Why Did You Become a Bodyworker?

['Round the Table]

I decided to become a massage therapist after the passing of my first child. During my daughter’s prolonged illness, I went to a massage therapist to help me relax and found that it not only helped me physically, but emotionally as well. The calm, quiet, and nurturing touch helped me gather strength during a horrific time. I will always be grateful to the massage therapist who helped me. I only hope that I can bring the same sense of calm to others who are in pain.

Jennifer Rauschmayer

Plano, Texas


I was brought up in a fast-food eating, TV-worshipping broken home in 1980’s America. I was fat and miserable. I developed psoriasis (the rash grew to cover 80 percent of my body). The combination of the disease and the weight left me feeling untouchable and unworthy, a byproduct of our cultural ideals. Early into my 20s, I discovered health food and exercise and began to transform. As an art student, I began exploring the emotional effects of my poor body image and our cultural standards of beauty. With the goal of reaching out to others like myself (to help them feel less alone in this world), I used photos of myself, obese or covered in a rash in my artwork. After receiving many reiki sessions as an introduction to the power of bodywork, I realized that using my touch to help people would be a more effective way to directly influence how another perceives their body, welcomes and loves their body. I went to massage school. Along the way, I learned how to heal my body without the use of Western medicine. In my practice, I use my experience as proof of the power we have to heal ourselves.

Jenny Ettinger

Denver, Colorado


I have a completely natural attraction to the art of massage. I have a desire to please and give. There is immediate satisfaction when the client arises from the table and gives you a spontaneous hug or with sparkling eyes tells you, “That was fantastic ... the best massage I’ve ever had.” This is such a rush. My cup runneth over.

I became a bodyworker because I completely believe in the work and its ability to heal, which the body does by itself. I see myself as a catalyst, nothing more, but needed.

I believe in doing things you really believe in. It is my passion to massage and I let love infuse my bodywork with as much integrity as possible. When I do bodywork it is a form of meditation. The strokes just flow from the source. My hands never stop or hesitate not knowing what to do next. It’s magical. When someone trusts their body into my hands, I feel honored and privileged. I am always striving to give the perfect massage. At times, I come close. Close is very rewarding to me.

The pleasure of touching someone is a tactile pleasure to both the giver and receiver. My fingers are drawn to this experience. Each person’s body is different. It is always new and exciting—and revealing. The muscles do not lie. The exterior is a veneer, but what is under the skin is the truth. I forever seek the truth.

Bernard Zemble

Las Vegas, Nevada


I became a certified massage therapist after I was in a car accident. At the time, I was going to school to be an RN. After the car accident, I was seeing a chiropractor for about five months, and I was still having muscle spasms in my back, so he suggested I see his on-site massage therapist. It was wonderful. She was able to relax my muscles. Even my adjustments with the chiropractor went better. One day before second semester nursing classes, I dropped out and the same day I signed up at the local massage school. I have now been doing massage since July 2005. I work at a nursing home and a day spa.

Shelly Cavins-Sauer

Appleton, Wisconsin


I became a bodyworker because my great grandma Olga was a bodyworker. She worked in San Francisco in the 1930s. She got her certificate to do bodywork from a school in Chicago, Illinois. Her certificate actually read “certified in bodywork and hygiene.” She always made it sound so glamorous. She told me of a woman who had a lot of pain on her left side. The woman had been to a doctor, but he couldn’t find any reason for her pain. My great grandma Olga worked with this woman every week. And each visit the woman’s pain started to decrease. Eventually, it was gone. Even though I was only 12 years old when she first told the story, I knew there was something great about bodywork. And that’s why I became a massage therapist. I like knowing that sometimes doctors aren’t always the answer. And sometimes all it takes to feel better is the caring touch of bodywork.

Sarah Bills

Louisville, Kentucky


In 1987, I was living and working in Seattle, Washington. I was a single mother working three jobs to make ends meet. Needless to say, my life was full, sometimes overwhelming, and definitely stressful. I was, and still am, an avid exerciser and outdoor enthusiast.

On August 17, 1987, the day of the Harmonic Convergence, and my 36th birthday, I decided to celebrate with a beautiful hike along the Northwest Pacific coast.  A friend and I decided to hike along the northwest tip of Washington State to one of the most beautiful beaches in Washington—Shi Shi Beach. 

While walking along the cliff, enjoying and taking in the breathtaking beauty of the powerful Pacific coast, we decided to stop and look out at the ocean from the edge of a 65-foot cliff. All of a sudden the ground below us gave way and we started falling. I caught myself on a ledge of rocks and brush, still 35 feet from the ground below.  

After holding on to this small ledge for four hours, starting to tire and realizing help was not on the way, I jumped. I landed on the rocks and hard sand below, breaking some vertebras in my lower back. I was rescued by helicopter and the next several months were to be a painful, healing, growing, and a searching time for me.

The Harmonic Convergence, this birthday, was to change my life forever, and start me on the path of becoming a massage therapist.

