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Wendy Hammarstrom massages Freida Wone, Innerworks Center, Philadelphia

Although I have expressed my frustration with the process of becoming credentialed through the California Massage Therapy Council, as have many others, I was thrilled to hear the following news, in a letter from Ahmos Netanel:

You might have heard by now that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed AB 1822.  The CAMTC and the massage therapy community strongly believe that the governor listened to reason instead of rhetoric in making his decision, and that the veto itself reflects the disciplined, transparent and cooperative approach we have brought to certification of massage therapists in California.

In his veto message to members of the Legislature and the public, Governor Schwarzenegger wrote:

“I am returning Assembly Bill 1822 without my signature. This bill is unnecessary and inappropriately requires specific law enforcement association appointments to the California Massage Therapy Council (CAMTC). This Council is already working closely with law enforcement professionals across the state to ensure the profession is appropriately screened for past criminal activity before being certified. In addition, there are members of the public, not associated with the massage industry, already appointed to this Council. For this reason, I cannot sign this bill.”

In a decision of equal importance, the Governor signed Senate Bill 294, by the Chair of the Senate Business and Professions Committee, Senator Gloria Negrete McLeod.  This measure contains language written by Legislative Counsel and supported by the massage therapy community, clarifying that statewide certification by the CAMTC does allow CAMTC certified massage professionals to practice anywhere in the state – in general law cities and charter cities alike. 

On behalf of the CAMTC Board, I would like to thank all of the therapists and practitioners who stood up for their profession. The Board is very proud of how the massage therapy community so cogently expressed to policymakers the critical role they play in providing safe, quality care in California.  You and your colleagues are the ones who told the story of an honorable profession that is doing an extraordinary job of working constructively with law enforcement to weed out the bad apples. It is rewarding that massage professionals were able to make their own case against very difficult odds, but it is equally important that we leave the door open to our critics so they can be further educated about the benefits of massage therapy.

Respectfully,

 Ahmos Netanel

Chief Executive Officer

CALIFORNIA MASSAGE THERAPY COUNCIL

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Saturday, May 22, 2010, 10AM-3PM

Come get a mini table massage from me, and check out first edition of my new book, Circle of Healing: Helping Extraordinary Clients with Yoga and Massage, A Practical Guide.

Pechanga Resort & Casino

45000 Pechanga Parkway, Temecula, CA 

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Admission free with non-perishable canned food item or grocery store gift card for $5.  Refreshments provided with admission.

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More information, contact me at 951-677-5962 or Michele Broad, Women’s Health and Wellness, 951-304-3180.


My friend Mary has been fighting an uphill battle against a variety of illnesses, including cancer, since the early 1990s.  When I met her she had just moved to Murrieta Hot Springs in southern California to get the full gamut of healing waters, massage and other bodywork, yoga, and also the help of some fine MDs.  But, as the hot springs closed to the public, she was forced to look elsewhere and she ended up in a cancer clinic in Mexico, where she rallied and beat the cancer. 

Today she is facing some more cancer issues and is living in Albuerquerque, NM, where she had moved to care for her mother.  Her mother died this past year, and Mary needs a place to stay to help her heal again.  But where?

I have called all around the US and Canada to find a cancer clinic that combines the best of modern western medicine, and the best of holistic health, where the person with cancer can live during the treatment.  Many of the calls I made were to hot springs since Mary was always drawn to healing waters.

I have not made much progress, so I’m putting this wish of hers out to the world.  Any suggestions?  Please email me at Wendy726@verizon.net.


This is the headline of an email I received from the Government Relations Chair of the American Massage Therapy Association California chapter today, April  9, 2010.   Having just received my state (voluntary)certification after 36 years of working in the field of bodywork and healing arts I am dismayed.   Ever since I moved to California in 1992, I have observed local law enforcement  creating difficulties for bodyworkers to practice their profession. 

