Rachelle Clauson is your average mild-mannered, everyday massage therapist. Except for one thing: She has mastered the art of pivoting. Join Allison as she taps into why Rachelle’s career has offered her more opportunities than she could have imagined, and how she has landed on the front lines of helping all of us to understand fascia a little bit better.
Check out Rachelle’s endeavors:
Allison’s column in Massage & Bodywork magazine:
“The QL and the Psoas: The Epitome of Codependency,” by Allison Denney, Massage & Bodywork magazine, January/February 2022, page 24.
“The Hand: A User’s Guide,” by Allison Denney, Massage & Bodywork magazine. November/December 2021, page 81.
“Feelization: Connect with Clients on a Deeper Level,” by Allison Denney, Massage & Bodywork magazine, September/October 2021, page 85.
Contact Allison Denney:
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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.
0:00:00.0 Speaker 1: Anatomy Trains is thrilled to announce our first ever Women's Health Symposium, this live online event takes place February 26 and 27, 2022 AWS, that's Australian Western Standard Time. Register by January 21st to receive a significant early bird discount and over $400 worth of bonuses. We have invited a powerful line up of all female authors, physicians, therapists and clinicians to share their passion and life's work. Visit anatomytrains.com for details.
0:00:40.3 S1: 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 the massagementorinstitute.com today to see more, learn more and do more.
0:01:28.1 S1: Rachelle Clauson may not be a name that you recognize, but her story is quite remarkable, navigating her way through schooling, the passing of her father, the uncertainty of owning her own business and then landing somewhere she never imagined herself to be. Rachelle's modus operandi is at the core of each step along the way.
0:01:52.6 Speaker 2: Is there any other choice than to be a Roomba in life? You bump into the wall and then you gotta go in there. Right?
0:02:00.5 S1: Rachelle's beginning of her massage and body work career started like many of us, not quite knowing what the plan was, she found herself listening a bit to the universe.
0:02:10.3 S2: Well, I have to reach back in my memory banks now, 'cause I can't, hardly remember before I was doing massage, but it was a very unpredicted path. It happened in a ceramics class, I was taking a ceramics class for fun, as I was doing part-time work, I had been working in the legal field as a temp for five years, and knew that I hadn't found what I wanted to do, I knew desk work, wasn't it. It felt like it was sucking the soul out of me, and I took a ceramics class and was living down here in San Diego, and during the class, we did this project where they made... The teacher was demonstrating making a death mask, but doing it instead of the normal way of using Plaster of Paris and putting on the bandages, it was pouring it on and with a quick set plaster, but the plaster was too diluted or something, so it wasn't setting up. And the guy who was the volunteer had straws up his nose, and the plaster was melting and it wasn't working, and one of the straws fell out of his nose, and we all held our breath, panicking, thinking, "Oh my God, this guy is gonna die on the table," 'cause he can't breath.
0:03:15.5 S2: Of course, he could have just scraped the plaster off his face at any point. So he wasn't actually in any danger, but we were freaking out, and he put a thumbs up, keep going, keep going, and then one of the women in my class walked over and put a hand on his shoulder and a hand on his elbow, and I watched his body just settle and after it didn't work, they had to scrape it off and we had to throw away the project. But I walked over to her and I said, "I'm sorry, who are you and what do you do? Because something just happened there," and she goes, she laughed and she said, "Oh, I'm a retired massage therapist." And that was the moment, it was sort of the pivotal moment where I thought, "This is something I wanna know more about." I had a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology. I had been studying performing arts, dance and theater, and physical mind, physical theater, and have been fascinated by the body for my whole life, really.
0:04:14.4 S2: I think I started studying ballet when I was four, and because I demanded it of my parents, not because they chose to put me in ballet classes, and I was like, "I need to learn more about this." 'Cause I don't think I realized at that time that massage therapy was a thing a person could do, certainly in my performing arts background, I was sort of the resident massage therapist because I had good hands, that could help people's shoulders relax and they're like, "Where did you learn all this?" And I just think it looks like it would really feel good, so I would do what looks like it felt good, and that was the beginning.
0:04:49.3 S1: In this pivotal moment, Rachelle decided to take her background in dance and her degree in psychology and research what might be out there, in terms of a massage school. She found what she was looking for at the Mueller College of Holistic Studies in San Diego.
0:05:04.2 S2: I checked out their program and I was just enamored. I mean it was really riveting to hear the breadth of the program and how massage therapy wasn't just massage therapy, it encompassed all of my psychology degree, all of my performing arts background, all of my understanding of what I say is being a thinking feeling soul in a physical form.
