Sunday, March 30, 2008

Please, take a seat...

Seated massage has been around for years, but now seems to be gaining mainstream popularity everywhere, and fast!

It's a versatile style of massage, because it can be done virtually anywhere, on fully clothed clients. For people who've not tried any form of massage, seated massage can be a great introduction - you'll no doubt feel revived even after a 10-minute session. And for stressed out office workers, parents, drivers and pretty much anyone who feels tension in their neck, back, and shoulders, this invigorating massage can be the perfect pick-me-up.

The TouchPro Institute was the original chair massage training organisation founded by David Palmer in the US in 1986. I recently completed my chair massage certification with TouchPro UK over a four-month period, and logged over 100 practice sessions of this invigorating style of acupressure massage.

My colleagues were keen to help me work through my practice sessions of a lunch time. Here's some of their feedback:

"The massages were really relaxing and a great lunchtime treat, and gave me new energy to focus on the afternoon's work load. Should be compulsory in any office environment! I had my second massage the day after some really intense exercise (ballet), so it was great to have my muscles worked on by Mel to ease the strain I was feeling. I would recommend it to anyone!" Anja, Customer Service Executive

“A refreshing technique. After most massages I feel drowsy. This massage left me feeling calm yet rejuvenated.” Becky, Marketing Assistant

“I found Melanie's massages extremely soothing yet effective. It's amazing what she can accomplish in 20 minutes. She definitely put the spring back into my step!” Emma, Account Development Executive.

This week, it was my pleasure to do a shift of seated massage on TouchPro's stand at the Vitality Show in London. It was a fun place to work, and great experience.

I can't believe that only 5 months ago, I received my first seated massage at the Mind Body Spirit Show, and I'm now qualified in the technique. It's certainly addictive!

More seated massage was on the agenda yesterday, when my buddy Anna and I participated in the KXZ4 Kids Expression Zone 4 in Croydon. Run by the charity Croydon Voluntary Action, the event was "for children, young people and their families celebrating their involvement in service delivery in Croydon".

There were all sorts of cool activities - arts and crafts, face painting, and even an indoor rodeo bull! Freshly made up Cinderellas and Spidermen ran excitedly from room to room, while Anna and I massaged their weary parents in a quiet corner.

The recipients seemed surprised that they could chill out so quickly amongst all the hustle and bustle going on around them, and it was a real pleasure to see them leave the massage station feeling a little more refreshed and pampered.

"Croydon Voluntary Action decided to offer massage sessions at our Family Funday so that parents would have something special just for them. It was a great success, it gave busy mums and dads the chance to relax. Demand was high and the massage team were kept really busy. Very enjoyable and a bit different," said CVA's Hilary Bell.

Seated massage can be done in homes and offices, at events, fetes and festivals, club or association meetings, sporting matches or team training sessions - you name it, we can probably get our chairs there!

A dreamy hot stone massage

I was lucky enough to be in Singapore over Easter, and paid a visit to the uber-relaxing Willow Stream Spa, on Level 6 of the Fairmont Hotel. It's just opposite the iconic Raffles.

Formerly known as the Amarita Spa, it's apparently one of the biggest day spas in Singapore, with about 35 treatment rooms.

From the moment you walk in past a couple of huge water features, you're treated like royalty. The spa feels huge - no boxy little rooms here.

Once the consultation forms were complete, we were ushered down into the Ladies Spa, changed into our fluffy white robes and slippers and entered the pre-treatment room.

It was a chill zone - just a quiet room with about 10 couches segregated by sheer curtains, where you could sip ginger tea and chill out before your treatment. It was a nice touch and really got us away from the hustle and bustle of the outside world, which now seemed a million miles away.

Mum was having a 90-minute deluxe facial, and I was having a 90-minute East Meets West Stone Massage. I was particularly interested in the hot stone massage, as it's a course I want to take this year as part of my continuous professional development requirements as a massage therapist.

Mum and I chatted quietly before our therapists called us into our respective rooms. The treatmeant rooms themselves were also spacious, with a small shower in the back corner. Again, another nice touch, as clients who are having body wraps or other treatments that require showers, can stay in the same room throughout the treatment.

I settled onto the massage table as my therapist finished warming the large, smooth basalt stones. Basalt stones are used in this type of massage because of their ability to retain heat. They also allow the therapist to apply firm pressure in tension-filled areas.

I'm sure I drifted off into the land of nod almost as soon as the first stone was placed on my back, because I don't remember much of the rest of the treatment. So much for taking notes for research purposes!

But I do remember the feeling of the therapist using the rocks like an extension of her palm, and massaging my back in long effleurage strokes. And I remember her placing stones in my palms and down my spine as she massaged my legs. The combination of the heat, oil and pressure was blissful. I'm sure my snoring was less-than-glamorous, but this 90-minute treatment was perfect for my weary, jet-lagged mind and body. I came away feeling relaxed, refreshed and happy.

What felt like days later, I emerged from the treatment room back into the chill room, to find an equally blissed out Mum. We were both grinning like clowns and wished we could afford to have these sort of treatments every day.

We could have stayed in the chill room for as long as we liked, or used the pools, showers or other facilities in the spa.

