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Hand sanitizer and Masks
Do It Yourself Hand Sanitizer:

In the era of Covid-19, hand cleaning and sanitation is a vital part of self-care. Clean hands are especially vital for massage therapists and while many of us were already accustomed to washing and sanitizing our hands regularly for work, with coronavirus in play, we’re likely doing it all the more more often. As a result, we’re going through more hand sanitizer than usual and because of demand, prices have gone up and availability is spotty. No worries! We’ve got an easy, customizable, hand sanitizer recipe to save you money and ensure that you’ve got a steady supply on-hand. (See what we did there?)

  • Isopropyl Alcohol 99% purity
  • Aloe Vera Gel
  • Additional Options (see below)
The Recipe:

Making your sanitizer is very simple but, please keep in mind that alcohol is flammable so work in a safe spot away from heat, sparks, and open flame. Simply combine 3 parts of the isopropyl alcohol 99% with 1 part of the aloe vera gel (we found both on Amazon for reasonable prices) and mix until homogeneous. You can mix by hand with a whisk or simply by shaking the solution in a closed container until well integrated. This will give you approximately 74% alcohol in the resulting sanitizer, more than potent enough to kill most viruses and bacteria and still leaves enough aloe to be kinder and less drying to your hands.


If you would like to make your sanitizer your own, there are several possibilities but, essential oils are an easy and excellent addition! Simply add a few drops of essential oil to your solution before you mix everything together. We’re fans of tea tree, orange, geranium, and lavender oil, all of which contribute additional antimicrobial effects as well as adding a hint of pleasant scent and an aroma-therapeutic component.

What’s that you say? You don’t have any essential oils? Never fear, you can infuse your isopropyl alcohol with raw ingredients such as orange peels or lemon peels, sprigs of rosemary or lavender flowers, or spices like clove or star anise. Just place your citrus peels, herbs, or spices into the alcohol and let them sit in there for about 48 hours before straining them out and mixing up your solution.


Once you’ve made your sanitizer, just put it into an airtight container for long term storage so the alcohol doesn’t evaporate. A mason jar or empty plastic bottle can be reused for this purpose.

To keep your sanitizer close, you can fill a few small, 4 oz. travel bottles and stash them in places where you find you need them most often, one in your car, one in your bag, etcetera. When you get low, just refill your travel bottles from your main stash.

Spray It:

One additional recipe is to mix 3 parts isopropyl alcohol to 1 part witch hazel and then add a few drops of vitamin E oil. This allows you to put your sanitizer in a small pump spray bottle for easy transport and application.

Questions, thoughts, or comments? Did you make it? Let us know in the comment section below!

For massage therapists, meditation is a wonderful tool for self care. As a practice, it can be defined as an intentional act of focus or reflection with the goal being to alter one’s state of awareness. There are many forms of meditation. They can be as simple as practicing a breathing technique or reciting a mantra to more active practices like Tai Chi or Yoga.

Whatever style of meditation you engage with, there are a variety of benefits, both mental and physical. Science has shown that regular meditation can reduce stress, combat depression, improve sleep, lower blood pressure and more. So what are you waiting for? Below is an easy meditation you can incorporate into your self-care routine that is simple to learn, remember and practice.

The basic body check-in meditation is no-nonsense and can be done just about anywhere in a few minutes time. But don’t let the low entry level commitment cause you to doubt the transformative power of this simple technique.

  1. Find a quiet, comfortable place to lay where you won’t be disturbed by people or technology. You may want to put a pillow behind your knees and head and pull the shades or dim your lights.
  2. Get comfortable and take a few full, deep breaths. Breathe in through your nose, inhaling and expanding your lungs until your belly and chest are full and your shoulders lift slightly. Exhale slowly through your mouth. Repeat for several breaths.
  3. While breathing, simply try to be aware of your body. Are you as comfortable as you could be? If not, make whatever adjustments you need to feel as relaxed as possible.
  4. Once you feel totally comfortable, you are ready to begin your check-in. The process is simple but requires a bit of imagination; try to think of the air you inhale as healing energy and the air you exhale as releasing negative energy or tension from your body. You will focus your attention in on a body part and think about its function and what it does for you. Breath in and as you do, imagine that healing energy to traveling to that body part. As you breathe out, imagine that any remaining tension is leaving that body part with your exhale. Repeat for several breaths and when you feel ready, move on to the next body part. Begin at your feet, and repeat this process for the calves, thighs, pelvic area and glutes, low back, chest and upper back, hands, forearms, upper arms, shoulders and neck, and finally your face and head. If a particular area feels more tense, spend more time there. If an area already feels pretty relaxed, only take a few breaths there and then move on.
  5. Once you have completed your conscious check-ins and released tension in each part of your body, remain completely still. Focus on your whole body continuing to breath in healing energy through your nose and exhaling tension from your entire body through your mouth. You can stay in this state as long as you like or have time for.
  6. When you are ready, slowly begin to move again. Start by moving your eyes behind your closed eyelids, wiggle your fingers and toes, then open your eyes and slowly sit up.
  7. (Optional) Once you feel connected to normal body awareness again, a short stretching routine is a great way to bring this meditation to a close, exploring how your newly refreshed body feels in motion.

