August 2021: By Hope Katz Gibbs, LMT
Flashback: July 8, 2021 — To celebrate my 57th birthday, I took my son Dylan on an adventure to Santa Fe, NM. I’d been living for the past year in Las Cruces, the southern part of the state, huddled up through the pandemic. At last, the world was opening up — and so was I.
We drove up to Taos for my big day, and while enjoying lunch outdoors at the spectacular steakhouse Martyrs, a thought popped into my head: I will go to massage school in Santa Fe.
Crazy, right? I already had a certificate in massage therapy from 1992 — years before I, Dylan, now 22, and his sister Anna, 26, were born. I specialized in pregnancy massage and reflexology at the time. Then my life raising kids in Northern Virginia proved too busy to pursue this passion. Still, I never let go of the idea that someday I’d rejoin the world of holistic healing.
I spent the following three decades as a journalist and building Inkandescent™ Inc., a PR and publishing company that helps women grow their businesses. It was lucrative and rewarding, but I needed to touch people more deeply.
It wasn’t until I separated from the kids’ dad in 2014 that I started ticking off the items on my bucket list: Become a Reiki Master (2015), get certified as a yoga teacher (200+ hours of Kundalini yoga training at Kripalu in 2016), become a Pranic Healer (2018), become a Yin yoga teacher (100+ hours, 2019). And then, I accomplished another longtime goal to become a Martha Beck-trained Life Coach (2020).
The answer is as simple and clear: I plan to open the Inkandescent Health & Wellness Retreat Center here in New Mexico, where women worldwide can come together to heal, celebrate, and connect.
Fortunately, Dylan is an architect (he graduated with honors in May from the University of Virginia and this month heads to Harvard, where he’s studying for his master’s degree). He’s the lead designer on the project that includes our partners — two of his Harvard professors, Alex Yuen and Weijia Song, who own the architecture firm Collective Operations in San Francisco.
To launch the project in 2021, we featured them in my health and wellness magazine: https://beinkandescent.com/issues/january-2021/. And on my birthday, I knew the next step was to become a licensed massage therapist so I would have the education and expertise to open and run the spa at our center.
The question: Where should I go to school?
When I typed my query into Google, Bodymechanics came up first, and I was impressed with what I read. While still at the lunch table, I called the school and immediately spoke with Akasha, the coordinator, who couldn’t have been nicer or more professional. She immediately made an appointment for the next day for me to visit the facility with director Deanna.
One step inside the door, and knew I’d found my school. The large, clean space drew me in, and after learning more about the program, I knew it was exactly what I was looking for. Within the week, I applied and was accepted — slated to start school on Aug. 3. Now I needed to figure out how I was going to move to Santa Fe!
I knew I was taking the right step because within days, I ended my contract for the house I was renting in Las Cruces, and found a room and storage unit in town to rent. My neighbors gave me the gift of volunteering to drive a U-Haul up north for me to make the transition seamlessly.
The day classes started, and I met my fellow students and teachers, and of course, our fearless leader Shari, the thought and feeling that permeated my body was as clear as the voice I heard in my head a month earlier: I was home.
As I sit at a local Starbucks typing the first essay of what will become my monthly column in the Bodymechanics newsletter, I have officially finished the first two weeks of class.
What are my observations so far?
Just as I felt back in 1992 when I studied for my massage certification at Alive & Well Massage School in Marin County, CA, I remembered clearly that nothing makes so much sense to me as learning how the body works. While I was privileged to attend academic institutions like the University of Pennsylvania (BA communications, 1986), The George Washington University (MA educational leadership, 1991), and Claremont Graduate University (MA candidate Positive Psychology, 2019) — those programs paled in comparison to how essential and valuable this information I’ve learned in just these first few weeks.
The teachers I’ve had the honor to meet so far at Bodymechanics are all full of heart and have deep knowledge that they are eager to share. Oliver, our Massage Theory and Practice teacher, is wise. He has guided us through the history and modalities of the practice, equipment, hygiene, and draping — and led powerful and important conversations about boundaries, grounding, and sites of caution.
He set the stage for our kinesiology teacher Pascal, who on day one invited us to memorize a slew of terms, planes/axes, and anatomical positions — that left my head spinning. Fortunately, he jotted those 35 terms outlined in the Trail Guide to the Body onto tiny index cards so my classmates and I could play with the concepts as we placed them in the proper spots. A game! What a wonderful way to learn.
By the time graduation arrives in June, I know this information will become a part of me. Like everything I’ve accomplished in my life, I have found that the only way to succeed is to take one step at a time, one day at a time. And study like mad!
In each article I pen, I’d like to leave you with two parting thoughts:
- What I learned this month: It’s fun to be a student again! Although I’m just a couple of weeks into studying the Bodymechanics curriculum, it is outlined so clearly. Our time spent in the classroom is so organized with PowerPoint presentations and study guides that I am off to a solid start! While I had my concerns about my ability, I know from experience that I will figure out a way to accomplish my goals if I set my mind to it.
- What I want other students to know: Trust your gut. Although it is proven that our gut has a mind of its own, the key is to listen to that voice, explore, and then make a good choice. The fact that my landlord let me out of my lease, that my neighbors stepped up as guardian angels to drive the four hours back and forth, and that within days I found a place to live all told me I was heading in the right direction.