Conversations with… Massage therapist Julia Jenkins
By Paola Bassanese
Q: You have been a massage therapist for 19 years! What is your secret?
A: The average massage therapist working on a full time basis as an employee may only last a few years in the profession due to the wear and tear on the body and sheer physical exertion. The longevity of my career as a massage therapist is mostly due to the fact that my diary is flexible and I have been able to work around my sons growing up.
My secret is that I love the human body and I am fascinated with anatomy and physiology: the mechanics, the names of all the muscles. The body, with all the varieties and adaptations of each individual, is a miracle and a perfect, wonderful machine. That is my inspiration. I also have a very supportive family, which understands me, my commitments and my goals. My husband, an ex rugby player, is still very active and my children are very physically active too.
Q: Why did you decide to become a massage therapist?
A: It was initially because I was really interested in injuries and inbalances in the body. As I said before, my husband was a rugby player and I wanted to be able to help when he had an injury or was battered from a particularly hard game! I also needed to do something to bring me back to the land of the adult, my children were my priority and I was fortunate enough to be able to stay at home to look after them, but my brain craved learning. Monday was the only possible night to study so the choice was ITEC Swedish Massage and Anatomy & Physiology, some form of catering diploma or bricklaying!
Q: What do you love about being a massage therapist?
A: I love being able to speak to a client and begin to piece together a treatment plan as I listen, all the time observing how they move when they talk. I use the variety of skills I have picked up over the years to offer my clients a unique, tailor made treatment. In the past I have done a lot of sports massage. Interestingly, my clients who loved sports massage now prefer a different type of treatment, a more rebalancing approach. You need to look at the whole wellbeing circle and massage is one of the key components, together with healthy eating and exercise.
Some of my longer standing clients have been coming to see me for 17 years! Men in particular respond very well to massage, as they seem to really understand the benefits of massage, putting appointments in their diaries and prioritising their health. I really wish women would take more time for themselves and make more use of this fabulous therapy.
Massage is not just about relaxation and I am currently seeing clients with a variety of problems. A quick snapshot of the last couple of weeks shows I have dealt with issues ranging from classic back and neck pain to rheumatoid arthritis, stress and panic attacks. All things that require a professional, tailored made treatment.
I love massage because it has so many benefits:
Some of my favourite massage modalities are Lava Shell massage (using both hot and cold lava shells) and using craniosacral therapy (Upledger) to really ‘listen’ to what the body is ‘saying’ and react accordingly. However, my favourite type of work is touch, just being able to use my hands and feel the changes in the body. To me massage is like a dance, a meditation and you can get lost in it. It’s such a privilege that clients put their trust and body into my hands.
Q: Talking of meditation, how often do you practice it?
A: I teach mindful meditation for small groups. I take any opportunity to meditate to find my centre and stay focused and grounded. The great thing about meditation is that it only takes a couple of minutes to feel the wonderful release and it helps me cope if things get too much.
Q: How are you keeping healthy in general?
A: I must say I am dreadful at looking after myself! I want to make some lifestyle changes because I plan to be able to keep working for a few more years. My neck and back are getting more painful but thankfully one of my ex clients is now a massage therapist and she is treating me. The problem is that I tend to put other people first and have difficulty saying no! I am a natural nurturer, empathetic with people and often the first port of call when they have a problem! But, you can’t give from an empty cup and although it has taken many years, I, at last understand the importance of looking after ME! My work is so intrinsically linked with my life and I’m so passionate about it, it’s rather an obsession. I am now looking after myself more, there are no excuses. I want to be the best therapist and the healthiest person, I can possibly be.
Q: Any final thoughts?
A: I am camera phobic but I have now decided to have some professional pictures taken for my website. I use a Lava Shell publicity shot for my cards and website. People think this gorgeous lady is me, so they are rather puzzled when they actually meet me. Watch this space!
About Julia Jenkins
A professional massage therapist trained in Aromatherapy, Sports massage, Upledger Craniosacral Therapy, La Stone, Lava Shell with 19 years’ experience. She teaches Mindfulness Meditation and has taught Reiki, Massage, Aromatherapy, Facial Care and Hopi Ear Candling.