Thoughts, questions, or comments? Let us know 🙂

Assistant Director, Sarah Partos, ham's it up with "Bob" the skeleton.

Assistant Director, Sarah Partos, hams it up with “Bob” the skeleton.

As part of our 50th anniversary, we’re delving into the stories of our indispensable staff to learn more about them and how they came to be a part of the school. This entry is from Assistant Director, Sarah Partos, CMT. Anyone who has attended SFSM in the last few years knows that Sarah is an integral part of the staff. She has helped many graduates find placement in the massage field and has worked to build strong relationships with partners in the massage community. However, you might not know that Sarah started her experience here as a student…

“I had thought about attending massage school for a long time before I finally took action and visited the San Francisco School of Massage & Bodywork for a tour. After visiting the school I was interested in enrolling, but decided auditing a class would be the best way to determine whether it was really a good fit.

I felt a bit intimidated by the idea of massaging someone larger than me. I’m only 5’2” so I decided to pair with another student, Craig, who was around 6’ tall. I figured, if I could handle working with someone that much bigger than me, I wouldn’t have any problems with the rest of the program. As I expected the massage was challenging, but I enjoyed the whole experience much more than I anticipated, so I signed up for the Massage Therapist program!

I finished my program and went to work as a Massage Therapist but, I loved the school so much that, in addition to working in the field of massage, I ended up coming on staff as the Student Services Representative. I eventually added job placement to my duties and began helping new graduates find work in the field. My favorite graduate to help with placement was Craig; my partner from the class audit! He helped with my decision to attend SFSM and I helped when he was ready to start work as a Massage Therapist. One big circle in the wheel of life!”

Thanks for sharing, Sarah! We’re all so glad you decided to become a permanent fixture.

Herbal Foot Soak

At the end of a long day where you have been on your feet massaging clients, a little self-care can help hit the reset button after closing time. You deserve it!

One technique we have become fond of over the years is an herbal foot bath. This simple hydrotherapy treatment definitely comforts fatigued feet and can help speed recovery from overuse, exercise, and subacute sprains & strains. The best part is, you only need a few things to get started!


  • A plastic tub big enough to submerge your feet up to the ankles
  • A few small towels
  • a comfy chair
  • Epsom salt (about 2 cups)
  • A few drops of essential oil or an herbal tea sachet


  1. Place a towel on the floor in front of your comfortable chair.
  2. Fill the tub with warm water (about 100°F) while adding the Epsom salts, being sure to dissolve the salt completely.
  3. Add 5-15 drops of an essential oil like lavender or bergamot for relaxation or try peppermint or eucalyptus for pain and inflammation. Alternately, adding a cup of strong herbal tea can take the place of essential oils; chamomile or peppermint tea are perfect additions.
  4. When the plastic tub is about ¾ full, put it on the bath mat in front of your chair, slide your feet in and just relax for about 15 minutes.
  5. When your 15 minutes are up, rinse and dry your feet.
  6. Massage your favorite moisturizing lotion into your feet and then slip into some cozy socks. Viola!

Do you have any favorite self-care routines? Let us know in the comments below!

Welcome to our first blog of 2019! Here we are at the beginning of a new year. This is always a time when people look forward with hopes for what opportunities the new year will hold. It is a time for reflection, forecasting, and putting plans into action.

For us here at the San Francisco School of Massage & Bodywork, this year is more than just the next year, it is a significant milestone in our own journey. 2019 is our 50th year in massage education and to our knowledge, makes us one of the oldest massage schools in the country. 50 years is a substantial achievement for any business, never mind a massage school. In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as few as 36% of businesses make it to the 10 year mark and only 21% see their 20th anniversary. The number of companies who survive 50 years is so slim that we actually cannot find any statistics on it. Suffice it to say, having survived a half century is a uncommon achievement.