It took over a year for my full recovery. On one hand, I had the doctors telling me I would probably never enjoy an active lifestyle again, and on the other side I had a wonderful support group of friends and a community of healers who constantly encouraged me to heal and be healthy. I learned there were no limits to my recovery.

For a full year, I received a massage every week from my dear friend Doris Brevort. I was Doris’s special project, and I have no doubt that it was her holistic approach and her powerful healing touch that helped speed my recovery.  Even the doctors would remark on my incredibly fast recovery process. And they could see that I was very grounded and focused on recovering. I have no doubt that this was the result of Doris’s commitment and the healing power of massage.

The following year I wanted the rods used to support my fused spine removed from my back. The doctors said the recovery process would require five days in the hospital. I left the day after surgery and haven’t stopped since.

This whole powerful life-changing experience inspired me to learn more about the art, and science, of massage. I wanted to give back, to share the gift of massage with others. I enrolled at the Brian Utting School of Massage in Seattle and graduated in 1991.

I have been practicing massage for almost 18 years now and I am the owner of Serenity Massage in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. I specialize in back conditions. I am also a certified yoga instructor. I wish the doctors could see me now.

Rosie Diaz

Aguadilla, Puerto Rico


As a teen, I discovered I had a knack at finding and relieving tense spots on friends and relatives, enjoying the relief they experienced from neck and shoulder pain and even headaches, but I didn’t know it was something I could make into a career. Then, a couple of years out of high school, working at a nursing home that entire time and knowing it wasn’t where I wanted to be the rest of my life, I overheard a nursing assistant talking about going to school to be an MT and I was instantly intrigued. I barely had enough time to enroll in the same class as my coworker, but I did get in and have never looked back, except with gratefulness for finding my path in life.

Donna Whitton

Clarion, Pennsylvania


When I was 5 years old, I told my mom I wanted to help people get rid of their pain. I had seen a nurse in a hospital rubbing a man’s back and I concluded that being a nurse is what I wanted to be. I carried around my nurses playthings for years. My grandfather, who was a medical doctor, said I was too sensitive to be a nurse and so that idea ended.

When I was 49, I read a book titled The Girl Within. It was a series of stories about women’s lives. Most were in their 70s and 80s. One suggestion in this book was to go back within yourself and ask the small girl what she likes and wants. When I did this, I saw my child self standing at the door of the hospital room seeing a nurse rubbing a man’s back. I realized that I could be a massage therapist (not a nurse) and so I took myself to massage school. I have been practicing for 15 years now and have realized the dream of my childhood. I am happy now when people get off my table smiling and free of pain.

Patricia A. Dohearty

Sparks, Nevada


It has taken me over 15 years of jobs (around 25 companies altogether) to find a job that I fell in love with enough to make a career out of. My jobs before were merely a series of good and bad dates that I went on hoping “this would be the one.” Some were glamorous, came with nice cars, and promised me a future of happiness before they showed their true colors. Others I knew were bad for me from the very beginning, but I just had to have them because of their location, fancy title, or publicity. Yes, some also came with a truly long commute, really uncomfortable hours, or unfriendly staff, but I took them because I was bored, lonely, or needed to feel wanted again.

When I found massage therapy, after a back injury, it was love at first sight (touch). I drove to school every day, nervous with anticipation. There were some days I didn’t want class to end, it was so much fun. But mostly, I was just really happy that after all the searching I had done, I had finally found “the one” thing in life that didn’t bore me.

Rachel Estelle

San francisco, California


I became a medical massage therapist because the results toward healing many ailments of the body can be seen immediately. The hands-on, non-surgical methods I’ve been trained in by the Blue Heron Academy of Healing Arts and Sciences helps treat and alleviate such conditions as scoliosis; frozen shoulder; lateral or medial epicondylitis; lymphedema; femoral compression causing short leg; elevated, protracted, upwardly rotated scapulas … and many more conditions. I’ve also assisted in labor and delivery, making the birth process much easier. Infant massage and infant massage training is also extremely beneficial for baby and parents.

With my heart’s desire to be involved in the medical field, but believing whole-heartedly in alternative medicine, being a licensed massage therapist has opened the door to help people truly get healed instead of hiding their symptoms behind pharmaceuticals. People need to be educated about the many dangerous side effects of taking medications.

Tina Simon

Midland, Texas


I turned to bodywork as a result of a car accident more than a decade earlier. My therapists in massage, reiki, reflexology, healing touch, craniosacral therapy, yoga, hypnotherapy, aromatherapy, and lahochi helped me regain my quality of life. Each therapy worked together and built on the other. Each therapist referred me on when I needed it. Each therapist listened to me and taught me to listen to my body and its needs. They were more than my therapists; they became my teachers, my mentors, and now my colleagues.

I was so excited at how my body was feeling. And I was in awe at how powerful and healing touch and bodywork could be. When I was ready, I trained, then started my new career and have never regretted it. I now help others as I have been helped.

I consider bodywork and touch therapies philanthropic: they are the efforts and inclinations to increase the well-being of all and are offered in love. I am grateful to be a part of such an ancient, honorable profession.

Kimberly A. Rogers Waupaca, Wisconsin