0:05:30.8 S1: But Rachelle didn't just go to school, graduate and then get a job, she stumbled upon an opportunity and turned that into her education.
0:05:39.1 S2: So I called the school to find out how many hours again was required to get a license. And while I was on the phone, the admissions guy said to me, "I don't know you, and I don't know if this is something I'm supposed to tell you or not, but I feel I'm feeling compelled to let you know we actually have a job opening here at the school right now, working as the admissions coordinator. I don't have any idea if you're qualified, but if you are get your application in today, 'cause they're making a decision tomorrow."
0:06:05.9 S2: That night, I put it together. The next day I brought it over in person, they interviewed me on the spot, and that was in between dress rehearsals for a dance performance, I was in. Yeah, I literally went from costume to interview outfit back to costume, and I had the job by the next day, so then I was like blinking, going, "What did I just do? What I just do?" But I also was... Part of my employment was that I would get my first 100 hours for free because it was required of everyone who worked there, so I thought, they're asking for a two-year commitment, but no-brainer. Just do the 100 hours. See where everything lands. And it landed well, and so I ended up working there all the way through until I was able to be licensed and then I was still taking classes after that.
0:06:46.2 S1: So she was studying and she was working, and then she graduated and found herself where many of us find ourselves upon graduation with the question of what to do next. She got a job at a hotel, which she argues was one of the best things she ever did and got creative when it came to opening her own business.
0:07:04.4 S2: So when I was in massage school, I was very drawn to traditional Chinese medicine and the acupressure. We had a program that was actually called the Asian Studies program, as opposed to the Western Studies program. Western Studies had sports massage was heavy on kinesiology and those kinds of things, where as the Asian Studies massage, you got to do to and pulse diagnosis and point location and all the TCM stuff. I spent a year in my college years in Thailand teaching English between my junior and senior year, and even long before that, I had always had a really strong draw to the Asian cultures since I was really young, and so living over there... Not that I really was exposed very much to Thai massage, ironically, while I was living in Thailand, we did get the Thai massages 'cause it was nice. But I didn't know at that point I was gonna become a body worker, but I was privy to the concepts of meridians and energy, and I don't know chi. The balance of things, Japanese gardens, how balance is found in nature and how I feel like the Asian cultures have a closer tie to that then you tend to find in the Western cultures.
0:08:19.5 S2: And so I studied the Asian therapies program at Mueller and graduated with that, and all this great knowledge about acupressure, and then I got a job at a hotel where they offered sports massage and regular Swedish massage and deep tissue massage, and I was bummed out that I hadn't actually studied any of these things 'cause I felt like I was being pushed in skills I didn't really have, and probably wasn't doing them as skillfully for my own body as I could have been if I had done the training on that. So very early on, my practice got pushed back towards Western modalities, but because I had taken so many classes that were more energetically-based, the subtle body modalities really made sense to me, and what I ended up finding that was even though I didn't necessarily have all this deep tissue work, most people don't need as much deep work as they need deep relaxation, and if you can provide nervous system regulation and down regulation for them, it's easy to do deep tissue 'cause then they let you in.
0:09:18.0 S2: So I found that I was using the work, although it was not really on my menu until I had my own menu and I was running my own practice. And then I still found not too many people were selecting it 'cause they hadn't heard of it and they didn't understand it.
0:09:37.2 S1: So Rachelle got creative, she figured out how to pull what she knew into her current situation to work not only towards her advantage, but also for her clients.
0:09:47.8 S2: So I created these three different styles of work that one was called the athlete, one was called the diva and one was called the alchemist. And in each one of those categories, I put these treatments that were more identifying with how I saw maybe the person saw themselves, and so they were like, "Well, I love this concept of the spirituality and alchemy. What's in that menu?" And so that's where I had my craniosacral therapy, my [0:10:15.2] ____, my Asian practice stuff, but there was always some massage. So they would still get that.
0:10:21.9 S1: This seemed so creative to me, the ability to merge two different worlds and market it in a way that felt exciting to her and clear to her clients. I asked her how she became so good at problem solving.
0:10:35.0 S2: Is there any other choice than to be a Roomba in life? You bumped into the wall and then you gotta go in there. Right? It's very... I don't know, I think I'm a problem solver. I like problems, I don't like having difficulties per se, but I like solving problems. And so yeah, I guess each time something would come up, my brain would just start chewing on it and try to figure out where to go next with it. I also really love envisioning, and I have to say, I'm sure that that's also helped me lead me through my whole practice, even to this moment in time, that I'm kind of inventing things in my mind long before there's any basis in reality for them to be in existence at all. But I really think you can't manifest something until it's been a dream first, and honestly, that thought process, I know has been with me for a number of years, because I wrote a paper on it when I was in college, and I remember going to the library to do research, 'cause there was no internet yet, and I did a catalog search for all the quotes I could find on dreams.
