Ep 37 – Yomassage: a Gateway for Massage-Curious Clients? with co-founders Katherine Parker and Tiffany Ryan

Ladders leaned up against a blue wall, with the tallest ladder reaching the center of a target

Yomassage co-founders Katherine and Tiffany discuss the formation of their unique offering, what occurs during a session, and the growth of their “Yo-me” community. Blending touch, stretch, and breath, Yomassage aims to increase the growth of massage through healthy, clothed touch, while also increasing bodyworkers’ per-session income and career longevity.

For more info, read “Yomassage: Combining Yoga, Massage, and Mindfulness for a Healthy Practice” in the March/April 2019 issue of Massage & Bodywork magazine.

Author Images: 
Tiffany Ryan, co-founder of Yomassage
Katherine Parker, co-founder of Yomassage
Author Bio: 

Katherine Parker is a graduate from the University of Texas with a degree in Arabic and Middle Eastern studies, a former yoga studio owner, and co-founder of Yomassage. Tiffany Ryan has a PhD in social work, is a massage therapist, and is co-founder of Yomassage. Learn more at www.yomassage.com.

Sponsors: 

This episode sponsored by Anatomy Trains.

Full Transcript: 

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01:01 Speaker 2: Welcome to the ABMP podcast. My name is Darren Buford, I'm the editor-in-chief of Massage & Bodywork magazine and Senior Director of Communications for ABMP. I'm joined by my co-host, Kristin Coverly, licensed massage therapist and Director of Professional Education for ABMP. Our goal is to connect with luminaries and experts in and around the massage, bodywork, and wellness profession in order to talk about the topics, trends, and techniques that affect our listeners' practices. Our guests today are Tiffany Ryan and Katherine Parker. Katherine's a graduate from the University of Texas with a degree in Arabic and Middle Eastern Studies, a former yoga studio owner and co-founder of Yomassage. Tiffany has a Ph.D. In social work, is a massage therapist, and is co-founder of Yomassage. Hello friends.

01:42 Speaker 3: Hello, friends.

01:44 Speaker 4: Hello.

01:46 S1: Hi, welcome. Glad to have you both here.

01:49 S3: We're so excited to be here.

01:50 S2: Yeah, we very much are too. I would just say that when you were on the cover of Massage & Bodywork magazine, it was an incredibly popular issue, and I know people got questions and I know they wanna know more about Yomassage, so I gave you a little bit short shrift in your author bio, and there's a reason there because when I did a little deep diving and research into your background, there was all kinds of amazing stuff. There's sailing, there's law school, there's lots of selling everything you own to pursue your passions, and there's a chance meeting. So tell us, I know I've teed up the curiosity of our listeners, tell us about your backgrounds and how this crazy thing called Yomassage got started.

02:34 S4: Yeah, so it is a little bit of a crazy story, we... Oh gosh, I guess it was 20... 2016, I decided to sell everything we own and move on to a sailboat with my family, I was going through some tough times emotionally and just hard things in my life, and I had really turned to massage and yoga just for my own self-care during that time, and we were sailing and hurricane season came about and we needed somewhere to go, something to do, and I decided I wanted to go to massage therapy school and yoga teacher training, didn't wanna go back to the States yet though, we were in the Caribbean, and so I found a school that was accepted in the States, in Costa Rica, and so I spent six months there at massage therapy school, that went pretty quickly. When we decided to come back to the States, we settled in Portland, and I wanted to put my new skills to use, and I contacted a yoga studio just a couple of miles away from my house, and it happened to be Katherine's studio.

03:43 S4: And at that point, she had said she really didn't need to hire anybody but was just interested in talking to me because in my resume, I also had gone to the University of Texas at Austin, and she felt like she should, I don't know, give me a chance. So yeah, we met and I told her... Apparently, I talked more about the importance of massage than I did about wanting to teach yoga, and I didn't realize I did that, but I'm very passionate about the power of touch and the impact it has on our emotional state, and that's really where my focus was when I got back, was around trauma-informed bodywork, how to use bodywork for emotional wellness, and so yeah, she contacted me like what, three weeks later, I think via email and just said, "Hey, let's chat about maybe a unique offering, we can do." So, I'll let you take it.