Our humble little school has seen many things come to pass in that time. Born out of the tail end of the hippie movement, we watched the Transamerica Pyramid go up, witnessed the first San Francisco Pride, felt the warmth of the seminal burning man on Baker Beach, and saw the original critical mass ride through our city’s streets. We also experienced the Moscone-Milk murders and subsequent White riots, saw AIDS devastate the city’s population and our student body, and survived the Loma Prieta quake just days after our 20th anniversary. Throughout it all, we have been fortunate enough to learn and grow thanks to good luck, dedicated instructors, and most importantly our amazing students.

During this 50th year, we will reflect upon our storied history and share some of it with you. We also hope to bring you some special opportunities to celebrate this milestone with us. We are so proud to have become a genuine San Francisco institution and wear that mantle with humility and deep gratitude. A heartfelt thanks to all of the visionaries that have helped us along the way and continue to shape the future of massage therapy in our classrooms. Thank you to the thousands of amazing students who believe in us and who believed in themselves; we literally couldn’t have done it without you!

Reiki is a Japanese technique for stress reduction, relaxation, and healing that has roots in ancient Eastern philosophy. It is built upon the idea that an unseen, innate life force energy flows through and animates each of us. If this life force energy becomes depleted, we are more susceptible to stress and illness. However, when this energy is abundant, we are more capable of maintaining our health and cultivating happiness.

A Reiki treatment addresses the whole person; mind, body, emotions and spirit, and can create a sense of wellness, peace, and deep relaxation. It utilizes a variety of hand positions to stimulate and renew the flow of life force energy. It is gentle, nurturing, and completely safe and a treatment can leave you feeling radiant and renewed.

For those interested in hands-on healing techniques, Reiki is a great entry point. It is easy to learn, gentle and safe for recipients and the practitioners, it requires no special equipment, and can be practiced literally anywhere, even at a distance. Generally speaking, Reiki doesn’t typically require special licensing to practice, so you can begin working with people as soon as you have completed your training.

Reiki training is often divided into three degrees which contain instruction and a sort of energetic initiation known as an attunement. Each degree introduces news depths of the techniques to practitioners with the first conveying the basics and the second instructing practitioners in the use of Reiki symbology. The third and final degree typically takes the form of an apprenticeship and instructs practitioners how to attune and teach new Reiki initiates. In the 90+ year modern history of Reiki after its rediscovery, it has been taught to thousands of people, regardless of their age, ability, or background.

While Reiki is metaphysical in nature, it is not a religion and does not endorse a particular dogma or spiritual path. There is nothing you need to believe to practice Reiki. You need not even believe in Reiki to have it work. The life force is intelligent and inherently knows what to do. The best practitioners simply get out of the way and let the energy do what it needs to do.

This may all sound like a bit of hocus pocus but, studies continue to reveal the benefits of Reiki in areas such as improving patient outcomes and increasing quality of life. In fact, many hospitals have begun to add Reiki to their list of complementary and alternative medicine options along side massage, acupuncture, and meditation. This expanding application of Reiki is due to its non-invasive methods, safety, and broad application for recipients of all ages and health levels: It is excellent for children, the infirm, and elderly patients alike.

Because of its versatility in application and ease of learning, Reiki is a great way to get involved in the healing arts. For the same reasons, it also makes a wonderful skill for existing hands-on practitioners to add to their repertoire. If you’d like to learn more about Reiki, check out one of our Reiki workshops or read more here.

Question or comments? Let us know below!


It has recently come to our attention that as of January 1, 2019 the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Exam (MBLEx) will no longer be required to attain state certification through the California Massage Therapy Council (CAMTC). However, this is only a temporary change. The removal of the MBLEx as a requirement for certification will only be in place for the period of January 1, 2019 – December 31, 2020. The MBLEx will be reinstated as a testing requirement beginning January 2, 2021.

Please note; the San Francisco School of Massage & Bodywork does not anticipate any changes to our curriculum as a result of this recent news. We strongly encourage all current and future students to prepare for and/or take the MBLEx examination as the testing requirement will be reinstated January 1, 2021 and is presently a requirement for licensure/ certification in nearly every other US state.

For our current students, a representative from administration will be stopping by each class some time during the next week to discuss this in more detail and answer any questions you might have.

For more information, please visit https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=201720180SB1480 and scroll to SEC. 23. Section 4604 of the Business and Professions Code to see the amendment.

