Mellow music, mellow fish and a massage to take your cares away
The mood has been set.
The overhead lights turned off.
A dimmed cornflower-blue torch lamp glows in the far left-hand corner of the 8-foot-by-10-foot room.
Along the back wall stands a rustic wood table with tissue box-size drawers and a floor-level shelf. A blue-green lava lamp bubbles atop the right end of the table, while a docile blue beta fish floats right-side-up on the surface of its azure, marble-lined, glass globe.
From the floor-level shelf, the Gaelic melodies of Enya's Watermark drift through the room.
Unfitted lavender cotton sheets line the hip-high massage table in the center of the room. You undress and crawl between the sheets to rest on your stomach. As you succumb to the atmosphere, the bands of stress beneath your shoulder blades begin to evaporate.
In no time Erin Egbert knocks before entering, and for an hour you forget about worldly demands and concentrate on enjoying the ambiance.
Massage is about total relaxation.
It's about improving your quality of life.
Students, firefighters, teachers, doctors, mothers, just about everyone must find a way to balance life's daily demands. You've heard the clichés. "There's just not enough hours in the day." "There's not enough money to go around." Or, "I think I'm about to have a nervous breakdown."
These stresses on time, finances and emotions affect everyone differently and Egbert's goal is to help her clients recover from physical pain, reduce stress or at least escape from the world for a moment.
Egbert works as a massage therapist in Logan, where she uses Biotone brand lotion on her clients. A gallon of the advanced therapy lotion costs around $60. But, she sticks with Biotone because she used it when she was a student at Utah's College of Massage Therapy or UCMT.
Utah has at least four schools dedicated to teaching the art of massage, but Egbert chose UCMT without looking anywhere else. After graduating from Smithfield's Sky View High School in 1999, Egbert considered attending Utah State University, but never enrolled. She loves to learn, but couldn't decide on a specific career path.
Her father suggested that she learn a practical skill before enrolling in college. She heeded his advice and rather spontaneously decided to study massage. Egbert had never had a massage before enrolling at UCMT. She says, "I went into it kind of blind."
She felt comfortable, however, with the atmosphere and impressed with the program. She says, "I was really excited to be in school; it's a good program. They have a lot to offer." So, in May 2000 she enrolled and began her seven-month training.
UCMT packs a lot of information and practical experience into its curriculum. According to UCMT's online Professional Massage Therapy Program overview, students must complete "42-quarter credit hours and 815.5 clock hours" in order to graduate.
Some of the massage techniques or "modalities" that Egbert learned include deep tissue, advanced deep tissue, Shiatsu, Russian, Swedish, trigger point therapy, infant and reflexology.
In her classes Egbert learned about the benefits of massage. Among its claims are: massage can improve circulation, increase metabolism, relieve pain, help relaxation, reduce stress and anxiety, enhance flexibility, strengthen immunity and boost self-esteem.
In addition to education in massage modalities, Egbert also received certifications in CPR and first aid, training in professional development (resume writing, basic business skills and advertising) and exposure to physiology and anatomy.
In learning anatomy, saw more than she anticipated. Some of Egbert's anatomy instruction took place in a cadaver lab. The Deseret News in July quoted UCMT's founder and president Norm Cohn as saying, "If you're going to teach anatomy, the best way to do it is to use cadavers. You want to know what is below the skin when you're working on the surface of the body."
When asked about the cadavers, Egbert laughs, "We don't massage them." It helps to see the muscles, but overall, "That was weird for me. It was good, but it just seemed a little much sometimes."
She explains, "I didn't really need to know what half of a head looked like." It's not the head, but the feet that Egbert enjoys massaging most -- only "if they're clean." With the reflexology modality, "Your organs are all mapped out on your feet and when you work the feet if you have imbalances in those organs, then you can work those organs through the feet."
She adds, "And, it feels good too."
Egbert feels comfortable touching feet or other appropriate parts of the body because, "We don't cross lines," she states. "There's nothing inappropriate."
