Ep 264 – Kinessage for Self-Care with Kathleen Gramzay

An image of a massage therapist working on their clients hip flexors.

Where do holistic health, self-empowerment, neuroscience, and conscious culture intersect? Kathleen Gramzay has the answer. In this episode of The ABMP Podcast, Kristin and Darren speak with Kathleen, developer of Kinessage® Mindful Resilience, about how she developed this practice, how Kinessage differs from other modalities, and why massage therapy self-care was so important in her development of Kinessage.

Author Images: 
Darren Buford, editor-in-chief of Massage & Bodywork magazine.
Kristin Coverly, director of professional education at ABMP.
Author Bio: 

Kathleen Gramzay, LMT, is the Founder and CEO of Kinessage LLC. She is a speaker, Body/Mind Resilience Innovator, National CEU Provider, author, and developer of Kinessage® Massage through Movement, Kinessage® Self Care for Therapists, the Kinessage® Release Your Pain Self Care System, and Kinessage® Mindful Resilience.

A year into her massage therapy practice, Kathleen’s own debilitating chronic muscular pain compelled her to figure out how to release that pain, creating the new modality of Kinessage®. She proved her methods with professional athletes and thousands of clients in her 16-year massage practice in Scottsdale, AZ. Kathleen taught Anatomy and Kinesiology at the Southwest Institute of Healing Arts before teaching her Kinessage® methods nationally to occupational, physical, and massage therapists.


Darren Buford is senior director of communications and editor-in-chief for ABMP. He is editor of Massage & Bodywork magazine and has worked for ABMP for 22 years, and been involved in journalism at the association, trade, and consumer levels for 24 years. He has served as board member and president of the Western Publishing Association, as well as board member for Association Media & Publishing. Contact him at editor@abmp.com.

Kristin Coverly, LMT is a massage therapist, educator, and the director of professional education at ABMP. She loves creating continuing education courses, events, and resources to support massage therapists and bodyworkers as they enhance their lives and practices. Contact her at ce@abmp.com.



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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.    

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Fascia Research Society (FRS) was established as a membership organization to facilitate, encourage, and support the dialogue and collaboration between clinicians, researchers, and academicians, in order to further our understanding of the properties and functions of fascia.

Every three years, FRS hosts the International Fascia Research Congress (IFRC). Beginning in 2007 with the first IFRC, and triennially since, the IFRC has been the premier fascia congress in the world. No other fascia congress brings together the very latest in fascial discovery and the diversity of the leaders in fascia. Registration closes August 31, 2022 – don’t miss out!

For more information on FRC, or to register for the 2022 IFRC please visit us at www.fasciaresearchsociety.org

Questions about either FRS or IFRC? Email us at info@fasciareserchsociety.org

Full Transcript: 

0:00:00.2 Kristin Coverly: Fascia Research Society invites ABMP podcast listeners to attend the sixth international Fascia Research Congress, September 10th through 14th, 2022 in Montreal. The event includes eight keynote speakers over 60 parallel session talks and posters, seven full and eight half-day workshops and a two-day fascia focused dissection workshop. The lineup of keynote speakers and workshops is already available on the Fascia Research Society website and the full congress schedule will be out June 3rd. Register for the sixth international Fascia Research Congress today at fasciaresearchsociety.org.

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0:01:50.5 Darren Buford: I'm Darren Buford.

0:01:51.9 KC: And I'm Kristin Coverly.

0:01:53.6 DB: And welcome to the ABMP podcast, a podcast where we speak with a massage and bodywork professional. Our guest today is Kathleen Gramzay. Kathleen is a body mind resilience expert, author, speaker and developer of Kinessage Mindful Resilience, Kinessage Self Care and Kinessage Massage Through Movement, and a 20-year board certified massage therapist. In her 16-year clinical practice, Kathleen proved her methods first on herself, and then with thousands of clients. Concurrent with her practice, her passion expanded to teaching. Kathleen taught Anatomy and Kinesiology at the Southwest Institute of Healing Arts before becoming certified as a National Continuing Education Provider. Over the course of eight years, she taught her kinessage methods to occupational, physical, and massage therapists at conferences, schools, and seminars across the country. In 2016, Kathleen retired from her practice to share her passion and programs with the wider world of humanity through business. For more information, visit kathleengramzay.com. Hello Kathleen and Hello, Kristin.

