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Natural Awakenings Naples and Fort Myers

How What is Old Has Been Made New Again: Local Massage Therapists on the Evolution of Massage in the West

by Linda Sechrist

The ancient healing practice of massage therapy is finally taking its rightful place in an emerging golden age of functional and personalized lifestyle medicine. From the time that Hippocrates introduced the idea that a physician should be experienced in rubbing, massage therapy has faded in and out of the traditional medical models of various cultures. Current practitioners attribute its staying power to continued awareness of the inherent healing and therapeutic value of massage, now the leading form of bodywork in the United States, according to the American Massage Association (AMTA).

Although massage continues to be underrepresented in U.S. medical school curricula, Dr. Carol Roberts, medical director of the Naples Center for Functional Medicine, notes, “Touch is essential to physical and emotional health. Some of us are fortunate to have an intimate partner, while others have to rely on massage. Touch administered with healing intent is a health-promoting strategy, and can play a part in managing stress.”

Everything old is new again


According to Kandy Love, massage therapist, yoga teacher and yoga therapist practicing at Lotus Blossom, in Fort Myers, “We’re coming full circle. Many of today’s bodywork modalities are slanted towards how ancient healers in Egypt, China and India perceived touch as healing work that involved the body’s chakras and meridians through which the energy of the life force flowed. Initially in the West, the aspect of the body’s energy field hasn’t been recognized by our medical system. Massage was standardized so that it could be taught as a profession and regulated it so that it could be licensed. In the process, the intuitive, perceptive skills required to be a really good massage therapist were eliminated,” says the 30-year veteran of yoga and massage.

The evolution of massage therapy

Although many massage schools don’t train students to develop their intuitive and perceptive skills, as individuals begin to practice and gain experience, they become more conscious and drawn to learn about ancient healing arts. Through the internet and global travel, virtually all have been uncovered, interpreted, translated into English, written about and taught in workshops and certification programs. As therapists use what they learn in their daily practice, they continue to deepen their understanding beyond the application to just the physical anatomy. This is how massage has become so much more than the manual manipulation of soft tissue intended to promote health and well-being.

While some individuals have tweaked, adapted and even renamed ancient healing arts for modern times, others have made fresh, new discoveries. For example, osteopathic physician John E. Upledger, co-founder of the Upledger Institute International, identified the craniosacral system, comprised of the membranes and cerebrospinal fluid that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord. Through extensive research, he created a new category of touch healing, developed protocols for his CranioSacral therapy and SomatoEmotional Release, as well as a curriculum to teach these modalities.

Develop sensitivity and clarity

As Alvina Quatrano’s learning has matured through years of experience, the founder of Art of
Holistic Massage in Naples, gained clarity and a sensitivity to the body’s energy as well as the energy of certain places. “My energy work had its start with silence and fasting in a three-day reiki retreat in Arizona. The place was known for its energy vortexes. Our bodies were so clean and clear that we could strongly feel the energy. This was my initiation, and it sensitized me to the whole spectrum of touch, which I love to teach. At one end of the spectrum there’s hands-on healing, prayer and reiki, which includes remote healing, and on the other end there’s acupuncture, rolfing, and functional medicine. I’ve noticed that the majority of people aren’t connected to their energy and may not understand it, they do recognize that while we don’t see the wind, it still moves sailboats,” quips Quatrano. 

Evolving beyond conventionality to embrace alternatives

A massage therapist for more than 13 years, Deanna O’Rourke practices at Organic Skincare & Bodyworx, in Naples, offering Swedish, deep tissue and trigger point-style massage, myofascial and connective tissue release, shiatsu, Craniosacral Therapy, Hawaiian Lomi Lomi and shamanic practices. 

