June 3, 2022: WE DID IT!

Santa Fe, New Mexico — My massage school story ends today. And of course, the journey is just beginning.

By Hope Katz Gibbs, LMT

Sometimes, you know you just gotta make a change. That was true for me in 2018 I knew that I couldn’t do my life the way I had been for the last three decades. I had recently gotten divorced, my kids were in college, the contracts for many of my PR clients were coming to a close, and I didn’t want to live where I was in Richmond, VA.

The mission-critical question: What was I going to do next?

As you’ll read in this article, from August 2021 until graduation in June 2022, I studied to be a Licenced Massage Therapist (LMT) at the Bodymechanics School of Massage in Santa Fe, NM. Since August 2021, with my classmates Angie and Nick, I have been on a journey to learn about kinesiology (how the body moves), anatomy (how it’s structured), physiology (how it functions), and pathology (what makes it sick) — as well as a myriad of massage techniques that do a body good.

The real magic in the program came from our teachers, who you’ll meet in the sidebar articles in this issue of BeInkandescent. You’ll also discover their tips for success as a massage therapist (below) and insights from Nick Montoya and Angie Bartholomew, our campus manager Robyn, and members of the team at Bodymechanics headquarters in Tumwater, Washington.

I’m also thrilled to share these insights in my upcoming book, Massage School Memoire: 10 Months That Changed My Life, published this year by my company, Inkandescent® PR + Publishing Co. If you have ever dreamed of being a massage therapist, or are just curious about the process, be sure to check it out! And if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to email me. Here’s to your incredible, indelible, Inkandescent success!

Illustration (above) by Michael Glenwood Gibbs

How to master the art of massage therapy school: Advice from the LMTs

Dawn Edge, LMT, Bodymechanics Tumwater, WA: Comfort therapist (hospice), movement therapist (Nia practitioner), massage therapist Dawn Edge is an educator and continuing education coordinator at Bodymechanics School of Massage. She is also a lifelong learner, eternal optimist, and dreamer.

Dawn’s advice to massage school grads:

  • Graduation is the beginning of your education. You get the basics in school then you get to follow your joy and learn more about the modalities that interest you.
  • Self-care can be fun. Self-care is necessary for massage therapists. A healthy body and mind are required for our career paths, but it doesn’t have to be a chore. Find a self-care practice that brings you joy and pleasure!
  • The world needs you. This work is more than just a job, it is a calling and you have been called for a reason.

Robyn Madsen, campus coordinator, Bodymechanics School of Massage Santa Fe: A Sufi High Priestess, Robyn has a background in yoga, Thai Massage, Reiki, spiritualism, and leading sacred circles. She is an interfaith minister and a devoted Earth-mother gardener. Her passions lie in permaculture, Sufism, devotional studies, singing, shamanic art, and taking care of her fur babies. She loves cooking healthy high vibrational meals, tending to the living heart of the community, and ruminating over astrology. She is a firm believer in making the world a better place by being the change and attuning to the frequencies of love, harmony, and beauty.

Robyn’s advice to massage school grads:

  • Stay present in your breath with every client – this creates a safe and incredibly nourishing atmosphere for both you and your client. Think of your massage as meditation and your client will feel it.
  • Always clear your energy field before and after your session. You can do this very simply with conscious breath, running water, or prayer … Of course, you can do a special yoga routine or any other embodiment practice and I like to end each day I massage with a salt bath just to be sure I release/cleanse any energy that is not mine.
  • Always clear your treatment space before and after each session. I always set up my “container” before my client arrives – praying, lighting candles, grounding, and using my singing bowl and a crystal grid to intentionally create a healing space. After clients leave, clear the room with sound, opening windows, fans, sacred smoke, etc.
  • Be mindful of what you eat before your massage! Not only are you in an intimate setting with your client, so your breath is always on display, but if you are uncomfortable because you overate or now have indigestion or something, it can lead to a very uncomfortable session for you. (You don’t want to be farting and belching while in a session lol).
  • Practice self-care! Self-care! Self-care!! Take care of yourself in ways that nourish you deeply so that you are well resourced to give of your energy. Being an LMT really is more of a lifestyle than a job. Your energy is directly transferred to your client, so the more clear and grounded, and resourced you are, the more healing experience for everyone. Be sure to fill your cup, so you have something to give! You can’t pour from an empty cup.