0:03:05.4 Kathleen Gramzay: Hello.

0:03:05.8 KC: Hello and welcome to the ABMP podcast. We're so excited to talk with you today. Let's start by introducing you to our listeners. Tell us a little bit more about what about massage spoke to you back when you chose it as a career path, and what were the original modalities that you were trained in?

0:03:22.5 KG: Well, what originally got me interested in massage was being conditioned in my family as a child. And basically I was one of six kids and we would literally sit in the den at night watching TV and we would rub each other's backs, and so my family was very, just affectionate, and I learned that touch felt great and it was... It just made you feel great. And when I decided to consider it for a career, I had come to that place where I wanted to do something that was going to have a greater impact than my real estate consulting business that I had. I wanted to have a greater impact, more personal impact. And I had kind of forgot about the whole child thing. And when I was searching, when I went and looked at schools, I was like, oh my gosh, I used to sit and rub my dad's temples when I was in third grade, and he'd lay his head in my lap, or rub my girlfriend's shoulders when she was watching Days of Our Lives when I was five and so it just came full circle. It was really fun.

0:04:28.8 KG: So when I started, it was plus 20 years ago, so 1999 is when I graduated. So massage was a different world then, it was pretty basic. Even in a great science based school, it was basic, it was Swedish and deep tissue, Anatomy and Kinesiology, and I knew that between Swedish and deep tissue, I'm a problem solver and I wanted... I love to move. I wanted to help people be able to move and get back to what they love doing, so I went the deep tissue route, and then the anatomy was... I became a geek very quickly on anatomy 'cause I wanted to understand everything. And then the Kinesiology was actually pretty basic too, in that it was a concept, it was like okay, planes and degrees of freedom, but it actually wasn't like, how do I apply this? How do I use this? So instead of going to school, I realized that I'm like, "Okay, people are coming in and they're not saying I can't medially adjust my arm, they say, I can't reach my bra strap. I can't comb my hair." I'm like, "Okay, who does that? Wait a minute."

0:05:30.7 KG: So I quickly got two books that really opened a bigger door for me. One was I was working with professional athletes, so I got Bob McAtee's Facilitated Stretching, and then the other one was Blandine Calais-Germain's Anatomy of Movement. So that was like, I have a dancer telling me now about movement. Now, I'm in the right place. And so what I did was I would... When I first started with my clients, I was smart enough to say on the call when they're booking, what are your issues? What are you having trouble with? They're like, "Oh man, I can't move my hip, or I can't turn my leg," or whatever it was, and then I would study like a crazy girl, and I would see okay, who does that? What muscles? Who's responsible? Who's most likely to be the culprits that aren't working? And then that's what I would do, and then I would take copious notes and my SOAP notes and I was like okay, that worked, or, this didn't work, or why didn't it work? Or yes, it did work, and so it gave me the basis of actually starting to document what I did and why it worked, which then of course helped later when I had to actually prove it to people that it was real. [laughter]

0:06:37.4 KC: That's so smart. I love that you ask in advance so you can prepare. That's great.

0:06:40.9 DB: I love the critical thinking skills. Absolutely. That's so crucial. So Kathleen, when you were honing those skills for what would become kinessage, and we're gonna hold off on the definition of that just for a second, what was kind of like that aha moment for you?

0:06:58.6 KG: Well, I would tell you that I didn't have an aha moment so much as I had a necessity meets mother of intervention connected to bread crumbs of aha and puzzle pieces along the way. [chuckle] It was a process. And so, first of all was I had... One year into my practice, my body... So I'm doing deep tissue work seven days a week, I'm working on professional athletes. My body was not happy. It was already telling me after just one year, I had chronic neck pain I never had, I had forearm pain, elbow pain I never had. I felt like this isn't right.

0:07:36.6 KG: And the first aha though was this thought came to me out of nowhere which was, "I wonder if... Maybe if I could use the body's design for movement instead of force, I could continue." So then I became even geekier, and I got even deeper into my studies of kinesiology and how the body works, and everybody does their job, and what do they do, and how does that relate to movement, and how can I reverse engineer this. So now that I can use it to actually reduce the tension and clear the chronic tension patterns that were underlying it. So putting those things together, and then I would get a piece.

