Ep 142 – Christy Cael and the Power of Yes: “The Rebel MT” with Allison Denney

"Yes" written in black marker on an open palm.

Ever wonder what would have happened if you had made different choices in your life? In this episode, Allison sits down with Christy Cael—author, instructor, bodyworker, and biomimicry master—whose story has taken turns she never dreamed possible. Christy’s success, she reflects, is all thanks to her willingness to say yes to opportunities that she at first wasn’t sure she could accomplish. 

Allison's column in Massage & Bodywork magazine:

“The Case for Consistency: Treating Persistent Injuries,” by Allison Denney, Massage & Bodywork magazine, July/August 2021, page 80, www.massageandbodyworkdigital.com/i/1384577-july-august-2021/82.

“Buddha’s Six-Pack: Serratus and Intercostals, with a Diaphragm Chaser,” by Allison Denney, Massage & Bodywork magazine, May/June 2021, page 86, www.massageandbodyworkdigital.com/i/1358392-may-june-2021/88.    

“The Muscle, the Beast, and a Cup of Tea: Conquering Sternocleidomastoid Fears,” by Allison Denney, Massage & Bodywork magazine, March/April 2021, page 80, www.massageandbodyworkdigital.com/i/1338685-march-april-2021/82.      

Contact Allison Denney:


Author Images: 
Allison Denney, The Rebel MT
Author Bio: 

Allison Denney is a certified massage therapist and certified YouTuber. You can find her massage tutorials at YouTube.com/RebelMassage. She is also passionate about creating products that are kind, simple, and productive for therapists to use in their practices. Her products, along with access to her blog and CE opportunities, can be found at rebelmassage.com.  


This podcast sponsored by:

Anatomy Trains:  

Anatomy Trains is a global leader in online anatomy education and also provides in-classroom certification programs for structural integration in the US, Canada, Australia, Europe, Japan, and China, as well as fresh-tissue cadaver dissection labs and weekend courses. The work of Anatomy Trains originated with founder Tom Myers, who mapped the human body into 13 myofascial meridians in his original book, currently in its fourth edition and translated into 12 languages. The principles of Anatomy Trains are used by osteopaths, physical therapists, bodyworkers, massage therapists, personal trainers, yoga, Pilates, Gyrotonics, and other body-minded manual therapists and movement professionals. Anatomy Trains inspires these practitioners to work with holistic anatomy in treating system-wide patterns to provide improved client outcomes in terms of structure and function.  

Website: anatomytrains.com  

Email: info@anatomytrains.com   

Facebook: facebook.com/AnatomyTrains  

Instagram: instagram.com/anatomytrainsofficial  

YouTube: www.youtube.com/channel/UC2g6TOEFrX4b-CigknssKHA  

Full Transcript: 

0:00:00.0 Speaker 1: Anatomy Trains is happy to announce our return to the Dissection Lab in person, January 10th to the 14th, 2022 at the Laboratory of Anatomical Enlightenment in Boulder, Colorado. We are thrilled to be back in the lab with Anatomy Trains' author, Tom Myers and master dissector, Todd Garcia. Join students from around the world and from all types of manual movement and fitness professions to explore the real human form, not the images you get from books. This is an exclusive invitation, email info@anatomytrains.com if you'd like to join us in the lab.

0:00:37.3 Speaker 2: This episode is brought to you by the Massage Mentor Institute. Diane Matkowski, also known as the massage mentor, and Allison Denney, also known as Rebel Massage, have teamed up to bring you the Massage Mentor Institute. MMI is a collection of teachings and education opportunities from industry leaders around the world, because your continuing education experience should be whatever you want it to be. They are building community one body part at a time, and they want you to be a part of it. Head over to themassagementorinstitute.com today to see more, learn more and do more.


