Podcast

Episode 164

Jun 12, 2018

Guest David Lobenstine joins Allissa to talk about his path in massage and how to get present (and maybe even stay present) in a massage. Also, we breathe. It’s pretty great.

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EPISODE 164

Guest David Lobenstine joins Allissa to talk about his path in massage and how to get present (and maybe even stay present) in a massage.

Also, we breathe. It’s pretty great.

Learn more about David at www.bodybrainbreath.com.

This episode is sponsored by Pure Pro Massage Products.


Transcript:

Sponsor message This episode is sponsored by Pure Pro massage products. Most massage lotions start out too greasy and end up feeling sticky. With pure organic aloe and golden jojoba, Pure Pro’s hypoallergenic massage lotion keeps your client’s skin feeling silky soft and workable. And there’s no greasy residue, so your clients leave feeling fresh and clean. Completely unscented and pH balanced, Pure Pro lotion is the perfect choice for elder, hospice, and oncology massage or anyone with super-sensitive skin. In fact, Pure Pro hypoallergenic massage lotion is the number one choice of oncology massage professionals coast to coast. It’s clean, powder-soft texture makes it perfect for neuromuscular, myofascial, medical, and Swedish massage. And all Pure Pro products are vegan, cruelty free, and nut free. For $10 off your next order, go to massagebusinessblueprint.com/purepro and use the one-time discount code BLUEPRINT at checkout. That’s $10 off your next order. Go to massagebusinessblueprint.com/purepro and use the one-time discount code BLUEPRINT at checkout.

Allissa Haines Hello, everyone. Welcome to the Massage Business Blueprint podcast interview edition. I am Allissa Haines. And I am here with my friend David. David, how are you?

David Lobenstine I am good, thank you. How are you?

AH I am good. And I totally did the thing where I forgot to double check how to pronounce your last name. And then halted and introduced you as David instead of David, is it [lobe-in-stine]?

DL [Lobe-in-steen].

AH Darn it. I knew I was going to get it wrong.

DL Everybody does. Don’t you worry.

AH My apologies. So, David Lobenstine. Let me tell you a little bit about David. David is a New York State licensed massage therapist, a teacher, a writer for over a decade. He does a whole bunch of stuff including running his own private practice, Full Breath Massage, in Manhattan, and also teaching a variety of continuing education classes, which he has done for a while, which is how I met David. He’s got a great new website, bodybrainbreath.com. And I met David when he was teaching some — well, I’ve met him a bunch of times. But I last saw David when we were in Rhode Island and both teaching for a convention there. I peeked in at the classes that were “pour don’t push” and obsessively watched the videos and read everything he’s ever written, especially the stuff that was written for ABMP, and I’m so excited that David is here to talk about a really cool topic that I’m not going to tell you about quite yet. David, I’m terrible at bios, so tell me what else do you do? What did I leave out?

DL That was a beautiful bio. I have very little life aside from what you already mentioned.

AH Well, good.

DL I do all of those things that you mentioned, and then I hang out with my kids and that’s about it.

AH How old are your kids?

DL My kids are 21 months and 9 1/2.

AH Dang.

DL Yes.

AH That makes me tired just thinking about it.

DL Yes, me too.

AH And I totally do hope that your daughter comes home while we’re recording so we can hear a little bit of squawking. That would be my favorite part.

DL All right. All right.

AH So let’s jump in. I want to know — so you’ve been doing this for over a decade, how did you get into massage? What drew you in?

DL This is one of those questions that, you know — well, I was going to say namely confused family members ask who still don’t quite get it. And I hate to say it, but I still don’t have an actual answer. But the best that I can figure out is this. I have a very lovely, sensitive, New Age guy for a father and he gave me backrubs as a kid. Like all kids, I just took advantage and thought nothing of it while it was happening. And then I grew up and went off to college and got a degree in English and read a lot of books and thought I was going to be a writer. And like a lot of English majors, I instead went into book publishing, which was wonderful, and I had an amazing job at a press. And five years into it, I looked at my life and I realized that if I was lucky, I would spend the rest of my life sitting in an office surrounded by paper. And for some unexplained reason, that made me very sad.

