Ep 55 – Radical Liberation, Rest, Joy, and Wellness with Shana Chivon

A female healthcare provider examining an older Black gentleman with shoulder pain

Shana Chivon is a reiki practitioner and educator and author on anti-racism and decolonization in health care. Listen as we learn about Shana’s Chakra RX approach to her practice and her passion for ensuring healing and wellness are accessible to everyone. Shana introduces listeners to the concept of decolonization and the power of applying a lens of inclusivity into everything we do, including representation in health, wellness, and self-care, and building trust among communities. 

Author Images: 
Shana Chivon, reiki educator and author
Author Bio: 

Shana Chivon is a passionate change agent who carries a mandate for liberation, a heart for progress, and a desire to disrupt the status quo. She is a veteran of the United States Air Force where she worked as a maintainer on the KC-135 Tanker at McConnell AFB in Wichita, Kansas. Currently, Shana works as an IT leader for a Wichita-based private company. In addition to her day job, she runs a successful consulting practice where she provides diversity, inclusion, and equity training. She works to provide education, resources, and training centered around defying the myth of black inferiority and dismantling oppressive power systems. For more information, visit shanachivon.com.

Sponsors: 

This episode sponsored by Oakworks and Anatomy Trains.

Full Transcript: 

00:00 Kristin Coverly: Anatomy Trains is excited to announce a new on-demand video course with Tom Myers coming soon. Deeper ground, restoration and vitality for the female pelvis. Reach your deeper ground of embodied awareness and strategic confidence with this four-hour tour of the female pelvis, including its key points and unique challenges. Course highlights include hands-on, palpation certainty and technique review for the major muscle groups, assessments and techniques for posterior and anterior pelvic floor, psoas complex and diaphragm, common perinatal biomechanical issues explained and much more.

00:44 KC: Sign up for the Anatomy Trains newsletter at anatomytrains.com to be notified when the course is available.

[music]

01:00 Darren Buford: Welcome to The ABMP podcast. My name is Darren Buford, I'm Editor-in-Chief of Massage and Bodywork magazine and Senior Director, Communications for ABMP. I'm joined by my co-host, Kristin Coverly, licensed massage therapist and Director of Professional Education for ABMP.

01:15 DB: Our goal is to connect with luminaries and experts in around the massage, body work and wellness profession in order to talk about the topics, trends and techniques that affect our listeners' practices.

01:24 DB: Our guest today is Shana Chivon. Shana is a passionate change agent who carries a mandate for liberation, a heart for progress and a desire to disrupt the status quo. She is a veteran of the United States Air Force, where she worked as a maintainer on the KC-135 tanker at McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita, Kansas. Currently, Shana works as an IT leader for a Wichita-based private company.

01:48 DB: In addition to her day job, she runs a successful consulting practice where she provides diversity, inclusion and equity training. She works to provide education resources and training centered around defying the myth of black inferiority and dismantling oppressive power systems. For more information, visit shanachivon.com. Hello, Shana and hello, Kristin.

02:10 KC: Shana, welcome. Thank you for joining us.

02:12 Shana Chivon: No, thank you. I was super excited, hello.

02:15 KC: Isn't it always fun to hear your bio read like that?

02:17 SC: I know. I be like "Who is that girl? She sounds great." Like wow! Then I'm like "Oh wait a minute. He said my name. Okay!"

02:24 KC: Well, yes. I would say great but I would also up that adjective several notches and say, amazing, incredible and wonderful. We're so pleased and grateful that you're spending time with us today so our listeners can learn a little bit more about you and everything that you are passionate about and as if we could add one more thing to the bio, if there's room to add one more thing to that bio, I really wanna make sure our listeners know and we're gonna start here, that in addition to everything else, you are also a reiki practitioner and many of our listeners are massage and body workers so they're gonna be really excited about that. So let's talk about that a little bit. How did reiki find its way into your life? How did you become a reiki practitioner?