0:01:24.1 Speaker 3: Sometimes success isn't about how much you know, sometimes it's about hearing someone else's story so that you can see the path they took to more clearly visualise your own. There are some incredible massage therapists out there who have created amazing careers for themselves, and I'd like to bring some of those stories to you. I will return to anatomical anecdotes next week, but for today, I hope this story offers you some insights and makes your own path to success a little more clear.


0:02:00.1 S3: Christy Cael is the author of the book Functional Anatomy: Musculoskeletal Anatomy, Kinesiology, and Palpation for Manual Therapists. She is also a practising massage therapist, massage therapy instructor, and contributing editor for ABMP's Massage & Bodywork magazine. Her articles also titled Functional Anatomy have helped thousands of bodyworkers understand their anatomy and how it functions a little bit better.

0:02:24.3 Christy Cael: So, my name is Christy Cael, I'm a licensed massage therapist in Washington State. I live in Tacoma. And I had a first career as an athletic trainer. I went to school at Eastern Washington University and got a bachelor's degree and took a certification exam and became an athletic trainer.

0:02:48.7 S3: The intensity of the job though took its toll on Christy.

0:02:52.1 CC: It was just triage all the time, triage, triage, triage. You go to the hospital, you go to the doctor, you can practice, you can't practice, you... Let's tape up your ankle, it was just constant crisis management. It became painful, it became emotionally difficult and trying to find a way to... We were trained to distance ourselves from the people and from the emotion and from the compassion that I naturally have.

0:03:25.5 S3: But then Christy was offered a massage from a friend of a friend, and the next thing she knew, her life was headed down a very different road.

0:03:34.6 CC: I got a message, "Hey, you wanna come and get a massage?" And the real me was like, Absolutely not, no, that's the last thing I would ever do in a million years, and why would you call me and think I would wanna do that? And the external me said, "Well, yeah, of course. When am I gonna do that? And What time and where do I show up?" Which felt so odd. One of those moments where it's like, who is talking? It is not me. As I was on the table, I was having a conversation with this person I had never met, and I was not a touchy-feely person at all, and she was talking about a school that she taught at that wanted to do a new program and wanted to bring in a personal training program, a exercise science program, and I found myself saying, "Sure that sounds really interesting, here's my card and maybe have them give me call," and they did, and I interviewed, and the position was something I'd never done before. It was teaching and writing curriculum and hiring instructors and putting together classrooms, and it was this whole huge thing and I got the job, which I think a lesson in that was that sometimes you have to fake it till you make it, that you don't always know all the answers when you're going into new things and being uncomfortable is living, is moving forward, is growing.

0:05:05.1 S3: But the job and the world of massage therapy opened Christy's eyes to a new perspective.

0:05:09.1 CC: And I started going to their classes to see what was happening in the classroom, and they were very innovative teachers. It was a very different kind of learning that was happening there, 'cause it's so hands-on, but it's also incredibly vulnerable as a practitioner. So, guiding these students through the process of learning to be in their own bodies and... Because they were on the table too, they weren't just giving massages, they were receiving all the time, and so that all the stuff that comes up with being in your body was coming up and they had to cope with that. And so, I started eating crow about what it meant to be a massage therapist.

0:05:53.9 S3: She then got the opportunity to be a student at the very school she was teaching at.

0:06:00.3 CC: So I went. I went to massage school, and in that process really started to value the changes in my own body and my own way of thinking, and how much more willing to be vulnerable I was, and connected to other people. That was really new for me. That was not how I was raised. We weren't really affectionate in my family, and so now I've had all this touch in my life that was new and learned to really appreciate that and value it.


0:06:39.8 S2: Christy graduated in July of 2001 and looked hard at what saying, "Yes" when she wanted to say, "No" had brought her.

0:06:47.6 S3: That phenomenon has happened many, many times in my life, and I think that if you prepare yourself and if you are open to being surprised by life, those moments come along. And I think that the part of being open and sort of ready for opportunity, listening to the universe for what your next step is, has taken me places that I never imagined, never imagined, but exactly where I felt like I needed to be.

