Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Choosing massage supplies - where do you start!

Massage therapists have a reasonably limited number of "tools of the trade" - you'd think a comfy massage table, oil and towels would pretty much be it.

Not so! I've tended to choose my oils based on word of mouth recommendations - certainly, when I was training we quizzed the teachers about which oils they used and recommended, and it's always useful to ask what other therapists use. In the UK, I used carriers oils from Absolute Aromas, but there are a huge array of balms, lotions and carrier oils, and an even larger range of essential oils - the delicious smelling oils used in aromatherapy- to choose from.

The texture and smell of the oil, lotion or balm can have a dramatic impact on the quality of the massage. If it's too greasy, the therapist will have difficulty keeping contact with the client's body, and if it's too dry, it's difficult to get "glide" - so the massage will feel jerky.

In reflexology class this week, our teacher has been discussing the Young Living range of oils, and has brought in various samples for us to smell and use. We don't use any oil in reflexology, but therapists will often use essential oils in diffusers or oil burner while they're doing a treatment. Similarly, reflexology can be done as part of a massage, so the issue of oils typically comes up in any gathering of massage therapists.

The people at Young Living do a great job of marketing - I love the names of their oil blends. Of course they have blends with names that you'd expect, such as Joy and Peace and Calming, but something like Highest Potential makes me want to go out and try it straight away.

According to Young Living's website:

"Highest Potential™ is an exotic blend of therapeutic-grade essential oils designed to increase your capacity to achieve your highest potential. It combines the uplifting and inspirational qualities of Australian Blue™, with the power of Gathering™, to hlp bring greater unity of purpose. Jasmine is added to enhance self-confidence, while ylang ylang calms, soothes and helps release feelings that might otherwise get in the way."

It's like a super blend of oils, which includes: Australian Blue, [a blend of blue cypress (Callitrus intratropica), ylang ylang (Cananga odorata), cedarwood (Cedrus atlantica), blue tansy (Tanacetum annuum), and white fir (Abies concolor)], Gathering essential oil blend [galbanum (Ferula gummosa), frankincense (Boswellia carteri), sandalwood (Santalum album), lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum), rose (Rosa damascena), spruce (Picea mariana), geranium (Pelargonium graveolens) and ylang ylang (Cananga odorata)], jasmine (jasminum officinale) and ylang ylang (Cananga odorata). Wow - how's that for a list of ingredients!

Apparently, Young Living's oils are therapeutic grade, and the company claims it is the largest supplier of essential oils in the world. My first impression of the company this week is that their oils smell and feel great. I've ordered a seven-oil starter pack to check them out, and can't wait to work with them, or simply use them around home.

One of my massage study buddies in the UK also put me on to Tui - Balmes and Waxes. I'd never used waxes in my massages, but I was keen to learn more about them. Tui points out that waxes have an inherent benefit over oils in that oils are easily spilled, and can become so concentrated on bed linen that it proves impossible to wash out. Yuuuuuk!

Tui's products are a blend of natural, organic beeswax and high quality vegetable oils. I like the fact that there are no artificial preservatives, emulsifiers, colouring agents, stabilisers or chemical additives are used in their products. I also ordered a couple of their blended waxes and one balm to try out in the coming weeks.

I think it's important for therapists to choose their oils carefully and to be able to offer different products for different situations - some people prefer that oil is not used, particularly if there are no shower facilities in the massage room or clinic, and they have to go back to work or out to an appointment after their treatment.

I also think trade shows are a great way to check out new products, particularly if you're new to the industry.

I'd love to hear other people's views on oils and suppliers in Australia or the UK - feel free to post your thoughts on the blog.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Student clinics at massage schools - great value and great experience

Massage Schools Queensland (MSQ), the school where I'm currently doing my reflexology studies, runs a student clinic, whereby students practice on members of the public, at highly discounted prices.

I'd come across the clinic concept when I did my massage studies in the UK, and had to participate in one clinic day. It seems to be different in Australia, or certainly at this school. Cert IV students at MSQ are required to do 40 hours of massage in the clinic, on top of their 100 or so practice hours outside of the school.

I think it's a great idea that benefits the soon-to-be massage students by giving them a broader range of experience while they're still under the guidance of teachers, while giving the public access to massage and other therapies such as aromatherapy, remedial massage and reflexology at greatly reduced prices.

Until I'd participated in a clinic day and received a massage at one, I'd always been a bit sceptical about whether I wanted a "beginner" practicing on me. However, I was extremely impressed at the quality of the massage I had at the MSQ clinic last week - done by one of my reflexology study buddies after our class.

Everything about the clinic, the pre-treatment consultation and the massage was professional. It was more thorough, in fact, than many massages I've paid full price for.

I think the main benefit of student clinics is that the students are keen to do their massage well, and are constantly receiving feedback from tutors and other students in class, and then put it to practice immediately in the clinic. It also simulates an actual clinic environment, so students gain relevant experience in the logistics of back-to-back appointments, changing treatment rooms over and building rapport with clients in a short period of time. It's also a great, cheap way to try out massage if you've never had one.

I completely recommend the MSQ clinic and am looking forward to another massage in a couple of weeks.

Check out your local massage school's clinic - chances are you'll save money and get a great massage treatment!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Fixated with feet!