So I realized that I needed to do something different, and then I spend the next year or so trying to figure out what that was. And I have, I think, always been interested in the intersection between body, mind, and spirit. When I was teenager and wanted to impress the girls I had crushes on, I would quote from the Dao de Jing and various Buddhist texts, which I’m sure didn’t come across nearly as well as I thought it did —

AH What a player. That’s fantastic.

DL That’s right. That’s right.

AH I thought you were going to say that you wooed them with backrubs. But what you did was even better.

DL What’s funny is — well, I don’t know about that.

AH Maybe not more effective.

DL Yeah. So I realized that massage therapy was sort of this interesting way into that world and those larger questions of how our body and mind and spirit make meaning with one another and give us some kind of life with — which hopefully is a meaningful life. So I, on a whim, took sort of a day-long introductory course here at the Swedish Institute here in New York City and absolutely fell in love with it and then six months later I enrolled — I quit my job, I enrolled full time in school and 18 months later was a licensed massaged therapist.

AH And what has the evolution of your career been like? And I love, especially, to hear about little places and little gigs people had right out of massage school that kind of formed their opinions of where they did and did not want to work.

DL I was very lucky right out of massage school. I graduated in August of 2004 and then I got married a week later. So the beginning of my massage career was embedded in this post-wedding bliss where I didn’t really think much about things like paying rent. I just kind of fumbled my way along, to be honest. And then I found a job at this amazing little wellness center, Longevity Health, in Manhattan. I worked there for the next six or seven years, I think, which was basically the backbone of my work even now working with chiropractors, working with acupuncturists in that more holistic setting.

And then to get more experience, I basically tried a bunch of different things. I worked at three or four or five different spas. I had the pleasure of being fired from a spa along with all 15 of my colleagues because we protested a policy, a rate cut that was being implemented. So that was a fun little dalliance into the inherent uncertainty of our world, which has taught me a lot. I did — learned a lot of salt scrubs and other body treatments that I never ever want to do again, but at the same time am also very appreciative of the spa world of giving me so many, many, many bodies to work on. And then I also did a lot of cool, random things. My favorites being that for several years I worked at the US Open tennis tournament in Queens, which was amazing and hung out in the locker room with a lot of other talented therapists and a lot of tennis players and worked on them.

Then, I think, maybe my most rewarding gig that I’ve had that I volunteered for about a year at a hospice connected to one of the hospitals here in New York and was able to work with patients in their final days and weeks and months of life and then was also able to work with the nurses who worked with those patients. That was a pretty incredible eye-opening experience in to how we can be with other people and be present with other people regardless of their stage of life. And then I think about five years ago, quit all of those other gigs and went into practice for myself. So I now am exclusively in private practice and I feel incredibly fortunate every day to go into my little office and see these wonderful people that keep on coming back.

AH So what — how many patients do you see a week?

DL You know, it varies enormously. And I’m also very fortunate because I have kept up multiple different careers. In a given week, I’d say I do, probably, somewhere between 10 and 20 hours of massage. And then on the side of that — so I only see clients two or three days a week. And then on the side of that I write, as you mentioned, for Massage and Bodywork, the wonderful magazine that ABMP puts out and also for my own website. And then I also teach, and then, in addition, I have continued my first career in publishing but on a freelance basis where I edit manuscripts and history and social sciences and a few other things. So I do those things the other days of the week. As a result, I am a big advocate for us massage therapists exploring our additional passions and curiosities and freeing ourselves to have other careers along with our massage work, which I think can make a big difference in elongating our careers and make them more satisfying.