0:07:30.1 S2: In this new headspace, Christy experienced more doors opening than she could have hoped for.

0:07:36.2 S3: In the same school that I was teaching at and went to massage school at, I sat on a committee that I said yes too, and I think that you have to say yes to a lot of things in life if you are hungry for new experiences, and sometimes it's very simple things. And I said yes to sitting on this committee where we would examine the textbooks that the school was using to see if they were working or not working, or what else was out there. And we had a meeting with the publisher to look at the textbooks that they were offering. I said, "I'm really very honest." And so I said, "I like this, but I can't use it. And some elements of this are good, but here's the things that don't work for me," and I think they were little bit taken aback by that, because I... It's like just the facts, man. Here's the truth, I'm on the front lines, I'm dealing with these students, this is what I'm seeing. And so, after that meeting, the representative who happened to be kind of a big wig in the company came to me and said, "Well, would you like to write your own?"

0:08:45.5 S2: And so, Christy began writing a book.

0:08:49.3 S3: Not knowing what I didn't know, I said, "Sure, yeah, I can do that. No problem. Yeah, fine." I thought, Okay, well, I'm just gonna try. I'm just gonna try and based on how I feel about the previous books I've used and what I would like to see, and just... I'm gonna pie in the sky, what would be the thing that would work for me the best? And spent a year writing the proposal, and it's very specific, and it's a gamble, you don't get paid for that, you just... You don't know if they're gonna adopt or not, and so, lucky me, they did. And that was very exciting, they flew me to Baltimore and I met a team of people that were gonna help me write this book, and it became a much bigger project than we anticipated, but that sometimes happens. And so, we worked on it for about four years, and it came to fruition in 2009, it was published, and I think sometimes nobody's more surprised than I am. [chuckle]


0:09:54.6 S2: In the midst of all of this though, she was also saying yes to other opportunities.

0:10:00.6 S3: I worked at ABMP in their education department. I moved away from Washington, I moved to Colorado. I was trying to finish the book at that time. I was in sort of the last throes of it, which was very difficult. And as I was working there, I met these amazing people that worked there, and part of my training was to sit and learn everybody's job, I had to learn everybody's job, it was amazing. It was such a genius move on their part, because I sat with the insurance people and I sat with the membership people, and I learned about the person that was monitoring all the change in laws around the country. And one of the groups was the publishers of the Massage & Bodywork magazine, and the graphic designers and the editors, and they were so welcoming, and so smart and so good at what they did, and really kind. And they knew that I was working on the textbook at the time and asked if I wanted to contribute? They were really open about what that would look like, and because I had been practising for a while, they felt like I had some insight into the profession, and so, I said yes, [chuckle] not really knowing what that would look like, and they gave me a word count and a deadline and said, "Okay, give it a shot."

0:11:40.3 S2: She started by writing about what interested her the most.

0:11:44.2 S3: As a practitioner, I have my list of top 10 evil muscles, suboccipitals, levator scapula, pec minor, subscapularis, quadratus lumborum, piriformis, tibialis posterior. So those muscles were... Are ones that I found as a practitioner were difficult to access, can be really temperamental and not that pleasant to work on, and psoas, that's another one. Things I wish I had known more about when I was brand new.

0:12:23.0 S2: She's been writing for a while now.

0:12:25.8 S3: Well, it's 16 years since 2008, [chuckle] so.

0:12:31.5 S2: So a lot. And I wanted to know how she continued to find content and stay inspired with her writing?

0:12:38.4 S3: A lot of times, I will find something comes up in my practice that as I'm like, "Oh, what am I gonna write about this time?" Then it's like everybody that walks through my door is having some sort of issue with their AC joint, or there's just something... This pattern will show up and it's like, "Oh okay, well, that's a great... That's a great topic to tackle." And because it is very narrow in that it is some anatomical structure that I profile and talk about beyond its action... More about its function. If you take something like the quadratus lumborum. Yes, it does, these actions, but let's talk about how it works with gates for being there and why it is so temperamental. So when I see those patterns come up, that is very helpful.