04:37 S3: Yeah, so I actually moved to Portland, maybe like a year or less before Tiffany did, I moved here to go to law school, originally from Missouri. And then I just decided that that wasn't what I wanted to do. I was walking with my partner one day just around the neighborhood, and we saw this building for lease and it looked like you could live there, and it was like a retail space, so I was like, "Hmm, I wonder if I could do something here." And I had no... I had my yoga teacher training certificate just for fun that previous summer, and it was just a hobby of mine, and I had like... I just did it for fun, and I wasn't even teaching yoga here or anything, but I was like, "Well, maybe I could open up a yoga studio there," so we contacted the owner and they said, "Okay, yeah, that works out." So we terminated our lease at our other place and signed the lease to have a yoga studio, and it was like a live-work space situation. And so I think I was only there for a few months whenever I met Tiffany, so I opened up in January, and then I met Tiffany, I think... I don't know. September?

05:55 S4: It was probably like, September? Yeah.

05:57 S3: Around September, so yeah, I was the only one teaching. I think I had two other teachers that maybe taught a couple of classes here and there, and I started to talk to some other ones, Tiffany contacted me and I said I would meet with her. I was really just kind of open to meeting other people with like-minded interests and other business owners, and so I met with her and, yeah, we talked a lot about massage, and for me, massage was something... I have a yoga background, I don't have a massage background, massage was something that I saw as a luxury that you do once a year on your birthday, and I, personally at that point, I had maybe received three professional massages in my life, and so... But it's something that I love and I was like, how do I receive massage every day? After talking to Tiffany about the benefits and how it's actually really important for you, and it's not just a luxury. And I was like, "Okay, I wanna figure out a way that people can receive touch every single day for an affordable rate," because it's not something that everyone can afford. And so that's kind of how the idea came about to have it in a class setting with multiple people, so it could be more affordable and more of something that you would do as a wellness routine and not just something that you maybe do a couple of times a year.

07:23 S1: Wow, what a great story. I mean, absolutely, some beautiful elements of serendipity, but also what a great lesson for both of you about being open to something new, and the path of your lives changing. I love that. That's so great. Alright, I'm gonna guess the number one question you both get is, what's Yomassage?

[chuckle]

07:46 S4: Yeah, so we... I feel like we got that a lot before and now, just recently, it seems that word of mouth is taking hold and more people are talking to their friends about it, so we don't get that question as much anymore, but Yomassage is, basically, we use restorative stretch positions to enable us to serve more people in one session, so we can serve one-on-one, which is really great, so it's kind of a more interactive experience for the client, even if you're doing it one-on-one, they're not just laying down, they're in these restorative stretches, but you can serve up to five people at once, and we incorporate mindfulness meditation and breathwork throughout the session, and we do that really purposely, it's an immersive experience [08:41] ____ on the point of it, is not necessarily to get that knot out of your shoulder, but rather to create the most relaxing environment where your body can settle and naturally start to release some of the stress that it's holding.

08:58 S4: And so, yeah, I mean, clients can afford this, they can make it... When we were doing our classes before we started the Yomassage training, and we were just doing our thing at Katherine's yoga studio, we would see people back every single week, and they bring their friends or their mom or their spouse, their kids even. And so it's a really... We have three pillars, we say touch, stretch, and breath, but we have this kind of unofficial fourth pillar, which is community, which we found a lot of people just really enjoyed sharing that wellness experience with somebody else.

09:32 S3: Yeah, so to kinda give you a full picture of what a Yomassage session would look like is, it's really similar to restorative yoga positions. If anyone out there has ever taken a restorative yoga class, it's hard to describe if you haven't seen the props, but it's like these thick, dense pillows that we use, and we use two of those, we use two blankets, two blocks and a really cushy mat, and so we use all these props to really support you, your whole body is 100% supported in these positions, we have 10 positions that we use, and six of which are used in one session, so each position will be held for around 8-10 minutes and while you're in that position, you should be 100% comfortable, you're getting a really good stretch, but it's gentle, and at the same time, you should feel like you can fall asleep in that position, you should be so comfortable, and then while you're relaxing here where we have prompts, either meditation, breathwork, visualization prompts to help you stay in the mindfulness Yomassage head space, and then the massage therapist will go around and massage each person, or if it's one-on-one, they'll massage you for that whole time.

10:49 S2: Let's take a short break to hear a word from our sponsors.