AH I so get that. Even though everything that I do is still related to massage, I found recently — I’ve had a couple of really heavy client weeks, and all I wanted to do was get out of my massage room, get out of my dark room with the music playing. And, oh my goodness, when I have weeks that are too much of one or too much of the other, I just — I’m a mess. If I have more than two days at home sitting and writing and doing all of the Blueprint work, I go a little bonkers by the third day. And I feel the same way if I have more than three days in a row of lots of hands on work, I get a little bonkers.

DL Yeah.

AH I found that I can’t split my day. I don’t do well if I do half and half. I need a full day to dedicate to the one thing, but if I have too many in a row, I go super bonkers.

DL Yeah. Yep, I hear that. Yeah, it’s a tricky one, but I also think we have this amazing opportunity as therapists, which is that there isn’t a defined career path, there isn’t one way to do massage therapy and to be a massage therapist, and I think it behooves us to take advantage of that flexibility. And I think — well, I’m guessing we will come back to this point later in the podcast, but I think in some ways, we as therapists can be our own worst enemies at times because there is — I think there is a lot of pride in our business amongst therapists, and we really feel like we should be seeing as many people as we humanly can, and we should be working as many shifts as we can, and we can do a lot of humble bragging, right, about how exhausted we are and about how many clients we saw yesterday and all that. And I think, actually, we get ourselves into trouble and we lead towards burnout that way, I think, both physically and also emotionally when we just believe that we have to do massage solely and that there’s something noble about that.

AH Bletch.

DL But we’re wonderful interesting people, and I think we can effect change in the world in lots of wonderful ways.

AH Carving out our niche without comparing it to anyone else’s is one of our bigger stumbling blocks, I agree.

DL Yes. Yes.

AH I agree.

DL That was beautifully, beautifully put. Yes, exactly.

AH So last of the standard interview questions, what is your fantasy job or location or training? What’s your “if I won the lottery plan” for your career? Or does it have nothing to do with your careers?

DL You know, you asked me this when we were talking the other day and I still have not come up with a satisfying answer to that. The only thing I can say to that, I think, is either there are two possibilities, which is that I have a profound lack of imagination, which I hope is not the case. And then the second answer, which I like a lot more, is that I actually am already doing what I want to be doing. There’s some days when I think that’s a load of crap and that’s not actually true and I’m just deluding myself. But for the most part, I really do wake up every day feeling really grateful for my clients that I have and feeling curious about the clients that I will meet. And then, in addition, I feel really grateful about the work that I’m able to do as a teacher and as well as a writer and an editor. I think it’s that hodge-podge of work that is a fantasy. It means that each week I have a couple of days that are really long and busy with clients, and then the other days I can take my son to school, and I can play with my daughter in the morning, and I can do work when I need to and when I want to, but I also have a rich life independent of my work. And I think, to me, that’s the fantasy that I’m aiming for.

AH I think that’s fair enough. There are certainly — I ask this of all of my guests and I haven’t — I don’t know that I’ve entirely answered it yet myself. But more often than not, my “if I win the lottery” plan would be exactly the same stuff I’m doing now but with a full-time housekeeper and a washer and dryer at the office. That’s my adult, lottery fantasy situation where I could buy the best, fanciest washer and dryer for the office. Right now, I do not have the ability to have a washer and dryer at my office. And I really feel like having one — and really maybe having someone come in and do some of the laundry and clean the office for me. I think that would be the only big thing I would change.

DL Yeah, that sounds good. You will appreciate this because I am so cheap or thrifty or whatever the nice term is —

AH Frugal.

DL — frugal, thank you — that I also do not have a washer dryer at my office and I bike to and from work, from my home in Brooklyn to my office in Manhattan, and I carry my sheets back and forth with me on my bike and wash them at home and then bring them back to the office.

AH Dude, no way.

DL Yeah, I do. I do.

AH Holy moly.

DL It’s my — my wife just gives me a look of resigned, I want to say it’s awe, but I don’t think it’s awe. I think she just thinks I’m an idiot. But it’s a habit, and there are some habits in our lives that are counterproductive and that we need to change, and then there are other habits that, eh, they work okay.

