From Chronic Illness to Wellness to Helping Others Heal – My Massage Story
This interview was originally published by MassagebyPro. Read on to find out more about why I became an LMT, what makes me different and what I love about my job …
1. Tell us about you and your practice. How long have you been in practice? What type of massage do you specialize in?
I have been an LMT for five years, and I am the owner of Lime Green Lotus, a boutique bodywork studio in Doylestown, PA. I not only perform relaxing massages but also assist in clients’ rehabilitation. I have worked on clients with many different conditions and goals, from teenage athletes to paraplegics to geriatric clients to the overworked who simply need to make regular relaxation a part of their life. Many clients have described how massage has changed their life. They came in with chronic pain or an injury and were amazed and overjoyed to see their progress over a number of sessions to the point where their mobility was restored and they were finally pain-free.
I believe that heartfelt intention is a huge part of healing and my treatments also incorporate my natural intuition, enabling me to customize them to my individual client’s wishes and needs. I draw from a large toolbox of unique modalities, and no two massages are the same. My massages are both a treat and a treatment. I specialize in deep tissue massage, therapeutic massage, hot bamboo and hot stones, sports massage, Thai massage, which is an energizing clothed massage consisting of assisted yoga-style stretches, and I’m also a Reiki Master Teacher. As a 200-hour Certified Yoga Teacher and Yoga Trapeze® teacher, I am excited to use my knowledge of the mind-body connection and healthy alignment to enhance my bodywork services.
2. Why did you become a Massage Therapist?
I was inspired to become a Licensed Massage Therapist after experiencing years of chronic illness and pain. Through my own healing journey I realized the importance of a holistic approach to healthcare and was moved to help others in the role of a “wounded healer”, not least because I was inspired by the kind practitioners who helped me and held space for me during one of the most difficult times of my life. During this time I unfortunately also encountered multiple doctors who abusively yelled at and patronized me, leading me to wonder why they entered the medical profession in the first place. It was this that motivated me to help others as a thyroid patient advocate and blogger. During this voluntary work, I met (and interviewed) many renowned doctors, other healthcare practitioners and patients with chronic illness. I also vowed to give other patients a voice as so many patients struggle to get a diagnosis and do not feel heard or taken seriously. As my health improved, this ultimately inspired me to enter the field of holistic healthcare as a Licensed Massage Therapist.
What makes me different is that I meet my clients where they are at precisely because I have been in the position of feeling in pain and unheard, and I want my clients to know that my practice is a safe space for them where they control the treatment because they know their own bodies best. Meanwhile, since entering the healing profession, I am almost completely medication-free, and I can strongly attest to the fact that my own healing has come about through a variety of holistic modalities, through other heartfelt practitioners making me feel heard and through finding my own voice and vocation. My own journey will always remind me to empathize with those on my massage table, and also teaches me what an honor it is when someone asks me to accompany them on their own healing journey. Every client deserves a voice and for someone to hold space for them.
3. What do you struggle with the most when it comes to running your own business?
As a one-woman business, I sometimes struggle with doing it all and making sure I still take time for myself. When you run your own massage business, you are not only a massage therapist but also a sheet washer, a marketer, a scheduler, a networker and a customer satisfaction specialist. There is always work to be done, but my solution is to do what I can ahead of time and to outsource what I need to in order to maintain a professional image and make the most efficient use of my time. That is to say, there are certain things I don’t specialize in that would take me excessive amounts of time to do well. Time is money, so I find it advantageous to outsource such tasks to professionals who can do them effectively and expediently. One of these tasks is graphic design. I paid a professional, Tina Schofield, to create my gorgeous logo, and it has been money well spent as it is eyecatching and draws in my target clientele. Another thing I have learned is to set boundaries from day one. Some clients will push your boundaries, but you cannot and do not want to be everything to everyone.
4. What is your favorite part about being a Massage Therapist?
How many people can say that they get paid to help others, and they get to do it in a way created by them? The flip side of working for yourself is that you get to set your own rules and define your own style. My bodywork has been described as very unique, and I am blessed to have had a safe place to develop this. I also enjoy getting to know and interact with different people. I’ve always been a people person and, as I’ve lived in three different countries, this makes it even easier to adapt and tune in to different personalities.
