Monday, March 31, 2014

Humble Pie - Asking for support for advanced training


I can't believe it's been almost a year since I last posted. I can't even begin to explain how many things have changed. Denver is awesome, but it's been a very stressful last few months. Between October and now I've had maybe 12 - 15 days off in total. I finally was able to go back to being seasonal at Barnes and Noble so I have some time to study for State Board Testing and start really job hunting in April. I am currently in training at a Spa down in Castle Rock, which is really exciting.

I am one month away from finishing school at the Aveda Institute. I will be dual licensed in massage therapy and aesthetics/esthetics. I am working on lining up some jobs, and the good news is that full time employment for massage therapists is around 32 hours a week, or four days. This will give me lots of time to go back to training in the martial arts and drawing. But I digress.

The main reason that I am writing this post is because, as some of my readers know, I made the decision to switch careers because I wasn't really happy in the design industry. I like art, I just don't like doing graphic design and advertising for a living. I didn't feel like I was really making a difference in anyone's life. I wasn't interacting with people or reaching them on a personal level. I know graphic design has the capacity to do this, but I just wasn't feeling fulfilled. I sort of wandered around for a while and considered many other careers, including personal trainer and physical therapist, but I eventually settled on massage therapy. After going to school for massage I can definitely say that I picked the right choice.

I absolutely love getting to make people feel great. The benefits of massage are AMAZING! Better health, better sense of well being, reduced muscle pain, better digestion, relief from stress, tension, anxiety, better mobility and range of motion, etc. Ultimately I've decided I want to specialize more in modalities that allow me to work deep tissue work and to work with athletes and/or very active people. Not that I can't work on anyone, but being around martial artists, cross fitters, LEO, etc. I want to work with people who work with their bodies a lot. Especially after working on the guys at my gym (Axistence Athletics) and seeing how even a few sessions has made a difference for them.

The problem is that deep tissue work can be incredibly hard on a massage therapists' body. Especially for us smaller massage therapists. Even with really good posture and body mechanics I am finding that I can be a little sore at the end of the day. And I only do massage two days a week in school. I'll be doing double once I'm graduated and employed. Many massage therapists have incredibly short careers, lasting between 2 and 5 years before they destroy their shoulders, wrists, or thumbs, from repetitive motion strain. AHHH! This terrifies me! I don't want to be in pain all the time or have life long problems with my shoulders, wrists or thumbs! I want to help people with their pain, stiffness, anxiety, etc and still take care of my body too.

I have really fallen in love with this line of work and would love to be able to do it for years to come. Nick's massage therapist in Oklahoma practices a modality called Ashiatsu. (Which is where I first heard about it). Ashiatsu (Ashi = feet and Atsu = pressure) is where the massage therapist can walk on the client's body and use their feet and their body weight to apply pressure. They get to use their full body weight and gravity to do all of the hard work and it saves the massage therapist's body. When I decided on massage therapy I knew that I wanted to learn this as soon as possible.

Now that I am at the end of my program, I started looking into attending an Ashiatsu class. I was lucky enough to receive the last spot in the April class here in Denver. This is actually the place where this modality was made and I will get to study with the lady who developed it! Here is a Link to the Deep Feet School in case you're curious. So the end of April is going to look like this:

April 22nd - Last classroom day at school
April 23rd - Take the MBLEX (this test lets me get licensed in the state of CO)
April 24th - 27th - Take Ashiatsu barefoot basics and the anterior and side lying class (Missing my last clinic floor day at school to take this class)
April 28th - Graduation

I can get everything all wrapped up at once and hit the ground running once I graduate! There are few hurdles I still have to overcome though. This class if pretty expensive, and I'm a little financially strapped due to being in school and only being able to work part time, I'm having to sign up for all my state testing which is about $400 in testing fees, plus insurance, plus background check and fingerprints, of course my car just died last week and I am having to get a new one; anyone who has even been self employed, especially in massage therapy, knows that it will take a while to build up a clientele, so I might not be making much money at all my first few months out of school. Basically, typical life stuff.

I have had friends in the past who have had really good luck with GoFundMe, so I thought I would try it. I only need to raise about $800-900. The class is $795, which if I could just get that much that would be great! After that there is about $100 or more in supplies I will need to buy before I attend. I even posted reward levels similar to how KickStarter does it, because I want people to know I genuinely appreciate their support. From hand written thank you letters up to a free massage. But when I posted a fundraiser online and linked it on Facebook I got a lot of feedback about people who didn't want to support me through that website, or who were uncomfortable about how much information that website took, etc.

