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The best massage you ever had

This month, I'm bringing you conversations with wellness practitioners who may enlighten your path to more peace. Today, meet Frank, a certified massage therapist at Hand & Stone in Columbia, MD.

From the pandemic, to the election, to everyday responsibilities - stress levels have been on a thousand! Last week while votes were being counted across the country, I kept even keeled by tapping into my monthly membership at Hand & Stone Massage and Facial Spa for a hot stone massage.

Who am I kidding? I really went for Frank.

Frank is a humble man whose gentle stregnth touches down in massage therapy. The day after he made my arms (of all body parts) feel the attention of a lifetime, we connected by phone about why he chose to become a massage therapist, the secret behind his illuminating technique, what gets under his skin about the job, and why you should consider treating yourself to a good massage.

La: How did you get into this line of work?

Frank: I stumbled upon it. I had been in customer service. Helping people is one of my callings. I heard an ad one day for massage school and something told me to give it a try. After touring the school, I thought "I can really do this." When I started it was natural to me.

La: Where did you earn your certification and how long have you been a massage therapist?

Frank: I graduated from Cortiva Institute, which was originally Baltimore School of Massage, four years ago.

La: I'm not sure if you see it this way, but I believe you have a gift for massage therapy. My last massage was the best I've ever had - no special occasion, just a Wednesday. What's the secret behind your technique?

Frank: Before I start, I pray for it to be one of the best massages my clients experience.

A lot of the things I'm able to do, I completely discredit myself. I give it to God. My ultimate goal and purpose is for people to have a good experience. Whatever they need, to relieve tension or whatever, I pray that it's one of the best massages they ever had.

La: What's most rewarding about your profession?

Frank: The satisfaction of having my clients leave feeling better than when they came in. Making other people happy. And doing the best job I can to help them achieve their goal or experience what they needed for the service.

La: Is there anything that gets under your skin about doing this work, like cancellations or anything else?

Frank: I don't worry about cancellations. Things come up. I understand, it's a bill, and people have other things to worry about. What makes my job a little harder is:

1. I'm a male

2. I'm a black male

I have to go through the initial unspoken barrier of "who's this black guy about to give me a massage?" and then noticing them realize "at least I'm having a good experience." Even with that, I've learned how to approach people very emphathetically and professionally. I usually let my work do all the talking. It's a challenge at first but even that can be rewarding in a sense.

I have one of the higher return rates than the other therapists in the spa. If you do a good job, clients have no reason not to come back. I have learned to listen and try to make sure I address everything people need, like pressure levels, so they have no reason not to come back.

La: How do you exercise self care?

Frank: That's one thing that I need to do better with. Sleep is the best self care for me because I work so much. If I could get a good 8 hours of sleep! And work out when I can.

La: Do you get massage therapy for yourself?

Frank: Getting back into massage can bring me down a little bit; just being able to unwind. Massage has several benefits. Lack of sleep can build stress and high blood pressure. By getting massages again myself I can also learn things from other people and transfer what I learned to my clients. You know, see what works and what doesn't.

La: Any advice for people considering adding massage therapy into their self care routines?

Frank: Definitely treat yourself. Don't wait until it's too late. Hopefully when you do have a massage and have a good experience you won't be like, "wow I can't believe I waited all these years, I wish I would have done this earlier." Find out if it works for you.

People do build up issues in their bodies and sometimes it can become a little fargone the longer you wait. Don't wait until you're too burned out. It'll do more harm to you than good. Give it a try, be receptive. It can help heal migraines, TMJ, arthritis, and more. Oncology, pre-natal, and geriatric massages are among the options.

People go through a lot of ailments without realizing massage can help. We can help heal anything that has to do with the body outside of ligaments depending on how frequently you go. Your therapist can put together a treatment plan.

The ultimate goal is for you to feel 100%.

La's reflection: Dedication to the Highest, or Ishvara Pranidhana, is a yoga core value that shows up in Frank's work. Yoga Journal translates it to mean that the highest happiness comes only from a love of, communion with, and surrender to, God. This must be the divine energy that I felt emanate from my arms that day.

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