1. Slow down when you need to. Speed up when you don’t need to slow down. Massage that’s always slow is ultimately boring massage.
  2. Palpate – how can you love if you don’t know what’s there?
  3. Know anatomy – not just in general. Have memorized the origins, insertions and actions for at least the 90 most important muscles.
  4. Care; really care; let your care be palpable.
  5. First do no harm – to yourself! Pay attention to your body mechanics and your psycho-mechanics.
  6. Don’t substitute force for intelligence.
  7. Take a history; your client’s complaint arises from and takes place within their whole life. You’re working on time as much as space.
  8. Try to do no more than 4 sessions a day.
  9. Become a boundary genius; when you hold to impeccable boundaries it becomes a powerful part of the healing process. When you create an atmosphere of total safety and trust, the healing process is initiated.
  10. Don’t hedge on the business side – you are in the massage business as much as you are assisting in the healing process.
  11. Get massage. Not getting massage is like a writer never reading.
  12. Take a workshop at least once a year; a vacation twice a year, and a contemplative break once a day.
  13. Don’t give up. Work, exacting work, moves mountains.


10155573_648574265180427_281499210_nSome years ago, I went with my daughter, Katja, to receive her first facial. The esthetician, from Colombia, explained how it would proceed. She said, “Your face does not end at your neck! It goes down to your chests!”

Well, something similar can be said about your back. Your back doesn’t end at the waist! It goes down to your tail!

However, the majority of massages I receive almost entirely avoid the sacrum! This is a serious problem. Unless you are working with a new or very modest client, you are doing them, especially those with lower back pain, a disservice by not addressing this area with knowledgeable, skillful, compassionate, specific touch.

This is just a matter of good applied anatomy. Take a look at the accompanying illustration. The fascia of the back ultimately goes down to the coccyx (and from there into the lower body). If you leave out specific work on the sacrum you are ignoring an area that is often literally and figuratively the root of low back pain.

Now I am not recommending work on the coccyx. But, to give the person the experience of the full length of their back and spine, you have to go at least three-quarters of the way down the sacrum.

And to address the fascia there you can’t just do a few general passes. This area needs specificity. As long as you are being sensitive, working here with thumbs, knuckles, or even, gently, with the elbow can make all the difference in the world.

Restore length and health to the lumbodorsal fascia working especially from L3 on down. Respond with deep transverse friction to fascial thickenings with the sacroiliac ligaments, exploring the space between the sacral spinous processes and the ilium.

Don’t ignore the sacrum!

This a simple but powerful reminder of how even the most sophisticated bodyworks, like Rolfing, are, fundamentally, just good applications of anatomical knowledge.

Honor your origins! Thoracolumbar fascia, we have your back!


This is an article I’ve spent a long time writing – for the Alliance for Massage Therapy Education and just published by Massage Today. May it do a WORLD of GOOD.

Please share with other therapists!

Very happy to get these responses already! Thank you most sincerely!

“A very well spoken and balanced perspective on this challenging topic (and we could use a lot more of that balanced perspective!).” – Whitney Lowe (OMERI)

“David hits the nail on the head with this one. Many thanks for bringing a balanced perspective to the collective conversation!”- Kate Ivane Henri Zulaski (COMTA)

Read the entire article – CLICK HERE!

Beyond the Immune System: Making History with Massage

A Talk Presented by David Lauterstein at the first National Conference for Teachers of Massage and Bodywork


To articulate the past historically does not mean to recognize it “the way it really was”.  It means to seize hold of a memory as it flashes up at a moment of danger.

                                            — Walter Benjamin – Illuminations


The above quotation may serve to remind us – we are living in a potentially dangerous time.  Not to be a spoil sport, but we know that it is reasonable, given the unresolved psychological and ecological issues of humankind, to wonder how and whether we will be around 50-100 years from now.  In addition to possible future global dangers, massage therapists and educators are themselves at a great crossroads defining, as we become more accepted and accessible, whether we are really to become part of the medical-industrial establishment or to retain our maverick, holistic feet-in-both camps- status.  Frankly, I’m staunchly in the latter camp, believing in the precious natural and spiritual healing legacy of Pehr Henrik Ling, Andrew Taylor Still, Ida Rolf and other great teacher/therapists throughout history.  I am firmly convinced, to paraphrase Walter Benjamin, that even the dead will not be safe if the reductive medical model is victorious.

