I have been a licensed massage therapist since 2006, and I have thousands of hours of clinical training in the massage and yoga arts. I also have a Master’s in Literature, and I believe in the healing power of reading, writing, storytelling, and story-listening.
I began my bodywork journey as a “myoskeletal mechanic” trained in structural integration, which is a type of manual therapy that focuses on the fascia, or connective tissue, of the body. Through visual and functional assessment, I would identify points of weakness, tension, and compensation, and I would “realign” these imbalances through deep tissue massage. Clients would leave our sessions feeling better and more balanced, but more often than not, the results were short-lived. This was very good for business: I had a months-long wait list of returning clientele, but on a deeper level, I suspected something was wrong with an approach that creates dependence instead of independence. I wanted to help people heal, and I knew there had to be a better way.
I turned to the yoga arts for inspiration. I completed a rigorous 300 hour yoga therapy program at 7 Centers Yoga Arts in Sedona where I learned about the body beyond fascia—the organ systems and nervous systems that were so often overlooked in structural integration. I studied nutrition, meditation, philosophy, and self-care rituals that soon became cornerstones of my personal health and professional practice. I began integrating yogic movement and breath work into every massage, and I watched clients who I’d been treating for years—clients whose progress had plateaued—experience profound shifts toward recovery. Entranced, I completed another 300-hour Baptiste yoga training in Austin where I deepened my study of movement and its impact on whole-body health. As I committed to a daily practice at Breath and Body Yoga, I started to notice significant changes in the architecture of my own body and mind. I felt better than I had in years.
I knew that movement was the missing piece in manual therapy, but I still didn’t understand why. I was stuck in the structural mindset that physical imbalance causes pain, and that strengthening the weak bits/lengthening the tight bits creates more balance, less strain, and less pain. To put it another way, I still thought pain lived in the body. But when a colleague confronted me with the most recent pain science research, I realized I was wrong. To paraphrase neuroscientist Lorimer Moseley, pain is always – 100% of the time – an output of the brain. This doesn’t mean that when you’re hurting, you’re just making it up; it means that pain is created by your brain to protect your body. The body may experience a nociceptive trigger (like touching a hot pan or stubbing a toe), but the brain has to interpret that trigger to tell the body if it is painful or not. And there are plenty of examples where people experience pain without a physical trigger and triggers without pain! (See this super cool video that explains more.) The more danger your brain thinks you’re in, the more pain you will feel. So its not really about the structure of the body at all: its about the brain, and how safe it thinks the body is.
When we move, we’re not just strengthening and lengthening. We’re also building new neural pathways in the brain. We’re teaching the nervous system that the body is safe in previously uncharted territory, and as the brain learns its no longer in danger, it stops sending danger messages and allows the body to relax into new ranges of motion. The more we can engage the nervous system through activity, the more opportunities the brain has to learn. Determined to bring movement home to massage, I created a new, interactive modality called Stretch Bodywork that is not done on or to clients, but with and for them. This movement-based, client-centered approach to manual therapy combines elements of Thai bodywork, yin yoga, and post-isometric stretching to retrain the brain, empower the client, and treat chronic pain. If you’re interested in learning more about Stretch Bodywork and the science of pain, see our online course directory; online bodywork classes are coming in 2021.
A deeper understanding of pain as a biopsychosocial experience, not just a physical experience, is especially relevant to chronic pain care. Because pain lives in the brain, it is highly influenced by memory, emotion, and context. To treat pain, we must understand more than the architecture of the body. We must also understand the unique lived experiences of those who suffer. A person’s story is as important as a person’s structure. This epiphany led me to the Narrative Medicine program at Columbia University, where I studied the stories of illness and pain with Rita Charon, Craig Irvine, Sayantani DasGupta, and a rockstar team of medical care providers from around the world. Ironically, at the cutting edge of pain science, I found myself back where I began–a student of literature. After graduating from Columbia, I co-founded NarrativeRx, an online learning platform that teaches healthcare providers how to interact with patient stories in a clinical setting via poetry, philosophy, and the arts. If you’re interested in finding out more about narrative medicine for pain care, check out our website and join our online community.
RISE Massage Stretch & Wellness
When I opened RISE Wellness Center in 2014, I envisioned it as a healing oasis where bodyworkers, yoga instructors, psychologists, and artists would come together to offer our community a dynamic, interdisciplinary, holistic approach to healthcare. I am proud to watch the dream become reality in Austin and beyond.