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11:33 S2: Now, let's get back to the podcast.

11:34 S2: Okay, what are the benefits of Yomassage for the practitioner, and what are the benefits for the client?

11:43 S4: Yeah, so for the practitioner, there's several. And it was interesting when we were creating Yomassage because that was sort of my piece that I was really concerned about was, this has to be good for the therapist, if it's just good for the client, it's not gonna work. And people aren't gonna wanna do it. And so I think the first thing is that you're able to earn more money in one session in the same amount of time as you would be doing a one-on-one. The second is you can bring something unique and innovative to your clientele, your existing clientele, but then the other piece of that is, we call Yomassage sort of like a gateway to massage for people who haven't experienced massage before, but maybe are massage-curious.

12:29 S4: And so, this really has been something that most of our therapists have seen, is that, for people who are worried, they don't wanna take their clothes off, they don't wanna be alone in a room with a stranger, they're not sure what this is all about, but they do know that touch feels really good. This is their opportunity. You're in a group environment. You're fully clothed, it's really safe. Everything in a Yomassage session is trauma-informed. We are huge on that, I use my social work background in creating the curriculum around that, so it's supposed to be a very safe environment for everybody, so there's that. The piece that I didn't realize, but that we're seeing a lot of our therapists be really excited about, is that they're becoming experts in leading the mindfulness piece of it, in the mind-body connection, and they're able to lead their clients in that, which is really fun to see, and really is having a super positive impact on the client.

13:33 S1: What a great description. I can only imagine our listeners like, what's going through my head is going through their head. Number one, I'd love to receive that. And number two, I'm so curious about how I would learn how to do that. So let's talk about training a little bit, so are there prerequisites? So I'm a massage therapist. Do I also need to have a yoga background or does the yoga person have to have a massage background, what do we bring to the classroom? What do you need?

14:00 S3: So the only requirement to take the Yomassage training is that you have to either be a licensed massage therapist or if you're enrolled in a program, then you can take our training as well, but you do have to be licensed to touch. We have accepted physical therapists and occupational therapists into our training as well. Our training is amazing. We are so proud of what we've created, we started with an in-person training, and then end of 2019, before the pandemic happened, we created a virtual training, it's a three-week virtual training. After we created this virtual training, we realize that the people coming out of our virtual training are... They have a lot more time to take in all the information because it's not just a two-day training and they have all this time to watch the videos, but at the same time, our virtual training is instructor-led, so it's not just like, we give you all this stuff, to do it at your own pace, figure it out. It's a three-week training. We have the first week, you're learning all the background, you're reading all the studies, you're learning about our philosophy, learning about the nervous system, benefits of everything, taking all these quizzes.

15:17 S3: The second week you're learning all of the positions, you're learning how to massage in the positions, body mechanics, contraindications, what if someone has a knee injury, what are you gonna do? What if someone is pregnant, how are you gonna support them? You take quizzes on all of these, and then you take videos of yourself doing that position, practicing with someone else. So for someone taking our virtual training, they're gonna spend so much time perfecting that position and massage before they turn in that video is where whenever we're just teaching in person, we have an hour to go over that position and then that's it. So we just saw so much growth in the people that were taking our virtual training, that we really believe that this is the way to teach...

16:06 S3: All of our modalities is gonna be virtually, and so already in 2020, we were kind of stepping back from our in-person trainings a little bit and figuring how we can give them more time to digest the information. And so when COVID happened, we were already prepared with our virtual trainings, we haven't done any virtual trainings... We haven't done any in-person trainings in 2020, we may be doing some in 2021, but really we're focusing on our virtual, and we have had some amazing... We have over 200 five star reviews from our virtual training, so we're very proud of it, and we're very proud of all of our Yomies who work so so hard during the three weeks, it's really a transformative experience that they have in our trainings and our master trainers are just amazing, and they care so much about the students and the training.

16:58 S1: Sounds great. And also, can we just have a moment of appreciation for the term 'Yomie'?

17:04 S3: Yes.

17:08 S4: That was a fun thing we... I wish Katherine and I had been witty enough to come up with that, but I think I think it was somebody...

[overlapping conversation]

17:15 S3: [17:16] ____ Dory.

17:16 S4: Yeah, Dory from our LA training, our very first LA training, she kinda coined the term and then it took off, so...

