesthetic Awareness through Movement, and Shiatsu.
Sue was a long-time member of the FLSM family, having graduated from the program herself. Her talent as a healer informed her well-rounded practice not only as a Licensed Massage Therapist specializing in integrative and Trager Approach® bodywork but also as a Certified Aromatherapist; in addition, she studied Shiatsu, Craniosacral Therapy, and Structural Integration. As a teacher, Sue strived to communicate her respect and passion for bodywork, emphasizing her love of play, which she noted as being central to her work.
Those who had the privilege of learning from her in the massage classroom admired the ease, relaxation, and playfulness she brought to her teaching and her bodywork. Her graceful guidance could loosen the tightest rigidity in both practicing students and her clients. Her warm smile made all feel welcome and at ease in her compassionate presence. Her nurturing demeanor led many to refer to her as the embodiment of the “Earth Mother.” She is remembered leading warm-up exercises accompanied by fun visualizations: rolling the neck to “stroke the soft bunny on your shoulder with your cheek” and swishing the hips to “wiggle your dragon tail.” Occasionally students and colleagues caught a glimpse of her funny, unexpected sass, calling out nonsense or putting her motherly foot down.
Sue’s imprint at FLSM was deep and the gap left by her passing is truly unfillable. We are deeply grateful to Sue for her unmatched contribution to FLSM, and we lament the fact that our future students will miss the opportunity to learn from her. She transformed the lives of all she touched, and in this way, her spirit and teachings will live on. She is and will continue to be greatly missed.
In celebration of her life and the precious time we all have on this Earth, we’ve been embracing the easy, the sassy, and the silly. We hope you will too.
No one can deny the powerful sense of healing one feels after a massage, and the incorporation of Reiki and energetic touch can enhance this blissful state of relaxation. “What is Reiki?” you ask. Reiki is a Japanese word which translates to ”universal life force”. In the late 1800’s Dr. Mikao Usui believed and taught that we all have an innate ability to channel this energy into ourselves, through our hands, and into others. Reiki is easy to learn and once “attuned” by a Reiki Master, anyone can channel this pure white light into all living things, including pets and plants! An attunement is a ceremonial initiation which acknowledges the receipt of symbols and the participation in the practice. An attunement can be a very sacred ritual and often leads the practitoner down a path of spirituality.
A Reiki healing session is based on the Chakra system of ancient Indian Ayurvedic medicine. Many chakras circulate energy in and around our body, but there are seven major chakras that run up the mid-line of the body from the groin up to the crown of the head. Each color of the rainbow is associated with a chakra location. The acronym is ROYGBIV and matches the order of the chakras from the base of the body to the crown: Red, Orange, Yellow, Green , Blue, Indigo, and Violet. See Chart below.
The idea behind Reiki is for the healer to place their hands either slightly above or directly on the chakra locations. With hands in place, thoughts and intentions are focused on pure unconditional love and white light energy. Some Reiki practitioners have a mantra that they may chant. Clients may also ask for work on a specific area of the body. Because Reiki or universal life force energy vibrates at the highest vibration, it reawakens and elevates the person being touched. Crystals can be incorporated as well to increase the energy generated by the practitioner and client.
There is much more to Reiki, and there are many resources for those interested in learning. “Reiki, Hands that Heal” by Joyce J. Morris is a very informative book. If you are interested in finding a Reiki practitioner in your area, please visit www.reiki.org for more information.
My Reiki master recommended I do a self treatment daily before getting out of bed , especially if seeing clients later that day. Here are some simple instructions for a self -treatment:
Place your clean hands above your own chakras and meditate on the healing energy that is innately within you. As you breath and focus on your palms you may begin to feel a warmth and/or tingling in your hands. This is good. Imagine it to be a big ball of white light energy and with repeated deep breaths focus on sending healing energy into that chakra. Take several breaths and hum the sound ” OMmmmm….” You should feel much more centered and balanced throughout the day. Namaste!