03:07 SC: Awesome so yes, that is... That's a good reminder for me to update that bio, huh! I am a Usa Reiki-preneur and a liberated living coach. I started with reiki probably about, I'd say May or June while on this pandemic quarantining type thing and I remember I had posted on Instagram, the power of social media is so interesting. I had posted on Instagram that all the black women that have existed need retired. Like, I was just exhausted cellularly, okay? And a young lady responded and said she had some sponsored reiki sessions and invited me to do one and I'm like, "Uh no. I'm not doing that new fangle staff, I'm alright." And I was not clearly alright and so I said, "Okay, well, I'll try it." And I have been hooked ever since. The way that that 30-minute session centered me, the way it grounded me, the way it stopped the ware of my anxiety and some of those other things in a 30-minute non-medicated practice was amazing and I have been hooked, line and sinkered ever since.

04:17 DB: Shana, for those uninitiated, can you take us through a typical reiki session? A lot of massage therapists have reiki training in school or were exposed to it a little bit but take us through a typical session.

04:31 SC: Sure so I'm gonna do this two ways, if that is permitted. I will tell you what the reiki session I experienced was and then as more of an intuitive reiki practitioner, I'll tell you what a reiki session with me is like. So the reiki sessions that I experienced was the reiki practitioner was over Zoom so it was virtual. Reiki is that universal energy so it's not limited to proximity, which for a lot of people right now who are quarantined or who are concerned for their safety and having to endure anti-maskers and some of those other things in their community and don't quite feel safe, it's like air, the same air you're breathing there is the air I'm breathing here so that same energy that exists at a universal level, it can be accessed from anywhere, with your consent.

05:19 SC: So my reiki practitioner was virtual and she asked to me what my intention was and what I wanted to focus on and through the use of a guided meditation, she gave us that highest good, that reiki which is always intended for your highest good, to your highest self. When I do reiki, I had to find what worked for me as a practitioner. So I start with a guided meditation that I don't do reiki in, I actually sit and I provide the guided meditation because I found that it helps people get really grounded and open for the reiki session.

05:57 SC: Once the guided meditation is over, send the reiki and go through the positioning and go through this energy scan and we actually sit and we talk for a minute about what they felt in their body, how it resonated with them and anything that I saw or anything that came up for me as part of the session and then afterwards, I send them a cute little reminder of the session and how to keep those chakras open and how to maintain that balance. It's something when you go somewhere, you go to the hair dresser or you go to the nail salon or you go to get a facial or something and it feels great while you're there and then you go home and the next day it's fine. Oh wait, what happened? And so within 24 hours, I like to send out a reminder so that you can begin to be empowered to maintain those energy sources and maintain those chakras on your own between the times that we partnered together.

06:51 KC: And can I ask a follow-up? I know in the past, you've mentioned that you have something called Chakra Rx, is that right?

06:57 SC: I do, yep. So everybody don't got an hour to lay up on the table to figure out how their Sacral Chakra is doing, right and so I have an appointment just meant for those people who only have a little bit of time or maybe not the same economic resources or access. So I do a 15-minute Chakra RX appointment. In that 15-minute Chakra RX, $20, I will scan your chakras, balance you up and tell you how to keep it that way.

07:26 KC: I love it. We all are just lining up for appointments, at this point.

07:29 SC: It is really my most... So what I am finding as I stay in business and especially during this time, I have... My clientele is polarized. Either they want 60 minutes or they want 15 minutes. I'm like "Don't you all see this 30-minute session in here? And they're like "Huh? No." They either want the full shebang or the tune-up and that's it.

07:53 DB: How are you marketing right now? Are you using Zoom or like a video service or are you using like over the phone or both or?

08:00 SC: So I pride myself... I am an IT manager by day and so I pride myself on ensuring that I can meet my clients where they are. So I'll do it on FaceTime, I will do it on Zoom, I've done it on Instagram video, I'll do it on a Facebook video, because I don't want anyone to feel that because... 'cause already in the industry, there is a blockage when it comes to black, grounded and indigenous community so the last thing I want to do is to isolate or to hinder those communities because of a technical issue. So, wherever you are, whatever, if you saw the number of apps I have on my devices, whatever your need is, I'm gonna meet you where you are because healing and balance and wholeness should be accessible for not just everybody, big or small but everybody, regardless of things like economic availability or access financially.