AH Wow.

DL I get a little workout lugging sheets around, and I don’t have to pay the laundry bill.

AH Or a gym membership. So nicely done.

DL That’s right. That’s right. Exactly.

AH That’s fantastic. All right. We’re going to pause there and take a break to talk about our halftime sponsor who is Pure Pro.

Sponsor message This episode is sponsored by Pure Pro massage products. Most massage lotions start out too greasy and end up feeling sticky. With pure organic aloe and golden jojoba, Pure Pro’s hypoallergenic massage lotion keeps your client’s skin feeling silky soft and workable. And there’s no greasy residue, so your clients leave feeling fresh and clean. Completely unscented and pH balanced, Pure Pro lotion is the perfect choice for elder, hospice, and oncology massage or anyone with super-sensitive skin. In fact, Pure Pro hypoallergenic massage lotion is the number one choice of oncology massage professionals coast to coast. It’s clean, powder-soft texture, makes it perfect for neuromuscular, myofascial, medical, and Swedish massage. And all Pure Pro products are vegan, cruelty free, and nut free. For $10 off your next order, go to massagebusinessblueprint.com/purepro and use the one-time discount code BLUEPRINT at checkout. That’s $10 off your next order. Go to massagebusinessblueprint.com/purepro and use the one-time discount code BLUEPRINT at checkout.

AH David, you’re going to talk to us about how can we be more present during a massage. And you’re going to have to start by saying what is “more present.”

DL An excellent question. The idea of presence is something that I have become particularly fascinated by and, frankly, there’s no one good answer because the idea of being present is something that seems so incredibly simple that it almost doesn’t need a definition. At the other end, it’s also a topic that has inspired literally thousands of years of philosophical and religious speculation, right, from Buddhism to Christianity to Judaism, everyone has weighed in on what it means to be present. The way that I see it, being present is simply just being in your — well, we’ll talk about it in terms of massage, right, although obviously it applies to any aspect of our lives. But I think being present in the massage is literally just being conscious of our own body and the client’s body in the moment that we are currently in. This is, again, incredibly simple, and, I find, also one of the hardest things for us as massage therapists.

AH So what’s the — how do I know? How do I know if I’m present, and how do I improve that?

DL These are — needless to say, these are excellent questions. About six or seven years ago, I developed a couple continuing education courses that I’m still teaching now both in New York City and elsewhere in the country. One of them is called “Pour, Don’t Push.” And it is, essentially, all about this idea of presence. And one of the things that comes up again and again and again with, now, the hundreds of therapists that I have taught over the last bunch of years is this exact question: how do I know?

And I think that the easiest way to answer that is to answer that in the reverse, which is how do I know when I’m not in the present moment, when I’m not present with my client. I think that answer is easier for us to grasp because there are so many ways that we can be not present with our clients and during a massage session. So, lovely listeners, think about this: how many times during a session have you noticed that you check the clock, which we all do because we have to figure out how to leave adequate time to work those damned feet before the hour runs out. And then you go back to your work and then you check the clock again and literally 30 seconds has passed, and you thought there was this huge endless expanse of time and it’s hardly any time has passed. And then you check the clock again and it’s the same thing. So that, to me, is an example of not being present, right? Where, essentially, we’re logging time; we’re clocking the hour; we’re waiting for time to go by. Similarly, how many times have you been in a session and you find yourself — this is one of my favorites because this is something I do — you find yourself mentally balancing your checkbook in your head, right?

AH Oh crap. I did that like six times yesterday.

DL Exactly. Exactly. So, right, you know, when we do that, we’re not present, right? Similarly, if we are thinking about how much of a tip the client beneath our fingers is going to leave us at the end of the session or even whether they’re going to tip us, this is an example of not being present, right? If we think about what we’re going to be cooking for dinner or about how annoyed we were at our partner yesterday for that incredibly stupid thing that they did, right, we are again not being present.