0:11:48.5 S2: Because I think I was also given the message as a bit of it, that I was a bit of a dreamer, and I maybe was so creative and already that, I didn't really have a lot of practical oomph to me. And so I was really on the defense of the artistic creatives and the dreamers, and I wanted to make a point in this paper that I wrote, that if you don't dream first, nothing happens. And if you don't envision it, you can't create it, if you can't conceive of it, you can't manifest it.
0:12:24.4 S1: And manifest she did, Rachelle rolled up her sleeves, learned new modalities, and saw her practice grow. She found the perfect office space in a small part of San Diego called Little Italy, but then she received some bad news.
0:12:39.1 S2: There was a big change that happened in my life, not too long after that, and this may be a little bit out of sequence, but I got hit by some pretty intense tragedy that my father was diagnosed with terminal cancer. And so that place where I've been working in Little Italy, I no longer work there because of the fact that I had to go and live with my mom and dad for about nine months while we took care of him until he finally passed. So it was a big interruption, and I actually thought my career would maybe die during that time, 'cause I literally just abandoned it. I was like, I'm gone. And my clients were like, "No, we totally understand." And then my landlord, who owned the Spa, she allowed me to come back and rent her room for a few days each month, and so I kept coming back and renting the room and seeing some clients while I was there, I could fill four days worth of clients in 15 minutes, because I knew which days clients had... It was their regular spot. So I just email them, I'm like, "I'm there. Do you want it?"
0:13:34.6 S2: So I was able to do that for about four months in a row, and then when I came back, I didn't have a space anymore, and so I turned my living room into my Spa and lived at my boyfriend's house and told my clients I was back if they wanted to come back. My first month back, I made my normal income, and I had been gone for nine months, so that's a huge credit to my clients and how incredible they are as people, and many of them have been with me for many years. I just honestly, I didn't know... When you're self-employed, you never know what's gonna happen, you don't have somebody who's like, "We'll, hold your job for you." It's like I literally walked away, but I was able to come back and then I found the place where I am now, which has just been amazing that we held on to it during COVID and everything, and I've been there for, I think going on eight years now.
0:14:24.5 S1: Thanks to some serious tenacity and some amazing clients, Rachelle got herself back on track. But I was not introduced to her for an interview for this podcast because she's a great massage therapist. Rachelle has been involved with the fascial net plastination project, and her work to help us all understand fascia a little bit better was what I really wanted to hear about.
0:14:45.8 S2: One thing that really started to bug me was how people... I knew I could make people feel better, but it bothered me that that was the only thing that was making them better. I wanted to see how I could be better at helping people feel better when they weren't getting a massage. I felt like just giving homework of stretches or this and that certainly has its place, certainly can be beneficial, but I felt like I could be offering more. And so I was doing Gyrotonics and a few other types of movement modalities that were helping me feel good in my body, but I felt like there must be other self-care modalities that existed. And while I was at a Gyrotonic class, there were these little half moon-shaped disks, balls on the floor, and I started unconsciously, they were to be stepped on, that's... They had tools and balls and stuff around, so I'm stepping on me while I'm talking to my teacher after class and I'm like... After a minute, I'm like, "What are these?" I just have the feeling that if I did this every day, I would be healed from everything, it just had this...
0:15:48.5 S2: These are good for you. These would feel good. And she goes, "Oh, those are from Yamuna." And I said, "Yama who?" And she said "Yamuna, it's yamuna body rolling," She goes, she has different products that she sells and this and that. So I was very curious, and I went on Yamuna's website and I found a kindred spirit. She was all about helping people help themselves, and she had developed this whole line of tools and these modalities of working with these inflated balls in order to get your body more organized and pain-free and healthy and working better. So I booked a flight to New York, because that's what Rachelle does. She gets inspired and then she goes, "I'm gonna check this out."
0:16:41.2 S1: And check things out, she did. Rachelle dove into the world of Yamuna and self-massage and found herself wanting to know more.
0:16:49.1 S2: And so what I found, like I did after burying myself deep in her work for a while, is I lifted my head up to see what else I could find. And I found quite a bit, and within one week's time probably, I had booked three more trainings, one with Eric Franklin, who happened to be in San Diego teaching a workshop to the physical therapist here.