So I promptly took it down. At this point I honestly feel really strange and awkward about the whole thing. I feel bad asking for money. Like, I have that sinking feeling of "Why, God did I even post that? Why did I think it was a good idea? Can't I just take it back?" I feel pathetic and I feel really bad for posting it, I should have just kept my mouth shut and tried to figure out how to pay for it on my own. It's a humbling feeling, having to ask for help.

I was talking to a good friend Indi about it this evening. ( Check out her stuff! --> Indi's Business Facebook and her Webcomic: Dissolution. Indi is a huge inspiration to me because she took the leap I've been really afraid to take for a long time. She jumped in with both feet, quit her job, and started making a living as an artist by doing comic books and fan art. I really admire her for that and hope to do the same someday when Nick and I start our own business.)

Anyway, she mentioned that she remembered it feeling awkward and uncomfortable when she was running her KickStarter campaign to get her comic printed. The feeling I have now is definitely an icky feeling, but I also remember being able to back her project. I've backed several of my friend's projects and other projects on KickStarter over the last two or three years and it's a really wonderful feeling. I get so excited when I can donate money to someone to help them reach their goal and get their book published or their movie made or their board game manufactured. It's something I will continue to do as long as I can. Even if it's just a few dollars here and there, it really makes a difference for those people trying to achieve their dream. So Indi suggested I type up a blog post with my story so she could link it to some of her friends since some people might be willing to donate via PayPal or send a check in the mail. You never know until you ask. And everyone has to start somewhere, right?

So I have done just that. I still want to send people hand written thank you notes, drawings, and give free massages to people who donate to help me go to this class to show my appreciation. Obviously the massages are a little harder because I know people all over the country and all over the world, but the offer still stands. But I don't expect people to just give me money, I want to do something in return for them if I at all possible.

If you are interested in helping me get to this class so I continue to help make martial artists and non-martial artists alike feel relaxed and pain free for years to come, please let me know. I would be incredibly, genuinely, and sincerely thankful.

You can e-mail me at Tiffani.Sahara(a)  or send a donation via paypal using that e-mail address. (Please note that my name is spelled with an "i" and not a "y" at the end, so if your phone/computer auto corrects the spelling and you don't change it back, it will go to the wrong place)

Thank you for reading and I'll be sure to post something more soon. I have had a few ideas for posts I've been wanting to get written up, I just haven't had time to do it yet. @.@

<3  - Tiff


  1. Welcome back. I was reading Miyamoto Musashi the other day and he was talking about the study of massage as giving insight into martial studies. And then you write how deep tissue massage necessitates good posture and body mechanics - like kata - and it brought a smile to my face. But a question: is the repetitive motion strain of massage therapy so drastic? 2-5 year careers? Why so short? How can it be even more treacherous to my body than the last 20 years of karate, 2-3 days a week? That is a real splash of cold water to the face just when i was about to start looking for a massage therapy program myself.

  2. Hi Kamil!

    Here is the trick, massage therapists with bad body mechanics have to drop out after 2 to 5 years. My teachers at school really stressed and emphasized good posture and body mechanics. One of my teachers has been doing massage for 13+ years. So it is certainly possible to have an extended career in massage, you just have to be sure to take care of your body.

    Massage can be hard, physically demanding work. Imagine working out for 6 to 10 hours a day four days a week. Now imagine working out with bad posture and improper muscle usage. For example, bad table height and bending over a table puts huge strain on your low back. When a client asks for more pressure, instead of using your body weight, you try to use the muscles in your shoulders and wrists. 30+ hours a week of that over the course of a few years will tear your body up quickly. I had a friend who worked at a pizza place and she developed carple tunnel syndrome in under 2 years from making pizza dough every day. It happens fast when we dont stretch and keep our bodies strong and healthy.

    If you use your body weight, move from your core, for example dropping your weight and sinking into more of a horse stance to reach your client on the table instead of bending over, you extend the life of your career significantly.

    I imagine practicing karate you go only a few hours a day three times a week you said. Imagine replacing your day job with karate and then practicing it with bad posture. That is why the burn out is so fast and so drastic for massage therapists who don't take care of themselves.

    I believe its fully possible to be in this line of work for a long time, but you MUST take care of your body, exercise, eat well, use good posture and body mechanics, and receive massage regularly yourself.