UCMT cautions its students not to massage someone that they are attracted to. It is essential to maintain a professional atmosphere. And, that is best accomplished by avoiding all potentially problematic situations.
Egbert says that she's massaged people who she thought were attractive, but no one that she was attracted to -- at least not at work.
She explains, "It's different since I'm married, I don't look at people that way." At home, however, she does give her husband massages, but only when she feels like it. She appreciates that he doesn't ask her for them.
Egbert has never seen the Seinfeld episode when Jerry dates a massage therapist. His constant maneuverings for a free massage earn him adamant refusals. Egbert laughs at this story and says that's what is taught -- "do not cross lines."
Egbert did have a client who didn't understand that he needed to climb between the sheets before she entered the room, but that's the most awkward and the funniest situation that she's encountered since she began working.
Egbert didn't need help from UCMT's human resource department, in fact she secured two jobs on her own before she finished school last December. Her first employers were Mount Logan Chiropractic, which opened for business at about the same time that Egbert graduated, and Swiss Renaissance, a salon and spa.
Egbert still works for Mount Logan Chiropractic, averaging 28 hours per week. The remainder of her time is spent at a different full-service salon, Arkana, where she started renting space for $75 a week last October.
The 15 minutes that she spends on the road traveling to work offer much relief from the time she spent commuting during school. Although it's been a year, it hasn't been long enough since she stopped making the daily, 60 minute commute each way between her then-home in Smithfield and UCMT's Layton campus.
The drive "was awful. That was the stupidest thing I did," she said. Egbert would spend eight hours in class and then drive back to Cache Valley and still have to go to work.
She enjoys her work, and balancing the demands of two jobs is easier than that commute. Even though she provides massages for both establishments, her general focus differs for each. At Mount Logan she does more localized treatments, especially if someone is out of alignment. At Arkana most of her clients want full-body massages for relaxation.
Dr. Steven S. Garvert, chiropractic physician and owner of Mount Logan Chiropractic, incorporates massage into his practice because he firmly believes that, "Massage therapy and chiropractic go hand in hand. They are like cake and ice cream."
Garvert believes strongly enough in massage that his patients receive massages at half price. And, he says about 60 percent take advantage of the massage -- the ones who do typically recover faster. Even Garvert gets massages, "but not as much as I should," he says.
Garvert hired Egbert because of her people skills and her ability to communicate with patients. He wants his patients to feel at ease and comfortable with his massage therapists.
Egbert says that Garvert has set up his practice to make massage more affordable for his patients.
"He's really good at getting people to get massages, getting people to get what they need," explains Egbert.
She stays busy at both Mount Logan and Arkana, but with Mount Logan she states, "It's a lot more consistent for me." It's more affordable. She continues, "People can get the treatment that they really need." Mount Logan patients receive half-hour massages for $10 or full-hour treatments for $20.
Egbert charges her Arkana customers and her Mount Logan clients, who do not receive chiropractic treatments, an average fee.
According to the massage network website www.massagenetwork.com, "There is no set price for massage," but prices range "between $25-$75 an hour for therapeutic massage. The average price is $45 to $50 for an hour."
Egbert admits the cost "is a lot." She says, "If I had to pay for it, I would think that it's worth it, but I would think that it is a lot. Now that I am a massage therapist I know, I realize why it costs so much."
Massaging requires a lot of physical stamina and emotional endurance.
"It takes a lot out of you," and many "massage therapists get worn out," she says.
The only thing that's worn out for Egbert are her Enya CD's, which she plays while giving massages. She loves Enya's music, "It's consistent, there's no jumps like in classical, where it can be really intense or just really calm."
Creating the calm environment for massage is of fundamental importance. And, Egbert must do a good job since her beta fish floats peacefully around its bowl.
When asked, "Is it still alive?"
She just laughs and says, "Oh, yeah, he's just really mellow."