10850015_767315829972936_3847335412784290679_nPain science is telling us that pain is an output of the brain, not an input from the body. Similarly we can note that relaxation and pleasure are outputs of the brain, though we may “feel” them in the effected organs, muscles, and other tissues.

Ironically then it turns out that soft tissue manipulation, which most states use as the definition for massage therapy, is not essentially what we are doing. Soft tissue is no more the locus of therapy than the cell phone is the locus or content of our conversation. Rather, soft tissues are the communication medium through which we can carry on profound conversations with the nervous system. If one is open to these terms one might say we use the client’s structure to communicate with their energy.

Milton Trager said, “You have to reach the unconscious mind of the client if you want to produce change that lasts.” Science is catching up to Trager, Fritz Smith, and other visionaries who have known consciously or intuitively that manipulation is not the essence of our work. Communication is the key to health. Bodywork that is not also mindwork may not be very effective!

Let this caution us about the negative consequences of many therapists’ and clients’ notions of deep tissue that call for adding more pressure for more benefit. When we see soft tissues as a communication medium, more pressure may be seen as the equivalent of shouting into your cell phone. “I SAID RELAX!!!”

Find new ways to talk with the nervous system. The brain and the bodymind appreciate the kindly attention.

Lymphatic Drainage

by Liz Hoffmaster

I have been doing lymphatic drainage for a number of years on people with different needs:

  1. Orthopedic surgeries, postoperatively, on hips, knees and any joint that can be operated on.
  2. Cancer patients who have had chemo, radiation and tumor removal.
  3. Elective surgeries, postoperatively.

It is this last category that I’m going to talk about. For 14 years I have had many referrals, for lymphatic drainage, from a plastic surgeon. He does amazing work and is very conscientious as a surgeon. I say he is the best seamstress in Austin. His stitching is immaculate. I know, because over the years I have seen some terrible stitching up of body parts. What he cannot control however is postoperative swelling. So he sends his
patients to me and other therapists who do lymphatic drainage. It is a real privilege to work on those patients because the benefits of the work are immediately evident.

Afterwards the patients feel less pain, bruising dissipates rapidly, there is improved sensation, decreased swelling and an increase in sense of well-being. There is a lot of judgment in the world about people who choose plastic surgery. In fact the people that have the surgery are often their own worst judges. The truth is they may have spent years wishing they could have something different in their body and now they’ve finally done it. Some are excited, some are terrified and wondering what on earth they have done, but in the end, the majority of them are very happy with their

I spend a lot of time encouraging them to be kind to themselves. I believe that is one of our main jobs as helpers of human beings. Below are two photographs, before and after, of one of my patients. He gave these to me along with permission to share them with everyone. I don’t think I need to attach any words to say what this must have meant to him in his life……

lymphatic drainage1 lymphatic drainage2

Grad Chronicle: Alexis Brown

My Experience working as a MT abroad

At the Lourve Musuem in Paris, Franceby Alexis Brown

I had the pleasure of attending The Lauterstein-Conway School of Massage February 2013-August 2013. Massage School was a lot of fun for me. I learned so much form the instructors, and enjoyed giving, and receiving massages daily. When I graduated I applied and accepted a position at Edelweiss Lodge and Resort, an Armed Forces Recreation Center in Garmisch, Germany.

I was brought on as a Massage Therapist and Esthetician for a 15 month contract. I had the time of my life, this past year. I was able to travel to 13 countries while employed at ELR, including Italy, France, Spain, England, Hungary, and Croatia to name a few. My overall favorite experience was my trip to Marrakech, Morocco. It felt completely foreign. The city of Marrakech had a lot of old world charm, with an infusion of a new young, vibe. I stayed in a traditional riad the first night and visited the Grand Souk where traditional clothes, spices, street foods, and henna tattoos are sold. My guide also took us on a 7 hour road trip through the Atlas Mountains to the Sahara Desert. There, my husband and I rode camels into the Sahara Desert to spend the night there. We ate a traditional meal of chicken tagine and Moroccan tea made by the Nomadic people of the Morocco. They sang songs around a campfire. It was truly an adventure.