There are endless, endless ways that we can not be present. And I think what’s key at the very beginning of this conversation is that we clarify here that not being present is a fundamental part of the human condition, right? We are — I would say being present is the exception to the rule, right? Or the exception that proves the rule. A lot of time in all of our lives, we are not all the way present in the present moment because we have these incredible brains that constantly allow us to think about endless things, and so I think we spend a lot of our time either thinking about the future or thinking about the past. And this is the real key is that we start by just recognizing how rare it is to be in the present moment, but to do so without judging ourselves. I think a lot of the trouble that we get into is that we assume that there is something wrong with us if we’re not perfect therapists. Or similarly, we start to take a yoga class — not that I’ve done this in many, many years — but we start a yoga class and we fault ourselves for all of the ways that — for all of the poses that we can’t do or the things that we’re bad at. Or we have this idea that we should start meditating, and we sit down to meditate and we think that it’s going to change our lives, and then we spend the next five minutes thinking about all the crap that’s going through our brains and going through our lives.

This is just the reality of our brains, so there’s nothing wrong with it, but we’ll be able to be present more easily if we can just acknowledge this aspect of our brains without judging ourselves. So I think that’s where this has to start because judgement does nothing; it doesn’t help us at all. And I think once we start to see the ways that we’re not present in our sessions, then we can start to cultivate some habits to make us more present in our sessions.

AH So yesterday, I had a full day of clients and a few other wacky meetings and stuff, and I caught myself doing the clock thing and the making lists thing multiple times. And it’s something I’m aware of. I remember from massage school, I remember one of my instructors saying, “When you catch yourself making grocery lists, it’s time to reexamine what you’re doing.” And I did it a lot yesterday —

DL Yeah.

AH — and I’m having a high stress week. Knowing that that’s where I’m at, what do I do next?

DL An excellent question. First, before we get into the specifics, I also just want to clarify what I see as the importance of presence because I think it’s something that’s easy to overlook. We as massage therapist are obviously very aware of the physical dangers of our work. We have this crazy high rate of injury of just all kinds of aches and pains and a lot of our careers are either shortened as a result or are not as happy as they could be as a result.

But what I have found the longer I teach is I’m pretty convinced that the physical stuff also has a mental or emotional corollary that’s just as important. And so the way that I see it, one of the reasons why we burn out physically is because we’re not present, and I think it’s — what happens is that when we don’t give ourselves over to just being in the present moment in our sessions, we develop all of these bad habits that then down the road, manifest as sprained wrists and blown-out thumb joints and achy shoulders and a bad back and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, right? But I think the root of it really does come from this real moment by moment sense of not being physically, fully aware of our own bodies and our clients’ bodies. So I know that this concept of presence can feel kind of abstract, but I really do think that it is intimately related to, and is a real cause of, the things that we all recon with as therapists as our careers go along.

AH And I love how elegantly you put that because I would say listen, you’re getting sloppy and you’re getting lazy. And you make it sound so beautiful.

DL Well, that’s nice of you to say, but I think the way you just put it is a really good example of the ways that we’re really good at judging ourselves, right?

AH Yeah.

DL We have probably all had that thought of oh, God, you just screwed up that last session. Or you’re getting — I’m just getting lazy and sloppy. But the problem is that that kind of phrasing, that kind of way of seeing the problem, it doesn’t give us a way out. It doesn’t give us a solution except to just be really punitive and to punish ourselves. The way I see it is if we start by saying, it is inevitable in this next session that I’m going to do something sloppy, that I’m going to do something lazy, that I’m going to be distracted — if we start there and we just acknowledge in advance that this session is not going to be perfect, then, I think, what happens is that we’re able to develop a self-awareness that then allows us to be more present. So this, I think, is the answer to the question you asked a few minutes ago, which is what next? How do we develop this capacity of presence?