I thought Senate Bill 731  was the beginning of positive change, that finally bodyworkers were going to be acknowledged and respected for the valuable work they do.  It is particularly troubling to me that massage therapists and law enforcement and other first responders work so closely in the face of natural and manmade disasters, and yet are at odds when it comes to this issue.  At  least SB 731 was a beginning.

Apparently Assembly member Sandre Swanson has introduced Assembly Bill 1822 into the legislature and if it becomes law (albeit  not until after December 31, 2015), all massage therapists will again be required to have local permits for each city in which they practice.  That means that in addition to the fee paid to the California Massage Therapy Council,  for fingerprinting and background checks and certification process, that they will have to pay an additional $75, or $100 or more  to practice per city and to fund local background checks.  Also local law enforcement would have the final say regarding whether or not to certify someone.  

 Under local permitting procedures, massage therapists are subjected to humiliating and unreasonable requests that have nothing to do with their fitness to practice massage therapy.  I can personally attest to this. 

Some people believe that this issue is being driven by fear.  Fear of non-western medical health care, fear of the power of healing practices, and fear of the practitioners themselves, who are mostly women.  I hope this is not the case, but I think we need to carefully examine the motives.

Is separating legitimate massage health professionals from prostitution the real reason for the the law wanting to enforce this?  Or, is it profit for local jurisdictions?  Or is it power?  I know when my city first devised its police-run massage therapy ordinance, one of the creators of the ordinance was a business man who was not a bodyworker.    As a 36 year veteran of the bodywork field, I have to question the logic of that.

Massage therapists need to be regulated like other healing professions are – by a state board, not by police departments.  AB 1822 would undo everything that massage therapists, consumers, and law enforcement gained with SB 731.

If you would like to become involved in this, sadly, ongoing battle or have questions, contact the Government Relations Chair Amanda Whitehead at gr@amta-ca.org.


 

I am now a California credentialed massage therapist. The California credentialing has just begun going into effect this fall after many years of organizing and lobbying in Sacramento.  Although 42 states and Washington, D.C. regulate massage therapists or provide voluntary state certification, it is the first time there has been a state wide massage credential in California.  Voluntary statewide certification of massage therapists was chaptered into California law on September 27th, 2008 through the passing of SB 731.  

The purpose behind CAMTC’s creation was to serve the interests of the public and the massage profession by making the process of certification the same throughout the state, rather than different in each city and county. At this point, however, massage therapists still have to pay a separate business license for each city they work in.

I have been practicing and teaching massage and yoga for over thirty years, in Pennsylvania and California, and currently teach a Thursday night yoga class at Korrie’s Pilates Place in Wildomar, where I also offer my unique blend of acupressure and massage therapy.  My other clients have included infants & parents, the developmentally disabled, the medically fragile, hospice patients and animals.

I was a co-founder of Inland Holistic Health Assn, wrote a column on health and wellness for the Californian newspaper for two years, a bodywork column for Awareness Magazine, and am in the final stages of completing my book, “Circle of  Healing: Finding Our Way to Wellness.”  I am also a member of the Temecula Valley Women’s Club.

For more information on my classes on yoga, pet massage or the art of mandala making, you can contact me at Wendy726@verizon.net.


Last summer my ninety year old father was hospitalized for a broken hip.  He was not getting much touch as his nurses were over-worked, and he developed a MRSA infection which meant no one could touch him without wearing plastic gloves.  In addition, his hearing aids were lost, and perhaps most challenging was the fact that he was brain damaged from an accident forty years ago.  When I got there his legs were blue from the knees down, and his feet were ice cold.  He was sleeping but seemed agitated.  I massaged his legs, feet and back.  He never woke up but when I left him he was sleeping with a peaceful look on his face.  The next morning his feet were warm and his legs and feet were a healthy color, and he was in good spirits.

Due to several complications he died several weeks later.  But during those weeks, at my insistence, he was graced with caring and loving touch from his immediate and extended family, and his entire Quaker meeting.  We in turn were graced to be sharing that sacred time with him.