Years ago there was a famous issue of National Geographic magazine containing a lengthy article on the immune system.  It aroused in me some sneaking suspicions.  It depicted the immune system as an intense and formidable military apparatus with T-cells as tanks and B-cells as anti-personnel weapons, the good solider lymphocytes, the valiant white blood cells all amassed in do-or-die battle against the dreaded pathogens, the NON-SELF substances, the foreign invaders threatening our very boundaries!  I thought – just wait a minute!   This is b.s.  Is health really to be defined as an organism’s success at defending itself against foreign invaders?

At that time I postulated in jest and in hope a much more interesting system, one based on nourishment and love, not on division, conquest or repulsion.  This is a complementary system with its own specialized cells, molecular dynamism and organs which splendidly welcomes “outsiders”.  I imagined the foreign visitors being offered refreshment.  “Some DNA or maybe you would like a phosphate?  Or a massage in the interstitial baths or would you like to experience the sublimity of being rocked in the cerebrospinal fluid?”

These thoughts acted as seeds for years of questioning and reflection.  Where and how might be this opposite of the immune system?  It is still a question which is very much with me.

Sam Keen, the philosopher, said something like anything you can accomplish in one lifetime is probably not worth doing.  The most important questions are those in fact which are posed by evolution itself, those which are taking generations of humans and perhaps the evolved spectrum of life millennia to survive, let alone answer.  These are truly great questions!

Anyhow, a few years ago, a chiropractor somewhat patronizingly claimed to me that chiropractors were more effective than massage therapists because with their adjustments they worked faster than the stretch reflex could kick in.  Somewhat defensively I countered that our work was at least as powerful because we worked slower than the stretch reflex could kick in.

Years later this conversation lit up a big light bulb for me.  I was searching for an explanation as to the nature and efficacy of the main touch tool of Zero Balancing, called the “fulcrum”.  This is similar to what I and others teach as “melting” or myofascial release in which the therapist presses into the body until he/she feels the beginning of resistance, then waits attentively for a further opening, then adds, as feels appropriate, two or more additional gentle vectors of force.  Explained anatomically, I thought, one might say the therapist enters until just the beginning of the stretch reflex, waits for it to fatigue, then softens and lengthens the connective tissue in some relevant directions.

Then suddenly I began to see the stretch reflex as primarily a response to entry into the body, not only as a mechanism designed to prevent the overstretching of joint.  A whole new world opened up.

Seen from this perspective, the stretch reflex is a way for the body to repel from its surface things that bump against it too hard or too fast.  It serves, in other words, to repel non-self substances.  But isn’t that an immune function?  Exactly.

The stretch reflex is an immune mechanism repelling non-self input but on such a grand scale that we may want to consider it as part of what I call the “macro-immune system”.

Let’s take a moment for reverie.  For a minute just imagine that you are receiving an incredible massage.  Not just a good massage – an incredible massage, anywhere in or out of this universe, from anyone or anything.  Enjoy imagining receiving your most ideal, incredible massage.  (Please breathe and pause).

My guess, from having talked now with thousands of students, clients and therapists, is that some elements of what you experienced may have included feelings of total safety and a letting go of anxiety; a sense of unimpeded being; a sense of being un-isolated and easily connected to all of yourself and the environment you are at home in.

Massage is not a very revealing word for what we do.  From the experiences people report, it is certainly more accurate to describe it, for instance, as re-connection therapy.  Virtually everyone you ask, when they are freed to imagine what is or has been most extraordinary about receiving massage, report this sense of deep self-acceptance and a deep sense of being at home in this world.

Yet something about the concept of immunity kept bugging me.  I decided to look it up in the dictionary.  It means, get this, “exempt from public service.”  AHA!  I felt at once the glee of discovery and the tragedy imbedded in the very root of the word.  By placing immunity, “exemption from public service”, at the center of our healing ideology, our society has hitherto made disconnection, successful isolation, as the sine qua non for health.  Everyone’s an island!  This isn’t a definition of health.  It’s a prescription for loneliness and dis-ease!