The way that I see it, the first key to becoming more present, is — again, as I mentioned a minute ago — simply to notice when we are not present and to try to notice that without judgement. There’s no way that we can do anything until we notice what we’re not doing effectively or what we could be doing more effectively, right? So until we notice those habits of judgement and of distraction, we have no chance to make new habits, we have not chance to develop that capacity of presence.

Noticing non-judgmentally, I would say, is the first step. Then the second step is to try to replace those habits — distracted, judgmental — with new habits. The way that I see it is the greatest conduit that we have, the greatest way towards developing new habits is by using our own breath. Now this may sound a little crazy and can feel a little abstract, but I want us to feel how concrete this idea can be. What I am proposing for us as therapists, and what I spend a lot of time teaching about in my courses, is that we as massage therapists, we really believe in our muscles. We have faith in the strength in our muscles and how we can make our clients feel better by using our muscles and by working really hard. What I think instead, we need to create a new paradigm for how we see our bodies.

The way I see it is we have two aspects of ourselves. Every therapist has, no matter how big or small, no matter if we’re male or female, no matter if we do the lightest of Swedish massage or the deepest of Rolfing work, we all have two incredibly powerful tools, which is our bodyweight and our breath. Using our bodyweight is a separate conversation that is a little beyond this one. But I want to mention here just this idea of using our breath, which is that when we are working really hard, we tend to breathe with greater effort. You’ll see this even in your client. If you tell you next client to take a deep breath, we all know what happens, right? The client goes [loud inhale] and creates that deep, huge, effortful breath. You see their chest expand, you see all of the scalenes and the sternocleidomastoid muscles in the neck pop out as they work really hard to create this deep breath. So what I want to suggest is actually that we do the opposite and that when we are working with great focus and attention and in the present moment, actually what happens is we can breathe slowly and softly.

Now this all goes back to our nervous system which we don’t need to get into now, but essentially when we breath with less effort, when we slow down our breath, we are activating the parasympathetic nervous system, that rest and digest portion of the nervous system, okay? Instead, when we are doing that really deep breathing, we are actually activating the sympathetic nervous system, that fight or flight or freeze response. There is this really interesting way where by just calming down our breath, we can actually get own bodies into that rest and digest part of our nervous system, that more relaxed part of our nervous system. That sets the tone for the entire session.

Here is a very quick way you can think about enacting this in your next session. Imagine this: you’ve done your intake, whatever you do; you’ve told you client how to lie down, blah, blah, blah; you leave the room; you knock; you come back in; you adjust the bolsters; you adjust the temperature, whatever you need to do to make sure they’re comfortable. Then I want you to think of this. Stand by your client’s head, or wherever you typically start the session, and then — here’s where it gets tricky — you don’t do anything. This is one of the hardest things for us as massage therapists to do is not to immediately touch our client when that client is lying down in front of us. Instead, what I’m going to suggest is that every session of yours will be better if you start the session by paying attention to yourself first.

Instead of going right in and starting with that wonderful compression or undraping the client and then immediately applying oil, instead, think of just placing the weight of your hands anywhere you want, whether it’s between their shoulder blades or at their feet or around their ears, whatever’s comfortable for you, and then just think of your own body. Imagine yourself standing there, feet hip’s width apart, however feels comfortable for you. And then just follow your exhalation all the way down to empty. Just notice your own body able to [exhales] almost like you’re deflating down to empty. Then what’s going to happen, as you allow your body to deflate all the way down to empty on the exhale, what’s going to happen is that your inhalation is going to start whenever it’s ready, not that [fast breathing] “I only have an hour; I’ve got to get to this” kind of mode of breathing, but rather this long, slow, steady breath in. And then you’re going to take just another long, lazy, easy exhalation. You’re just feeling your own body first. Then whenever you’re ready, you’re going to start that session however you do: applying oil, not applying oil, working on the back, working on the feet, however works for you.