09:02 DB: You're a relatively new practitioner too. How did you make that first step into putting yourself out and marketing yourself?

09:09 SC: I'll tell you something about purpose, right? This is where I get on my preachy bandwagon, listeners so hold on just one second. I'll tell you something about purpose. When you get into your lane, people will find you, period. Now, do we have to market? Sure. Do we have to advertise? Yeah. My first client came to me, not knowing that I had this licensure, not knowing that I'd done all this. I got a message and they were like, I really enjoyed meeting you during one of your anti-racism chat or webinars and I was just wondering if you do this, if you do reiki or any type of energy work or if you do any coaching and I was like, "Who said you girl?" Like, "Who told you?" Because I was too nervous to tell anybody. From that point on, I have not been, not booked.

10:00 SC: So I do post on Instagram. Right now on my Instagram and Facebook both, which are @shanachivon, I have been doing a "Is my Chakra Blocked?" series. So every day I post, whatever that chakra is, I started with the root chakras because a lot of people think that you start at the top, you do not... Your chakras start at your base, which is your root chakra so... And then it pulls up... So I started with the root chakra and I listed all of the side symptoms or the manifestations of what a blocked chakra looks like.

10:32 SC: And people were messaging me like, "Oh my gosh, do that and I thought it was this!" Or, "Oh my goodness, I didn't realize that was this, how do you know? Get out of my mind." And so that has been very useful. So... And then it's word of mouth, I get a lot of referrals from people who spend some time on my table, find relief, find peace, find a semblance of wholeness or tranquility and when people find peace or... For me, one of my mottos or the four things that I focus on is radical liberation, radical rest, radical joy and radical wellness and when people experience one of those buckets, they are going to go and radically teleform.

11:13 KC: Shana, for those listeners who are a little interested, curious about energy work but they don't maybe have training in it, maybe it wasn't part of their massage core program. Can you tell us a little bit about when you were first learning reiki? How were you able to tap in to feel the energy, what was that like? Sort of, what was that piece of the learning like for you?

11:32 SC: I will start with the disclaimer that everybody is different but I remember for me, I remember at my attunement for reiki one, 'cause of course, you do the book work, you learn about the chakras, you learn about how that works, the seven majors, the over a 100 minors, all of those different things. I remember my attunement and I remember the first time my reiki master had me feel for my own energy and when I say I was so amazed, I felt like a child who had just got their first LEGO set or something.

12:03 SC: I was so amazed at my ability as an individual to feel or to sense this other dimension or this physics or this energy around me, I was hooked and then of course, there are symbols and all of this and you have to get attuned and so the first time I had to do reiki on someone, because at that first attunement, you got to practice and so I remember the first chakra, I thought I was gonna pass out because you can physically feel that energy flowing through you, passing on to someone else, if you don't have boundaries, you can feel their energy coming back and I'm a very empathetic person already so I have the ability, I can read a room fairly quickly. I have the ability to affect that environment just because of those skills of an empath or those emotions and so it was really interesting that first time.

12:54 SC: But when I have my clients, a lot of times when I get to a chakra that needs balance and even without the pendulum, I can feel the heat off the body or I feel a certain coolness. A lot of people have the ability to see the chakras and to see the colors and sometimes your chakras can bleed into one another, which causes that imbalance and so just... I don't know if I was born with it, I don't know if I was always meant to be a reiki practitioner or what but a lot of it is very intuitive.

13:22 DB: Let's take a short break to hear a word from our sponsors.

13:26 KC: Oakworks is a proud supporter of ABMP and the massage therapy profession and is happy to extend a special offer to ABMP podcast listeners. For a limited time, all ABMP podcast listeners receive 25% off Oakworks' items with the code ABMPSummit25. Go to massagetables.com and use the code ABMPSummit25 at check out, to receive 25% off your Oakworks purchase.