So now of course it all came together – what’s the opposite of immunity? – COMMUNITY, meaning to “serve together.”  Let’s look and see what may be the beginnings of a community-based model for health.

What happens in a great massage?  We get a direct and extremely thorough experience of being beyond an immunity-based orientation.  The macro-immune system shuts down and we let someone else’s being contact us.  We step beyond immune-based living, beyond isolation, literally into community or, if you like, communion, an experience of oneness with another being.  We are one, if only for moment which feels like an eternity because in oneness our everyday sense of time and space is gone.  This touch of communion takes us out of our narrow selves and restores us to a larger, saner whole.

Insanity can be seen as the world-view based on the belief that we are fundamentally separate isolated beings with no connection to each other.  But even on a rigorous scientific level we encounter primarily connection and community:  atomic – there is no atom belonging to or defining me as opposed to the environment; ecology – the science of the environment in which interdependence and co-evolution are the rule; sociology – studying the intricately interwoven tapestry of culture requisite to civilization.  Please look around at the world we share!  Not even to mention our connection in time – evolution and history.  As a matter of fact, from a scientific standpoint it is virtually impossible to prove the existence of separate beings!  The fabric and interweave are what’s obvious.  On this common sense level then science and religion agree in saying there is no separate self-existing self, except as a more or less conveniently held fiction for the definite but limited benefit of certain “self-conscious” organisms.

In a precise sense we are rescued from isolation by massage.  We are, in other words, saved.  It is no accident that God’s saving grace, his life-giving touch of Adam, is so commonly used in therapists’ logos and literature.  “Salvation” comes from the Latin root meaning, “whole, unbroken.”

Eating of the tree of knowledge really has been rough.  With our enhanced cortical capacity to draw distinctions we divided up the world into you/me, good/evil, us/them, friend/foe ever since and it has nearly killed us!  At the same time in the spiritual realm and recently in science, we see a striving for wholeness.  Gustav Schwenk in his incredible work, Sensitive Chaos shows how water inherently strives to form a circle – that’s why it meanders as a river, to try to re-unite with itself in circular form.  Sometimes I think human life is just striving for re-union on the basis of its fundamental water nature.

In massage we are redeemed by inspired touch from the sense of being isolated.  We remember our larger self.  We are not fundamentally separate.  Our deep need for community is fed.  The community, literally nourished, grows and we are more alive.  While still getting permission from the person’s being, and protecting the person from harm, we affirm a new, more united experience of being.  This is the second coming.  Coming home to oneness.

This is what we have to teach.  This is what we have to learn.

Lose Frustration Now – Ask Me How!


I’m Frustrated. You want to know why?
Hell if I know!


When it comes to emotions, we might say the only thing that’s frustrating is frustration! Therefore, when it comes to the emotional impact of massage, we might say our first concern is often the relief of frustration.

Anger itself doesn’t feel bad at all. It floods our muscles with blood, readying us for action. Frustration on the other hand seems to also involve the mind – we tell ourselves, or it may actually be the case, that we want something to happen that we can’t make happen.

Sources of frustration can be found all over – Democrats, Republicans or both, climate change, work that feels meaningless sometimes, world hunger, pessimism about the future, social isolation, valuing of profit over deeper human fulfillment, disease, bad habits like over-eating, under-sleeping, body pain, dietary indiscretion, etc.

The serenity prayer is fine…but WTF!,
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.” (Reinhold Niebuhr)

The global interconnected world has given rise to a perhaps unreasonable but courageous hope that, given time and energy, we can change everything. Not in one lifetime. To paraphrase Sam Keen, anything you can accomplish in just one lifetime is perhaps not too important.

How may massage therapy and bodywork help with frustration? How can we affect this psychic pain-spasm-pain cycle?

