Massage, the once and future King of Healing
Massage, a modality of healing which relies primarily on soft tissue-manipulations, joint articulations, and stretching maneuvers, is making one of its boldest resurgences in human history. The profession, which is as old as Ancient China or Egypt, has become one of the most essential aspects of quality of life in an urban environment where touch is often hindered or constrained, even in the homeplace. And yet, no one can seem to agree how it is supposed to be done, whether a blissful experience of relaxation, or an exhilarating ordeal, everyone is trying something different to ensure that the healing is happening, and that they are getting their money’s worth. In order to understand why all the confusion, I spoke with Irina Michael, a Licensed Massage Therapist with a reputation for working on the bodies of some of New York City’s hottest celebrities and richest and most powerful elite.
The New Press: How does one become a massage therapist? How do you train for it?
Irina Michael: I was born in Kazakhstan in Central Asia, which has borders with China and Russia. We had many massage masters in Taldi-Kurgan where I lived, many who had trained in massage throughout all of Asia. After training with as many local masters as I could, I went off to Siberia, where I had contacted some Siberian shamans who were reputed to have amazing knowledge of healing and the body, and whom I spent several years mentoring under. When I had finally absorbed all of the massage wisdom from Russia and Asia that I could, I came to Europe and eventually settled in New York City where I received my degree from the Swedish Institute College of Health Sciences, and began a series of continuing education, such as Myo-Fascial and Cranio-Sacral, many of which I understand to be slight rephrasings of many traditional old-world techniques which you will find in many traditional cultures and healing systems all over the world.
The New Press: And to what do you owe your great success? What is the one key element that makes your massage different than all others?
Irina Michael: If I had to reveal my one key secret to why my massage is more coveted than almost any other massage therapist out there, it would be Kung Fu. Yes, Kung Fu is not only the system of martial arts which I practice to keep my body strong as iron, yet supple as water, it also is the philosophy of hard work and perseverance which makes even superhuman accomplishments a matter of the commonplace. Now it’s out, feel free to steal my secret, all it takes is about ten years of back-busting training and you can be a superhuman too!
The New Press: Massage is supposed to have something like an infinite variety of strokes and techinques. Now, along with all the different types of oils and herbal ointments, how do you choose upon the best one for the client in each individual session?
Irina Michael: I guess you could say 50% training, 50% intuition, which is to say, I apply all the models of assessment, Eastern and Western, and whatever remainder of doubt, that remainder is often the most essential factor, because it shows us what is the actual unique principle of the present moment, and although it doesn’t always fit into our rubricks of assessment or criteria for treatment, it often leads us to the root of the both the disease and the cure, which I believe are almost always the result of a slight disharmony or phase shift out of the gradient of equilibrium, and whatever rubbing or herbal healing that is necessary, by moving the stagnant energy out of one area, and clearing it from successively deeper layers or strata up into the most superficial until it is released back into the environment, from whence, presumably, it sprang, is just the coda of a sonata of health energetics of some kind.
The New Press: I often find that no matter how much I try to take deep breaths, or watch my posture, that I still have soreness in my upper back or shoulder area by the end of a long week of work. Should I be doing something else, like some specific stretches, or is it just the unavoidable result of having a bipedal posture?
Irina Michael: I always recommend my clients the benefit of taking the cultivation of their body more seriously. With all of the care and concern people put into cultivating their bonsai trees or their stock portfolio or their automobile, one would think it would come second-nature to perform at least some set of rigorous stretches and excercises and anoint ourselves with healing oils at least once a week, or once a month. This would be ideal for our bodies, which, despite being unwilling members of an abstract and intellectual society, still possess many intricacies, facets, articulations, energetic meridians, that will fail to circulate energy correctly through the body if they are not oiled up and kept in fighting trim with proper execution and use.
The sad truth is that we live in a dark ages where even the articles of clothing we are taught to wear do a great deal of damage to our body, from the ubiquitous hip-restricting denim jeans which lead to hip surgery or the uncomfortable shoes we wear to look a certain way but lead to corrective bone surgery somewhere down the road, the bottom line is we need to educate ourselves more on what it means to be the kind of organic systems we are, and massage and other of these complementary modalities of bodywork and exercise we have been talking about are the best way to engage with this seemingly abstruse, yet innate wisdom!