Friday, April 09, 2010

Massage School

Last night I completed my 42nd massage. I have 158 more to do to satisfy the clinical hours portion of the 800 hour program. Fortunately, I don't have to scare up the 200 clients; they come to us. We're scheduled to work the clinic 3 days a week and to do a maximum of 3 massages per day, no more than nine a week. In order to get credit for the massage, it has to be done at the clinic and to a paying member of the public. No shows don't count. Tips are accepted.

I've found that doing three one hour massages in an evening, with 15 minutes between each is about the maximum I can do. My hands hurt by the end of the night, my forearms are sore and I'm tired. It's a good feeling though, the tiredness. It's a kind of tiredness that comes from exercise that feels good to do. I guess it's a strange thing to say but giving a massage is just about as good a feeling as getting one.

I started attending The Massage School, Acton, MA campus this past January and expect to graduate in April 2011. Our class is the first one under the new Massachusetts law regulating massage therapy. There are eleven of us in the program, ranging in ages from in the 20's to in the 60's. I'm pretty sure there's at least one person in each 10 year age range.

The program is set up very nicely. Over the first two months we learned the massage routine by learning a part at a time and practicing it on each other. Each week we'd learn a new segment that we'd practice until we'd learned how to massage the entire body. We first learned the upper back, broken into five parts, then the lower back. We learned how to do the legs, then the arms, and then the neck and head. Each Sunday we had a quiz on the order of the parts of each segment. We also learned how to do the chest (on men only), the stomach and the head and scalp.

So, between having it shown to us, practicing on each other and memorizing for the quiz, we were able to learn the entire routine. As we went along we incidentally learned the names of the related muscles and bone structure. When we move into taking anatomy & physiology, I believe, it won't be so intimidating as we'll already be somewhat familiar with various names and locations.

I have to give credit to Alexi, the proprietor: learning by doing first and then introducing the academics later is a very good, and adult, way to learn. His other stroke of genius was to start the clinic.

The clinic is open to the public. For $25 any adult over 18 of sound body can get a one hour full body massage. The clinic is open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. We, the students, work a three hour shift. It really is a win win situation for everyone.

The public gets a good, affordable massage, the students get to practice and not have to hustle for clients and Alexi makes enough money to keep the school afloat. With our tuition included, he gets to have a paid instructional staff at each of the three locations (the other campuses and their clinics are located in Medway and in Easthampton).

Before I started at The Massage School, I checked out several other schools. None of them had this structure and all of them were very traditionally educationally oriented and much more expensive. The other thing I didn't like about the other schools was that with each of them you had to find your own clients. Oh yeah, and the other schools seemed geared toward eighteen year olds.

Our instructors, Alexi, Valerie and Teeka, are all practicing massage therapists themselves. They talk the talk and walk the walk - and do it very well. Each of them has their own style and their own way of doing things. At first we were kind of confused and wondering which one to listen to but as they deferred to Alexi we came to realize that there's more than one way to give a massage; but, while you had to learn the basic techniques of effleurage, petrissage, tapotement, and at least six others, and had to utilize proper body mechanics, you also have to develop your own style. And that comes with practice. In our case, 200 hours of practice; that is, 200 massages to pretty much as many different body types as can walk in to the clinic. I'm pretty sure that after doing that many I'll have a pretty good understanding of how to give a decent massage to almost anyone.


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