17:24 S2: I love it. I bet going through some listeners' minds right now are questions about scope of practice. Can you tell me, are there any concerns, or what was somebody's background as a yoga practitioner or a massage practitioner? Does it travel across state lines? Can you tell me a little bit about scope? I'm sure people are curious.

17:43 S4: Yeah. So each state is different in terms of how they even define massage, so always... We always say, check with your state because it also changes every legislative session too, or can change every legislative session, but really, if you are a licensed massage therapist, Yomassage is a massage modality, we are not yoga, we are a way to deliver massage using restorative stretch as a medium to be able to do that. So as long as you are licensed to deliver a massage, then that's really all you need. We did have at the beginning, a lot of people who were yoga instructors say, "Hey, can I do this?" And we would have to say, "No, I'm sorry." But what we ended up doing is creating a different version called mindful touch by Yomassage, and basically what that is, is you use light touch that does not manipulate tissue instead of actual massage therapy in the same setting as a regular Yomassage classes. So you still use the restorative stretch positions and mindfulness, you are just providing light touch and again, that varies state by state on who's allowed to do that even. There are a few states, I know Texas is one of them that you can't lay hands on at all without being licensed, so again, that is state to state, but we did create that option for folks who are not massage therapists but were interested in doing something similar to what we were doing.

19:17 S1: Okay, let's zoom in a little bit focused on what's happening in the classroom. So I'm guessing that people are thinking to themselves, "Okay, this all sounds really incredible, but what do I do when I'm in the class, how do I... " What's the flow? So do you have specific sequences that you teach people to follow or is it a little bit of winging it up to them, or how does that work once they've learned the basic techniques, what happens next?

19:39 S3: So after they've learned all the 10 positions, all of the different variations and options for massage, body mechanics is really important, where to stand, different things that they can do. We have a whole bunch of different class sequences that they can use, we have a template and we have this old checkmark system that's like, "Make sure you do this and this and this and that," and then we have each month, we come out with a new what we call a Class Theme, and in this theme, we'll have six different positions, and some of our themes are gratitude, self-compassion, Oceanside meditation, chakra theme, New Year's theme, we'll kinda do... We have a Mother's Day theme, so we have different themes that are... The meditation is focused around that, and then even sometimes the positions are focused around that, and then so our therapists like to use those and advertise to their clients like this month's focus is gratitude, or this class's focus is gratitude, so they're free to kind of work within our structure to change around the positions, but we like to start... We like to structure our classes so the client is not having to move so much, so for instance, we wouldn't do a seated position and then a supine and then prone. We don't want them to be switching all the time, so we have a specific order that we stick with. And then they're kind of free to move around throughout that, through our bones that we have.

21:11 S4: Right. So the structure is sort of... We start with our breathing and mindfulness, they can move into seated, then prone then supine, and then we end with breathing, and so that's sort of the bones of it, and they can make it unique and theirs within that.

21:29 S1: Oh, that's great. So it sounds like... And I think practitioners will breathe a sigh of relief here, they're really supported, so they come to your training, but when they leave, you're still supporting them and giving them that fresh content every month, I'm sure keeps things really interesting and gives them something new to learn too, and then they're bringing that to their clients. That sounds great.

21:48 S3: Yeah, I think that's what really sets us apart from other massage CEs is that we... We're a brand and we really care about what you do after this, and we care about your success after this, not to say other companies don't, of course, they do, but we... Whenever we see someone doing... We're sending people to your classes all the time, we're advertising your classes all the time, and we wanna make sure that whenever we send someone, one of our friends or family members to one of your Yomassage classes or just anyone that they're getting this amazing experience.

22:25 S2: Alright, I know that MTs and I know Kristin are gonna wanna know more about this next question; how do you time manage the session? You've got five people in the room, massage therapists might struggle already in a one-on-one session, in a normal bodywork session, making sure the full-body feels touched, incorporated. You now have five people in the room. Tell me about roaming, tell me about time management, because that is a different perspective that massage therapists may not necessarily deal with multiple clients at the same time.