  • We help relieve the muscle tension of actions that have been held in check.
  • The pleasure of our touch overrides the pain of frustration.
  • The quality of our touch – through well-chosen rhythm, pressure, and flow – helps calm the mind, both the conscious and the unconscious.
  • The sympathetic nervous system tends to experience frustration as a matter of life or death. A good massage will generally restore balance of the sympathetic and parasympathetic sides of the nervous system.
  • With relaxation we may be able to better identify what the precise source of our problem is.
  • Often it helps restore perspective – “This is actually not that big of a deal.”
  • The relaxation of the frustration may help precipitate an “aha” experience – “This is what I can do about that!”
  • The connection with another person through touch reminds us we are not just alone in this world.
  • When we are treated with highest personal regard, we tend to realize and remember – we each have the inner resources we need to resolve our problems.

Andrew Taylor Still said the body contains all the healing resources it needs. His “Law of the Artery” recognizes the body’s self-healing capacity. This capacity holds true not just for body, but also for mind and emotions. With access to inner (and sometimes some outer resources) we can get what we need and want.

As therapists we often just remind people that they have the power.


“Thought is the welling up of unknown life into consciousness.” D. H. Lawrence

One of the first and most powerful ways we evoke the mind, is we touch the person and they then naturally bring their awareness to what and where we’re touching. Immediately they are :

  1. aware of HAVING a body
  2. aware what they feel like there – relaxed, tense

So every touch gives the mind information about the body.

And the good news is with the information that the body is tense and with a little intelligent touch, the client then proceeds to let go of some or all of the tension there.

Sometimes it’s just like we’re pointing. And the tension melts –






Much research is disproving or not yet supporting our assumptions about how we affect the body through massage.

  • 1557595_621707571200430_257244764_nCirculation – we may not affect venous return much, even though it’s been a hallmark assumption of Swedish massage
  • Fascia – it’s been shown that fascia doesn’t change nearly as much or as lastingly as we’ve thought
  • Muscles – their overall length doesn’t change much in any permanent way unless fascia changes a lot
  • Tendons and Ligaments – again fascia is naturally resistant to change

Our biggest effects are perhaps not due to soft tissue manipulation – even though that has been the most common definition of massage! Maybe our biggest effects are not on the body.

However, massage has been profoundly effective for many people. It is possible that our effects are more through the mind, than through the body, or, if you prefer that language, more through energy than structure.

What if our main effects are on the mind? And what exactly is mind?


Tips for Therapists

  • Get Feedback – unlike paints and notes, our medium is intelligent and can tell us if our work is inspiring them! Brilliantly eliciting and responding to feedback can almost guarantee that you can optimize the experience in every single session. Every session is a collaborative artwork.
  • Listen – with your hands. What is the body is telling you? What accumulated past tensions call for your attention? Make sure you palpate each place with care before choosing and applying techniques.
  • Call and Respond. Like a jazz duet/improvisation, two players make the session together. Find important places to pause, giving the client crucial time to do their inner work undisturbed. Don’t call without allowing time for the response!
  • Accuracy – Enjoy regularly refreshing and refining your knowledge and visualization of anatomy and physiology. The foundation for this art is a deep and thorough understanding of the muscles, fascia, bones, joints and nervous system.
  • Find just the right pressures at just the right moments. Take out the looseness – pause – press into the tension – pause – sink in – hold – monitor for response – clearly disengage.“Time is what we are made of” – Ben Franklin
  • Be creative in your choice of duration and rhythm of strokes.

Slowing down and letting a stroke seem to last forever can give your client a window into eternity. Take them out of the experience of “chronos”, chronological clock-time, into sacred time – known as “kairos” in Greek.

Then, going more quickly through non-problematic areas will communicate a sense of lightness and celebrate the fact that the person is not a problem to be solved, but is fundamentally a healthy being with tensions here or there.

— from “The Art of Massage”

Ending the Energy Debate – Moving Forward with High Quality Education and Therapy

leap into unknownThere have been many recent on-line discussions in our field about “energy” and the role it may or may not play in our work and education. Many people have noted regretfully that some of the discussions have given rise to divisiveness somewhat uncharacteristic in our field. Partly this may be a function of “social” media. When it comes to sorting out emotions, it is not a very effective medium.

This reminds us that, unlike massage and the world of “high touch” in which compassion is the rule, the Internet and the world of “high tech”, is not a very effective context for resolving difficult emotions!

