Shiatsu – Not Just for the Traditional Chinese

As the Holidays approach, students at Healing Hands School are busy finishing up Fall classes.  For many students, it marks the end of a year-long program of study that included a 1000 hours of Massage Therapist training and related Holistic Health classes.    During their final week, anxiety levels rise as students prepare for written exams and “Public Day”.  For most it is “Public Day” that is most intimidating as it requires they perform massages on public volunteers tasked with evaluating their newly acquired hands-on skills. 

One of the classes hosting a “Public Day” this week was Shiatsu, taught by Staff Instructor, Raina Colvin.  Based on the ancient holistic system of Traditional Chinese and Japanese Medicine, Shiatsu massage has been an integral part of health care in Japan for hundreds of years.  Designed to improve the flow of qi (energy) in the body, Shiatsu helps to restore balance and facilitate optimum health.  Using fluid strokes, a Shiatsu massage therapist will apply finger and palm pressure along 12 energetic pathways in the body called “meridians”.    It is performed on a floor mat with the patient dressed in loose clothing so his/her body may be manipulated by the Therapist.  Its effects include:  a calming of the sympathetic nervous system; improved circulation and range of motion; a reduction in muscle stiffness, anxiety, and stress; plus an enhanced sense of well-being.   Below is one student’s account of her “Public Day”.

“There was an atmosphere of nervous excitement as me and thirty of my class-mates dragged our Shiatsu mats up the staircase to the classroom.  Our instructor, Raina, seemed calm and collected as she greeted us cheerfully and orchestrated the room’s  set-up.  Downstairs, a crowd of thirty-one public volunteers began gathering, awaiting their opportunity to receive a free hour and a half massage from a Healing Hands student.  Though most were unfamiliar with the massage modality, all seemed eager for the experience and we could hear their chatter grow louder by the minute.

A half hour later, soft,  instrumental music filled the room and thirty-one colorful Shiatsu mats blanketed the floor giving the classroom a surreal  look as thirty-one volunteers began streaming in.   Raina was to meet and briefly interview each before matching them to a student / therapists.  Hidden in the far right corner of the room, I was totally surprised when the first volunteer Raina assigned was directed to me.   As she approached, I was relieved to see that I’d be working with a petite, young woman who appeared to be in excellent health – piece of cake, I thought to myself.  Following my in-take interview however, I learned that due to severe Scoliosis, my piece of cake had two Titanium rods attached to both sides of her spine!  The implants had become necessary when she reached puberty and the surgery was performed to keep her up-right and mobile.  At first, this news terrified me, but after a brief consultation with Raina, I learned the only Shiatsu move I need avoid in this special case was the Spinal Twist.  With a renewed sense of confidence, and strong desire to give this young girl some relief from severely over-taxed back muscles, I began the massage. 

First I warmed her up with one hand on her sacrum (to create a rocking motion) while the other carefully applied pressure along the length of both sides of her spine.  I could feel the hardness of the rods in her back and the heat from inflammation of the surrounding muscles.   Almost immediately my patient began to breathe more deeply and relax into the rhythmic motion.  As she did, I glanced around the room to see that the ambiance of our playful classroom had transformed once again.  This time, with lights low, it seemed to morph into a sacred Temple filled with extremely compassionate and focused Healers.  Everyone was working so intently you could hear a pin drop, despite there being over 63 people present.   

Performing a Shiatsu Massage

Performing a Shiatsu Massage

After my warm-up, I began applying finger and palm pressure along the different meridians of my patient’s back, neck and shoulders, before moving on to those in her arms, legs and feet.  While I worked, I kept my mind focused on my intention, as Raina had taught us.  Rather than worry about whether I was executing all the moves correctly, I thought only of my client, tuning in to her every reaction to my touch, and staying focused on facilitating her comfort and creating a space for healing.  When Raina announced the end of the session, I felt as if only moments had passed and I’d been awakened from a deep, deep trance.  My client, who was face down at the time, rose from my mat with tears in her eyes and out-stretched arms gesturing for a hug.  As I complied, she expressed her deep appreciation for what she called “the best massage she’d ever experienced”.   Confused by her tears, I asked “if it was good, then why are you crying?” to which she replied “no-one has touched my back since the surgery nearly 12 years ago for fear of hurting me, and I really missed being touched”.   It was at that moment that I knew I had chosen perfect massage school for my education.  Unlike many other programs where the faculty focuses on the technical aspects of massage, the Instructors at Healing Hands taught us how to become compassionate Healers as well. ”

We’ve Got Your Back! Veterans Special

Massage Therapy for Veteran’s:

 “We’ve Got Your Back!”