Most people, like my father, appreciate caring touch.  Many, unfortunately, experience touch deprivation including people with AIDs, people with cancer and other illnesses; infants in Neo Natal Intensive Care Units, especially those who have been abandoned by their parents; people with injuries and amputations and deformities, the not very visible part of our population that is challenged with physical abnormalities; those recovering from addiction; victims of physical and emotional abuse who find it difficult to trust any touch; those suffering from post traumatic stress syndrome including victims of natural and man-made disasters and even car accidents; the elderly and the dying, and many veterans returning from Iraq who are suffering from the wounds of war. 

During times of high stress and financial hardship, healing touch is a gift you can offer someone, either done by you or if you prefer, you can find a reputable bodyworker who will work with you financially to find a price that works; most massage therapists I know offer holiday gift certificate specials.

Besides the emotional comfort of caring touch, massage therapy oxygenates the cells which increase endorphins, the body’s natural pain killers; it increases flexibility and movement in joints and eases stiffness and pain in arthritis sufferers and it gets the “chi” or life force moving, which helps us feel revitalized.  Healing touch reduces or eliminates stress related headaches, eases digestive disorders and chronic muscular pain including fibromyalgia, improves body image and speeds healing after surgery, and improves the immune system.  By increasing circulation, massage is invaluable in preventing bedsores that are so problematic, and too often life-threatening for the immobile.  It relieves agitation in Alzheimer’s patients, enhances blood pressure and pulse in geriatric patients, and helps women with all phases of the childbearing years.  Massage therapy comforts and relaxes children with attention deficit disorder, those with autism and people with many forms of mental illness.

You can start with those closest to you — your family and your immediate circle, including your pets.  My teenage daughter reminds me constantly that she needs massage to loosen tight muscles after an extreme physical work out, or to help her get to sleep when she is over-excited.  Our aging dogs need massage to help them with a myriad of conditions.

As vital as food and water is to our survival, so is touch and giving from the heart.


solstice mandala Good news!As a result of hard work of many dedicated people  including lobbyists, California now has  state certification for massage therapists.  After becoming certified,  massage therapists can work anywhere in the state of California.  Before now, massage therapists paid for a city license and then were unable to work in another city unless they paid that city’s fee.  (Or in some places, there was an extra fee for crossing county lines.) Many states in the US have state certification, and soon it will be nationwide.

As a result of this I will be offering massage therapy at Korrie’s Pilates Place (formerly A Balanced Body Center) in Wildomar, and at The Herb Peddlers on Main Street in historic Lake Elsinore.

More good news:   With a lot of help from friends, writers, editors, etc., the book I have been working on for six years is almost finished!

Yoga class:  I am still not in my home on Via las Flores.  The lawsuit with the bank is still pending.  So I am gathering students for a  class at Korrie’s Pilates Place.  Evening?  or noon hour?   Or if you know a home or business that would like a class there, contact me and we can work out details.

If you would like to host an infant massage class, a pet massage class or mandala creating class, talk to me!

And as holidays are approaching, I am offering gift certificates for massage or private yoga, for $50 for an hour, or $25 for thirty minutes.  This includes house calls.  I welcome working with the elderly, hospice patients, people with physical challenges and special needs, and those recovering from accidents and trauma.                   

Call me at 951-677-5962 or email me at Wendy726@verizon.net.

I hope you are well & enjoying the beginning of cool weather,

Wendy Hammarstrom

Blog: www.WendysWellnessWorld.Wordpress.com  

Website: www.WendysWellnessWorld.com


In 1970, when I took a ceramics class at Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, I quickly discovered that I could not center clay on the pottery wheel.  After months of attempting to keep my clay creations from leaning to the left or right, I decided to ditch that idea and make pinch pots instead.  Over the next few years I studied tai chi and ten years later my studies took me into the heart of Kenpo Karate and White Crane Kung Fu.  It was those movement systems that taught me about finding one’s center, also called hara or tan tien.

