Massage Therapy Offers Path to Self Healing

Commentary, Taisa Grant

I am a firm believer that we are all healers. Every person possesses the ability and has been given the tools necessary to heal themselves and others.

This way of thinking led me down the path of becoming a doula, which in turn led me to massage therapy — a form of healing accessible to everyone that can benefit the body without negative side effects. During the course of my doula training, I learned that massage therapy could be used specifically during pregnancy and labor to help the expectant mother experience comfort and relaxation. Before that, I was aware of massage but didn’t really know how beneficial it was.

The first birth I attended as a doula took place in a hospital, with a close friend who had a high-risk pregnancy. Out of fear for her life and that of her unborn child, my friend had given her full trust to the doctors and medical staff at the hospital. Sadly, after witnessing the birth process I felt the doctors hadn’t made my friend’s experience very pleasant or mistake free. Seeing that birth motivated me to find the money I needed to pay for massage school.

With my studies came a new awareness of my physical self, and I learned that I am in fact the expert of my own body. Through massage, I also found relief from pain that I had been dealing with for many years, and I gained an understanding of how to sustain that relief. Massage also gave me a career, one that allows me to work for myself. One day, I would like to be a mother myself and have a positive, empowering home birth experience.

But today, I am a facilitator of healing. My role is to share knowledge and help other people re-discover the lost art of how to listen to their body, which sends messages we can use to self-heal.

These are lessons that could be put to great use in Richmond. In a community as tough as this, I doubt most people regularly experience what it’s like to be spoken to gently or touched in a consenting, soothing, therapeutic way. Massage therapy, as well as other forms of bodywork and health education, can provide this type of healthy experience. If Richmond residents started taking advantage of massage therapy and other healing arts, our collective experience could begin to change, one person at a time.

After her first session with a body awareness educator, Brandy Roberson, a Richmond native, said such therapy “established a better meaning of what it is to have inner peace and awareness of my body.”

There are currently several massage therapists and body workers in Richmond, including Nancy Burke, a Cranial Sacral Therapist whose office is located in the Labyrinth Center.

“I encourage Richmond residents of all ages to get body work at least once,” said Burke.

The regular use of such therapies in Richmond could impact individuals and the community as a whole in a plethora of ways. First, massage can decrease stress, so people will think clearly and make better decisions. Massage can also decrease pain associated with conditions such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), stroke-related disabilities, Bell’s Palsy, autism, arthritis and much more.

I’ve been told that before you can change your external environment, you have to start with your internal one. Living a healthy lifestyle takes discipline. If we want to end the violence, poverty and toxicity in Richmond, we have to take care of ourselves first by living in ways that are aligned with our instincts, and massage therapy is only one of a number of pathways we can take to get there.

There are gardens with medicinal herbs right here in Richmond, harvested and nurtured by experts. I envision more of these gardens, with more community use and participation. I envision a health-conscious city with residents living long lives, un-interrupted by preventable ailments. I see a city where instead of liquor stores on every corner, there are laboratories full of young scientists.

I believe that when we start improving our health by treating ourselves to massage, we will be making a positive change in the community. Perhaps Tupac Shakur said it best: “It’s all good in the hood, for nobody.” If positive change can happen in Richmond, it can happen anywhere.


If you have never been to a massage therapist, this is how your visit might go. During a massage session, you can expect to be lying down in a comfortable position. You will be asked questions such as: How does this feel? Do you like deep pressure or light pressure? Are you allergic to anything? Where are the areas of your body that are experiencing pain in the moment? The practitioner may or may not work on the painful area because the body is interconnected, and working in another area of the body can bring relief. The environment should be cozy. Follow your intuition; you want to feel comfortable with the practitioner.

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