While my travels kept me busy, my job kept my just as busy. While at ELR I did a variety of massages, body treatments, and facial. Hot Stone and Deep Tissue were very popular after a long day of skiing the German Alps. Working at Edelweiss was a unique experience in that the clientele had a unique story as all being affiliated with the military, wether they were active duty, veterans, or family memebrs. I felt great pride in relaxing these clients who go through so much to protect our country. A lot of soldiers were on R&R with their families after deployments in the Middle East and Africa. I was inspired by the stories I heard from them.

Working at Edelweiss Lodge and Resort was the best experience of my life, and I highly encourage anyone who’s looking for a little adventure to apply. I also, thankful for the skills I learned at TLC for getting me there.

The End of the Modern World?

downloadI just re-read The End of the Modern World (1956) by Romano Guardini, a Catholic priest and professor of religion and philosophy. I don’t share his beliefs precisely (being more or less a Jew-dist), but he makes a compelling and frightening case for what we have lost by not having a religious perspective play a role in our everyday lives.

Here is my take on some of his points:

Not having a central spiritual organization of life, now we create our destinies mostly by our own power and those often manipulated by for-profit power entities.

It’s ironic that our philosophy, spiritual beliefs and questions may be the most important things used to guide our lives, yet our early education does not explore these things. They are largely viewed as too personal to be covered in school. Until we have the courage to examine and discuss what we believe, we are in danger.

“Without religion life becomes like a machine without oil, it runs hot, even if its functions, some part of it is always burning out.” – Guardini

The desire to have Christianity or any single religion to hold sway unfortunately (since a single answer would be simpler in a way) is not viable any longer – no one religion has singular possession of truth. However, as we to continue to discuss the common ground to these perspectives (seems to come down to the Golden Rule in many ways), we can evolve a viable faith to guide us.

For me, it is regarding and treating as sacred the miracle of the environment, plants, and creatures of the earth, the miracles of biology and consciousness that constitute human beings.

“Our ancestors drew their subject matter from the religious attitudes which weighed on their souls. We must now learn to draw inspiration from the tangible miracles around us.” (Umberto Boccioni, 1882-1916)

As a massage therapist, it is quite easy to draw inspiration from “the tangible miracles around us” – these miracles of body, mind and spirit that are each of our clients. Perhaps this intrinsically “religious” attitude of massage is why touch and education in touch is so important in this post-modern world. Touch is actual reality, not virtual. It helps us be in touch which who we most fundamentally are without the intercession of doctrine. I believe in touch.

Humble is Helpful

by Lauren Muser Cates

“How do you get set up working in a hospital as a massage therapist?”.

I could fund a hospital program if I had a dollar for every time a massage therapist asked me this question. The truth is that if you want to talk seriously about how massage therapy becomes part of the paid, funded services at a hospital, there are some things you know you’ll need.

Evidence, skills and training are all important. If you don’t have them. Stay away from the hospital. You don’t belong there. However, what I want to talk with you about today is a gut check or, more important, a heart check.

Wanna know the hands down biggest mistake I see massage therapists make when they approach a hospital?..they show up entitled and arrogant. Most of us don’t even know we’re doing this. We’re so used to slogging up the hill, scrabbling hard for every little speck of positive regard we can earn that we don’t notice we’ve become a little impatient, a little bitter, a little worn out by saying the same things over and over to people “who just don’t get it”. We hear stories about big grants and the generosity of “grateful patients” and money being misspent on things that couldn’t possibly be as valuable as what we have to offer and we wear the indignity of that on our sleeves.

A successful approach is a balancing act.

Picture it. You’re a circus seal. The evidence, the skills, the experience?…they are essential! No self-respecting circus will not hire you without them, but they’re the ball on your nose and the bowling pins on your flippers. They’re just part of the show. If the platform that’s teetering on the pyramid under you is something other than love?…it won’t be cute and you will get no fish.

I was recently co-teaching at a retreat and we were discussing the concept of suffering or, more basically, how common it is to be unhappy with the way things are. One of the retreatants raised her hand and said, “So, am I just supposed to accept everything as it is and never do anything to change the situation?” One of my wise co-teachers invited her to consider Ghandi, Martin Luther King…Jesus. They didn’t accept things as they were. They lived to remind us that love is important. They worked to change the way things were by living through injustice and hatred with love. The difference is the energy with which they did the things they did. They inspired others to come in their direction by being vulnerable and open and by continuing to walk. By being patient and persistent. By suffering the slings and arrows and meeting them all with growing, enduring love.