0:08:15.7 KG: So then a year later, when I was figuring this out, I went and I took a myofascial release class from Pam Field, who's extraordinary here, and she taught at Southwest. And then took her class, and I was like, "Okay, now we're talking." This is not... I'm not doing something to the body, I'm not working on the body, or at the body; I'm actually responding to the body, and when it lets me in, and now I can skip all the guarding. I can skip all of the responses that go with that. And so I was like, "Okay, now we're talking." So I have the principles, we have now myofascial release.

0:08:57.0 KG: And then while I was working on all these athletes, I was working at the Ritz Carlton in addition to my practice, and there's lots of resorts here in Arizona, so I was working everywhere. And these 350 pound linebackers would come in and they'd say, "I booked an hour." And I'm like six months out of school, I'm like, "Ah." And I would be very professional, "What area would you like me to concentrate on?" Because there was no way I'm covering that terrain, like in an hour. [laughter]

0:09:27.9 KG: So I was like, "Okay, what can I do to get quicker?" I have to get... I have to be able to cover more ground faster, and so I went back to the body and anatomy, and I was like wait a minute, I can actually work muscle groups at a time. In fact if I... I call it my anatomy shorthand. Systematically work through multiple groups at a time and then work with the myofascial work superficial, medium, and deep, and then clearing all the connective tissue on top of it. So systematically I got much faster and much more effective, and I knew I was doing head-to-toe, 'cause as we know with fascia, it's head to toe, it's every direction. You gotta clear it all.

0:10:03.2 KC: That sounds like it was such an exciting journey for you, and I love how you had all the different pieces and you're putting them together, and you did put them together and created what you call kinessage. So really describe that for us. Tell us as practitioners learning, what is kinessage? What is this modality, and how does it differ from other modalities that we might know and be familiar with.

0:10:25.7 KG: So kinessage is the word I coined because of course, kinesiology as massage. So kinessage, massage through movement. So it's really... It takes massage out of those pieces that we know, 'cause most of them are... We know that if we do a certain modality at a certain speed, we're gonna get a certain result. We know that there is efficacies in different types, but those are more about an application of an idea, doing something to the body. Kinessage is different because you're actually using the body's own language, how it speaks to itself, and movement through receptors, through GTOs, through the muscle spindles, through the joint receptors, and you're using that information to help it recalibrate itself.

0:11:20.2 KG: So, as I said, myofascial is a component, and then using the movement and the stretching, but the biggest difference is where the movement starts, where it comes from. So when you know just in general ergonomics, we are taught keep your fingers straight, keep your elbow straight, work over... We're taught different ergonomics and how to work smarter, but the effort and the force is still coming through our small muscles oftentimes. In kinessage the seated work is done on a ball, and the movement starts from your feet, and so from your feet through your body, through your hands and through the client, and then when you're standing, of course, it's still from your feet, so you use very little energy, and then... But it translates into a much bigger result.

0:12:10.0 KG: So when I was teaching kinesiology and they had asked me to teach it, and I said, "You guys, I don't have... " the woman who was owner of the school... "I don't have a degree in kinesiology." She says, "I know, but you are kinesiology, we want you to teach it." So I was like, "Okay." So I'm teaching it, and I had another instructor who was auditing the class, then so he could teach it, and so he had these great questions.

0:12:32.2 KG: And I said, "William, tell me your background. What's your background?" He said, "Well, I have an undergrad in exercise phys and I have my master's in Kines." And I said, "So can you evaluate movement?" He's like, "Yeah," and then he goes, "Why?" and I said, "Well, I created the whole method of massage... " at the time, I think it had 93 movements, and I said, "But I don't have a degree in kinesiology. I need someone who's got a degree to validate this." And he said, "Okay." So he said, "Well, what did you think you did?" And I said, "I have figured out how to make myself a class two lever in every opportunity using my body and my client's body." So just like we know that when you can try to crack a nut with your bare hands, but if you use a nutcracker, less force, more effort or more result, it's that same idea. So it uses physics, it uses movement, it uses levers of my body and their body, and so it's using all of that to make it much more effortless.