Pascal Fromentin, LMT for 20 years; teacher of kinesiology, anatomy, physiology, pathology: In massage, it’s all about the hands. Obviously. But it’s much more than the strength of the therapist’s carpals, metacarpals, and phalanges. The magic of their touch is a superpower born from years of experience. With one glance at Pascal’s thick, well-worn hands, you know they have worked on thousands of bodies. A therapist for decades at Santa Fe’s world-famous spa, Ten Thousand Waves, Pascal explains that he has mastered the art of massage through continuous practice, 30+ years of study, and an endless fascination with the art of his craft.

Pascal’s gifts also translate to his role as a teacher, guiding each student in our class with his knowledge of anatomy, physiology, pathology, and kinesiology. He has a depth of understanding of the origins, insertions, and actions of each of the body’s hundreds of muscles, 206 bones, 91 bony landmarks, and 23 ligaments, not to mention all those tendons, arteries, veins, and nerves. All of this is complemented by his years of study about the biology and chemistry of how our cells work. “Our bodies are amazing machines,” insists the Frenchman born in Paris before officially becoming a US citizen in 2000. “I am changing the world by bringing peace in one body, one massage at a time.” Click here to learn more about Pascal!

Pascal’s advice to massage school grads:

  • Be patient and kind with yourself.
  • You cannot remember everything you learn so don’t feel overwhelmed by the amount of information. What you need will seep through gradually but surely.
  • You cannot please everybody so don’t be too upset by bad feedback about the massage you gave. Don’t take it personally. Just have a good night’s sleep to let it go.
  • Time heals or kills. Use it wisely.
  • Stretch yourself daily — in all ways. Your hands, your body, your spirit, your soul.

TC Gritt, LMT since 2012, self-employed massage practitioner: For years, massage school was calling TC. It took some internal debate and the support of her father Bob, but in 2011 she enrolled at the Scherer Institute in March of 2011. And then, on April 16, Bob passed away.

“Losing him was incredibly hard,” shares TC. “He had been living with me for a few years and was part of my support in going to massage school. So here I was, in my early 40s, living 38 miles out of town, having lost my job and a significant part of my support system, having my whole life kinda thrown up into the air.  I knew if I didn’t take advantage of the timing, I probably would never go to massage school. So, in that space of vulnerability, I decided to take the risk and follow my heart’s desire and finish the program. “

Being surrounded by so many caring students and teachers proved to be just what she needed. “I was in the perfect spot to process my grief and allow myself the space to be open with it. I got really good at crying in public, which I never had before — and needed to grow.” In the decade since graduating from school, TC has built a remarkably successful private practice in Santa Fe and Las Vegas, NM. She has also been teaching, including her current work at Bodymechanics Santa Fe. Click here to read more about TC.

TC’s advice to massage school grads:

  • Good stretches to do for your own self-care.  Cannot emphasize this enough.
  • Make sure you have access to a good washer and dryer. I never realized how much laundry I would be doing!
  • Stay curious! Get treatments yourself from folks who utilize different techniques than you. Ask for guidance from them on how they learned. Strong communication skills are very important.
  • Above all: Enjoy your work!

Farice Rezabek, LMT for more than 20 years, and massage therapy instructor for almost as long, she graduated from Santa Fe’s Scherer Institute of Natural Healing on March 2, 2001
: Before embracing her life as a bodyworker, Farice was a mainframe and midrange computer programmer, trainer, math teacher, and computer technical support professional. She recently used these skills while working as a legislative librarian assistant during the Pandemic.

“After beginning my professional life in my head, I was finally ready to dive into learning about my body/mind,” explains Farice, who feels the real power of massage is the healing power of touch and connection. “The direction progress is taking us in undercuts our humanity and the value of touch and connection. I think massage and bodywork help heal us and reconnect us to each other and ourselves.”

As a wellness advocate and hydrotherapy teacher, her desire to learn fuels this Ohio-born native who began traveling the country after college, “I spent my computer career(s) in Chicago, IL, and Seattle, WA before being drawn to the Southwest to study massage. Massage school here won out over Arizona and San Diego, CA. Decades later, the amount and quality of natural beauty and sunshine still hold me here.”

As an LMT, Farice practices nurturing and therapeutic massage. “I aim to reduce stress and restore balance, physically and emotionally, in my clients and myself. My favorite modality is Hot Stone Massage. It is the first (further) continuing education class I took during my school term.” Click here to learn more about Farice. 

Stay tuned for Farice’s advice!