I'm nearly halfway through my reflexology unit and I continue to be amazed (and mortified) about what my feet are revealing about the inner workings of my body and mind. It's SO interesting!

Heather, our teacher, goes off onto what she calls digressions, but for us, they're the most interesting parts: like how the hands relate to how you're managing life and the things around you - basically how you're "handling" things. And the feet are about stepping forward in life.

We're getting down and gritty with bunions and calluses, heel fissues and puffiness, all of which have their own meanings. Bunions for example, which cause the big toe to bend away from the centreline of the spine reflex, represent moving away from one's path.

Heel fissures, which are deep, sometimes open cracks at the base of the heel, are directly related to the base of the spine, and can represent carrying extra weight or burdens in life.

We're learning which part of the feet correspond to the spine, and how working the spine reflex on the foot can actually reduce tension in say, the lower back! How cool is that!

The recommended textbook, "Better Health with Foot Reflexology" is an equally fascinating read, as it goes into the numerous reflexes in depth.

Today after class, I'm getting a therapeutic massage in the college's clinic, so will be checking out for similarities and differences in massage techniques. I can't wait.

I wonder what my feet will reveal today!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Reading the feet - reflexology reveals all

As part of the conversion of my UK massage qualifications to a recognisable Australian qualification, I have to do 30 hours of reflexology studies. I'll be doing this in 10 x 3-hour lectures over the next 4 weeks, and I started the course today at Massage Schools of Queensland.

Our teacher is a veteran in reflexology, having been one of the first people to be licenced to practice and teach reflexology into Australia. She's been doing it since 1984 and clearly knows her stuff. I was hooked after the first 10 minutes of discussion about reflexology.

According to the Reflexology Association of Australia, this modality's governing association in Australia, reflexology is:

"A gentle, holistic therapy based on the principle that certain parts of the body reflect the whole. Reflex points, which relate to all parts of the body, can be found in the feet, hands and ears. A reflexology treatment is a systematic working of these points, stimulating the body's own natural healing process, resulting in better health."

The reflex points are typically depicted in a map like the one below. The highlighted area below shows the area on the foot that represents the liver, for example. Theoretically, if this area is a bit tender or numb while a reflexologist is doing a sequence across your foot, it could indicate a problem with the liver or surrounds.

I had this experience first hand in the class today, as the teacher demonstrated the sequence on me. After a couple of months worth of farewells and reunions (and the associated drinking that seems to have gone with that), this area of my foot was really sensitive! She pointed out this sensitivity before I could even start justifying the cause...! So, lotsa of fruit, vegies and healthy eating for me in the next few weeks.

In any case, it was an eye-opener, and I can't wait to learn more about the various reflex points, and see this stuff in action for myself.

Reflexology has actually been used for thousands of years. Like massage, our forebears recognised the benefits of touch and have been practicing various forms of reflexology for years.

Reflexology is good for you because it:
- reduces stress and tension
- improves circulation
- balances the nervous system
- boosts lymphatic function thereby reducing oedema, reducing toxicity and improving immunity
- stimulates sluggish, congested systems
- reduces pain
- enhances the body's natural healing process, improves sleep, increases energy and vitality

And, just as you can read the feet, you can read the hands in a similar way. Cool huh!

If you are interested in finding a qualified reflexologist in your area, the Reflexology Association has a state-based search. Or ask your massage therapist - they may be able to help out

* The foot map image is the copyright of dorling kindersley books, who seem to have some cool resources for reflexology students or anyone else interested in their feet!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Have a heart!

I went to a fascinating talk earlier this week at the Sanctuary Cove Rec Club. One of the members of the club spoke first - a 70-something year old guy who'd had a heart attack 18 months earlier. He was actually at the club's gym working out when the heart attack happened. The quick response of the team meant that there was no lasting damage, and he made a full recovery.

A volunteer from the Heart Foundation spoke next, and rattled off some scary stats about cardiovascular disease. This disease:

  • kills one Australian every ten minutes.
  • affects more than 3.5 million Australians.
  • prevents 1.4 million people from living a full life because of disability caused by the disease.
  • was suffered by one in six Australians in 2004, and affected two out of three families.
  • claimed the lives of almost 48,000 Australians (35 per cent of all deaths) in 2004 - deaths that are largely preventable.
It wasn't all gloom and doom though - the number of deaths in 2004 had dropped ever so slightly the last few years - it sounds like the Heart Foundation's education programs are working and people are generally becoming more aware of the risk factors of heart disease.

According to the Heart Foundation, the risk factors include:

  • smoking
  • high blood cholesterol
  • physical inactivity
  • diabetes
  • high blood pressure
  • being overweight
  • depression, social isolation and lack of social support

Being male and having a family history of early death from heart disease are also heart disease risk factors. The stats about smoking's impact on heart disease were staggering - people who smoke are four times more likely to have a heart attack than non-smokers!

The rest of the talk focused on how healthy living and eliminating or managing controllable risk factors can help to reduce your chances of suffering cardiovascular disease.

The key take outs from the talk were really about maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle - it's the same old stuff about moderation, moderation, moderation!

Hearing the stats certainly drove the point home about how prevalent heart disease is - and how preventable it could be if heeded the advice of the Heart Foundation.

Check out the Healthy Living section on their website for tips about how to love your heart a little bit more.