The hara, also called “one point”, is said to be located just below the navel and about an inch inside the body.  It is a protected area and considered by many to be a sacred space.  It is not surprising that this is the womb area, and is immediately below where the umbilical cord connects mother and infant. Another factor that makes this area important is that the psoas, a major walking muscle and the only muscle to connect the lumbar spine to the legs is nearby. The intestines, located in the center, are where 95% of the serotonin is manufactured in our body.  The gut’s own nervous system or mini-brain has more nerve cells than our brain’s central nervous system.  The number of nerve fibers that carry messages from our GI tract to our brain is nine times more than those that travel from the brain to the GI tract.  Therefore, a calm gut or hara means calm mind and body.  (I have noticed when I take immodium to slow down motility, my mind relaxes also.)

As a yoga/movement instructor I emphasize that students become centered through mat work, stretching, conscious breathing and attention inward.  By focusing on the center, yoga practitioners are able to generate heat and healing energy throughout their body, at the same time bringing the person into the here and now, with less focus on worries.  The squat, the Iyengar standing and balance poses, dog pose, seated forward bends, and many others stretch the legs and open the hips to develop strength and flexibility in the lower body which encourages us to extend and open our upper body.  And what is the connector here? Our center – of gravity, balance and equilibrium.

Skilled dancers of all styles also move from their centers. In Contact Improvisation, dancers move with others in a constant flow of losing their balance, falling, catching and supporting, often with movements that mirror those of infants learning to move and to trust.  Many forms of movement originate from our center, and that includes bodywork.

The minds of skilled bodyworkers are focused and free of Ojai 12distraction so they are able to be totally in the present with their clients.  They may reach this state before beginning a session by consciously inhaling and consciously exhaling, and using energy awareness techniques such as yoga, meditation or focusing on a mandala.  This creates a free flow of healing energy so that the massage recipient experiences more than simply the physical sensations of having muscles rubbed.  They often experience a renewed sense of wholeness.

I am fascinated by the concept of hara and or center because I know what it is like to be not centered physically, a good example being last year when I was moving a large box in a dark garage. I fell backwards and literally flew through the air and landed on my hipbones. Also there were several times I tripped over grapevines in the hill behind my house which resulted in my completing a somersault mid-air.  I also know what it is like to lose my center emotionally/spiritually.  I know what it is like to “fall out of rhythm” as Brooke Medicine Eagle says, and to be helped back into my rhythm with the help of bodywork and movement.

The center is the starting point when I begin creating a mandala and my calligrapher neighbor has shown me the difference between making a line on paper, and making the line from your center.

Centering is a foundation of my Quaker upbringing and of yogic philosophy.  In Quaker worship, we meditate by calming our thoughts, centering and opening to divine communication.

When I was a child, an elegant family friend always impressed me with her graceful manner and movement.  After her husband died, she immersed herself in Zen Tea Ceremony.  When I bumped into her in New York City decades later, she was still striking, graceful and moving from her hara.