0:17:11.8 S2: One workshop was with Robert Schleip, the co-founder of the Fascia Research Society, he was teaching fascial fitness in LA. And then the third one was with a hand and foot MELT method with Sue Hitzmann, and she said... I said "I don't think I'm gonna do the one that's in LA." And she goes, "Who did you say was teaching that again?" I said, "I don't know somebody. Doctor Robert Schleip, I think so you say it Schleip?" And she goes, "Robert Schleip is teaching that class." and I was like, "You know him?" She goes "Rachelle get your ass in your car and go to that class," she says," he is the horse's mouth, everybody else is quoting him, he's the guy that's doing the research, go take that class." So I did, and in the meantime, I met a lot of other very cool people that are still friends of mine today, that were all sort of on the precipice of creating more. So it was very lucky I was just hitting everything in the right moment, I got very involved with the acuBall, which was developed by an acupuncturist and chiropractor, Dr. Cohen and his work, I also found just to be phenomenally powerful off the massage table.
0:18:21.8 S2: So I have now all these... I've got acuballs and I've got Yamuna balls and I did some work setting with the inventor of the [0:18:28.7] ____ and I was like, "These are all amazing." And then I started to get people asking me, "Well, which one is best?" And I will share with you the quote that I'm asking everyone to make sure ends up on my tombstone: Different things do different things. And I can't stress it enough when people wanna find the superlative of a style or of a tool, it's that different things do different things and they all can be very exquisite in how they do that thing.
0:18:58.1 S2: I have found, now that I have a lot of these tools and skillsets and trainings and certifications, that I will have a much better ability to assess my client's personality and behavior preferences as to what I recommend that they do for their self-care at home. I know that some people prefer passively just feeling better, so I will give them something that all they have to do is heat it up in the microwave and lay on it and you will feel better. And there's other people, they need to do something, "Give me something to do." They need the active element of it and so I will then work with them suggesting that they try something with Yamuna balls or any other kind of MELT methods, foam roller, balls, those kinds of things 'cause they just respond better to it 'cause it fits them better. And I think that's the secret sauce when it comes to really being able to help people is being able to match the person with the thing that will help them be most.
0:19:56.7 S1: So clearly, like many of us, Rachelle became intrigued with Fascia, how we can understand it more, how people can understand their own fascia -better, and then what happened next for her opened doors that many of us can only dream about walking through.
0:20:12.8 S2: So I really was craving something more, something deeper, and something more academic, and that fit me because I had a pretty strong academic background. And being in candlelight rooms and listening to soft music and swishing to the music, I love that 'cause I'm an answer. So I dance to the music, I have a good time but I also wanted the mental simulation that I wasn't finding at that time, in particular, in my industry. I think we've come a long way since then, like a very long way. It's very impressive and people like ABMP have done an amazing job, even just to watch the arc of their development from the first magazines when they first started to where they are today is incredible.
0:20:55.7 S2: So where I was in my career there, which we're talking about almost a decade ago, that wasn't really happening for me yet. And so when I did this thing looking for these different self-care modalities and found these really deeply research-oriented research-based practices of fascial fitness with Robert Schleip and Divo Mueller, and then the MELT method, it just opened up a doorway for me that I was like, "Oh, there's people that are studying this in an academic setting, pretty high academic? In fact, to the point where I'm not understanding 40% of what's being said? This is great!" I was in my element, right? Half of it's going over your head, occasionally you grab something and go, "I understood that," And you feel really proud of yourself.
0:21:41.9 S2: So that was kind of happening, but it was really translating it also into my world and the facial fitness in particular, I studied with Robert and Divo for a few years and I TA'd for them, every time they came out to San Diego and then I flew to Boston and then I flew Germany and I did their advanced trainings and I really got heavily involved in it thinking I would really follow the path of working with that work. They were just blooming in Europe and the American-based work was not there yet so even translating the materials and the English wasn't fully happening. So we were a little bit just out of sync with that. So when I was kind of ready, they weren't quite ready, and then when they were ready, I had kinda moved on to something else so that happens.
0:22:27.2 S2: But my love for fascia was still there and it was kind of after fascial fitness wasn't really happening at the pace I was hoping for it to with me, that there was an invitation that went out. And the invitation was from the Fascia Research Society, I believe to all the members, which I had joined a number of years before. Actually, I was a founding member the first year that they came out. The invitation was to be a part of a dissection group that was going to create the world's first fascia-based plastinates partnered with Body Worlds.