Holiday Special

In celebration of the 2013 Holiday Season and in recognition of Veterans’ service to our country, Veteran/Students at Healing Hands School of Holistic Health (HHSHH) will be offering Complimentary One-hour Therapeutic Massages to all US Veterans.  The “We’ve Got Your Back!” holiday special will run from December 16 – January 12th at our Escondido Student Massage Clinic located at 125 West Mission Avenue Suite #212, Escondido, CA 92025.   Interested Veterans may call us at (760) 746-9364 to schedule their free massage.

While HHSHH has a Community Internship Program in which students provide massage therapy to Veterans at Recuperative Care Centers and Resident Facilities in the Escondido area, this is the first time Healing Hands School has grouped our Veteran Student Massage Therapists to provide massage therapy  for our  Veteran community.  San Diego County has the largest percentage of veterans in California. This is the county where many did their training and were deployed from; this the county our veterans come back to. Our hope is that bringing veteran students in therapy with other veterans, that we co-create a healing environment.  Our veteran students are adept at sharing how holistic health practices such as Massage Therapy, Deep-Tissue Manipulation, Acu-pressure (TuiNa), Meditation, Tai Chi, etc., have assisted them in their own healing process.    

As a population group, veterans are documented to have symptoms of Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder, [PTSD] at a rate of 30 to 50 percent of the men and women who have spent time in a war zone. Many studies found that massage therapy creates a drop in Cortisol levels (stress hormones) reducing feelings of hyper-arousal and super-vigilance many Veterans experience.  In addition they found massage therapy substantially increases Serotonin and Dopamine which increase feelings of well-being, reduce feelings of anxiety, and relieve Insomnia.  (To read one such report, please see Touch Research Institutes – University of Miami School of Medicine’s report online at:  www.//

Veteran/Students and family members volunteering for this “We’ve Got Your Back” Veteran’s event used their Veterans Title IX Benefits, Post 9/11 Benefits or MyCAA Benefits to cover their educational costs.  With Graduation only a year away,  job growth predicted at 18% annually (faster than any other industry) and a starting salary of $25 to $45 on average, HHSHH Veteran/Graduates enjoy a financially supportive as well as an emotionally rewarding career.

Healing Hands School of Holistic Health is considered a Massage Therapy School, a Holistic Massage School, and a Holistic Health School.  Our top-notch Instructors are experts in their respective subjects.  Nationally Accredited and State Certified, HHSHH has been serving residents through two regional campuses located in Escondido and Laguna Hills for over 21 years.  With two Certification Programs and more than 80 Holistic Health and Massage Therapist training courses to offer, HHSHH is considered a path-blazer for Holistic Health Education in Southern California.  To date, HHSHH has prepared more than 6,000 students for successful and rewarding careers as Massage Therapists or Holistic Health Practitioners.   To learn more visit us at

Healing Hands School 2014 Winter Quarter Newsletter

Hello Healers,

Dedicated Therapists and Practitioners continually improve their healing skills by practicing their craft and by exchanging technique and information. As a school, Healing Hands continually re-examines our course work, looking to strengthen curriculum and provide the student of holistic health studies with an ever-more comprehensive experience.  The Winter quarter of courses reflects the restructuring of several great courses taught by some of our most respected instructors.

JR Price’s MyoFascial Meridians for Pain Relief; Shannon Gonzales’ Clinical Acupressure; Claudia Baben’s Thai Herbal Ball; and Denise Fultz’ Reflexology courses have all been significantly increased in course hours to give  students more opportunity to work with these highly skilled instructors. Ken Smith’s 80 hour Structural Integration course has been re-designed into 2 courses: Principals of Structural Integration and 10 Sessions of Structural Integration, almost doubling the course hours for this bodywork style based on Ida Rolf’s therapy. This quarter’s new courses include Jennifer Johnson bringing us Massage as a Business in Laguna Hills; Denise Giusti presents BioDynamic CranioSacral Therapy and Perla Pintado brings Chakra Balancing to Escondido.