Rose S.- Reiki Master
As I stepped out of my front door this morning, the very distinct sound of sub-zero snow crunched under my boots. I saw my breath in the air in front of me and felt my whole body tensing from the cold. I fought hard against the great urge to run back inside and cuddle up under blankets with a cup of tea and a good book.
Winter in New York can be rough. As we encounter freezing temperatures, poor road conditions and long hours of darkness in the outside world, we can also experience internally that sense of stagnancy and stillness that the winter brings. During this time of dormancy, I find comfort and clarity in the wisdom of the 3,000-year-old system of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and its take on winter and the inherent power of the season’s stillness.
The element that is associated with winter in TCM is water, and if we examine the characteristics of water, it isn’t hard to understand why. Some water qualities in TCM are tranquility, serenity, and patience. These are qualities of stillness, but water also has potential for great movement and energy, just as winter holds the potential for the growth that occurs in the energetically explosive transition to spring. Water is restorative: Think about how drinking a glass of water or taking a bath can replenish. In the same way, winter is a time for rest and restoration, preparing mind and body for what is to come when the weather shifts and the energy of growth returns.
Of all the elements, water is the most yin–the most receptive, thoughtful, and feminine. The element in turn fills winter with introspective yin energy, making it the perfect time for contemplation and internal reflection. Perhaps this introspection can happen under piles of blankets with that cup of tea I wanted so much this morning! Winter is also a fitting time for planning and looking forward. What is it I want to accomplish when all the potential energy of winter transforms into the kinetic energy of spring? Where will I go when the days are long and the roads are once again clear of slush and snow? What adventures will come my way?
I personally plan to make the most of this season and the wisdom of TCM by turning inward and contemplating my direction for the months ahead. I will use the slow days and long nights to rest my body and mind but will also keep energy flowing with movement, preparing for what lies ahead with focus on the Bladder and Kidney meridians, which are associated with the water element and the season of winter.
Here are two very simple stretches to stimulate healthy flow in the energetic channels of the body associated with the water element:
1. Bladder strech: Keep your knees slightly bent and your toes pointing forward as you slowly fold forward and reach for the floor. This deceptively simple stretch is a great way to get energy flowing in the bladder meridian which runs up the back of the lags and on either side of the spine.
2. Kidney stretch: This time stand and point your toes outward before you bend forward and reach for the floor. This stretch is great for the Kidney meridian which runs down the inside of the legs.
How do you keep your energy flowing during these less active winter months? Tell us about it in the comments below!
“A Journey Worth Taking…” The first time I heard that motto, I thought to myself…how cheesy! Really? I just want to get a license and start working. Period.
Is going to a trade school to learn a craft in 7 months really some huge transformational adventure? Well it was, and yes as corny as it sounds…totally worth taking…
Here’s a chapter in the book of my personal journey to massage therapy and to the Finger Lakes School of Massage.
I didn’t come to make friends. I thought I had enough. I didn’t come for a vision quest or some kind of spiritual awakening…I wanted a job. A good job that didn’t consist of suits, desks, tps reports, strict scheduling, and of course no control over my life and livelihood. What I received was a profession that let me live on my own terms and fit beautifully into the complicated puzzle that is me.
Dealing with people and helping them has always fed my soul. I wanted to incorporate that way of life into my lifelong career. What about a Doctor? No, because it’s not “hands-on” enough and physical therapy is too repetitive. Massage therapy and bodywork are the perfect combination of everything I was looking for.
To start, I began fervently researching all aspects of manual therapies and movement based industries. Reiki, yoga, reflexology, active release therapy, etc. Stumbling upon massage through the years while growing up with cosmetologist, salon owning parents, I reflected on my own experiences with it. I always admired not only the paychecks of the massage therapist’s but also their lifestyle. They had complete control over their clientele, dress code, menu and scheduling. They also just plain seemed happy! And as hokey as it sounds…lighter. I have to say: I’m a sucker for smiling…
I researched schools all over the place and during a very mundane internet search came across FLSM. I requested info from the school and when I called, they actually listened. No pushing, no salesmanship, just understanding and information. The place and people were energetic. I was hooked.
