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Mind and body find healing at the hands of massage therapists

May, 2010

In caricature, a massage therapist would have giant hands, to encompass and bring comfort. She would have very big ears, to listen and offer compassion. But her mouth would be tiny, because her energy is stronger in silence.

Melanie Amyot and Lindsay Loyt­chenko are not caricatures, but they recognize the power of the image.

As therapists at Mandala Spa Urbain, they meet and develop relationships with people from all walks of life and in every stage of their development. Amyot, who discovered her calling in primary school, giving hand massages to her 8-year-old compatriots, and Loytchenko are certified by the Fédération québécoise des massothérapeutes, the largest professional association in the massage therapy sector in Québec.

They say baby boomers and beyond are often turned on to the concept by their children, who give them gift certificates for massage on special occasions.

Their approach to older clients is softer, physically and emotionally, Amyot says.

“You won’t touch them the same way,” she says. They use a lighter touch because the soft tissue degenerates with age and some people bruise easily. She notes that some clients may also be self-conscious removing their clothes. “They might have been raised in a more prudish family – they don’t talk about this. You must explain what you are doing and tell them they have to speak up if they feel something is wrong. Their culture is such that they don’t complain.”

Lindsay Loytchenko (left) and Melanie Amyot use a soft touch with older clients. Photo: Hayley Juhl

Massage therapy focuses on muscles, which are designed to protect our bodies. When a person falls, for instance, the muscles tense and sometimes have trouble letting go. Muscle memory is so powerful that, on subsequent falls or near-falls, they remember what they did last time, jump into action, and the results are progressively more painful. Massage must not start immediately following an injury, as muscles need time to settle down while the body begins its own healing process. Forcing the issue could cause more damage.

“Massotherapy is never a one-time deal,” Loytchenko says. “Our older clients are more patient and understand that this is a process, that they have to retrain their muscles.”

Amyot tries to put a lifetime of various muscle strains into perspective: “It’s one hour a month to deprogram your entire body. It goes like this: Your muscle tells your brain you are in danger. Your brain tells your muscle to tense. Your muscle tells your brain you need to be protected. Your brain tells your muscle to stay tense. Muscle-brain-muscle-brain, like a wheel.”

Tissue and personality meet beneath their hands, Loytchenko says: “You learn about people’s muscles, but you also learn about them. You remember things about them that other people in their life don’t. You know – literally – every inch of them.”

“You will never know their family,” Amyot says, “but you are part of their family. Finding the right massage therapist is like finding the perfect jeans.

“You have to shop around, and when you find the one that fits, you keep them forever.”

Mandala Spa Urbain, 6255 Monk, offers a range of services, including massage and thai massage therapy, naturopathy, estheticians and various courses, including yoga. The spa sells locally produced lotions as well as holistic teas, gift baskets and European makeup. 514-769-6789,



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