Hi! My name is Milissa Rush and I live in Grande Prairie, AB. I have been a full time Massage Therapist for seven years and I love it. I've been a body nerd since I was a little girl so I consider myself blessed to have a career that excites and challenges me and also allows me to help other feel better in their bodies.
About a year ago I stumbled upon a PBS special featuring Miranda Esmonde-White and her new book, Aging Backwards. She spoke of the Essentrics and Classical Stretch programs and immediately caught my attention with her thoughts on mobility and functional movement being central to slowing the aging process. Her words piqued my interest not only as a RMT but also for my own health and wellness. I immediately popped over to Essentrics.com and within minutes I was ordering the Level 1 instructor package. I knew I had found something special.
Over the past year I have earned my Level 1 Instructor certification and am now teaching four classes a week. It has been amazing to me to see the myriad of ways Essentrics has changed not only my body, but also my massage career.
For starters, I had been developing my own muscle imbalances after years of a full time practice. My right shoulder girdle, in particular, had become very imbalanced leading to local ache, two to three headaches a week and the occasional acute flare up that would painfully limit my range of motion. My shoulder is now symptom free, I rarely suffer from a headache (and when I do it is usually due to something unrelated to muscle tension) and my body feels stronger than it ever has. In addition, all the active stretching in Essentrics has been powerful in preventing any new fascial adhesions and muscle imbalances. The increased strength and range that I have gained from a regular Essentrics practice allows me to continue to massage as much as I do. Not so long ago I feared I would have to cut back my hours because of the toll it was taking on my body.
So clearly, Essentrics has personally impacted me, but it has also drastically changed me as a practitioner as well. When I was completing my Essentrics apprentice hours I drew upon some of my regular massage clientele to come out and let me practice on them. This was the first time I was seeing these people really move their bodies (typically I would only see them move when they were walking into my treatment room or when conducting specific range of motion tests) and was caught off guard by how stiff, unbalanced and unacquainted with their bodies many of them were. I obviously needed to incorporate more active movement into my massage practice, as well as being aware of how much I had been assuming about my clients and their abilities. As these same massage clients continued practicing Essentrics with me we began to see aches and pains that I had been treating diligently were now finally resolving. I had, of course, studied the importance of stretching and strengthening as part of my clients’ home care when I was in school, and I regularly gave people exercises to do at home but never before had I seen these kind of results. I attribute this partly to the fact that clients typically aren't overly compliant with home care, whereas these clients were attending at least one, sometimes two, classes a week. I also give credit to the “full body” approach of Essentrics as opposed to the body part specific style of exercise prescription that I had previously been using. It really shouldn't come as any surprise to us that we need to stop treating body parts in isolation. Our bodies don't move in isolation nor do they heal and repair in isolation.
So, being that I have seen such great results by having my massage clients do Essentrics, should I quit my day job? Does massage therapy still have a valid role in health care? I believe it does, but my reasons why have evolved. Sadly, I feel the relaxation component of Massage Therapy is underrated if not completely disregarded. During times of relaxation our bodies heal and restore, our parasympathetic nervous system takes over decreasing our heart rate and blood pressure and our mind-body awareness is heightened. As our lives get busier it has become more important for us to carve out these moments in time to focus on our bodies in a still, accepting and loving manner allowing the body to enact its own healing and restoration processes. Additionally, Massage Therapy has been shown to be useful in increasing local circulation, decreasing pain responses, decreasing muscle tension and adhesion and reducing stress in general. Human beings are social creatures with an innate desire for touch. It just down right feels good! I do however wish I could require my massage clients practice Essentrics regularly as it would seem that MOVEMENT is the real healer.
Milissa Rush, RMT, & pixabay.com
Amanda Sterczyk is an international author, Certified Personal Trainer (ACSM), an Exercise is Medicine Canada (EIMC) Fitness Professional, and a Certified Essentrics® Instructor.