0:13:31.1 KG: So that it's a momentum and an inertia that we know that inertia is either something stays stopped until you move it or it stays moving until. So what therapists learn how to do is use their body in a new way that is actually lighter, more fun, more relaxed, and you don't have to dig. You don't have to force. You don't have to will something to submit. [chuckle] You can just take your awareness, work with the nervous system. And we know that in trainment. We know that when we are paying, really paying attention, that the tissue responds to us. So the first thing is is that, first of all, you learn it on yourself. The prerequisite, you can't take a kinessage massage through movement class if you have not taken the self care class, because this is about you, you have to understand in yourself how it feels.

0:14:15.8 KG: What is it like when I actually can do something that... My training, it has often been for therapists, deep, gotta be hard, that hard, no pain, no gain, never made sense to me. I just never got that. And I'm like, who said that's true, and why? Why does that have to be true? Why do things have to hurt first, and then they're gonna work later. Who said that? That was the coolest part, is you let that we put all the pieces together the body goes, I'm gonna be like butter. So it's just making it easy and it takes effort out of it. So as a result of figuring it out, of course I got the biggest blessing was number one. I got to practice. I practiced for 16 years, six days a week, averaging four 90-minutes massages a day. And once I figured this out after year one, no issues, no pain, no issues, no injuries, no I can't work now, none of that. And that that's because the design is what it is.

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0:16:36.8 DB: Now, Kathleen, you mentioned just briefly earlier about there being 93 movements. Is that true when you talk about kinessage when you're working on a client?

0:16:45.3 KG: Well, first 93 total in that I don't use all 93, obviously that would be a way long massage.

0:16:52.6 DB: [chuckle] Okay.

0:16:52.6 KC: Darren was getting excited as a client, like, wait a minute.

0:16:55.9 DB: Yeah, totally.

0:16:56.8 KC: This is great.

0:16:57.2 KG: Yeah, that is a series. Actually there is relative, because I wanted to go through all of them because I knew I would be teaching in this curriculum. So I was getting it validated as curriculum. So what there are is there's... I have different levels of classes. So the intro combo class is a self-care fit therapist first day. In fact, I'm doing these classes September 24th and 25th here in Arizona. So it's the first day, is self-care for the therapist. And the second day is the introduction into kinessage which teaches people how to work on the ball, 'cause this is a different, this is a totally different idea than rubbing something. This is you're letting the movement do the work. And it teaches you a series that you can go through a series so that everybody can at least have a series of movements that they can go through, that they can add in. The second level of classes introduces the anatomy shorthand and the stretching piece.

0:17:55.2 KG: So it's a layering effect. So they get added in along with more movements and then there's an advanced class that then takes that to a more advanced level of single arm or application. And so that's how you get to 93 movements. But what's so great is it's really using the kinetic chain. So that our nervous system to release the muscular skeletal... I mean the muscular kinetic chains. So when we think of therapists, for example, and that's why I started teaching it to therapists because I went to one of the conferences and it's a few years later, my body's happy as a little clam. My business is great and all these other therapists are talking about all the pain they have that I no longer have. That's actually what started me teaching. So I went and sat home at night on my couch and literally wrote this all out.

0:18:46.0 KG: It took me like a year to write all that out and go through the process and do all that. But... So when you look at therapist injuries, which we know are way too prevalent and careers are cut short way too quickly from long term onset of chronic, static compression injuries. So you teach people how to release those kinetic change. So that specifically for the therapist is for their kinetic change that they use all the time and looking at all the aspects that we deal with. So the courses of kinessage really do cover everything from intro. So learning where you can learn it on yourself and in intro class, you can add it into your practice or for those who really want to take this to a master's level, then they can take the additional classes of the basics and the advance to really take it to a level of mastering.

0:19:39.6 KC: Kathleen let's shift gears a bit and talk about mindful resilience training, which is something else that you've created. Tell us a little bit more about that. And what does that mean and how does that apply to massage therapists?

0:19:52.9 KG: Another necessity of the mother of invention experience. When... In 2015, when I saw the opioid epidemic getting so bad, that was the universe's next tap on my shoulder. Like, okay, first it was you for you and your clients now therapist and their clients. Now it actually needs to be for everybody. And I'm like, I don't know how to do that. I don't even like technology, except when somebody hands it to me and says, here you go, it's working. And now I'm gonna be the one to do a virtual system. You gotta be crazy. And so that's when I retired from my practice, I kept teaching, but then figured out how to make this into a virtual system. That's when I wrote the book, here's how your body and mind works and it's applied with that movement so you do it together. So I launched this business and then I also brought it into business. So the training into business.