What everyone does appear to agree on is enhancing the quality of education and therapists. So it may be helpful to look at what role “energy” may or may not play in improving massage education and in therapy.

First, we need to know what we are talking about. What does energy mean? Importantly it is a word for which there is more than one definition. The definitions of“energy” refer to two quite different things – a quality of action and a physical phenomenon.

Here is the definition from the Free 0n-line dictionary –

  1. The capacity for work or vigorous activity; vigor; power.
  2. a. Exertion of vigor or power: a project requiring a great deal of time and energy.
    b. Vitality and intensity of expression: a speech delivered with energy and emotion.
  3. a. Usable heat or power: Each year Americans consume a high percentage of the world’s energy.
    b. A source of usable power, such as petroleum or coal.
  4. Physics The capacity of a physical system to do work.

The first two definitions are more subjective and refer to the world of experience and a quality of action. The second two definitions are more objective, referring to measurable physical phenomena described by science. As we look at the energetic aspect of massage and bodywork, let’s keep these varying definitions in mind.

11.01.KayciabackWe can note in the beginning that the energetic aspect of massage refers more to the quality of action and touch, than to the scientific, objective definition. Is massage “energy work”? If we mean by energy work, pure energy work done off-the-body, it is fairly easy to say “No.” Massage involves touching the body and often is defined expressly as soft tissue manipulation in textbooks and in many state laws.

Is there an energetic aspect to touch therapy done on-the-body? Using the quality of action definitions above, we can say, “Yes.” The quality of our touch may be considered energetic. Quantifiable aspects such as pressure may be measured, but the energetic aspect is more subjectively experienced.

We need to remember that massage can (and should!) be objectively studied, but it is experienced subjectively by the client. Clients are interested in feeling better, in having more pleasure, less pain, more relaxation, more energy. Using the first two definitions we see these are subjective goals, facilitated by both the structural and energetic clarity with which we engage the tissues and the nervous system of the body.

Where both the pro and anti energy camps get in trouble is when they leap to the objective definitions of energy. The pro-energy folks wish to see the energy aspect of massage and bodywork as objectively existing, like electricity or magnetism. While these may be intriguing metaphors for the energetic aspect of our work, there is little if any proof that the energy spoken of by some massage therapists and bodyworkers exists objectively. Again and again we need to return to the fact that the energetic aspect refers most directly to subjective experience. This makes it no less real, our experience is real – but like thought and emotion, like love – you can’t find it under a microscope!

Now the elusiveness of how to describe subjective/energetic experience has given rise to various terminologies. Some people are attracted to a particular language describing the energetic aspect because that was what they were taught or they find those concepts and vocabularies illuminating of their own experience as receivers and as givers. Some people find helpful the languages of chi or meridians, prana, kundalini, chakras, bio-energy, élan vital, psychology, or phenomenology, etc. Some people prefer language referring primarily to the nervous and endocrine systems, seeing the experience of energy largely as a projection of the brain.

How can and should we reflect these varying views in our education? No one is saying this should a mandatory part of basic curricula, however, there are some ways various educators may choose in a balanced way to cover this topic.

We may cover some of energetic aspects of massage and bodywork in our history classes. Asian concepts linking up energy and anatomy have played a role in the history of massage. The “humors” in medieval medicine; the assumption of links between the spiritual and physical aspects of health; the energetic understandings of psychology and ,most recently, psychoneuroimmunology – any or all of these may be helpful in producing students with a fuller picture of our work and its roots in the history of manual and mind-body therapy.

We can note that many modalities explicitly integrate structural and energetic work – Zero Balancing, Deep Massage, some forms of myofascial release. And many more assume this is what’s happening – shiatsu, Thai massage, Rolfing, etc.

We should cover how conscious and unconscious beliefs affect health. Chronic mindsets and chronic emotional conditions can exacerbate or even cause a variety of tension-syndromes. The placebo effect is powerful. Ted Kaptchuk, author and acupuncturist, and some colleagues mostly from Harvard have created a “Program in Placebo Studies and the Therapeutic Encounter.” It is equally important for students to also understand the nocebo effect – the harm that can be caused by uncaring healthcare that may evoke negative feelings in the client. Placebo and nocebo effects of course may be considered as within the realm of the energetics of touch.

