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Massage Today
September, 2005, Vol. 05, Issue 09

Toronto Hosts First International Chair Massage Conference

By Cliff Korn, BS, LMT, NCTMB

The first International Chair Massage Conference, held in Toronto, June 18-19, 2005, exceeded attendance expectations, with participants from all over Canada and as far south as Texas! In all, more than 40 participants hailed from the United States.

The conference was produced by BodyworkBiz (which provides marketing/business services to massage therapists) and jointly sponsored by the Association of Massage Therapists and Wholistic Practitioners, Canada's largest massage professional association; Stronglite, a massage equipment manufacturer; and, a Web design/development company.

For the first time, chair massage practitioners were given a public forum to discuss the benefits of their work, as well as an opportunity to network and share ideas and insights on building their businesses and increasing the reach of massage through the use of the chair.

In explaining the structure of the conference, Eric Brown, BodyworkBiz director, said, "In an industry increasingly focused on the rehabilitative aspects of massage, chair massage has been largely undervalued. Many view it only as a backrub or just a relaxation massage. As a result, chair massage has remained an underutilized modality and has been used for the most part to promote clinical services.

"For the first time ever, the conference pulled together massage professionals who see chair massage not just as a tool, but as a calling. They understand the true value of chair massage in making massage accessible to the mainstream public. They appreciate the impact of taking massage out from behind closed doors and introducing millions of people who would never otherwise use massage to the incredible power of structured touch."

The theme of the conference was "Relaxation Matters." Canadian stress-management expert and keynote speaker, Eli Bay, outlined, in a very graphic way, the deleterious effects of stress, not only on individuals, but also on organizations and society. The underpinning of all stress is change, and individuals are faced with exponential increases in the rate of change. As a result, anxiety and depression have become the new epidemics of the 21st century. Conference organizers and presenters explained that as massage professionals, we are uniquely positioned to help society deal with those epidemics.

What was striking about the conference was the incredible diversity in the participants' backgrounds and in the way they use chair massage. Massage therapists with 3,000 hours of training sat beside practitioners with as little as 100 hours of training. They work in environments ranging from bars and golf clubs, to tradeshows and Fortune 500 companies. And despite their range of backgrounds and viewpoints, they were bound together by the goal of bringing massage to the masses through the use of chair massage.

Other highlights of the conference included:

Raymond Blaylock, a pioneer in the world of chair massage and creator of a best-selling video on the subject, gave attendees an overview of the up-and-coming trend of combining stone massage with the seated massage for a truly unique experience. Pierre Chartier, wellness director of the Bank of Canada, discussed wellness programs from a corporate perspective and outlined some excellent approaches for getting into large companies. Eric Brown of BodyworkBiz described for the first time the physiological mechanisms involved in the unique fainting phenomenon that sometimes occurs with chair massage, and gave participants guidelines in preventing this from happening. And Anita Zimmer, director of A Massage Inc., at the Denver, Colorado airport, gave attendees a very real and practical look at the logistics of establishing and operating a successful airport massage store.

While there is no plan to convene the conference on an annual basis, organizers are looking at the possibility of a biannual event. Recordings of the 2005 International Chair Massage Conference will be available online at

Former editor of Massage Today, Cliff is owner of Windham Health Center Neuromuscular Therapy LLC. He is nationally certified in therapeutic massage & bodywork and is licensed as a massage therapist by the states of New Hampshire and Florida. Cliff is a member of the International Association of Healthcare Practitioners; a professional member and past president of the New Hampshire chapter of the American Massage Therapy Association; a certified member of the Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals, Inc.; and a past chairman of the board of directors of the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork.


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