0:23:03.3 S2: All the lights went off. All the horrible lights lit up, I guess. Every bell and whistle in my brain lit up when this invitation went out and I quickly sent a text message to one of my friends that I had met in Germany and at the Congress in Washington, DC a few years before, and I said, "Did you get this?" He writes back, "I've already applied." I'm like, "Damn it! I knew that you had." So that I'm just like, "Crap, I don't know if I can do this. It's in Germany and it's like a several week commitment, and it's several thousand dollars and, and and." Can I take off the time from work? Can I, can I, can I? And I kinda came to this conclusion, which has been my conclusion, for better or worse, on many occasions, which is I don't have children; I only have a few plants, no pets; the only thing I'm really missed... And I work for myself so I don't have to ask permission from my job, I just have permission from my clients, but the only thing that really would ever prevent me from doing things, is money.
0:23:56.5 S2: And I've always had this belief that money can be made and it can come from a lot of places and so I kind of flung myself into the abyss of some opportunities sometimes hoping that the net would appear kind of a thing. And then being very strategic and calculating in the way that I made that net appear which is how I usually problem-solve. But I did and it ended up shape-shifting from what the original invitation was. We had to apply, we had to explain whether or not we had enough dissection experience or if we were good, not necessarily just with dissection, but with detailed things. And I remember very clearly putting on my application to demonstrate my fine motor skills is that I'm very good at getting knots out of necklaces.
0:24:41.7 S2: It's a weird skill set, I know, but I somehow have quite a few of these necklaces that are really fine chains and somehow I can always untangle them so I thought that was a good demonstration. And then I also can usually get price tags off in one piece and what's hilarious to me is now here we are four years later, and I would have to tell you that that price tag technique is actually very applicable to dissecting fascia.
0:25:08.4 S1: It really just goes to show that you never know what skills that you have, that is gonna show up and be helpful and productive for you later on in life. Rachelle has been working with a Facial Net Plastination Project for a handful of years now and what she has gleaned from this experience she wants to share with the world.
0:25:28.6 S2: For me, we as massage therapists, we use our hands to feel textures and densities and movement within the human body with our hands but what our hands can perceive is based on the maps that we've been given in our training and unfortunately, the maps of the fascial system were largely omitted in most of our trainings. And so we're feeling a lot of things that we've never really seen and nor can we completely comprehend because we haven't seen it by itself or in relationship to other things. May not know that bones are not the only things that muscles are attaching to, some muscles attache directly to fascial planes but if you don't see it, how can you conceptualize it? How can you feel it?
0:26:13.4 S2: I love dissection. I fell in love with dissection because I felt like it gave me X-ray vision. Suddenly what I touched, I understood and I knew to a finer level of detail what it was that I was touching and I want that experience to be available to more people than can even get themselves to a dissection lab. And to me, the very incredible value that Body Worlds is bringing to the space of massage therapy is to help us be able to see what we're feeling beneath our fingers and now, with this plastinate, we'll be able to see more than the things that we've already are well-versed in: Muscle, bone, tendon, ligament, blood vessel, nerve. We might know all of those but if we don't know anything about how it relates to the tissues that connect, bind, separate, glide, we're pushing on things that shouldn't move. We're not realizing things that should move aren't moving and this representation of the human fascial system is a big step forward in increasing our understanding about the fascial system as massage therapist. I think it's essential.
0:27:16.9 S1: Listening to the twists and turns that Rachelle's career has taken over the years, of course I wanted to know what advice you would give to her newbie self.
0:27:26.4 S2: I would tell my newbie massage therapist self, that it's all worth doing, and it doesn't necessarily have to lead to anything because it's worth doing. So I think a lot of what I have done, I was hoping would lead to something and it didn't. I would have to say at this point in my career, maybe it did because it kind of was all the things. My mom was always telling me, "At some point, Rachelle, at some point in your life, it will all make sense. All of your training that you've spent all this time in craniosacral therapy and massage therapy and mime school and traveling, teaching English in Asia, and all these... " She was like, "It's all gonna come together. It's all gonna come together and you'll realize that nothing was wasted."
0:28:12.2 S2: But I feel like my... My real belief at this point is that none of it's wasted, even if it doesn't come together because it sounds a little corny, but the journey... It is the journey. And it is so fun to be able to have all these pockets of things that I've done that can pop up in the right moment because they are all still there. And the learning and the time and the effort and the energy put into it, it is always used at some point, somehow, and if the use of it is a memory, a memory is worth everything at the end of it.
0:28:50.6 S1: Memories, tools, techniques, invitations, all of these opportunities define who we become. Rachelle's decision to live her life as a Rumba, pivoting when she bumps into a wall, has indeed carved out a very interesting and successful career. Members are loving ABMP Five Minute Muscles and ABMP Pocket Pathology, two quick reference web apps included with ABMP membership.
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