I hope, with all of my heart, that you want to get into the hospital because you know there are people in there who need love. And I hope that you know that people who work in hospitals…yes, even administrators, actually do what they do because they know what you know…that humans deserve to be cared for with love.

I work in hospitals. Hospital-based massage therapy and training are a big part of how I make my living. It’s been a slow, organic, one-foot-in-front-of-the-other process of trust and love and commitment. You must have training. You must have experience. You must have a solid sense of ethical practice and good evidence to support the value of your inclusion…and I can (and will!) work with you to create and build all of that, but it’s absolutely useless if your spirit is not loving, curious, open and compassionate.

Please, above all else, bring all of these things with you when you make your pitch. You’ll be amazed at the possibilities that unfold.

Learn more about at the Hospital-Based Massage Therapy – Getting to “Yes” workshop with Lauren Muser Cates on December 6 & 7. CLICK HERE to register today!

Massage Therapy: The First Resort

old newspaper article(taken from a 1989 issue of the Austin Chronicle – slightly updated)

by David Lauterstein

People ask me how I got into massage – “What’s a nice Jewish man doing in a profession like this?” Well, I read a lot. And in 1973, while studying music in Munich, Germany, and falling into a funk which neither the aesthetic ministrations of my composition teacher, the glorious promises of the post-sixties cultural revolution, nor German beer could bring me out of, I happened to get a hold if a copy of The Primal Scream by Arthur Janov. One reading and that was it. I was coming back to the States to scream my way back to sanity! I wound up in Chicago, studying kung fu, teaching autistic kids, and undergoing Gestalt therapy. “Gestalt” emphasizes presents feelings, thoughts and actions, rather than digging up the past.

Anyhow, I spent two years getting out of the funk, and the key wasn’t insights about my mother’s grandmother’s fixation on Peter the Great but a heightened awareness of having feelings and a body, a compassionate attachment to having a heart and having my feet on this earth. I became fascinated with how the mind, body and heart affect each other, in myself and in other people. Being a philosopher, I wondered how the soul and body connect. So I became a massage therapist. And I still wonder.

Massage therapy in the 19th century arose out of three traditions: “bonesetters,” traditional European healers, who poked, prodded and twisted the body back into shape; “Shampooers,” whom Napoleon brought back from Turkey, with their own rough and tumble brand of massage and hydrotherapy; and “medical gymnasts,” descendants of Swedish fencing master Peter Heinrik Ling (1776-1839), who stressed the curative powers of movement and “the one-ness of mind and body.”

The one-ness was rent asunder by modern medical “science” with the 20th century backing of the unholy trinity – the pharmaceutical, hospital supply, and insurance industries. Drugs, machines, and hospitals became the instruments of health. Doctors headed the priesthood, heath insurance guaranteed salvation.
While modern medicine was busy selling its soul, exiled bodyworkers and massage therapists wandered far and wide searching for theirs. Luminaries such as Ida Wolf, Moshe Feldenkrais, and others drew together idea and experiences from yoga, judo, modern dance, phenomenology, Reich’s orgone therapy, neurology, particle physics and biochemistry. Finally, from the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California in the sixties, massage re-emerged, transfigured. And the message in the oil bottle was – pleasure is not a luxury – pleasure is the important ingredient in health. Not the absence of disease, but the presence of vitality is what makes life worth living. This being true, massage – as the most pleasant form of medicine – must be seen as the most generally necessary form o treatment, as the first, certainly not the last resort.

The skilled therapists of today may draw from a variety of modalities. For circulatory refreshment and the accelerated healing of muscular and connective tissues, the “muscle” therapists of Swedish, Esalen and sports massage are commonly employed. To enhance organic function far removed from the actual site of pressure, “zone” therapies such as shiatsu (also called “acupressure”) and reflexology may have dramatic impact. Dysfunctional postures of body and mind are freed and reorganized though deep work such as Rolfing or movement works like Feldenkrais or Aston-Pattering. Energy works, including Reiki, Polarity, and Jin Shin Jyutsu, use gentle touch to “tune” bodily energy flows towards being more in harmony with the universe around them. “Fluid” approaches, such as Trager and Cranio-sacral balancing, gently move or rock body segments, literally setting up waves to help break up self-limiting behavior patterns. And any of these approaches also may have the capacity to, as the I Ching says, “loosen the grip of obscure emotions.” Therefore, psychotherapists commonly refer clients to massage as a way to speed their healing.