22:55 S3: So whenever we do our trainings, we start with the idea that they're gonna have five people that's the most that they're gonna have. So we have everyone practice not... About 90-second sweet spot for massage, so for each person, you're gonna massage for about 90 seconds, so we come up with a routine and have them practice it about a 90-second routine and they're practicing this over and over again. We're setting timers, they're really feeling what does 90 seconds feel like in this position. So over time, they're going to get the flow, but something that we also do is we say, okay if you have five people, most any scenario, how... The amount of people that you have, it's gonna be about 8-10 minutes in each position, so you have a clock, up by your mat, or wherever just make sure that you are spending about 10 minutes throughout this position.

23:48 S3: So if you look up at the clock and you're halfway through the class and it's already been 10 minutes, you need to hurry up a little bit, but if you're halfway through and it's only been three minutes, you're going too fast, so you just kind of keep a look at your clock. We're not timing it exactly, it's exactly 90 seconds or else... And then I'm leaving. We want everything to feel like it's a flow and it feels really fast for you, but to them, it feels really slow and a great pace, and you know people do ask us about the timing, but most people feel pretty comfortable, with just trying to keep each position within 8-10 minutes instead of glancing down at their clock every two seconds to make sure they're not massaging over 90 seconds.

24:32 S4: But it is funny that you asked this question because this is probably the single thing that therapists focus on and become anxious about in the training, it's like, "How am I supposed to know the timing," and I always just say it's just like when you're doing a regular table massage. Over time, you get your flow, you know what you do in each position and you know about how much time that takes. We did have a couple of therapists come up with songs that they'll sing to themselves that are about 90 seconds, but honestly, I say like, "Don't worry about it that much, you'll figure it out, it's really not that big of a deal."

[chuckle]

25:14 S1: What type of supplies do I buy as a practitioner, do the client bring anything? How does all of that work for all the props that you use?

25:22 S3: So we say that this is a massage, this is not a yoga class, the client should not be bringing their own props, the client should not be setting anything up or cleaning anything up, that is... The client's not gonna put their own sheets on the massage table and then take it off and clean everything, you know, so we say, "Arrive 15 minutes early, set everything up whenever the client comes in, it should be just like they're coming in for a massage, and they come to their space that's already set up for them." So like I said, we have two bolsters per person, two blocks per person, two blankets per person, and then we have our Yomassage mat, which is kind of like a cushy soft mat. And then we can also incorporate some with our [26:08] ____ Yomassage quirks, self-massage balls, we sometimes incorporate those into the sessions or with our self-care class, and then we bring obviously like a speaker, essential oils. We have some little tricks and stuff that we do that if it's a class to remember, so and so doesn't want this touch, so and so has a back injury training for things to bring for that. But yeah, for the most part, but you do need that set for yourself as well, so that's something else to think about, is you have that set for each client, you need that set for you because you're gonna be demonstrating a lot and then you might wanna have some extra things, just in case you might have someone who's really tall or someone who needs a little bit more support.

26:55 S2: Okay, the final question that I bet our listeners are wondering right now, how much should they charge for a Yomassage session?

27:06 S4: This is obviously a question we get a lot, we actually have a whole business and marketing section in our training where we cover this topic, it really depends if you're holding a class in rural... Let's say rural Iowa, and it's in Yomassage practice conference room and you're doing a 60-minute class, you're probably gonna charge less than if you're in LA and you contracted with a nice yoga studio or something using their space, and it's a 90-minute class. There are so many variables that go into it, but the big ones are just looking... What do you normally charge for a massage, and then going from there. If you're doing a one-on-one, Yomassage session, we say charge a little bit more than you do for a regular massage because it takes more set up, it takes some more resources to be able to deliver it, and then kind of go from there. So you should always be making... Let's just give an example. So if you are doing a one-on-one Yomassage and it's $100, if you're then gonna take that and serve two people, let's say you're gonna do a couples.

28:17 S4: I would suggest charging each of them, maybe $65, then if you have three people, now maybe you're gonna charge $55 per person, but you see how you're making more money regardless. Right, so, but it really, I think is your market, you need to know your market in terms of urban, rural, your location, and then we always say adding the nice things that don't cost much, same thing in a regular table massage it's like put that hot pack under the neck, put those essential oils, advertise that as part of your class. And we've even had people that have been really smart and they'll advertise, "I'm doing a 60-minute lower body Yomassage class, and a 60-minute upper body back-to-back, sign up for both of them and get maybe a special rate," and I mean, that person was killing it. And this was Denver, Denver apparently, you can charge a lot more. He was charging $80 per session, which...