But it’s, in my experience and the experience of a lot of the students that I teach is that when we begin the session by paying attention to our own bodies and paying attention to our own breath, it allows us to be in the present moment. We’re less likely to be thinking about balancing our checkbook or creating that grocery list, like you said, because instead we’re just noticing how our own body feels, how that breath feels as it’s leaving our body and then as it’s inflating our body on the next inhale. So when we start that way, we have endless possibilities for being in the present moment.

AH And I’m totally going to reveal my stalker-girl self. One of my favorite things that happened when you joined Instagram a while back — which I am totally taking credit for, people, because I told David to get on Instagram.

DL As you should.

AH Thank you. I just want the world to know so that years from now when you’re making way more money and way more famous than me in the massage field that someone will know that I get some credit for that. Because that’s where I am — ego-based — right now. But a while back, you joined Instagram, and in your first batch of posts was just a little wordy graphic that said, “The exhale is more important than the inhale.”

DL Um-hum.

AH And I think I screenshot it and I made it my background for a while. And you said, “When we focus on trying to take a deep breath, we add more stress and tension. Instead, focus on letting your body exhale slowly all the way down to empty” — and then this is the magic part — “then the inhale will come when the body needs it without any effort at all.” And I screenshot the whole thing including what you wrote under it — I might have even shared it, I don’t know — and I have referred to that on occasion, and it has been — we’ve talked about this in the podcast so people know that I’ve rebranded and I’m re-niching and I’m getting very specifically into work with people with anxiety, specifically to give massage but also set them up with tools they need to go home and feel the way they feel during a massage on their own between treatments. This has been — just doing this on my own — and I haven’t been really doing a really mindful moment before I start a massage like you suggest, which I’m going to start tomorrow. But I think I’ve even read you say that before, but I think I needed you to say it to me out loud. This is hugely important. If you all take nothing else away from this podcast, even though you will because you’re going to listen to it ten times like I am, the exhale is more important than the inhale. I think that’s going to change a lot for many of us. So thank you for allowing me to divulge that I screenshot your stuff and kept it on my phone for a while like a stalker-girl. And carry on, David. Thanks for letting me divulge.

DL We should all be lucky enough to have stalkers like you, Allissa.

AH Woo hoo.

DL And I think part of what is so fascinating to me about this is, as you said, is how applicable it is to our daily life, right? There is this interesting way in which we — obviously, I believe very strongly in this idea of self-awareness. But there is a way in which, again, it almost seems too simple, right? And I think that that is exactly why it’s so profound is because it is actually pretty easy if we only give ourselves the time and the forgiveness, the non-judgement, to pay attention to ourselves.

We have this feeling, I think, in our profession that the answer is always more complicated, that the key to being a good therapist is to get the most advanced training and is to become certified in a hundred different things and all of that. And, again, all of that is great. I don’t have anything against advanced certification. We need to keep on learning, right? But at the same time, I really also think we need to give ourselves the chance to just sit with our own bodies, to just let ourselves be aware of what’s happening in our own bodies. If we do that with ourselves and if we do that by allowing ourselves to notice our own breath, then we really do have a chance to set ourselves up for creating satisfying sessions and for feeling success both session by session and also in our lives.

The one other point that I wanted to mention because I know a lot of us massage therapists have a very hard time taking care of ourselves because we are so busy taking care of our clients. Yes, Allissa? Back me up on that?

AH Yeah. Yes. A little bit. Yes.

DL Actually one of the fascinating things about teaching this and encouraging therapists to pay more attention to themselves is the pushback that I get. People really have a hard time with this. I joke with practitioners in my classes what I most want them to do as therapists is to be selfish and lazy. And that is a really hard thing for us to do. But here is what I want to say: Time and time and time again, what I notice and what the participants in my workshops notice is that when you do this at the beginning of a session and you just pay attention to your own breath without doing anything “therapeutic” yet to the client on the table, what is amazing is that without saying anything, without doing any fancy strokes, when we are more aware of our own exhale and when we slow down our breath, the clients breath changes, too, on its own. Because we’re setting the tone. We’re allowing ourselves to be more present in our own bodies. And then what happens is, almost as if by osmosis, that allows the client to be more aware to have this moment with their own body. And ultimately I think that’s one of the greatest gifts that we can give to our clients. We’re not fixing anyone as far as I can tell. We’re not curing anyone of anything. But if we can just give our clients this space and this moment to be in their own bodies in the present moment without judgement, that’s a great gift.