In looking at assessment skills and the therapeutic relationship, it is important that we consider posture, movement, and the energetics that may underlie those.

We may agree on what we should not do:

Advocate for any particular language describing energy.

Confuse energy that can be scientifically measured from the subjectively experienced energetic sensations. Perhaps one day we will have more solid evidence of the objective existence, for instance, of the human energy field – but we don’t at this time

Require students in a basic school curriculum to learn a “hands-off” modality.

How should the energetics of touch be reflected or not in our practice?

We should not talk to clients about their “energy”. Diagnosis, whether structural or energetic, is not within our scope of practice. When a massage therapist or bodyworker talks to the client about their energy, they are way beyond the boundaries of massage (and basic etiquette!) and quite likely to evoke the nocebo affect by verbally attributing certain energy characteristics to a client.

We should be conscious that when we are touching people, it is a contact which is more than just physical. This means we need to take responsibility for the energetic as well physical effects of our interaction and touch. We need to recognize that we are touching both structure and energy.

Massage is an art and a science. We depend on research and scientific knowledge to enable us to work effectively with our clients. At the same time, every session is a person-to-person, moment-to-moment improvisation that calls for a subtle sensitivity to the medium we are working with. In the case of massage/bodywork our medium is the most complex and sensitive life form known to exist. Of course, we need art and science. Of course, we need to know this person is a profound integration of structure and energy, tissue and issues, and to be sensitive to what is both objectively true and subjectively experienced.

To argue for or against either the structural or energetic perspective is like arguing which of your two eyes you ought to see out of. By honoring both what research and what subjective experiences teach us, we arrive at the highest quality of touch, education and therapeutic benefit. Without science, without a respect for knowledge and structure, we lose our commitment to truth; without art, without a respect for subjective, energetic experience, we lose our commitment to the soul and beauty of our work. We see better and more truly with both eyes.

The study of massage

11.01.ZBVarious T.V. shows have depicted massage as something kind of weird or funny. And that’s fine. But I see that as people making fun of things they don’t understand or are embarrassed about.

Massage and the study of massage is actually one of the most profound professions and realms of study that there is. So this article is a kind of corrective, that helps you see what is truly so inspiring and fascinating about learning and practicing massage therapy.

My background before I got into massage was music composition and philosophy. So I see massage therapy as essentially combining, in a fascinating way, what Aldous Huxley called the “non-verbal humanities” with applied science.

The study of massage can provide such deep insight into both the art and science of being human that students often say what we’re learning here is something everyone should know, not just therapists.

First of all, there is the hands-on knowledge of anatomy and physiology. The Bible said man is made in God’s image and there is no doubt that the human body is wondrous. In massage we get to know, not just abstractly, but through touching – the structure of the bones and joints, the structure and function of the hundreds of muscles that enable us to move. We learn how our heart and circulatory system delivers blood and nourishment to every cell.

11.01.AnatomyClass.MuscleModelingWe learn about the lymphatic system, how we breathe, the skin and all the miraculous things it does for us – did you know your skin comes from the same embryonic layer as your brain?

We learn how we convert our food into nourishment. We learn how our brain works! Lots of times, I tell students that the human brain is such a complex instrument, such an incredible vehicle for intelligence, memory and emotion, that there should be a license required to have one! A car is much less complex, frankly much less dangerous and also much less fun than the human brain! There is no excuse not to know, appreciate and, through knowledge, learn how to even better operate the vehicle for life that is your brain.

The human body/mind is miraculous. And as a therapist one of the things that astonishes me is seeing how people do not know how miraculous they are. It is part of our job as therapists to non-verbally remind the person what a miracle their embodied life is. When we really feel and appreciate what a rare gift it is to be alive, that is the beginning of true, conscious health!

How does massage help with this? Well here is where the art and science combination begin. Because the quality of touch is something that, like improvised music, depends on rhythm. And the pressures we choose get finely modulated in response to the individual. And the styles of massage – there are over a hundred – also are chosen uniquely for each individual.

