What inspired you to pursue a career as a massage therapist?
When I was 10 years old, my mom’s friend, Sharon, taught me to do foot massage poolside. I really enjoyed it, and I had quite a few regulars, including my big brothers who heretofore rarely had time for me. Fast-forward to after college, I was living in New York City... I had quit my day job, when I decided to pursue an acting career, so naturally, I became a Captain (aka waiter) at Tavern on the Green. My friend, Mario, an angel-in-waiting, took me to see a psychic, to gain clarity with my new career direction. The first words she said to me were: “You’re a healer,” “But I want to be an actress,” I told her. “Don’t you think acting can be healing?” she asked, and I was off...
I didn’t know it then, but acting would lead me directly to my vocation as a massage therapist. And along the way, it was extremely healing for me. I got to take singing, dance, voice & speech, yoga & movement and of course acting classes. I worked seven shifts a week at the Tavern to pay for it all. I joined several theater companies and performed in many Off-off Broadway plays, and I even did a national tour.
Then, I met a wonderful acting coach, Louis Scheeder, who would change my world in more ways than one. Walking on the tree-lined path to his studio, I noticed the shadows cast by the leaves on the ground and they morphed into a vision: I saw arms and legs, feet, shoulders and soft cream-colored sheets, as clear as one would see on a movie screen close-up. At the time, I had no exposure to massage therapy beyond the foot massage. These images were so unsettling that I nearly cancelled the coaching session. Thankfully, I did work on my monologue with Louis, and it did not end tragically, but rather with a focus on the business of acting and the value of emotional honesty.
Shortly thereafter, I received my first full-body massage from Sadie, a dancer, who was studying at the Swedish Institute, and the vision began to make sense to me. I learned that when a body is draped professionally, the limbs are revealed modestly, for therapeutic access. Receiving massage was so profound for me that after the third session, I said to my friend, “I have to learn how to do this work.” She told that me I was in luck: school was
starting in one week for the last one-year professional training program in NY State.
Knowing how important it is for an actress to have a good support job, my acting coach, Louis, generously loaned me the money to pay for massage school!
When I took my first hands-on Swedish massage class, I knew that massage therapy was a natural path for me. It supported my acting career for 20+ years and allowed me to become the healing artist that I am today.
What is one thing about Massage Therapy you wish people knew?
People often ask me how I can give so much, energetically in a single massage session: “Isn’t it tiring?” “How can you do so many in a day?” and so on… For me, massage is a moving meditation—an art-form/improvisation guided by higher power and directed by the needs and responses of each client. It’s actually energizing to do this work.
What are your words to live by?
“I am Presence, Be Present…”
“Let Go and Let God…”
“If you want love, be loving.”
“Love Life Now; and Now; and Now...”
“Exhale Fully…Pause…Let the Breath Return…Exhale…Inhale… Exhale…Inhale…”
What are your favorite leisure activities?
Dancing, Singing, Two-way Prayer, Playing Guitar, Swimming, Laughing, Cooking with friends… I love all animals.
Gardening is something I’d love to have become a favorite leisure activity, so I’m putting it down to get the ball rolling.
-- Kristin Bernhardt, LMT