Silvia Stenitzer, LMT since 1989, psychotherapist: A massage therapist since 1989, this native of Austria shares that she has been on a path of helping others through touch since embarking on her healing journey at 31. “My parents owned two hotels in Austria, and they worked incredibly hard 12 months a year,” Silvia shares. “To keep them going, there is a tradition in my country called Kur — a stay of several weeks at a health care resort with a daily structured program of medical treatments specifically prescribed by a Kur doctor. They’d go twice each year to get treatments massage, hydrotherapy, mud baths, cardio exercise, and daily swimming sessions. These treatments helped heal their bodies and strengthen their minds to prepare them for the year-round 7-day workweek they endured.”

It also turned Silvia onto the remarkable power of bodywork and the body/mind connection. In the late 1980s, she moved to Santa Fe and enrolled in the Scherer School of Massage (which became the Santa Fe School of Massage before closing during the pandemic in 2020. The building is now the home of Bodymechanics Santa Fe).

Click here to learn more about Silvia.

Stay tuned for Silvia’s advice!

Zacharia Grace: Zach the Reiki Guy, LMT since 2013: “I have always wanted to learn about energy healing primarily, and the school I attended offered an amazing dual-certification program: 700 hours of massage therapy training, and 100 hours of a class called Intuitive Presence, with Cathy Black,” explains Zach, who in addition to massage is a professional Reiki musician and artist.

“I used to sell my abstract paintings with the Santa Fe Society Of Artists, in Downtown Santa Fe. I’ve also been practicing and offering Reiki since 2013. I learned Reiki after graduating from Massage School. I’ve been teaching Reiki since 2015, have run an Online Coaching Program – Online Reiki Academy, and also am a recording musician with some albums out and available on all major streaming platforms. The title of my album is Walking Home. I also have a single out titled Sacred Waters and am continuously creating new music to share with the world. I also share my Reiki-infused flute music on TikTok.”

Click here to learn more about Zach. 

Stay tuned for Zach’s advice!

And now, a word from the graduates

Nick Montoya, TLMT, Bodymechanics graduate June 2022: New Mexico native Nick Montoya, 32, is the father of three sons (ages 13, 7, and 5) and says that he is thrilled to be embarking on a new career as a bodyworker. “My lifelong goal has been to connect with people in a healing way. During the pandemic, I felt we lost the sense of closeness, which is so important for good health. I know that touch is what I know people need right now, and it is my honor to be in this program where I am learning how to accomplish my goal profoundly and professionally.”

Growing up in New Mexico has its challenges, Nick admits. “I grew up in Pecos, which is a tiny town. Everyone knows everyone, and so much of the city is populated by my family. I have some college experience — at Luna Community College in Las Vegas, NM, Highlands University also in Las Vegas, and Santa Fe Community College here in Santa Fe. None of the programs felt like the right fit, so I spent many years doing jobs such as landscaping, working in a gas station, then learning the retail business at Sears, Family Dollar, and Jimmy John’s. I have always known down deep that I had a calling to help others. The question was: how?

Through the Bodymechanics program, Nick believes he has found his life’s work. “My sons look to me as their role model. I want them to know that it is never too late to chase your dreams, and with the right kind of attitude, You Can Do Anything You Put Your Mind To.” Click here to learn more about Nick.

Stay tuned for Angie’s advice!

Angie Bartholomew, TLMT, Bodymechanics graduate June 2022: When María de los Angeles Bartholomew (aka Angie) signed up to be part of the first class at Bodymechanics Santa Fe program, the native of Ecuador who has been living in Los Alamos, NM since 2002, was excited beyond belief.

“I grew up in an environment where we were taught that having a healthy life related to our mental, physical, and most of all,  spiritual health,” explains Angie, 48. “I was familiar at least with basic things of nutrition and exercise. But no matter how much we take care of ourselves, we can still get ill when our body experiences distress.”

Angie knows this from experience. In her mid-30s, her body started to hurt—a lot. And without any real reason.

“After dozens of visits to doctors and scores of tests, they found — nothing,” Angie shares. “The best diagnosis they could offer was fibromyalgia. Unfortunately, that seems to be a catch-all diagnosis without much information on what causes it or how to treat this condition to heal truly. I was prescribed medication to treat the depression that I was experiencing, even though I told my doctor I felt depressed because of the tiredness I felt after experiencing an episode of pain.”

Rather than take the medication, Angie looked for more natural ways to heal herself. “I discovered how to help my body stimulate the production of hormones that act like the opioids and analgesics to reduce pain and stress,” she says, noting that what helped the most was massage. “It has changed my life, and now I want to share this modality to help the healing process with others.” Click here to read more about Angie.

Stay tuned for Angie’s advice!