AH Man, I have so many things in my head now. This is great! David, how do we learn more? How do we read more of what you have to say about this? Where do we find you? How can I know, how can I be alerted when your classes have gone online?

DL You can go to bodybrainbreath.com, which is my teaching website. That has links to the various articles that I’ve written. And then I teach several times a year in New York City at the Swedish Institute, but I’m also available to teach elsewhere, so if you’re interested in having a live workshop either with your state AMTA chapter or with your school or just any other place where you work, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me. There’s a contact button on the website and I’d be happy to talk to you about that. In addition, I am particularly excited because I have just finished taping, videoing, my Pour, Don’t Push workshop and I’m currently in the editing process. Sometime later this summer or in the early fall, it’ll be available as an online offering for NCBTMB credits and all that jazz. So if you sign up for my newsletter on my website, you’ll get information when that is available.

AH Excellent. Y’all just go to bodybrainbreath.com, scroll to the bottom, you’ll see the mailing list. We’re all a little scrooge-y about sharing our emails. This one is Allissa-verified. You’re going to be really happy that you’re on this list. David doesn’t have any time to be spamming anybody with a ton of emails —

DL That’s right.

AH — so you’re going to get what you need to know when you need to know it and nothing more, nothing less. What else? What else, David? Anything else you want to leave us with or anything you didn’t get to yet? I don’t want to cut you short.

DL I mean, there is so much that we haven’t gotten to, but that’s part of the fun of this work, I think, is that self-exploration and self-awareness is a constantly ongoing process. And I think maybe the thing that I want to say to close is just that, again, this idea of paying attention to ourselves can be a little uncomfortable for us therapists. But that I also want to point out that it is — once we open ourselves to this idea that actually paying attention to ourselves is beneficial not just to ourselves, but also to our clients, I think what’s particularly fascinating is the variety of ways that this work can help and the variety of populations that this “being more mindful, being more present” can actually make a real concrete different in our treatments regardless of who we work with.

I do a lot of work with pregnant clients and folks who have just had babies and, again, giving this sense of space and time is a huge luxury for moms to be and then for new moms who feel like they don’t have any time to be self-aware. But then, in addition, it’s also amazing for athletes and for post-surgery patients and also for just those folks who are feeling a lot of stress or tension or aches and pains in their daily life. I think this idea of not being present is a real systemic issue not just in our own profession but also in our own culture today. We can help pretty much everyone we see with this simple concept manifested throughout our massage sessions.

AH I can only agree. I want for everyone to try this taking a moment before you start massaging, thinking about your exhale, seeing where that goes. And I want reports back on it because we are going to have David back in the fall when his online stuff launches if only because I have a hundred more questions now that I need answers in your relaxing, built-for-radio voice.

DL Aw. Thanks. Well that sounds great because we essentially covered the first 30 seconds of the massage. So now in our next podcast, we have to cover the remainder of the massage because there is a whole lot of other wonderful stuff we can do with our own breath and our own awareness.

AH This is amazing. Thank you so much, David Lobenstine, of bodybrainbreath.com. Everybody, go check it out if only to see David’s smiling face on the About page. It’s fantastic. Thanks for joining us. Thank you for giving us all of these tools, and I’m a little overwhelmed. I’m going to leave it there, everybody. You can go to massagebusinessblueprint.com if you want to see more of the business-building kind of stuff that we have. Thank you, David, thanks for being our guest. And bye, everybody.

DL Thank you. Bye-bye.

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