29:15 S3: For five people.

29:17 S4: For five people...

29:19 S3: Per person. Yeah, and I think... So it really varies. We see people charging between 45 for a five-person session, around $45 per person, up to $75.

29:31 S1: So if this whole conversation has sort of piqued listeners' curiosity and they wanna learn more about Yomassage, and they wanna start by experiencing a Yomassage session, where can they go to find a practitioner?

29:42 S3: So they can go to our website underneath 'Find a Class' they'll see our class schedule, so all of our therapists can post their classes on our website, this is only if it's an open group class, they're not posting like one-on-one stuff, but if you are looking for a therapist in your area, underneath the 'Find a Class' there's also "Find a Practitioner" and you can search by state and then there's a button where you could email them if you wanna reach out to them. So find someone in your state, even if it's not in your city, reach out to them I'm sure they'd love to talk to you and maybe figure out how they can maybe do a virtual class with you if you're not close, but you should be able to find someone in your area. I think we have someone in every state right now, there might be a couple of states where we don't have therapists in, but you should be able to find someone in every state.

30:36 S2: One of the things we didn't even talk about, but I am sure that is... One of the driving reasons of the popularity of the technique right now is just because it's saving practitioners' bodies, right?

30:47 S4: Yes.

30:47 S2: This is a great way for practitioners to not be doing 60-minute massage, after 60-minute massage, after 60-minute massage, that can be very taxing. And we know as an association that longevity in the field can be compromised because of something like that, so this provides an alternative to that, and I'm sure that has to be one of the reasons that people have become very interested in it.

31:11 S4: We do care a lot, a lot about the therapists' body and how it feels for them and so that partially, is why Yomassage uses light to medium touch. When Katherine and I were first putting this together and I was the one doing the classes, I would think, "Oh, everybody wants me to really get in there and I gotta give them deep pressure," and it was killing me, it was not... It did not feel good for me and I wasn't looking forward to the classes, and so that was partially why we refined things and said only light to medium touch, but we do have, I think you guys might have seen some of our advertisements, we are coming out with Barefoot Yomassage, we just launched it and that's an opportunity for therapists to deliver a little bit more pressure, but do so in a way where it feels good on their body. And so that's our option for people who want to deliver more pressure, have clients that are wanting that take the Barefoot Yomassage course, and you're able to do that and your body feels great.

32:17 S2: Excellent, I wanna thank Tiffany and Katherine from Yomassage for joining us today. And just as a reminder, where can listeners find out more information about Yomassage?

32:28 S3: We're big on Instagram, you guys should definitely go follow us on Instagram, @yomassage. Our website is yomassage.com, you can see our upcoming training dates and information about our virtual and in-person trainings there. We're on Facebook, we have a Facebook group, facebook.com/groups/yomassage, and that's our public group. It's a private group, but anyone can join it, you don't have to have taken the training, we kind of introduce people to Yomassage. Tiffany and I do Lives in there and just answer any questions that you have if you're interested in taking the training, and then after you take the training, we have a different private group. We're kind of on Twitter, but not really, and then YouTube.

[overlapping conversation]

33:14 S4: But we do have a podcast, also the Yomassage Podcast.

[overlapping conversation]

33:17 S3: This is true, yeah.

[chuckle]

33:18 S4: We keep forgetting to say that. But yeah, in that podcast, we really... We don't talk about Yomassage specifically, but we just talk about all the different things that you can include in your life that help produce [33:31] ____ more hormones that make us feel good, which we know touch, stretching, breathing, those things are included in that list, but we talk about a whole lot of other stuff too.

[music]

33:41 S2: Sailing, Law School, Yomassage, E-Newsletters, podcasts. We learned a lot today. I wanna thank our guests again, thank you so much.

33:50 S4: Thank you.

33:51 S3: Thank you so much for having us.

33:53 S1: Thanks for that great conversation, I appreciate you both being here.

[music]

34:01 S2: This has been a production of Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals. ABMP is the leading association for massage therapists and bodywork professionals in the United States and beyond, from liability insurance to Professional Advocacy, award-winning publications to the world's largest continuing education library for massage, to this podcast, no organization provides more for its members and the profession than ABMP. ABMP works for you.

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