5. What is your favorite quote?
French-Cuban novelist, Anaïs Nin, is famous for this particular quote: “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” I have found this to be very true throughout my life. The universe has a way of forcing us to grow and pushing us out into the world if we will only let it. I am not somebody who likes to stagnate, and I am always striving to progress and learn more. Remaining tight in a bud is the safe option that many people take. We are afraid of growth and the risks it entails, but to me remaining tight in a bud has at times become constrictive and stifling, forcing me to take the risk of allowing myself to blossom, initially a scary, but ultimately a fulfilling and exciting process.
6. The best piece of advice for a therapist just getting out of school?
What you learn in school is only a small part of what you will need to know to become a successful LMT. Always strive to learn more and, if you can, get several mentors. I was very blessed to have several mentors come into my life at the beginning of my massage career. My first boss, Christian, a personal trainer, helped me become more confident about anatomy and gave me some invaluable tips about client interactions, such as the need to follow up with new clients. Another mentor, John, owns his own massage practice, and we frequently trade and work together. Trade with as many LMTs as you can. I honed my massage skills faster than your average LMT, and one reason for this is because I traded with so many different LMTs, which truly is a fast track to learning. The other benefit of trading is that it makes you take time for self-care, something that is essential in a field where you are taking care of others. On that note, I advise new LMTs to pace themselves to prevent burnout. Schools may advise you that five massages a day, five days a week is the norm, but find your own norm. It depends on your personal fitness level, the type of massage you are performing and how well you look after yourself.
On the topic of learning, I advise new LMTs to take many different classes so that you can find those that you are passionate about and want to incorporate in your own unique massage routine. Our school told us not to stray from the routine we had learned. I found that very bad advice because, though we learned some useful techniques, each LMT needs to craft their own massage based on the techniques they learn in different classes. So many clients tell me that they’re fed-up of cookie-cutter massages and very happy that I don’t give them.
Alongside technique, a successful LMT also needs to cultivate outstanding people skills. This means listening to your client in an empathic and non-judgmental way and tuning in to what they need, learning to read between the lines. For instance, when you inquire about pressure during the massage, don’t just hear the client’s words, but listen to their tone of voice and watch their body language. I strive to hold space for all my clients, which means listening to them without judging and providing them with a safe space for their healing to unfold.
The third component of being a successful LMT is business skills. Be reliable and on time, follow up with your clients, set boundaries when needed, charge what you are worth, don’t overly discount your services in a field that is both physically and emotionally demanding … in sum: you have to know your own worth so that you can attract clients who recognize it too.
7. If you weren’t a Massage Therapist what would you be doing?
That’s easy to answer because I do in fact have another business. Since 2001, I have been a translator and writer. As the owner of two businesses, it is even more important for me to pace myself and take time for self-care. On the flip side, I like the fact that I have another income source if my massage business is slower than usual and vice-versa. Running two completely different businesses also gives me diversity and balance, and definitely keeps me on my toes.
8. Must-Have Tool (physical or digital) that you use in your massage practice?
The obvious one would be my phone because I use this to answer calls, send appointment confirmations, appointment reminders and follow up with clients. In terms of a physical tool, my clients really enjoy my incorporation of Mu Xing hot bamboo tools in my practice. They provide me with an easy way to add heat to my massages without the time-consuming and annoying preparation and clean-up that many hot stone kits require. They are also a useful add-on to deep tissue massage, particularly for clients with tight hamstrings and quads.
9. What has been the most effective way to gain new clients?
I’ve been in private practice for 10 months now, and my practice has grown very fast. I can honestly say that 99 percent of my clients come through recommendations. From clients recommending me and tagging me on Facebook to local business owners I have networked with (for example, the float spa five minutes from me who shares my business on their social media because we are partnering to give our clients mutual discounts) to fellow healthcare professionals, such as chiropractors, acupuncturists and fellow LMTs. For me, collaboration over competition is the name of the game. Too many LMTs have an attitude of scarcity. I know that my offerings are unique and that I will attract the clients meant for me. I also believe that those in the healing professions should support each other because the job we do is beneficial to everyone.
10. Finish the sentence: I wish my clients knew…
This is a hard one because I generally strive to be upfront and honest with my clients. What sometimes frustrates me is when clients try to book appointments at the last minute. If I am able to accommodate, I will, but booking ahead helps me to better pace myself and plan my business week.
11. Where can people connect with you?
Google Maps: https://goo.gl/maps/UTZepi5YRPZvavD3A
Sarah Downing is a Licensed Massage Therapist and owner of Lime Green Lotus. Get in touch to learn more.