0:13:35.2 S2: But sometimes she has to look a little harder.

0:13:38.4 S3: And sometimes I have to work for it, sometimes I have to really come through and think about it and... Well, and sometimes the universe is stingy and you're gonna have to look... And that's okay. And so if we apply that to... I've been practising for 20 years, and I work in a very quiet, warm, darkroom with people that don't really wanna talk to me all day long. And you go around the table and around the table. And around the table. And 20 years is a long time, and I get bored. I feel stagnant sometimes, and so what am I gonna do in those moments? I have to have a strategy, and that's when, "Oh, I'm gonna take a class," or I love going and getting a massage from somebody new, or when I travel, I will seek out whatever kind of special bodywork they have in that region, and there often is. Bodywork is old. Massage has been happening for a long time, and so there's no shortage new and different ways are old and mystical ways to do that if you look.

0:15:10.2 S2: Christy has found a whole new path one she never thought she would be on, her book is about to go into its second edition, and she continues to write and teach and practice, but now what? I asked Christy, what was next for her.

0:15:24.8 S3: I recently went back to school and got my master's degree in biomimicry, and that was an interesting process because I had been out of college for 20 years when I applied, and so the thought of going back to college was a little bit terrifying, and also it took so long because I just couldn't find the right thing that I know who I am, I know people are like, "Well, I'll just go back and get an anatomy degree." And I was like, I don't know. No, that's not it, that's not it. And so I sat down and wrote it out, what do I want? In a perfect scenario, what do I want? And I sat down, I wrote it out, and what I wanted was, because our bodies are so accessible, we all have one. It follows certain scientific principles, and sometimes we're mystified by it, so to try and sort of connect with this thing, that we have access to every minute of our life, we have access to our body, and I wanted people to find a connection to themselves and to each other. And then to the planet.

0:16:47.1 S2: She actually wrote her degree of biomimicry into existence.

0:16:53.0 S3: That is a new program. I graduated, I have masters degree in science and in biomimicry, and it had not existed. So I think the... That I applied. I was just looking and looking and looking. I'm like, that's not it, that's not it, that's not it, that's not it.

0:17:13.3 S2: Christy is still opening doors. This is a brand new course of study that she found because she listened to herself.

0:17:21.3 S3: I don't know, I don't know where that's going. I am in that time of being open to possibility.

0:17:29.7 S2: For anyone who might not be sure about their next step, Christy has this advice.

0:17:35.0 S3: You have to listen to yourself and accept what your optimum is, because if you're listening, you'll feel it when you're overtaxed, and you know when you're bored. And it's not the same for everybody. And that's okay, that's okay.

0:17:55.4 S2: Christy Cael's journey is one that I think most of us are familiar with, uncertainty, trying new things, figuring out who we are and where we fit in. Christy's ability to say, "Yes," and dive into opportunities that might have been scary or overwhelming has not only landed her where she is today, but it has also given her the power to carve out her own path and do things she never dreamed possible. For access to Christy's book, check out Functional Anatomy: Musculoskeletal Anatomy, Kinesiology and Palpation For Manual Therapists on amazon.com, and for her bite-sized articles about how your anatomy functions, check out ABMP's Massage & Bodywork magazine for both archived and current editions.

0:18:47.0 S2: Members are loving ABMP five-minute muscles and ABMP Pocket Pathology two quick reference web apps included with ABMP membership, ABMP Five-Minute Muscles delivers muscle-specific palpation and technique videos plus origins, insertions and actions for the 83 muscles most commonly addressed by bodyworkers. ABMP Pocket Pathology created in conjunction with Ruth Werner, puts key information for nearly 200 common pathologies at your fingertips and provides the knowledge you need to help you make informed treatment decisions. Start learning today, ABMP members log in at abmp.com and look for the links in the featured benefits section of your member home page not a member, learn about these exciting member benefits at abmp.com/more.


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