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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 MASSAGE PROGRAM IS JUST A FOUNDATION

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.

AN INVESTMENT IN YOUR FUTURE

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.

AN INVESTMENT IN YOUR CLIENTS

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.

IT’S A BUSINESS EXPENSE

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.

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE BENEFITS

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.

MASSAGE, MODIFIED

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.

CERTIFICATION IS ESSENTIAL

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.

WHY SHOULD YOU LEARN IT?

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.

ANCIENT ORIGINS

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.

A TRUE ARTFORM

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.

EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING

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!


Craniosacral therapy is a gentle, non-invasive set of evaluations and techniques used to influence the function of the craniosacral system in the body. Developed by Dr. John Upledger DO, the therapy has been proven effective in treating a variety of different medical issues associated with pain and dysfunction. The therapy draws from an area of medicine known as cranial osteopathy which was developed by Dr. William Sutherland.

The word ‘craniosacral’ is a portmanteau of cranium and sacrum because the system extends from the cranium down through the spine and terminates in the sacrum. The craniosacral system protects the organs of the central nervous system, the brain and spinal cord, with cerebrospinal fluid and a network of membranous tissues. Because the craniosacral system encases the core of our nervous system, it plays a role in the development and function of our brain, spine, and extended nervous system. As such, dysfunction in the craniosacral system can be responsible for a variety of sensory, motor, and neurological disorders from chronic pain to learning disabilities.

As a treatment, craniosacral therapy is thought to stimulate the body’s innate healing mechanisms, improving central nervous system function, relieving the negative impacts of stress, and bolstering overall health and disease resistance. As the functioning of the craniosacral system is very subtle, practitioners utilize a light touch to test for restrictions and apply gentle techniques to influence the movement of cerebrospinal fluid within the system. These techniques can also extend to the manipulation of cranial, facial, and spinal bones to further facilitate proper function of the system. Craniosacral techniques also induce a state called a ‘still point’ where the cerebrospinal fluid ceases to circulate and the craniosacral system resets. The experience of a still point is extremely relaxing, dramatically reducing stress and calming anxiety.

Though the breadth of evaluations and techniques under the craniosacral unbrella is a robust method of bodywork unto itself, many of the basic skills can be integrated into a standard massage session. While practitioners often use craniosacral therapy to enhance relaxation and the efficacy of their work, massage therapists who are trained in this modality also develop a profound ability to palpate subtle changes in the body, thereby deepening the physical communication between the therapist and their client. These skills add more diversity to the range of clients and conditions that can be addressed in a standard session and also improves existing massage techniques by enhancing the therapists hands-on sensitivity. Further, the ability to create a craniosacral still point during a massage can facilitate deep relaxation and allow other massage techniques to ‘sink in’ as the client becomes more receptive.

For all the reasons above, at the San Francisco School of Massage & Bodywork, we feel that basic craniosacral techniques are highly valuable for the average massage therapist to possess. While we teach some basics in our massage therapist program, in our Cranial-sacral I and Cranial-sacral II continuing education workshops, we focus on the most effective craniosacral techniques for massage therapists to integrate into their daily practices. If you are curious about craniosacral or just want to gain some practical skills to improve your massage sessions overall, these workshops are a wonderful and useful introduction to the capabilities of this remarkable therapy.

Are you considering a change in your career? Perhaps you’ve reached a point where you’ve grown bored with your office job, don’t see yourself there in five or even ten years, or maybe you just finally feel like you have the time to pursue your dream. Whatever it is, you’re here for a reason, and we’re here to help you get started. At San Francisco School of Massage & Bodywork, we strive to create an environment for our students that is focused on learning, growth, and achieving mutual goals.

Because you’ve come to the conclusion that it’s time for a new career, you are likely looking into all of your options to complete your schooling. There are many basic massage courses offered online, and this might seem like the easiest way to achieve your goal. Though we understand the need to have a flexible school schedule, online classes are not going to be able to provide you with the real world experience that an in-person education can. The California Massage Therapy Council has stated that they

“will no longer accept distance learning or online hours for the first 500 hours of education as of December 5th, 2013.”

Unfortunately that means that though you can take online courses,they will not count toward your California massage certification…

SFSM is happy to work with our students’ schedules, and we understand the difficulty of balancing your normal work and home routine with classes. So that leaves the question:

Are In-Person Massage Therapy Courses Better?

This answer depends on your personal availability, determination to succeed, and learning style. SFSM advocates for hands-on training, because we believe the best way to learn is to watch and practice using your own two hands. The best way to become a master in your field is to gain that practice both in school and after. There are benefits to in-person training you just can’t get with online courses, such as:

  • Individualized attention – Whether you need help learning a specific technique or require further explanation, having an instructor in front of you who can provide real-time feedback will help you learn. Our teachers are dedicated to providing our students with diverse and personalized instruction, so you can rest assured you are learning from the best.
  • Group learning – By learning with a group of students, you learn better. You can watch others, work together, support one another, and pace yourself accordingly.
  • Environment – By coming to our campus and learning with us, you will be distraction-free and can better focus on your improvement. Additionally, many people learn better in a setting that focuses them. Being in the mindset and physically in the environment dedicated to Massage Therapy improves retention.
  • Practice – This one might seem obvious, but you can’t practice on anyone if you are alone learning on your computer. Though you might know the techniques, nothing beats actually performing your new skills on real life people.