“After graduation from the New York Institute of Massage, the first seven years of my career were spent in the conventional areas of medical and prenatal massage. When I was introduced to reiki, I felt an instant connection to energy work. I felt it again when I was introduced to therapeutic-grade essential oils, which is why I took courses on aromatherapy and became certified in Aroma Touch therapy. Integrating Western and Eastern modalities opened me up to the belief that everyone has the innate capability to heal. Now I use an intuitive approach to create the ideal environment for the body to unwind and relax,” says O’Rourke

Keen observation and experience

Jack Miller, who’s been practicing for one year at Purely You Spa, in Naples, caught his instructor’s infectious enthusiasm for manual lymphatic drainage therapy while attending classes at the Florida Academy, in Fort Myers. “I decided to start my massage career specializing in it because I sensed it was something individuals could benefit from because it enhances the removal of toxins from the body tissues, reduces fluid retention and supports the immune system,” says Miller, whose sister has been a massage therapist for 17 years. “I’m intrigued by my sister’s ability to name what muscle groups of a stranger’s body need to be worked on simply from observing the person walking. From experience, she just knows,” says Miller, whose experience has already led to a broadening interest in bodywork. “I think I might like to learn Thai massage next.”

Evolving can be challenging

Facing an uncertain future in her career as a deep tissue massage therapist due to the physical pain that came from using her hands and body to apply pressure, Maggie Wang had to take a leap and open up to bio-electric therapy and working with an unfamiliar Traditional Chinese Medicine system of meridians. Her personal experience of using the bio-electric therapy led her to become pain-free, certified in DDS Bio-Electric therapy and more comfortable with the intuitive feedback she got from applying what she learned to her clients, Through this process Wang intuitively developed her own system of Life Energy Balance Therapy (LEB), which combines Chinese medicinal principles and modern Western reflexology with low-level bio-electrical therapy to open meridians, clear trigger points, restore the flow of qi and improve blood circulation.. 

Reading through the 350 techniques described in the Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals glossary (, it’s challenging to imagine that the majority of them have one common ancestor, the kneading, tapping and stroking of massage declared in 1936 as a scientific method by Dr. Thomas Lathrop Stedman in his Practical Medical Dictionary.

Local Resources

Individuals seeking relief from stress, lower back pain or other discomforts will find a plethora of experienced bodywork practitioners right here in Southwest Florida.

AHA! A Holistic Approach Center, 15971 McGregor Blvd., Fort Myers. 239-433-5995.

Assuage Luxury Spa, 9407 Cypress Lake Dr., Ste. C, Fort Myers; 1201 Piper Blvd Ste. 1, Naples. 239-266-2995.

Ayurveda Massage & Yoga Institute, 501 Goodlette Rd. N., Naples. 239-450-6903.

Robyn Berry, RB Institute, Inc., 13601 McGregor Blvd., Ste. 13, Fort Myers; 239-939-4646.

Mary Pat Fitzgibbons, RN, 2502 2nd St., Ste. 103, Fort. Myers; 740-607-4038.

Florida Academy, Colonial Center, 4387 Colonial Blvd., Fort Myers; 239-489-2282.

Fort Myers Chiropractic Studio, 12655 New Brittany Blvd. Ste. 13W, Fort Myers; 239-243-8735.

Happy Feet, Neapolitan Plaza, 4661 Tamiami Tl. N., Naples. 239-465-0708.

Lotus Blossom Clinic, 6710 Winkler R. Ste. 2, Fort Myers, 239-277-1399,

Massage Green Spa, 2355 Vanderbilt Beach Rd., Naples. 239-920-2355.
Miracle Massage Therapy, Pebblebrook Shopping Center, 15205 Collier Blvd., Ste. 206, Naples. 239-331-7987.

Christina M. Mitchell, 822 Anchor Rode Dr., Naples. 239-293-0960.

Meredith Musick, 239-269-8846,

Organic Skincare & Bodyworx, 13240 Tamiami Tr. N., Ste. 207, Naples. 239-514-4494.

Purely You Spa, 3066 Tamiami Tr. N., Ste. 302, Naples; 239-331-8266.

Alvina Quatrano, Art of Holistic Massage, Naples, 732-266-5276.

Paula Terry, by appointment in Collier and Lee counties, 239-821-3088.

Trim & Tone Med Spa, 13020 Livingston Rd., Ste. 16, Naples; 239-596-5522.

Stuart Wright, by appointment, 239-272-6443.

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