Where: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Why: Because for the past 15 years, he has helped develop new massage therapies and topnotch treatments, such as The Himalayan Rejuvenation treatment and the Chakra Balancing Massage, and because one of his goals is to help people participate more with their spa experiences.
How, and why did you get started?
When I was in college in 1991, I was doing well but I was bored by what I was studying. I met an acupuncturist and started getting treatments, then I started studying Taoist and Chinese medicine. Then my mother mentioned a massage school advertisement that she was looking at for herself, and a big bell went off in my head. I left the university to go to massage school, and I’ve been doing it ever since.
What are the signs of a good therapist?
One who knows how to listen and communicate. The most important aspect I look for is how much focus and intention they bring to their work. I think 90 percent of every massage is intention, while only 10 percent is technique. I look for someone who is focused and present, rather than the technique.
What was the first treatment you developed?
The Himalayan Rejuvenation Treatment, a two-hour Ayurvedic detoxification treatment. That was back in 1995, and it was one of Aveda’s first [explicit] spa treatments. Before that we had standard treatments. This really put us on the map.
What was the last treatment you developed?
The Charka Balancing Massage, my favorite of all time. It debuted this year and incorporates everything I’ve been studying on my own. The goal of it is not to magically make chakras be open or balanced, but rather to help people get in touch with these energetic centers. I also like it because it’s a participation where guest gets to do a meditation and true healing. One of my favorite Walt Whitman quotes is “not I nor anyone else can travel that road for you, you must travel it for yourself.” The chakras are the road map, but people have to travel it themselves.
How often do you get massages?
Usually three to four times a month, but sometimes it might be two, sometimes six. I just had one of the best I’ve ever had from one of my trainers, who combined chakra with deep tissue. I’m not worried about getting a full-body massage, I much more enjoy it when I share with the therapist what my particular needs and goals are with the time I have and then customize my time with them. For example, I’d much rather have my back and arms done.
What advice would you give to consumers who don’t know the lingo?
Tune in to your bodies and be able to describe how you feel, what areas of the body you want to have massaged the most—and pay attention. Some days you might want to relax, some days you might want to focus more on legs, or arms. It’s not about techniques it’s about how people listen to their bodies and share that. You have to be able to let go and trust your therapist.
Any tips for readers on how to achieve balance, resist stress?
Breath is the best tool you can use. It’s such an unusual function because it’s controlled by the involuntary nervous system, which means you don’t have to think about breathing, you have to do it all day long. But what makes it different is that you can tell your body to take a deep breath and it will. It’s the best link between mind and body. It’s not about the quantity of breath, but the quality. It’s all about getting more oxygen in your body. It’s again that link between mind and body. Keep your mind focused on that breath to help keep your mind and body focused as one, which is our natural state—as opposed to when our body does one thing and our mind another. One of big challenges we have today is that we’re not very body aware. We only pay attention to our bodies when we have pain, that’s not the best way to go about it. We lose touch with the body, even though it gives us a lot of signals as to what it needs. If people learn to listen to their bodies—take that five- or 10-minute break when you need it—it will help eliminate the stress and be more focused.
Where do you see the future of spa headed?
I see people learning to participate more. I really am tired of, and I think people are tired of, the pampering and luxury aspect [of spas]. Spas are going to be a wellness model for the future and spa-going will become something you do on a regular basis to help maintain your health and sanity. We need to counterbalance the fast pace of life, and spas can really help you focus on being in the moment.