A therapist is not limited to any one of these modalities; he often “composes” the session based on the individual, not subjecting him/her to a static “approach.” The tendency with the raising of educational standards is for therapists to become more integrative. A “new” therapy on the scene, for example, Zero Balancing, integrates structural and energetic work and is the product of Fritz Smith, and M.D., osteopath, Rolfer and acupuncturist.

“Names and claims aside,” you may ask, “What’s so great about massage?” and frankly I believe its love that’s so great about massage. Funnily enough, its right here that we rather awkwardly encounter the one good reason massage and prostitution were ever associated. Both address people’s needs for love. However, prostitues simply don’t deliver – selling sex for love is robbery. That’s a good reason why it’s illegal. Massage therapy recognizes that underneath each person’s tension, stress, even illness and injury, is an unmet need for energetic nourishment, i.e. love.

And so, we massage therapists study anatomy and learn physiology until we can precisely visualize the oxygen molecules hitting the bloodstream with the force of life itself. We study hydrotherapy, finding ways to address the sensitive chaos, the turbulent flows that we, being mostly water, are. We learn communication skills to better understand our clients needs and to respond with the beauty, truth and goodness of well-considered movement, work and intent. We work at learning, it never stops – how to actually deliver tender loving care to the whole person. Each person like a song emerging from their genetic code/notation. Massage therapy at its best amplifies, as Whitman would say, the Song of the Self.

So, when people call me to ask what kinds of massage I do, I like to ask, “Who are you?” Similarly, when you are looking for a therapist, find out who this therapist is. Techniques aside, the best therapist for you will be a person who, you feel, is truly caring and trustworthy. Other important considerations: 1) Talk with friends who get massage. Word of mouth is often the best bet for finding an excellent, caring professional. 2) Call a local massage school for a referral. 3) Ask is he/she is a member if the American Massage Therapy Association or the Association of Bodywork and Massage Professionals . Though not a guarantee of excellence, such membership usually indicates professionalism. 4) Make sure he/she is licensed with the state. Fourteen in 1989, now forty-five states including Texas licensure massage therapists. 5) Interview the therapist over the phone before you make an appointment. Trust your gut feelings. Does this person really listen? 6) When you receive a session, trust your body and sprit to be the judge. If unsatisfied, don’t hesitate to seek out another therapist. When looking for disease treatment, we commonly get a second opinions and it is equally important that we choose wisely when investing in our health.

Recently, two of my former students who are continuing their educations at the San Antonio Health Science Center invited me down to view cadavers. Not your usual Sunday family outing, but wife, Julie, and I, both being therapists, are naturally fascinated with anatomy. Upon arrival, my daughter, declaring us “weird” (we didn’t deny it), marched off to the cafeteria and the video games, Walkman in hand.

Anyhow, we saw six bodies, and yes, all the muscles we know, they’re there, and the nerves, arteries, organs, etc. – it is just incredible. But what also struck us was how strongly each person’s different character was still expressed somehow in the contour of muscle and bone. The dead body really is “all she wrote.” One man thickly muscled, and large boned, felt like he had just born up under his life. Around him we simply could not concentrate. It was as if the power and confusion of his held-in feelings still ricocheted around the table.

At another table, Julie was smiling over a little old woman. We imagined the sweetness of her life yet emanated from her form. And there in the literal face of death it was clearer than ever. True health is not just a matter of drugs or operations, nor dietary or callisthenic regimens – it is proportional to the true generosity of spirit in love and work that each of us is willing to cultivate. I hope and intend massage therapy to be tangible form of this generosity. How to connect the soul and the body? All we need is love.

David Lauterstein has been a massage therapist for thirty-seven years. He co-directs the Lauterstein-Conway Massage School and Clinic (TLC) in Austin and is the author of two books, Putting the Soul Back into the Body and The Deep Massage Book – How to Combine Structure and Energy in Bodywork.