School happened and I had to “trust the process.” (a quote every student hears over and over again from instructors and staff). I’m glad I did. In hindsight, I wish I dove in sooner without testing the waters as much. In the end the effect was the same. I discovered my potential and fulfilled my dream. I did make friends and learn in the process but I also made a life for myself.
Now I feel like I do charity work with ample compensation. I get to help and heal people while healing myself. Within hours, I am allowed to enter lives and change them for the better. Eventually my insecurity issues faded away and people started inviting me into their homes, offices and worlds. The experience of being vulnerable and understanding the huge amount of trust it takes to work on someone while they let their guards down and shut their eyes was a life changing lesson.
What called me to bodywork? I can’t say. But I know what I felt when I walked through the doors of FLSM. It was a definite feeling. I was accepted and accepting. It opened my eyes and hands to a new experience and it all fell into place.
-Ricardo Giacinto FLSM graduate & LMT
It’s no secret that staying healthy this time of year can be challenging. From the onset of cold and flu season to the stresses and less-than-healthy treats of the holidays, immune systems can suffer with the return of winter. One of the ways we can offer our bodies a much needed boost is with massage therapy, aiding not only relaxation but also detoxification!
As our students at FLSM learn, hydrotherapy is especially helpful in flushing toxins that can build up in this season of over-abundance and indulgence. Hydrotherapy is a form of water and/or temperature treatment. If you’ve ever jumped into a cold pool immediately after sitting in a hot tub, then you’ve already experienced the invigorating effects of hydrotherapy! Literally water healing, hydrotherapy includes such treatments as alternating hot and cold applications, essential oil baths, and dry skin brushing. Benefits of this holistic therapy abound: Cells do their jobs more effectively, immune and lymphatic systems kick into high gear, and the muscles and mind relax. All have the effect of strengthening, cleansing, and restoring balance to every system of the body.
Feel a cold coming on? Try a contrast foot bath, a favorite of Summer 2013 alumni Ashley Van Orden. “The different sensations are so interesting,” she says, “and it makes my whole body feel energized.” Feet are reflexive (that is, specific points in the feet correspond with and can impact the rest of the body), so foot baths wondrously treat the body as a whole. And they feel great!
1. Place feet in tub or basin of hot water (100-110° F)
2. Sit 3-5 minutes
3. Immediately place feet in a separate tub or basin of cold water (40-55° F)
4. Sit 30-60 seconds.
5. Repeat hot/cold sequence (steps 1-4) 3 times.
6. Always end with cold and dry feet immediately.
Please refrain from hydrotherapy treatment or consult a doctor prior to treatment when pregnant or with the following conditions: fever, diabetes, severe kidney infections, infectious skin disorders, heart disorders, extremely high or low blood pressure, multiple sclerosis, pregnancy, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia
Have fun with hydrotherapy and tell us about your experiences in the comments below!
Welcome to the new and improved FLSM blog! This time of year is filled with movement, and plenty is happening here at our campuses in Ithaca and Mt. Kisco worthy of excitement. As we closed 2013 and begin shaping our vision for 2014, we look forward to sharing the stories and moments that make us proud to be part of the healing community. Wondering what our students and staff have to say about massage therapy and FLSM? Want to know about how massage affects all systems of the body or about how our bones and muscles work together to create movement? Looking for some FLSM-acclaimed self-care tips? This is the place to find out!
We hope our blog will serve as a thought-provoking forum for learning, cultivating ideas, and connecting with others who share the same interest in healing as you. Follow us for the newest stories and updates that embody the transformative nature of bodywork and the FLSM community.
As you look toward the New Year, we hope you’ll keep us close for some fresh perspective on healing and the art of massage.