The above are the main reasons that we advocate for in-person courses and because online courses do not prepare you to pass the state exam to become a licensed professional. Explore our Massage Therapy program and see if SFSM is right for you; we’ll be happy to figure out the best schedule for you and make sure your time with us is rewarding. We can’t wait to meet you!

Whether you regularly spend time at massage therapy appointments or have considered a career in massage therapy, you’ve probably heard a few words that seem a bit confusing. Each profession has its own jargon, massage therapy included! Don’t be afraid to become well-versed in these massage buzzwords; knowing them can make you a better guest and a better massage therapist!

1. Bodywork

Bodywork is an umbrella term that refers to a variety of different therapeutic treatments for the body. For example, massage therapy, trigger point, and myofascial release are all forms of bodywork. This is why we include the word ‘bodywork’ in our name, because we teach so much more than massage therapy alone.
massage therapist doing deep tissue massage for a client

2. CMT

CMT is the common abbreviation used to shorten the title certified massage therapist. But not every massage therapist is a CMT, there are also the abbreviations LMT and RMT for licensed massage therapist and registered massage therapist, respectively. It’s good to know this stuff in case someone throws it out there.

3. Certification

In some states, like California, a massage certification comes after completing the proper education, testing, and registering with the state. In other states, ‘certification’ is earned from an approved school, after which graduates take a test and are awarded a massage licence. Though the distinction may seem semantic, if you’re interested in practicing massage therapy professionally, it’s important that you know the difference and which is available in your state.

4. Modality

When you hear the word ‘modality’ used in reference to massage therapy and bodywork, it refers to an individual approach or set of techniques for treating stress, tension, and pain in the body. Some modalities are more general while others treat specific conditions. Examples of different modalities include:

5. Shiatsu

Shiatsu is a massage technique (or modality) that originated in Japan. It follows the same principles as acupuncture. Pressure points are the focal point of this treatment.

6. Trigger Point

Trigger points are exactly what they sound like! They are sore points in the body that hold tension that can trigger radiating pain. Bodyworkers trained in trigger point therapy can release these painful spots and return the body to pain-free function.

7. Myofascial Release

Myofascial release, also sometimes called ‘deep tissue’ is another modality of bodywork. Like trigger point therapy, it is easily defined by its own name; ‘myo’ means muscle and ‘fascia’ refers to connective tissue. This therapy focuses on specific work treating muscle and connective tissues to relieve pain, improve flexibility, and increase joint mobility. Though this modality is often seamlessly woven into a Swedish massage, it is a modality unto itself.

hand massage therapy

What Words Do You Want Defined?

Are we missing any important words on our list? What buzzwords have you heard that would help clarify your treatment or help you become a better massage therapist? Make sure to let us know in the comments below!

Massages have long been a common gift throughout the holiday seasons. Whether it’s Christmas, a birthday, or Valentine’s Day, a massage gift card can make anyone smile. However, many people don’t consider what it really means to give someone the gift of massage. Here are a few ways you may not have known you were showing your love.

1. The Gift of Relaxation

Relaxation means more than just taking a few minutes out of your day to be alone. Massage therapy can help ease tension, relieve stress, and promote overall relaxation. If you have a hard-working spouse, mother, or friend, a massage gift card can bring one (or more!) days of peace to a rather chaotic work schedule. Show someone you care by helping them prioritize themselves.

2. The Gift of Recovery

If you have an athlete in your life who prioritizes their physical health, we can tell you that massage therapy should be a part of that routine. Massage therapy can help athletes recover from injuries or after competitions and meets. Massage therapy is good for athletes of all ages, too. Give the gift of recovery and revitalization to the person in your life who is running circles around everyone else.

woman in white receiving a massage

3. The Gift of Preparation

In addition to aiding recovery, massage therapy can help prepare you for a variety of physical activities. Massage can help warm up and stretch muscles that may have otherwise felt tension before an event. You can even use massage to help someone prepare for everyday life. A morning massage appointment can make all the difference in the work day. Whether your loved one is running the 9-5 race or hitting the pavement, massage can make a difference.

4. The Gift of Self-Love

Everyone should take time out to give themselves a little bit of attention. Help your wife, husband, mother, or father focus on their own wellbeing by giving them a reason to get a massage. Gift cards are the perfect way to allow someone to make time for themselves.

massage therapist working on a client's calves

5. The Gift of Community

When you give a gift card from San Francisco School of Massage & Bodywork, you allow someone to connect with their community. Our students are people just like you. They work hard and are passionate about what they do and how it affects others. Your loved one can help a fellow citizen practice a craft they care about, all while making a connection with someone who can be a friend in the future.

Who Will You Give To?

Who do you want to show love and appreciation for? Who in your life can benefit from all these ways massage can give? Make sure to share with us in the comments below. If you want to pick up a gift card to our student clinic, click here.

Massage Therapists, Find Out How to Use Gift Cards in Your Holiday Marketing! Click Below.

click here to read more about giftcards

San Francisco School of Massage & Bodywork

School Campus
475 Valencia Street – 3rd Floor
San Francisco, CA 94103
415-474-4600
Student Clinic
– Located at the School Campus
475 Valencia Street – 3rd Floor
San Francisco, CA 94103
415-474-4600