Shouldn’t All Ribs Float?

10462353_750075925030260_2527428782841193006_nEach rib has toward its “head”” a triangle of synovial joints – with attachments to the bodies of the vertebrae above, below and to the transverse process of the one below.

The triangle is one of the most stable as well as most flexible structures in nature. It is no accident that nature chose the triangle for both the stability and movement that ribs need to manifest. I think of these triangular attachments like little elbows that can flex, extend and gracefully rotate this way and that.

Ribs 11 and 12 are called floating because their anterior ends don’t have skeletal attachments. And their floating seems particularly relevant and poetic because their inner margins are a site for attachment of the ever-floating diaphragm moving on the wings of breath. As it comes more to the front, the diaphragm also attaches to the 10th through 6th ribs and the xiphoid process.

But truly all ribs are floating. We are mostly water and so the ribs float around all the internal organs, perpetually moving to the rhythms of breath and heartbeat

Most therapists don’t spend enough time with the ribs and their connections. The floating of the ribs is intimately connected with the sense of internal buoyancy that we need for vitality in our lives.

So please give more kindly attention in your work to the floating ribs, knowing that’s a capacity they all have and need!

~ art from


11.01.web.staffheadshot.davidBy David Lauterstein, LMT, MTI, Certified Zero Balancing Teacher, Co-founder of Lauterstein-Conway Massage School

In my early years I was mostly studying and playing music. But as I moved into my late 20’s I started to realize I didn’t want to do music for a living. I got into therapy and the therapist recommended receiving massage as a way to get to know myself better in body, mind and spirit. That really opened my eyes.

After a few years of receiving massages and appreciating so many benefits – physical, emotional, mental and spiritual – I decided I might try doing it myself. At that time I was in Chicago and, unbelievably, there was no school! So I approached each massage therapist I had seen as a client and tried to convince them to teach me what they knew!

First, of course, I needed a massage table. So I looked in the paper to see if there were any for sale and I asked around. Finally – I can’t remember exactly how – I found out about a used one for sale. So one winter day in Chicago, I hiked up four floors in a north-side apartment building to see this massage table.

It was topped with forest green vinyl and had a design I’d never seen. Thin oak legs and struts supported the table surface. The struts were like Tinker Toys and were held in place by thick pins. I was skeptical but the owner showed me actually how this was a very effective, clever way to stabilize the table. It didn’t have a “face cradle”, just a rectangular hole cut through the table toward one end in which one could rest their head when lying facedown. Well, peculiar, but ok!

I decided the time was right. I gave the owner $80 and walked out with the massage table. To this day I remember the feeling of walking down those four flights of stairs with my new table. I was like a guitarist with his first guitar in its case. Like a painter with his new palette. Like a cowboy with his first saddle.

I was filled with the feeling that here was my instrument. Here was the tool with which I could explore all this fascinating territory that lay ahead – vistas of anatomy and physiology, frontiers of healing. With this table, I could perhaps help through touch make a new kind of positive difference in the world for me and for the people I might see.
But all I really knew at the time was the feeling of excitement that was coursing through me. I was going to study massage, become a therapist. Here was my tool, really the only main tool I needed – in addition to my own hands, heart, and mind.

And now, 37 years later, I remember that moment and I can still really not find the words to capture fully how grateful I am that I began that fateful day a work and a journey that has resulted in a life that I only dreamed of then, walking down those many flights of stairs and out into the winter day in Chicago with my new massage table.

OK here’re two things that woke me up at 5:00 this a.m. with anger, sadness, and fear -

1. URGENT CONCERN RE THE MODEL PRACTICE ACT (and other recent legal developments)

The originally circulated version of the Model Practice Act (MPA) contained the requirement that all massage schools be accredited. Massage schools are already regulated by the state they are in. Now schools are free to become accredited but are in almost no states required to do so. Accreditation (especially if the school is in place to get students guaranteed loans) involves a tremendous amount of work and expense to get accredited, to be in compliance with sometimes burdensome and/or nonsensical government requirements, requires hiring new staff to oversee financial aid department and many other government compliance issues – which means students’ tuition must dramatically increase to cover those additional, non-educational administrative expenses.