13:58 DB: Now, let's get back to the podcast. Let's shift gears for a second. In the bio we mentioned and you've mentioned a couple of times here, one of your real life passions. Can you tell us and our listeners about what decolonization is?

14:14 SC: I do a lot of the decolonization works. We live in the Americas or some of us. I... Let me do a I statement. I live in Americas and we all know what happened and how the Americas came to be and that was through a process of colonization. There were already people living on the land, someone came, saw it and was like, "We want that" and through a system of rules, laws, regulations, heinous acts and behaviors, it was overtaken and we became colonies.

14:47 SC: And so that informs a lot of who we are now. Whether it's through the lens of white supremacy, oppression, patriarchy, a lot of those things that happened during the colonization of the Americas still inform what we do. The standard of beauty, the standard of respectability, the criminal justice system, all of these things are still tinted through this lens of colonization and so a lot of the work I do is to work to kinda start decolonizing that. Decolonize what we look at as "Oh, that person looks professional."

15:20 SC: Well, what is professional? What standard do we hold terms like professional to? Let me answer that. Whiteness or that person's smart. Well, what quantifies or qualifies someone as smart? Is it academia? Because if it's academia, what standard is that held to and who has or has had the longest access to those standards? And so I work to educate on not only decolonization but also anti-racism because I think a lot of people are still in the beginning of "Oh well wait, maybe I do have privilege" or "Well wait, maybe I don't feel racist but I'm not actively impacting policies and helping to change systems, that would make me an anti-racist and I think right now that is what's important?"

16:08 KC: What does it mean to decolonize your wellness and self-care? If we look at it in that specific aspect?

16:15 SC: Well, the first thing I think that is important is to recognize that a lot of the self-care practices that we have and a lot of the things that we do have been very much influenced by Western culture, they've been very appropriated and they have been created to not be inclusive and so for me, when I talk about or teach on decolonizing wellness, the first thing that I do is help people disconnect to the concept of wellness with weight.

16:42 SC: Because wellness these days, you go to the doctor, you say your ear ache, they say, "Well, you're fat." And you're like "Well, I'm not fat in my ear, actually, my ear is very slim!" But, at the end of the day, any time you go, the first thing they say is, "Oh well, lose weight" or "do that" for certain people.

17:01 SC: And so the first thing that I like to help people understand is that wellness... Again, wellness is for everybody and everybody. The other aspect of that and the other part of that is representation. You go into the yoga studios or you go into the spas and they are still very much white and their prices are still very much out of reach and their location is still very much unaccessible and so we talk about, we want more people of color and when I say people of color, I mean specifically black people, we talk about we want more black people, more brown people, more indigenous people in these spaces but we've made it economically unavailable, we've made it physically or location unaccessible and then when they get in there, they're treated differently or treated as if have a red forehead or something and so for me, wellness is more black yoga practitioners, wellness is more black massage therapists and body workers, more black reiki practitioners because a lot of these modalities have not ever been available in our communities.

18:01 SC: And so you go into our community, you talk about body work, it's like, "What?" Our insurance isn't covering that if we even have access to insurance or affordable medical care. When we go into the spa, we don't see ourselves so for a lot of us, it doesn't feel safe and a lot of times there's not that cultural congruence for a person that's working on our bodies to understand how black bodies hold stress.

18:28 SC: Back during the time of enslavement, they thought that black bodies could handle more pain than white bodies. Well, that ain't true and so a lot of times, we still go into these doctor's offices or into bodywork locations and that mindset is still there. "Oh well, you feel things differently or we'll treat you differently because you're a black body." And these are things that we have to be able to, number one, talk about openly and number two, really begin to address so that our idea of self-care can truly become collective and community care.

19:01 DB: How does the decolonization apply to massage and bodywork? And I think about some of those things like yoga and kinda the bastardization of what some of these techniques, their original version and where we are today and how it is splintered in so many different directions and has lost connection potentially with what the original intent was.

