Tim Sullivan is a yoga teacher and massage therapist in training. You can find him at www.timyasa.com and americainshort.com.

I can still hear my father moaning at the kitchen table when I was rub his shoulders after a long day at work. And then throughout high school and college, in the library, after hours squinting staring at computer screens, shoulders hunched, how my fellow students couldn’t be more appreciative of a shoulder rub. I liked that exchange of touch, so simple, yet so powerful. A simple rub on the back of the neck reminding them to take a deep breath, that really, it’ll all be alright, and a quick conversation with a few muscles reminding them to chill out and release.

We all have different reasons for wanting to become a massage therapist, and all have stories where we first heard the call. We have done the preliminary research about state requirements and the difference of some programs, but what makes the decision in the end? I still remember my first phone conversations with Heidi’s friendly voice on the other end of the line, the Lauterstein-Conway admissions counselor. I heard about the curriculum, deposit requirements, all the basics… But what couldn’t be explained by a website or even over the phone, was the feel of this place.

The school itself is rather unassuming — a few simple classrooms, a few pictures of happy students on the wall of an otherwise unadorned waiting room. But there’s a general feel to the school that just asks for a deep breath. Yes, there are clinical charts on the walls detailing every muscle and bone of the body. You can find anatomicallycorrect skeletons in the corner of every room. But there is a healing energy that permeates these halls.

It seems indicative of the education I’m receiving. Yes, I can tell you that the trapezius is superficial to the rhomboids, that the appendicular skeleton is composed of 126 bones, but I’m also receiving information about how to put people at ease, how to have my massage table have that same permeating healing energy. It’s not something tangible, and can’t necessarily be taught. It just gets ingrained being here.

The first day of school, our small class was asked to stand behind one another and massage the, at the time, complete stranger in front of us. At first tentative, we soon found that same feeling of intimacy that I had with my father, with my friends in college, could easily be found with any human being. We found our touch could cut through months of awkwardness, social stigmas, and any cultural filters.

Yes, the material covered is top-notch. Yes, the teachers are the best around. But the fact that the environment is that not only of learning, but of exploration, encouraging self-knowledge as much as it does text-book smarts, that’s why I now happily inhabit these halls each week, sit cross-legged in the circles in these classrooms, and find a deep breath in my connection with the material, the teachers, my fellow students, the human body, and myself.