There is sports massage, there is Swedish, orthopedic, deep massage, shiatsu, Thai massage, Chair massage, Zero Balancing, massage that affects posture, massage for special populations such as pregnant women, people with cancer, infant massage, massage for seniors, massage for animals! There are hundreds of styles of massage and hundreds of varying populations that need the specific benefits these many styles of bodywork provide.

How can this unique form of healthcare affect so many populations so powerfully and positively?

We need to realize touch is the first sense to emerge in the embryo; touch happens as early as 7 ½ weeks!

Touch is the foundational sense for our sensory world. So when we want to affect a person in a fundamental way, touch is incredibly powerful; it is the first tool we should use.

Touch starts with the skin. Our first sense, our first knowledge of the world, comes from the skin.

When we first touch, the skin sensors for light touch, pressure and temperature immediately become activated. Deep to the skin are the muscles, tendons, and ligaments.

With deeper touch and stretches, we begin to affect the body’s proprioceptive sense. This is a part of the brain that tells us how much tension or looseness there is in the body and where it is, and so gives us an overall sense of where and how we are in space. This is critical for balance, for all coordinated movement, and for protecting the body as we move about.

Touch, because it is so fundamental, also affects our emotions. Chronic tension comes from chronic stress. Chronic stress has become almost an epidemic in our society.

People are worried about their jobs, about their appearance, about the environment, about their relationships, the future, about so many things! This anxiety gives rise to held tensions in the body that affect our structure and ultimately affect the very function of our physiological systems. Because excess stress activates the “sympathetic” side of the autonomic nervous system – the flight or fight response. When fight of flight predominates in your life this can end up having dramatic consequences on the heart, breath, digestion, elimination, immunity. Ultimately stress affects every cell of the body through the responses of the endocrine system.

Massage therapy by initiating the opposite response – the rest-and-repose response, called the “parasympathetic” side of the autonomic nervous system – helps remedy the bad effects of chronic and acute stress. It helps interrupt the so-called pain-spasm-pain cycle. You might call it the pleasure-relaxation cycle!

Relaxation and pleasure are some of most important ingredients of health. This is perhaps where people start seeing massage as weird. Pleasure connected to health?

Well, it should come as no surprise to anyone that the experience of the opposite of pain is fundamental to the experience of health. Who doesn’t want to feel well? What does feeling good really feel like? We begin to see – the effects of massage are indeed dramatic antidotes to dis-ease and displeasure people carry in their bodies and minds. The only sensible response to the epidemic of stress is to spread the knowledge and experience of what health feels like. It feels good! Should this be a surprise to anyone?

So massage affects every organ through the nervous and endocrine systems. It affects the skin, muscles and bones through deeper work. It effects our emotions, helping us to feel good and let go of the fight-or-flight response. It even affects the mind, because so often our thoughts are responding to our emotions. So greater emotional balance will promote more productive and peaceful use of our minds – for instance instead of focusing too much on what makes us anxious or angry.

So studying massage amplifies all of these benefits even more for the students, than our clients. Because here were come back to the effects of learning in the non-verbal humanities. When students are in school, they do a tremendous amount of work on each other.

In our program our students receive about 75 massages over the course of their training. And these are supervised by insightful teachers – so both the superficial and deeper benefits of massage are assured in this work and learning. I have to tell you – no one can receive 75 massages over the course of a year or less and not experience changed life! And a profound form of learning – conjoined with the experience of massage is the scientific knowledge of the body and mind that students gain from their academic studies.

You begin to see I hope that this study and this practice is something we think everyone needs to have. The art and the science of massage has been carrying this tradition of insight and compassion for thousands of years. But it’s been just in the last 50 years that the education has caught up with the practice, that science has begun to show us the details about what touch does to the body and the mind, that the profession of massage, as one of the most fascinating and powerful forms of healthcare, has come to the light of day.

This wonderful art and science, the benefits of which we hope all of humanity could receive has become a fundamental and revolutionary part of the new healthcare – reminding us that TOUCH lies at the foundation of our sensory world, our movement, our posture, our emotions, our very peace of mind.

Massage Therapy brings something to healthcare that one simply cannot get any other way.

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