Thus, many good schools such as my own have chosen to go simply for the highest quality of education, keeping their tuition quite low and affordable, rather than spend a tremendous amount of energy satisfying government agencies, and not siphoning the quality and quantity of energy for students’ education into the energy it takes to comply with the government and national accreditation agencies.

We have heard that a modification may be proposed to exempt schools with under 40 student per year. The proposal that massage schools be accredited unless they graduate under 40 students per year is a cover-up. Soon the accredited schools offering guaranteed student loans will drive the smaller schools out of business – just like the big box stores drive out the local small stores.

This act would be a windfall for accrediting agencies and, to some extent, government. It would be a radical withering away of the diversity and freedom in our field.

2. Some of the push (Georgia is the latest) to restricting of CE credits to massage only and not bodywork. The characterization of anything that uses the term energy to disqualify it from CEU’s – could effectively divorce the realm of bodywork from massage. And also, if it’s not soft tissue manipulation in a strict sense, the implication is those also would not be acceptable for CE’s. So shiatsu, polarity, structural integration, Aston-patterning, Feldenkrais, Trager, reflexology, cranio-sacral therapy, manual lymph drainage, Zero Balancing, Thai massage, etc. would all not be acceptable for CE’s? HELLO????

Massage therapists should be free to study bodywork methods as continuing education – period. And practitioners of these methods should not be threatened that they therefore must also be massage practitioners. They have chosen a bodywork specialty which does involve touch but is not massage therapy.

Never has the freedom in our field been so threatened by its organizations.

What is muscle-specific deep tissue work of the arms and legs?

by Brian Utting

The phrase ‘deep tissue work’ is used in so many contexts that it’s hard to know what it means anymore. To some practitioners, ‘deep tissue’ simply means deep pressure. To others, it has more fascial, myofascial, or structural connotations. Muscle-specific deep tissue work still works with the fascia, and uses deep pressure when appropriate, but is more focused and precise. Like structural work, it has a strategy, but it gets there by releasing the individual muscles as well as the fascia.

In the case of the legs, we will still contact the fascial wrapping around the legs (as well as the iliotibial tract and the large muscles of the legs), but in addition we will focus on the smaller intrinsic muscles of the feet, the joints of the feet, and important and often-missed muscles like the deep calf flexors and the popliteus.

The deep calf flexors (tibialis posterior, flexor hallucis longus, flexor digitorum longus) are plantarflexors and invertors of the foot, but their most important function may be maintaining the arch and stabilizing the foot on uneven terrain. They are often passed over in a typical deep tissue session, but are critical to maintaining balance not only in the foot, but also between the tibialis anterior, peroneus longus, and the gastrocnemius and soleus. Blunt, deep-pressure strokes and broad fascial strokes generally don’t get to the deep calf flexors, and are sometimes even dangerous. One needs to sift through the more superficial structures and use clean, precise strokes to release these muscles, since they are surrounded by nerves, blood vessels, and lymph beds. Runners especially appreciate this work, since they use these muscles so intensively, but rarely get them released, either from stretching or from bodywork. Based on my experience, the work improves performance and prevents and/or speeds recovery from injuries.

Muscle-specific deep tissue work for the shoulder not only addresses the relationship (both fascial and muscular) between all the muscles that support and suspend the shoulder, but gets to the smaller stress points on the scapula and the surfaces and ruts of the rib cage that are often passed over. It’s liberating and feels great when everything is released and working in harmony.

The arms and hands respond extremely well to muscle-specific deep tissue work; there are many muscles living alongside each other that rarely (if ever) get stretched and separated from each other. In addition, there are 30 bones and numerous joints that benefit from having motion introduced into them once the fascial and muscular structures (both superficial and deep) are unglued. There are also many bony surfaces in the hands and fingers that need to be cleaned up from time to time, just as we periodically go to the dentist to get our teeth cleaned. For massage therapists, this is especially valuable, since our hands and arms are our primary instruments. Practitioners not only learn a number of useful techniques in this section of the class, but also receive some valuable self-care.

To learn more, register for the Muscle-Specific Deep Tissue workshops with Brian Utting on October 11 & 12. CLICK HERE to register for the Legs & Hips workshop. CLICK HERE to register for the Shoulder Girdle, Arms, & Hands workshop. Register for both workshops at a discounted price!