Take Care of Yourself With Massage
Veteran massage therapist Sallie Bowles believes massage should be part of everyone’s lives.
In her more than 20 years as a certified massage therapist at Urban Oasis, Sallie Mowles has seen massage become mainstream. “People have found [the benefit] of taking care of themselves in a preventative way, keeping their minds calm and their bodies relaxed,” says Mowles.
Though she studied art and fashion and worked in retailing and advertising sales, Mowles always enjoyed giving massages to friends and family members. In the early 1990s she decided to “get my hands wet, so to speak” with a six-week massage course at the Chicago School of Massage Therapy. She then completed a yearlong certification program at the CSMT. The school’s owner recommended her to Urban Oasis owner Peter Rubnitz, and she’s worked there ever since.
Like Mowles, many of Urban Oasis’ massage therapists are long-term staffers. “It’s a very comfortable atmosphere—it’s like family,” she says. “Clients get to know their therapists; some clients go to see the same therapist time and time again.” Others will vary their therapists because they know whomever they go to, “they’ll get a great massage.”
Sallie is certified in prenatal massage, a specialty at Urban Oasis, where prenatal massage tables allow pregnant women to lie facedown with their stomachs supported. “Once women experience it, they love it,” she says. “It helps with aches and pains and all the changes their body is going through.” Sallie recommends massage only for women past the first trimester of pregnancy; after that, she says, monthly massage is very beneficial. “After the baby comes, when you’re in the postpartum state, is also a good time to get a massage,” she adds.
Certified in sports massage, Sallie says everyone from teenage athletes to marathon runners can use massage as part of their training. “Through each stage of training for a marathon, as they build their strength and do higher mileage, it takes a toll on their body,” she explains. “With massage, especially after the marathon, it immediately cuts down recovery time from a week to a day or two.”
Oncology massage for people living with cancer, massage for seniors, and massage for people in hospice are all growing trends, says Sallie, who provides massages for patients at a local children’s hospital.
If you’re new to massage, Sallie recommends starting out with hot stone massage, in which heated stones help melt tense muscles away. “It’s very relaxing, and people usually really enjoy it,” she says. Swedish massage is also good for a first-timer. If you’d like more pressure or want to focus on specific muscles, ask about deep tissue massage. For the advanced massage aficionado, Urban Oasis offers Ashiatsu Oriental Bar Therapy, in which the therapist hangs from a bar on the ceiling and massages you with their feet.
To make sure your massage experience is a positive one, Sallie says:
- Feel free to speak up at any time. “If you don’t care for the massage in general, the pressure the therapist is using, or a certain technique, let the therapist know.”
- You don’t have to talk or entertain the therapist. If the therapist is chatting and you’d rather remain silent, tell them.
- “No pain, no gain doesn’t apply to massage,” says Sallie. “It’s not about ‘working out’ your muscles—it should feel good.”
- Get as comfortable as you like. “Under the sheet is a safe environment.”
While massage frequency varies depending on what clients can afford, Sallie recommends getting a massage at least once a quarter, when the seasons change. “Once a month is ideal, and very doable for the majority of people,” she says. During the recession after 2008, she notes, people still came in for massages. “It’s so beneficial, clients realized they’d rather get a massage than go out to dinner. They made it a priority rather than skimping on taking care of themselves.”
If you have an injury, Sallie suggests getting massage once a week for a few weeks. “Then your muscle memory starts to maintain a relaxed state, and you can extend the time between massages a bit longer.”
Beyond the physical aspects, Sallie says massage provides many mental and emotional benefits. “For that hour on the table, [you] don’t have to worry about your outside life.” To ensure you keep the positive results going, she suggests making a return appointment right after your massage, just like you do for a dental cleaning. After all, once you experience the benefits, you’ll realize massage is just as essential to your health as taking care of your teeth.