19:23 SC: Well, particularly, I think yoga has become very elitist and I am a yoga teacher in training. Right now, I'm currently in 200 hour yoga teacher training for Ashtanga, Vinyasa and Yin Yoga. So I don't say this as a person on the outside looking in, just passing judgment but I think yoga has become very elitist. It's high ponytails and Lululemon leggings. You have to look a certain way, you have to physically be of a certain way and so you walk into this practice that was never meant to be all about the asanas.

19:57 SC: The postures are one part of the limbs of yoga. You don't come to the mat just because you want to be in a lotus position. You come to the mat because you realize that through the course of your life and through the course of your day, that anxiety or that the way of the world or that you have been unable to get to that single point of focus that allows you to tune in and have a practice but instead you come...

20:26 SC: You have to have this $70 mat, you have to look a certain way, you have to have your hair a certain way, you have to be of a certain body type and then when you're not, you feel ostracized, you don't feel welcome and now the practice has become so much about the poses that people aren't getting those other limbs and those other limbs are what bring you that peace, that brings you that ability to take your practice off the mat and into your work and into your home and into your daily lives and into your community.

21:00 KC: So Shana, you touched on this a little bit earlier too. I'm gonna bring it back, you mentioned that there aren't as many practitioners in massage and bodywork of color and also clients. What can we do as the massage and bodywork profession, as fellow massage and bodywork practitioners to change that?

21:14 SC: And I'll answer that and I'll go back to what Darren was saying, even about the decolonizing of the yoga practice. I think in all of this, whether it's bodywork, energy work, yoga, in all that, I think we have to go back to source and we have to go back to the original intent before people went and picked it up, brought it here and figured out ways to make it profitable. Capitalism is a very interesting thing and it causes things that started out very pure and very helpful to turn into another cog in our machine and so I think it's important to go back to the source.

21:51 SC: If you are a reiki practitioner, like I follow and communicate very often with Japanese practitioners I found on Instagram, I follow a lot of people who are indigenous to some of these places where these practices have come from so that I can ensure that I haven't lost sight of what it is.

22:11 SC: So I always work to have a true connection with source so that I don't get caught up in this bastardization or this appropriation of these cultures that I may not have originally been birthed into or born from. Now, to move to what Kristen was asking, when I think about what is it gonna take to decolonize our current industries, the first thing, again, I think, is an awareness and an acknowledgement of the fact that it just isn't so at this time, that... It's something I tell people when I teach anti-racism. I'm not saying that you had a slave but what I'm saying is you have to still admit that you're benefiting from a system that was built on that.

22:56 SC: And so I think it's important for organizations to be upfront and honest and say "You know what? We have made it difficult for people to have access. This fee structure and the way this looks, maybe we haven't made it as accessible. Maybe the way that the application is written does allow us a little extra insight into the race or the ethnicity of the applicant and maybe we do have a little bias when it comes to that. Maybe requiring these 400 things that people in these communities will have no way of accessing is a little bit exclusive." And when we get honest with our hiring practices or our education practices or our membership practices, then we can begin to say, "Okay, what do we need to do to make this more inclusive? And how will we incentivize that for people coming in that have a distrust of these systems and of these places who never wanted us to have access before.

23:55 DB: Shana, we recently ran an article in Massage and Bodywork magazine about a doula and it's called 'A Doula's Posit for the Power of Supportive Touch' and we also recently did a webinar under an ABMP summit about addressing health disparities in communities of color and where I'm getting at is that article and the webinar, the presentation that we did, both talk about how there's such a gap in the healthcare system and there can be a general distrust between people of color and the healthcare system. Does that apply as well to the self-care communities as well and self-care systems and availability out there?

24:36 SC: So I think that's a great question, Darren and I actually did read the article about doulas because that is one cause I'm very passionate about. I belong to a non-profit, it's called The Wichita Birth Justice Society, where we focus on working for equality and to lower the rate of babies that die and the rate of maternal deaths of black women and brown women and I think that distrust does come over into the wellness community and the self-care community.