It’s an undeniable fact that every body is different. Even though we are all composed of more or less the same stuff, we are all put together a bit differently and each of us ask our bodies to do different things for us. Some of us run, others swim, and some do little physical activity at all. Each of the possible sets of variables and demands we put on our bodies means that our individual needs can be dramatically different.

The same is true of massage therapy. The unique needs and preferences of each client means that no one modality is a perfect fit for every person who lands on your massage table. Some clients will respond very well to a Swedish massage but for others, Swedish massage does not produce the results they are after. For this reason, the modern massage therapist should be trained in a variety of massage techniques. After all, the more tools you have in your tool box, the more people you will be able to help achieve their massage therapy goals.


A good massage therapy program will provide you with a solid foundation in some of the most popular and useful techniques and this will enable you to help a good number of the people who come to you for massage. However, a good foundation is just that, something upon which you can build and grow your skills. Because even with a solid foundation, it is inevitable that you will eventually come across people in your practice for whom your skills may be contraindicated or simply do not produce the results they desire.

These types of obstacles can be frustrating as a massage practitioner. We don’t want to refer clients to other therapists if we don’t have to but it would be unethical to continue a treatment plan that we know isn’t working. So how do we obtain more tools to build upon a solid foundation? Continuing education is the answer.


With continuing education you will learn more techniques but it is about more than that, it is an investment in your practice’s future. After all, the more techniques you have at your disposal, the wider variety of clients you can provide services to, the busier your practice will be. Beyond that, continuing education can keep your practice fresh and interesting for you. If all you do all day is Swedish massage, it can get pretty boring. Bringing new techniques in can help jostle you from a well worn rut and make a stale practice exciting again. What’s more, as you gain new skills you will begin to carve out a niche for your practice that is unique, and this is a key aspect to long-term success in massage therapy.


People are not static beings: Things happen and we change. Your clients will change too as you work with them. They may get injured, they will grow older, they may become pregnant or be diagnosed with cancer, and all of these changes will impact how you apply your massage skills. But if you are not skilled in injury rehab, elder massage, prenatal massage, or oncology massage, you may inadvertently end up sending them to another therapist who is. However, if you are regularly obtaining training to learn these skills, you will more likely retain those clients as their needs change. Some massage therapists even learn techniques specifically for their dependable clients with changing needs.


One objection to continuing education is that it is significant financial burden but, considering the resilience it will add to your practice, those investments will quickly be amortized. Best of all, continuing education is a business expense that can be written off when it comes to tax time. Tuition, books, supplies, lab or equipment fees can all be deducted. Even if you are traveling to a workshop in another state, you can deduct the cost of laundry, meals, baggage, telephone expenses and tips while there. Just make sure to get all your receipts for your tax preparation specialist!

With all of the benefits that continuing education can provide to your massage practice, it’s easy to make a case for participating. If you would like to enhance your skills, improve client retention, and ensure the stability of your practice, check out some of the many continuing education options that we provide at the San Francisco School of Massage & Bodywork. Chances are, there’s something we offer that will benefit you, your clients, and your massage practice!

Prenatal massage, also known as pregnancy massage, is a modality of massage specifically geared to address the myriad changes that take place in the bodies of mothers-to-be. It provides the general benefits of massage therapy while also introducing some benefits specific to pregnant women. Once regarded somewhat dubiously as a risky modality, modern research has shown that not only are most of the risks overblown but that the benefits well outweigh any trepidation.


Massage therapy is increasingly found to have numerous benefits. For the pregnant client, massage can decrease stress, ease muscular tension, reduce joint pain, improve sleep, and alleviate anxiety; just like it can for any other client. But, prenatal massage can also ease labor, positively impact hormone balances, improve birth outcomes, and even increase the general health of newborns compared to those whose mothers did not receive prenatal massage. Many of these benefits are quantifiable but others, such as the psychological impact of an expectant mothers self-care or simply surrendering to being nurtured, are more delicately complex and understated, but none-the-less important.


Most massage therapists will be familiar with much of the basic theory and technique behind prenatal massage. However, pregnancy brings with it vast biological and physiological changes to the body. Carrying a baby will impact everything from posture to sleep patterns and can profoundly change how massage therapy should be applied. Most importantly, prenatal massage comes with a special set of indications and contraindications that require the massage therapist to modify techniques, propping, draping, and more. What’s more, some of these modifications will change throughout the pregnancy, a woman’s body will be quite different in the third trimester compared to the first. These differences will impact how massage therapy is performed.