0:20:40.4 KG: Well, there were some major challenges with that, how that launch went, as most entrepreneurial situations go, there's always surprises. And there was days literally when I was literally on the floor in the fetal position. I mean, I was so in overwhelm, I was in freeze, I was on the floor. I had to get myself off the floor. There was one week where I literally was either on the floor or staring at my walls and I thought, okay, hello, I gotta get busy here. So I had that aha again, that voice, which said go back to the nervous system. So I went back to the nervous system and I remembered a technique that I learned when I was in school and I actually went and studied others for trauma. And so I used them to get myself off the floor. And then when I had gone into corporate, back into corporate after 20 years, I realized here I am trying to teach them about this, which was already like what? What, you can clear your own pain without drugs. How is that possible? But the bigger problem was there was so much chronic tension going on that they didn't even realize their pain.

0:21:43.7 KG: Now this was in 2016 before COVID. So I thought, okay, let me back up. Let me teach you these skill sets, which is basically using techniques that shift the nervous system out of either sympathetic or dorsal vagus, which of course is the freeze part, back into the parasympathetic where we live and are our best selves.

0:22:06.5 KG: So that's where we can focus and think creatively. That's where we get along with each other. That's where our immune systems function in the best. And so that's really how I started it, was to help people, especially now working with leaders because the world has been so challenging for several years and everybody's been living in trauma. So I worked with them and I'm working with them so that they can have a bigger impact that way. And then I also actually did it for the public. During COVID I did programs that just webinars for the public. So, I'm actually... I haven't actually brought it back in for therapists, but I am... If there is interest, I'm certainly happy to teach them because then that actually will give them other skill sets to use with their clients in terms of understanding and just using neuroception to actually be able to help people on that level before anything else.

0:23:00.7 KC: Kathleen, I'm curious, tell us a little bit more about what's included in that training. Is it what people might kind of associate with meditation or those type of techniques or what type of, when you say you're teaching them some techniques to calm that nervous system or move back into parasympathetic, what type of techniques can people use to do that themselves?

0:23:22.7 KG: Well now, thankfully there's enough going on that people understand the power of breath. And so when we think about the nervous system, the things that we have control over, like our breath have the power to reset our nervous system. So that's, some of them are breath techniques, but others of them are actually using the body to reset the mind. So it's very much in alignment with kinessage in that it's using the nervous system and literally musculature and awareness to reset. So kinessage does it in a physical form and then mindful resilience does it in the mental, emotional form.

0:24:02.5 DB: So Kathleen, you mentioned this class. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?

0:24:07.5 KG: Yes. On September 24th and 25th this year, next month, I am teaching the introduction, the self care for therapists and the introduction to kinessage, massage through movement, here in Scottsdale, Arizona. And therapists can register, find out more and register on my website, which as you said, is kathleengramzay.com. I want to also tell therapists that they have power over something they might not know they do. And that is, oftentimes I've heard therapists say, I would love to take such and such a class, but it's not available. Or I wanted to take this class, but it got canceled. One of the things that therapists can do to play a big role in whether to ensure the classes they want are gonna happen is to register early. So what I'd just like to say for therapists, whether it's my class or anyone else's class, we're an ecosystem. Educators are here to help therapists be better so they can have their businesses grow and take care of their clients. And therapists can also support educators by committing to the classes you wanna take and signing up early, so that it's available for you when you would like to take it. And then we get to keep having the joy of sharing our knowledge and then the whole world gets to benefit with massage continuing on.

0:25:28.0 DB: I wanna thank our guest today, Kathleen Gramzay. For more information about Kathleen visit kathleengramzay.com. Thanks Kathleen, and thanks Kristin.

0:25:35.9 KG: My pleasure. It's been a joy. Thank you so much.

0:25:39.4 KC: Kathleen. Thanks so much for being with us today and encouraging us to move our bodies in different ways and think about how we work with our clients in a different way.


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