Holistic health eases tension through touch

A line starts outside the door as students eagerly wait to for their name to be called. Just beyond the threshold, a sense of serenity imbues the space. Students unfurl their yoga mats and bodies onto the floor. Others lie face down in trance-like states as masseuses work the tension out of their clients’ spines one vertebrae at a time. All is quiet and dark except for the low rumbling of ocean sounds and the natural light spilling through the window.

Nadin Bolon receives a massage from Holiday Hagan, a student that works in the holistic health center at SF State during free massage and yoga hour offered to students and faculty every Wednesday, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2015. (Alex Kofman / Xpress)

Nadin Bolon receives a massage from Holiday Hagan, a student who gives free massages every Wednesday offered to students and faculty Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2015. (Alex Kofman / Xpress)

Health education and holistic-health-certified masseur Devon Keeler, 21, offers massage classes and services to SF State students during Massage Hour in the HSS Building Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Keeler said he fell in love with the idea of Massage Hour two years ago and now works as a self-employed mobile masseur.

“I love massages – it’s a form of meditation for me,” Keeler said. “With today’s world, we are programmed to think constantly and live in our minds. That’s why it’s great to finally step away from that and experience the present moment.”

SF State computer network and programming major Heather Do, 26, said she had tried to relieve her stress with the help of marijuana in the past.

“I have panic attacks from weed, but at the time I was thinking that I was going to be less stressed,” Do said. “But I quickly learned that it causes paranoia if you’re not in a calm state.”

Do said she now prefers engaging in yoga as a better way to manage stress.

According to Keeler, many students prefer yoga and massage over pharmaceutical alternatives to relieve stress.

“Pharmaceutical options generally have short and long-term effects that are harmful,” Keeler said. “Also, these drugs tend to just deal with the symptoms, not the root of the problem. Plus, dependency happens.”

Yoga instructor and Thai massage therapist Kelsie Gray, 21, said the goal of the Holistic Health Learning Center is to provide a safe space for students to heal and step into a stress-free zone.

Kelsie Gray (left), a student instructs free weekly yoga lessons by Jericho Regalado (right) through the holistic health center at SF State every Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2015. (Alex Kofman / Xpress)

Kelsie Gray (left), a student and yoga instructor, helps Jericho Regalado (right) stretch during free massage and yoga hour offered by the holistic health center at SF State every Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2015. (Alex Kofman / Xpress)

“As a yoga instructor and Thai massage therapist, I know how much the slightest touch, open arms and selfless energies can bring people to a better place, and we are so lucky to have an opportunity where we can both give and receive these things at SFSU,” Gray said. “Yoga and massage is an incredible way to work on that physiological and psychological pain, with opening up a completely new perspective of oneself.”

First-time attendee and psychology major Taena Stephans, 21, said she raved about it to her friends and would definitely recommend this campus service to other people.

“I follow the SF State Cares page on Instagram, and I saw them post a flyer for this event for free massages.” Stephens said. “I’ve had a few stressful weeks, so I thought I would treat myself to a relaxing massage.”

Professor Kenn Burrows has been teaching Holistic Health at SF State for the last 25 years. In his professional opinion, Burrows said pharmaceutical drugs and natural methods used to relieve stress, tend to go hand in hand.

“Medicine, because people wait so long to get treated, has a place and we need to recognize it’s invasive,” Burrows said. “Massage comes in to reduce and release stress. It’s not either or, it’s both. If you put it off too long you might need some medicine. We need to be informing medicine and think preventatively, that’s where yoga comes in and body therapy. “

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