Because prenatal massage is more than just massaging someone who is pregnant, getting proper training is key. Massage therapists must be educated in the process of pregnancy from conception to birth and be able to adjust the application of massage techniques accordingly. While some of the contraindications, such as no deep pressure to the abdomen, may be obvious, others are more nuanced and require familiarity and guidance from an experience professional to fully grasp. Further, the prenatal massage therapist will need to understand some of the other potential issues that may arise, such as preeclampsia and edema, and be able to coordinate therapy with other health care professionals. For all of the aforementioned reasons, most doctors will strongly encourage patients to seek out a certified prenatal massage therapist. Hence, being certified in prenatal massage is a key ingredient to receiving referrals and creating a healthy prenatal massage practice.


As the known benefits of prenatal massage continue to expand, so do the numbers of expectant mothers who seek to add massage to their prenatal care regimen. This is reflected in the fact that prenatal massage has been one of the most requested modalities year after year right along side Swedish massage and deep tissue. As such, many massage clinics, hospitals, and spas are increasingly requiring their massage therapists to be certified in prenatal massage.

Even if you are in private practice, there is a good chance that your existing female clientele will be among the 6.2 million women who become pregnant in the US each year. Being able to provide them with quality prenatal massage therapy ensures a consistency of care and the ability to retain them as clients throughout their pregnancy, postpartum, and beyond. Besides, being a part of a mother’s journey through pregnancy, birth, and motherhood is extremely rewarding. The real question is, why wouldn’t you learn prenatal massage?

If you would like to learn more about prenatal massage and receive training and certification from one of the bay area’s most experienced prenatal massage educators, check out our upcoming “Pregnancy & Postpartum Massage” workshop with Leah Kennedy, CMT.

Comments or questions? Let us know below!

Thai massage, also called Nuad Boran, is an ancient, energy-based healing system that integrates aspects of acupressure with assisted yoga postures. Traditionally, Thai massage uses no oils or lotions and is performed on a mat on the floor with both the client and practitioner wearing loose-fitting clothes. Thai massage sessions are comprised of a series of compression strokes, stretches, rocking, and pulling techniques intended to clear energetic blockages and relieve tension in the body. This is different from many western massage techniques where strokes rely on oil or lotion to glide along the surface of the skin. Thai massage practitioners utilize their whole bodies in a session, maintaining constant contact throughout while applying rhythmic pressure with thumbs, palms, forearms, elbows, knees, and feet. Practitioners rely heavily on gravity and leverage to execute deep assisted stretches and postures derivative of the yoga traditions in nearby India. Combined, these techniques release muscular tension, alleviate pain, and open the joints of the body to improve balance and range of motion. Receiving Thai massage creates a deep sense of relaxation and restoration.


Thai massage has its roots in Buddhism and began its evolution about 2,500 years ago. Even today, many prominent Thai schools are located in “Wats” or temples such as Wat Pho in Bangkok. Trough this connection, traditional Thai massage draws on many influences in the Buddhist world from Ayurveda to Traditional Chinese Medicine. It focuses on activating and circulating vital energy in the body through pathways known as “Sen” lines, which are similar to meridians in acupuncture. These pathways are targeted, manipulated, and stimulated to break up blockages and restore the flow of energy to a harmonious and natural balance.


Thai massage is typically recognized by its striking and often beautiful assisted yoga postures. Through these partner poses, the body is stretched beyond what is normally attainable through an individual yoga practice alone.

For many practitioners, performing Thai massage is akin to a spiritual experience as it incorporates meditative mindfulness and the concept of “mettā” or focused compassion. This results in a full-body Thai massage session creating a powerful and positive healing experience for recipients and practitioners alike.

Thai massage began gaining popularity in the west during the 1990’s and is now a fairly common in spas throughout North America. Recently, in San Francisco, several of the top-rated spas in the city offered a focus on traditional Thai massage, putting the technique on par with more familiar massage modalities such as Swedish massage and deep tissue.


If you’re curious and want to try a Thai massage in San Francisco, check out one of the great locations run by graduates of the San Francisco School of Massage & Bodywork; Iyara on Geary Boulevard or the beautiful Suchada on King Street downtown. If you’d like to learn some Thai massage for yourself, check out our workshops: For the layperson there is our “Thai Massage for Couples” class and for the professional massage therapist there is our “Traditional Thai Massage: Level 1”.

Got questions or comments? Leave them below!

San Francisco School of Massage & Bodywork

School Campus
475 Valencia Street – 3rd Floor
San Francisco, CA 94103
Student Clinic
– Located at the School Campus
475 Valencia Street – 3rd Floor
San Francisco, CA 94103