Each treatment cost around AUD$215, and in my opinion, was entirely worth it. I've always been impressed with the quality of treatments in Singapore, be it massages or pedicures, and the Hot Stone Massage at Willow Stream Spa was amongst the best I've had.

The road to massage...Part 1

In October 2007, I qualified as a holistic massage therapist, taking about 10 months to simultaneously complete the BTEC Professional Diploma Course in Holistic Massage Practice and the ITEC Diploma Course in Holistic Massage part time, at Essentials for Health.

I'd never actually set out to become a massage therapist, but after I did a Reiki course a couple of years ago, I felt like I needed to learn more about the human body. And so began my exciting and formal journey into holistic therapies.
I researched various schools and options, and decided that a massage course which included studies in Anatomy and Physiology would give me a solid grounding for Reiki and any other related modalities going forward. I eventually chose Essentials for Health, one of the UK's leading massage schools. I did their 1-day Massage Magic workshop to check out the school and its teachers, and loved it! I enrolled virtually straight away in the next diploma course.

I also liked that EfH ran their courses on weekends, and that they offered both the ITEC and BTEC qualifications. The BTEC Professional Course remains the highest level of massage course offered in the UK, and is the equivalent of an NVQ level 4 qualification. That said, the ITEC qualification is currently more widely known throughout the UK and internationally, so it was great that EfH taught both curriculums via the same course material.

The first weekend rolled around, and I remember wondering WHAT I'd gotten myself into. We were shown massage couches and various oils and the teachers were referring to body parts I didn't even know I possessed!

That first weekend, I also met a wonderful bunch of keen, newbie students like myself, who had come from all over the country (and world) and from all walks of life. Some people had already decided that massage was what they wanted to do full time, others were in full time jobs they were bored with and wanted to escape from, and yet others simply wanted to learn how to do massage properly, so they could treat their family and friends. We met our teachers too – fantastic massage therapists with oodles of patience and humour.

The weekends rolled by, usually following a format of one day of massage practice and one day of anatomy and physiology. We learnt how to effleurage (and how to spell it) and knead and percuss and apply friction - all part of an entirely new vocabulary. In the A&P classes, we delved into the structure of cells and the contents of blood, and all the while, I was thinking that I could get by with knowing that the knee bone was connected to the shin bone. Apparently not!

We were told we needed to log at least 100 hours of massage practice outside of the course before we sat for our exams. Although you might think it would be easy to give away free massages, the logistics of arranging massage sessions with mates in between busy jobs and social lives became a major challenge!

Then came the case studies – where we needed to do 2-hour full body massages on 6 different people, for 4 weeks in a row. We were required to write up full case notes describing our client’s lifestyle, what they required from each massage and what the results of each massage were. I reckon I spent as much time writing up those beloved case studies, as I spent doing the actual massages!

The road to massage...Part 2

Meanwhile, the A&P classes were getting torturous. Did I really need to know the structure of arteries and veins to give a good massage? Did I need to know what the fourth layer of skin was called, and how its characteristics differed from the second and fifth layers? My head was caving in with information overload.

While racking up my practice hours, and relieving the stress and improving the wellbeing of my clients, my own stress levels were soaring as the exams loomed. I’ve done exams before – years of them – but never anything that involved the assessment of a practical skill. Well, not since I did my driving test....and let’s not talk about that incident with the pedestrian...

The big weekend came – 2 days of exams, one for ITEC, one for BTEC. Each day contained a theory and practical exam. ITEC was first, and we were assessed with military precision on a 45-minute full body massage. The multiple choice questions were fairly straightforward. I was feeling confident.

The BTEC practical exam was pretty straightforward too – we’d been assessed continually throughout the course, so more or less knew where we stood as far as our techniques were concerned. The BTEC theory exam was another story. It was truly one of the scariest exam papers I’ve ever seen. Some 35 pages thick, the monster written paper tested our understanding of the 13 body systems...inside and out, as it were. Looking back, I can’t even remember the questions. I just remember they were excruciatingly detailed and hard. I was sure I was going to be re-sitting that exam! We all felt the same.

Four days later, in a completely unexpected flash of efficiency, we received our ITEC results – we’d been told not to expect them back for 6-8 weeks. I passed. One down, one to go.

Qualifying under ITEC meant that I could arrange my full professional insurance and begin practicing. I was so elated about getting through the ITEC exam that I had all but forgotten about the BTEC results.

When I received the call from the EfH office to say that I’d passed the BTEC exams, I laughed, screamed, then cried all in pretty quick succession. I realised at that time how much I wanted to get through that exam.

I was asked often throughout that course whether I intended to do massage full time. Up until the end of last year, I’d always thought that it would be a part time interest, but a few more advanced courses later, and some twists and turns in life, and I am now clear that it is what I want to do. Whole heartedly!

Did this course change my life?


Saturday, March 29, 2008


Welcome to my new blog! This blog is dedicated to life - to feeling great, pursuing fun, and engaging our spirit in the fullest possible way.

The blog will cover news and issues about holistic therapies, personal development and whatever else takes my fancy. I hope it takes yours too.