This quarter we congratulate our newest Holistic Health Practitioners! Desiree Adams, Michelle Amundson, Johnny Azevedo, Shannon Cantabrana, Grant Chamberlain, Meliza Gosnel, Jake Henderson, Oliver Hart, Sean Ikola, Daniel Jackson, Chris Ludwig, Delaney McCall, Tyler Muehlhauser, Christina Nelson, Marty Neuville, Mina Robinson, Kelly Schepe, Ashley Smith, Karin Torrence, Jessie Thompson, Kristen Zayac, and Angela Zayas.  It has been a pleasure to work with you, to share with you and to get to know you. You have brought your unique gifts to share with Healing Hands; you’ve gone camping at the Holistic retreat with your families; you’ve contributed with of your generous nature and helped co-create a healing environment here, as you worked diligently to complete your program. Your work as a healer was well begun. As you bring your skills to your families and communities, may you, as Thoreau tells us, “Meet with an unexpected success as you advance confidently in the direction of your dreams and live the life you imagine”  

In Peace and Health, Paula & Neha


All of us at Healing Hands

Make-Up Class Escondido

Location: Escondido Classroom

If you are in need of make-up hours you can make-up ANY class at this 4 hour session.  Be prepared to do the class you are making up.  Ei: if you are making up Shiatsu be prepared to do Shiatsu, Anatomy bring your Anatomy book a pen and paper.  

The cost is $30 if prepaid or $35 for walk-ins.  Contact either Escondido or Laguna Hills to register and pay.

Massage Therapy School at Veterans’ Career Fair

Veterans Day

In honor of Veterans Day, Healing Hands School of Holistic Health (HHSHH) attended a job fair organized by Vet Ready, in San Diego.  Vet Ready is a non-profit corporation that organizes Resource and Career Fairs designed for personnel leaving the service, as well as Veterans who have already transitioned but are seeking a career change. The event was well-attended by providers of Veterans’ Services as well as local businesses offering job opportunities.

Though HHSHH was the only Massage Therapy school at the event, our booth was among the most popular.   Director of Special Funding & VA Certifying Official, Ms. Harmony Curtiss, and Student Intern Larry Miranda, gave free Chair -massage to Veterans and their families.  Thanks to the therapeutic body-work being done, we attracted a steady stream of Veterans throughout the day.

While Healing Hands students consistently provide massages to deserving Veterans; that was just one objective for sponsoring this event.  Another was to inform Vets of how the Massage Therapy industry has exploded into many new arenas putting Massage Therapists in high demand.  We shared a US Department of Labor Statistics report that predicted Massage Therapy jobs will continue to grow at a rate of 19% nation-wide through 2018 (faster than any other industry). 

We explained that HHSHH is a nationally accredited school, recognized by the Dept. of Education and authorized to receive VA Benefits (Title ix and Post 9/11) and My CAA (for spouses of Military personnel).  We also shared testimony from Veteran Graduates who said our Holistic Health Program not only provided them with an enriching education, it prepared them for a meaningful career and a starting salary of $25 to $40 an hour, all in less than a year! 

Due to our school’s on-going Internship Programs at Veterans’ Recuperative Care Centers and with Wounded Warriors, we have another objective for working with our veteran community which we find most rewarding.  We are very interested in the study of how and why Massage Therapy seems to reduce several primary symptoms of Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder, PTSD, including: Insomnia, irritability, physical pain, muscle tension, Anxiety and Depression.  (For those of you unfamiliar with PTSD, it is a debilitating psychiatric disorder that affects 30 to 50 percent of the men and women who have spent time in a war zone.) 

Until now, psychotherapy and medication have been the traditional treatments for PTSD.  New technologies, however, are making it possible to measure changes in biochemistry following massage therapy.  These include: a decrease in Cortisol levels (stress hormones) which reduce the feelings of hyper-arousal and super-vigilance; and an increase in Serotonin and Dopamine, which increase feelings of well-being, reduce feelings of anxiety and involuntarily contracted muscles that can contribute to pain, reduced range of motion and Insomnia.   By Healing Hands School attending the career fair for veterans, we are able to open up dialogue with veterans who may want to learn about the potential of holistic healing for their own lives.   

With PTSD numbers are on the rise as more and more troops return home; imagine how rewarding it could be to specialize in Massage for Vets.  More than just offering immediate relief, you can help to restore their most basic and fundamental needs of trust, control, safety, self-love, belonging, hope and optimism.   

To thank Veterans for their sacrifice and service to our country, HHSHH is offering complimentary, therapeutic massages at either of our School’s Student Massage Clinics from December 16 – January 3.  To schedule your massage with a Healing Hands Healer, call Hayley in Laguna Hills (949) 305-2722 or Brandon in Escondido at (760) 746-9364.