Yesterday I taught three people an in- home pet massage class, along with their three dogs and my elderly dog. Hope the black lab and Gracie the black newfoundland were very clear in their communication. When I suggested that we ask our dogs if it was okay to massage them, they dropped down, rolled over and said, in effect, lets get started!
Gracie could probably lead Zen classes of her own. She had no tension along her spine, where we began the massage, and could sit or lie in apparent bliss and stillness for a long time. After about ten minutes of total relaxation, she stood up, holding that position for five minutes, and then slowly made it into the corner. She was clearly finished.
Hope was almost as relaxed, and seemed to enjoy all the techniques. The only place she had any resistance was in the hind legs as her person slowly extended and flexed. There was one angle that she would not allow. Hope did not seem to have a limit for the amount of massage she could receive, but then she had been a service dog, helping children with emotional challenges her first few years. She probably thought it was time for her love and care to cycle back to her.
The two year old jack russell terrier did not really like my dog being in the family living room, so it was an effort to get him to stop bad vibing her, but he did relax and on occasion lay down.
My dog, Winnie, is eleven years and has gone through considerable stress lately as we lost our home (perhaps will get it back—–depending on outcome of lawsuit.) She spent six weeks living outside only in someone’s (very beautfiul) yard, then several days in an animal rescue setting. She now shares our temporary home with a wolf-hybrid, who loves her and respects her. But her spine has tight areas, especially her lower back, and her hamstrings are tight. If she goes for more than a couple days without walking, she locks up in her hips. In spite of her recent angst, and stress response to new environments such as the home where we had this class, she did relax.
As in pet obedience classes, the animals slowly establish their little bubble of space, and realize they are safe, and then can relax and accept the healing touch.
For someone who wants to get into massage for animals (and this could be for pets, for farm animals, for rescued animals of all sorts (including fighting dogs, lab research experiments, abandoned and abused, and animals soon to be butchered) healing touch can be life changing.
Additionally, massaging an animal can be healing to you. Besides helping your pet’s circulation and immune system, giving healing touch can reduce your stress level, slow you down to appreciate non-verbal communication, and even help with your own immune system. For some people, touching their animal friends is the only touch they receive.
And healing touch can include all creatures, such as lizards, snakes, and birds.
My cats, who also have suffered as a result of losing their home, are benefitting from massage. I haven’t heard of PTSD as something animals experience, but I am sure that they do.
Want more info? I recommend Michael Fox, VMD, website, http://www.twobitdog.com, Carol Tellington Jones’ Tellington Touch, and Cesar Millan.
Is massaging our pets pampering them? Let me know your thoughts.


mandalawendyIn my 30 years of studying and practicing massage and bodywork, I have watched this country go from keeping massage at arm’s length to reaching out to it. Today, there are over 46,000 massage therapists certified by the American Massage Therapy Association, working in 27 countries. There are 60,000 massage therapists and bodyworkers Nationally Certified in Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork, and a multitude of other bodywork organizations.

Thirty-three states have state licensing, and California finally is one of them. State licensing is a way of ensuring the quality of practitioners, which will (soon, we hope) encourage health insurance companies to reimburse for massage treatments.

But we still haven’t fully embraced the field of bodywork. Why is there still a shroud of mystery around it and a distrust of the massage therapy profession?

One reason is that the boundary between therapeutic massage and sensual or sexual massage is still unclear. In many Yellow Pages, including one of our local Temecula books, all types of massage come under one heading. So who is to know which therapist to go to? I have been told by several new clients that they went to get a sports or relaxation massage, only to be offered more.

For many people, that would be upsetting. But it can devaste people who have already had their boundaries violated physically, emotionally or mentally.

Bevery Susan Johnson, a massage therapist and educator from Alaska, says, “Each of us has our own energy cocoon (and needs for space), and it is not appropriate for someone else to be in our space without our consent.”

And that is why the ethics of bodywork is a required course in all massage schools today.

The National Certification Board of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork, or NCTMB, requires members to abide by its code of ethics and defines ethical practice as “acting in a manner that justifies public trust and confidence, enhances the reputation of the profession and safeguards the interests of individual clients.”

The NCTMB requires that practititionres “always be responsbile not to engage in sexualizing behavior and therefore not engage in any sexual conduct or activities even if the client attempts to sexualize the relationship.”

I think also our society is touch phobic partly because our Puritan forefathers frowned on pleasure, and partly because healthy, nurturing touch was not modeled for many of us when we were children.

Recently I saw a television movie about the man who killed his pregnant wife and was having an affair with a massage therapist at the same time. It was the first time I have ever seen a massage therapist shown in a positive light on television.

My wish is that Americans and others become educated and enlightened and realize that therapeutic massage and bodywork sessions are a safe place for healing.