I was finishing my bachelors at UCSD in cognitive neuroscience at the time, and feeling disconnected with my surroundings. I had mentioned wanting to do some soul searching and healing work to a dear friend and mentor of mine, which is how I came to IPSB. I walked in and saw one of the admissions advisors, who was really friendly and toured me around. I took a late summer session of Essentials with Shari Grayson, Nestor, Tammi and Desiree in 2011.
It was a profound experience for me to begin my day with meditation, checking in with my feelings, setting my intention and doing some light movement to ready my body. I took a quarter off of UCSD to immerse myself in this new world. I learned how to massage others, yes, but I found I learned more about myself in this process than I had ever expected. I learned certain kinds of touch subdued me, certain kinds of touch aggravated me, and myofascial work made me feel free in my body. I am queer, a gender warrior, and I had a lot of fear walking into a classroom and getting asked to be undressed for a number of reasons, one being that my body and gender expression is less common than generally expected. I had such good, healing and affirming experiences in this process, and it affected me deeply. You see, I had never expected massage would be my career; I came here for the experience to do some personal growth work with myself. After a transformative summer in Essentials, I knew I wanted to come back.
I finished up my time at UCSD the following spring, in 2012 – just in time to receive a call for an Education Coordinator. I was so eager to give back to IPSB for the incredible experience I had had, and so I applied and got the job. I had the privilege of being the liaison between administration and faculty, and between my tasks of bookstore keeping, quarterly schedule making and other miscellaneous activities to create a vibrant workspace, I became aware of something. The process of transformation in the students all around me. IPSB had attuned me to notice shifts in energy – not only were these things I felt real (and had little to do with me), but they usually manifested in a physical way. This school is so much more than a massage school, and people come from all over the world to receive training in massage from the incredible faculty. But back to my story: something transforms in these students as they go through their training here. There is a shift in body posture, there’s a growth in knowledge and confidence, but there’s a quality that changes in their eyes in particular that caught my attention. I can’t quite explain it other than to say that I have have a long history growing up learning people by their eyes – there’s quite a bit to notice in a person’s gaze.
My studies were not over. It wasn’t long before I was taking classes and earning my MT program certificate and then state and now national licensure. Several faculty were instrumental in my development: with my knowledge of anatomy, physiology and body mechanics (thanks Jack Baker and Charlene Penner), James Stewart taught me Sensory Repatterining – a great class to pair with Neuromuscular Repatterining with John Economos – and Diana Panara’s “Shake Shake” shook my world quite literally. In fact, even faculty I never took classes with, Chris Okuma and Virginia Wilke for example, helped me connect to my own biorhythms and craniosacral pulse. If I could have, I would have taken every single class at IPSB and gone through each specialization.
Today, I work for myself while continuing forward in my education at the prompting of Janis Johnson and the brilliant questions of possibility which Gloria Sobol naturally engenders. I am currently in physics, organic and biochemistries on my way to becoming a physician, specifically an Osteopath (a type of doctor known for muscular adjustments). If not for IPSB in particular in my judgement, I could have never survived even my first class of hardcore sciences. IPSB granted me the context to understand energy so that now as I learn about the quantifiable aspects of it, I feel more deeply connected to all around me.
I own and operate Integrō Health where I offer massage, nutrition coaching and personal training. In my massage, I predominantly employ Sensory Repatterining to help clients gain expansive awareness of motion where they were previously limited. I did a case study with one of my chronic pain clients who came to me after seeing several doctors, physical therapists and other practitioners to no avail. I told her she’d “love it” – wise advice from Skip Kanester – and we both did! She had one session per week for a total of 5 weeks. She wrote feedback on what she observed about her changes, and I continued to note and feel differences in her tissue along the way. She had come to me originally with a severe limp, plantar fasciitis, and general discomfort; she walked away with a 90% improvement in her gait and almost no pain, something she had never experienced before. This stayed with her for several weeks before needing a “touch up” with me. It was deeply fulfilling to help in such a significant way.
Service is a great way to give forward, discover more intimately my bliss (there is most power in this), and hone my skills. I do this is by offering chair massage to the local spiritual communities on Sundays in my area and for those interested in nutrition coaching, a half hour complimentary consultation. I staff often for the ManKind Project in their GBTQ New Warrior Trainings to help others come into their authentic truth. This provides me with a sense of nurturing my immediate surroundings, practice in “trusting the process”, creating the world I want to be part of, and being part of it. People seek me out for the services I provide because they have gotten a chance to feel into what it could be like to work with me in a more formal sense.
IPSB has made me a successful, intuitive and skilled massage therapist, yes, but even more than that, every single person – faculty, staff and student – I interacted with at this school has encouraged and at times challenged me, to grow into who I am today. It is who I am that ultimately inspires people to work with me from all over the world. Anyone can learn a skill set, but it is the relationship between practitioner and client that ultimately transforms all who are willing enter into that possibility towards happiness, health and wholeness. In this way, a person can experience what they seek in their mind, body and spirit. Without attachment to outcome, of course.
To learn more about Chris Gauthier and Integrō Health, visit https://www.facebook.com/IntegroHealthSD/