25:09 SC: I'll tell you one of the most impactful and important things when it comes to seeking health, representation. You want to know that it is someone who gets you, who understands you and because our wellness communities have become so white-washed and they are such white spaces, we haven't yet been able to build this wall of trust with a lot of white practitioners. So I live in Kansas. I believe we account for...

25:44 SC: I wanna say it is, it's less than 10%. Black people make up 10%. So if I enter a restaurant and there's 30 people, I am very often the only black person. I remember I went to a movie and I'll tell you it was Lincoln when it came out and I was one of the only black people in the theater and every time they said the N-word, the little white old lady beside me would turn around and look at me like I was just going to stage a whole revolt. I had to finally tell her, "Ma'am, I understand that this is a movie, honey. We don't... I'm okay, I know it's not you."

26:18 SC: So when you're thinking about that is your actual community, now let's take that into I go into an establishment to get a massage and so I do think there is a distrust. I think it's a distrust because we have not been welcome, I think it's a distrust because there are not a lot of minorities in that space already. I think it's a distrust because it has not been made accessible and so yes, I do. I feel that the same way it is at the doctor's office, the same way it is in the article concerning the doula's touch, is the same way that it is in these communities. When I walk into a yoga studio and they're saying, "Okay, have a seat, sit down and get comfortable and let's meditate."

27:04 SC: Well, I'm of an extravagant body type and I got a big booty, somebody needs to tell me to kinda adjust my bottom so I'm sitting on my sit bones so that I can be comfortable. If you have not worked with people of extravagant body types, you don't know that and now that person is not having a welcome experience in your studio, period.

27:23 KC: Shana, what message do you have for our listeners, for massage therapists and body workers on the topic of decolonization? What bigger message would you like people to leave this podcast with?

27:36 SC: I would say this, I would say as you listen to this podcast, understand that I don't blame you, that this is not an issue that was created at an individual listener level and it is not an issue that is gonna be solved solely at the individual listener level. What I would like everyone listening or anyone who comes in contact with this work is I would like you to apply a lens of decolonization to everything that you do.

28:06 SC: I would truly like you to step back in your day-to-day practices for membership, for hiring, for marketing, for expanding, for community outreach and apply a lens of inclusivity that includes you looking at your practices, looking at your establishment, looking at your organization and saying, "Are we truly reaching out and making it acceptable for those who feel othered?"

28:34 SC: Now, othered can mean a multitude of things. Othered could mean black, other could mean people of a trans experience, other could mean queer, other could mean someone with a physical disability, other can mean a multitude of things, because I want you to see that inclusivity is not just about race and so I would just ask... I think the biggest message for me is to apply a lens of liberation, apply a lens of decolonization and apply a lens of radical wellness that means that you are willing to do whatever it takes to ensure that everyone in your community, everyone within 50 miles of your practice, feels safe, feels that it's trusted and feel that they can come in and have the same experience that those who you have easily accepted have access to.

29:24 DB: I wanna thank our guest, Shana Chivon for joining us today. Shana, where can listeners find out more information about you and your practice?

29:33 SC: They can go to my website, which is shanachivon.com and see all that I do. The home page says radical and that is what I'm about and radical simply means... A lot of people have taken radical and made it mean terrorist but it really actually doesn't. Radical just means to get to the origin and the root of a thing.

29:53 SC: I offer these different appointments for reiki and energy work, you'll find some of my webinars. I just published my first e-zine last month, which is called Radical You! And it's self-care menus, it's articles about prioritizing yourself, it's about why you don't wanna keep that same energy that you're threatening everybody you're gonna keep and it's just about ensuring that all of us have an access. For some of us self-care is so far-fetched because we were never truly taught how to prioritize ourselves and so I think right now the focus from the wellness community really has to be collective and community care, where we show up for one another, where we hold each other accountable to taking care of ourselves and where we really begin to plant those seeds so that when it's not available, self-care can take over.

30:46 DB: Thank you so much, Shana.

30:48 KC: Shana, thank you for sharing your passion with our community.

30:51 SC: I know I get so excited. This has been wonderful. Thank you for having me.

30:58 Speaker 4: This has been a production of Associated Bodywork and 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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