Retreats I Lead & Courses I Teach:
- 2020-Ongoing: Healing Arts Zoom Workshops (1 CE hour, offered monthly)
- 2020-Ongoing: “The Bridge”: 9 Weeks of Narrative Medicine Immersion for Pain Care Providers (30 CE hours, offered biannually in Spring and Fall)
- April 2021: Narrative Medicine and Chaplaincy (3.5 CE hours)
- 2019 Summer, Fall, & Winter: “Pain Science Stories”: 5 Week Narrative Medicine Course + Qualitative Research Study
- 2019 Summer: Art of Stretch Bodywork at Breath and Body Yoga (30 CE hours)
- January 2019: Narrative Medicine and Palliative Care (4 CE hours)
- October 2018: Thai Yoga Bodywork for Scoliosis (4 CE hours)
- 2017 Fall – 2018 Summer & Fall: Pain Management Mentorship Program for Manual Therapists (30 CE hours, offered biannually)
- June 2021: “Healing Arts: Elizabeth Bishop and Narrative Medicine” at Disease, Community, and Communication from Antiquity to Today
- October 2020: “Healing Arts: Frida Kahlo, Tony Hoagland, and Narrative Medicine” at Occupational Therapy Association of Colorado’s Conference 2020: OT of the Future: A Prism of Possibilities (2 CE Hours)
- February 2020: “Mary Oliver & Narrative Medicine” at The San Diego Pain Summit
- January 2020: “Narrative Medicine in Trauma-Informed Care” at The Oregon Pain Summit: The Role of Trauma in the New Pain Paradigm (4 CE hours)
- February 2019: “William Carlos Williams & Narrative Medicine” at The San Diego Pain Summit
Education and Certifications:
- Texas Department of State Health Services registered continuing education provider CE# 1928
- Texas Department of State Health Services registered massage instructor MI# 3328
- Texas Department of State Health Services registered massage therapist MT#113951
- 2021: Narrative-Based Medicine with Dr. John Launer (online)
- 2020: Occupational Therapy Association of Colorado’s Conference 2020: OT of the Future: A Prism of Possibilities
- 2020: San Diego Pain Summit: Bridging Clinical Care and Pain Science Research (San Diego, CA)
- 2020: Motivational Interviewing (San Diego Pain Summit)
- 2020: The Science of Stretching, Jules Mitchell (online)
- 2020: The Pain Class- Pain Education Module, Dr. Kevin Cuccaro (online)
- 2020: The Oregon Pain Summit: The Role of Trauma in the New Pain Paradigm (Lebanon, OR)
- 2017-2019: Narrative Medicine, Graduate Certification (Columbia University, NYC)
- 2017: Evaluation and Treatment of Shoulder Injuries: Brian Utting (Austin)
- 2017: Certified in Myoskeletal Techniques: Posture and Pain Specialist (Freedom From Pain Institute, Oklahoma City)
- 2017: Resistance Flexibility Workshop, Dr. Bob Cooley (Austin)
- 2016: Certified in Myoskeletal Techinques: Upper Body Specialist (Freedom From Pain Institute, Oklahoma City)
- 2016: International Association of Yoga Therapy Certified Yoga Therapist
- 2015: Certified in Myoskeletal Techinques: Lower Body Specialist (Freedom From Pain Institute, Oklahoma City)
- 2014: Certified 300-hour Baptiste yoga instructor, Breath and Body Yoga (Austin)
- 2013: Certified 300-hour Ayurvedic yoga therapist by Seven Centers Yoga Arts (Sedona)
- 2011-13: Master of Arts in Literature from the University of Texas at Austin
- 2010: Certified in Thai-Yoga Bodywork by the Vedic Conservatory (Pensacola)
- 2008: Certified in Myoskeletal Alignment Therapy for the shoulder, neck, and pelvis by Dr. Erik Dalton of the Freedom from Pain Institute (Atlanta)
- 2006: Graduate of Pensacola School of Massage Therapy and Health Careers, high performance levels in every general content area of the NCETMB (National Certification Examination For Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork)
Memberships and Affiliations:
- Columbia Medical School, Narrative Medicine
- University of Texas at Austin, Literature
- International Association of Yoga Therapy
- Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals
- National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork
*Julia is no longer taking new clients.