Listen, I’ve got a secret. I’ve been holding onto this one for a long time, and it’s finally the right time to come clean. Ready? Here it is. I hate massage. I’ve always found the stabby pokes and prods from a masseuse completely counter to the idea of relaxation. I’ll spend an hour on the table, desperately trying to enjoy being covered in slimy oil and then pinched until I beg for mercy, but the only relief I find is when I can finally leave the treatment room and run for my car, trailing droplets of patchouli-scented goo as I go.
Well, if we’re being completely honest, I’ll say this: I hated massage. And then I went to Harmony on Hope, and my perspective completely changed. I suspected I was in for something different when I walked into a corridor of medical offices on Hope Street, and was welcomed into Harmony’s bright, airy space, sunlight and warm breezes coming through the open windows. When co-owner Shannon Sexton Potter greeted me and asked if I had any medical conditions I was looking to improve with our session, I knew this was going to be a unique experience.
“When the opportunity arose for me to open my own practice I knew that I wanted to do two things,” Shannon says. “The first was that I wanted the work that we performed to truly be therapeutic; I wanted to be able to ad- dress the medical side of massage and wellness as well as the mental side.” The other thing she wanted was to take the clinical feel out of therapeutic massage, and create a serene space. “If people are relaxed when they get on the table, they receive the mental and chemical benefits of that relaxation, but their bodies are also far better able to receive the work that they need.”
Personally, I needed a break from my lifestyle, which is spending most of my time hunched over a computer or tapping at a smartphone screen. My neck needed a lot of help – my hope was that the tightness in my neck had something to do with the blinding headaches I had been getting recently – and my wrists are regularly sore from the early stages of carpal tunnel. (When I told my doc- tor about this, the conversation went like this: “my wrists ache, and I wake up with numb hands.” “It’s carpal tunnel.” “How do I fix it?” “Surgery. Here’s a hand brace until it gets bad enough to operate.” Am I the only one who has a problem with that?)
Being anti-massage, I wanted to talk to Shannon as she worked on my body, having her explain each thing that she was doing and why. She started by telling me about the unscented lotion she was using on me (thankfully, there would be no patchouli stink that day). As she worked, though, the conversation shifted to medical massage. Half of her clients are just looking to bliss out for an hour, but the other half are looking for relief from health conditions, or as a way to recover from medical treatments, like Parkinson’s Disease, cancer and chemotherapy, digestive issues, paralysis, even infertility. “If we learn to love and embrace our body during illness, it will be so much easier for it to do its job,” Shannon says. “If we are constantly thinking of it as the enemy, then that is how it will act.” She’s also certified to work with kids and adults with ADHD, or who are on the Autism spectrum.
What’s so cool about Harmony on Hope isn’t just the ability to treat medical conditions in an alternative, therapeutic way – it’s that Shannon and co- owner Kelly DeNicolo Huggins designed the place to encourage clients to adopt massage as a regular mode of treatment, not just an occasional indulgence. “In our society we consider relaxation a luxury, which I think says a lot about our culture,” Shannon says. Their tiered payment system rewards frequent customers: the first four sessions of the year are at the full rate (which is still pretty reasonable for a great massage), and then the four sessions after that are $5 less, so ultimately you’re paying $20 less than the price you started at.
I felt so good after my session that I bought a gift certificate on the way out for a friend who’s going through a tough medical issue. Before I left, though, Shannon took a few minutes to show me some stretches I can do on my own to alleviate carpal tunnel without the surgery my doctor wants. They’re definitely helping, and I’ll definitely be back to Harmony on Hope.
Harmony on Hope
355 Hope Street #6