Holistic Healing for socialites, CEOs…and you
By Audrey D. Brashich
Located about twenty miles outside New York City, Greenwich, Connecticut, is home to Wall Street bankers, celebrities like Diana Ross, and Hands On Massage Therapy and Wellness Center. Around the corner from a charming New England shopping street, the center is tucked into a plain brick building housing mostly doctors’ offices. Traditional spa amenities like relaxing fountains and pitchers of triple purified water are absent—as are deluxe terry robes and bowls of fruit. So then why all the fuss? Because of the highly effective integrative programs, personalized attention, and customized body treatments.
Melissa Hamilton and Patrick Gunshinan, the husband-and-wife team that founded the center in 1993, draw on their backgrounds in physiology and healing when prescribing services from relaxing massage to neuromuscular therapy, acupressure, and lifestyle coaching. Gunshinan, a certified reflexologist, has trained at the Stress Massage Institute in Colorado and the Swedish Massage Institute in New York, while Hamilton is a certified exercise physiologist and hypnotherapist.
Before recommending any services, Hamilton interviews new clients by phone to understand their objectives, habits, and past injuries. “It’s very important for me to know what your goals are, and why you have them,” she explains emphasizing that there’s too much media focus on rapid weight loss instead of sustainable healthy eating and living habits. “It helps me know how much you’re willing to put into being well . . . because unfortunately there are no quick fixes.” If her recommended therapeutic course includes coaching, Hamilton has clients begin a food and lifestyle journal, plus complete small homework assignments, like committing to walking a half-hour per day, or cutting down on (not eliminating) daily treats. “Our clients participate in what they want to achieve,” says Hamilton.
Gunshinan, who has been called both a “healer” and a “living teddy bear” by devoted clients, performs most of the therapies—some of which are the Zen massage, a two-hour massage and reflexology session that includes a locally-blended massage oil like lavender (a natural muscle relaxant) or jasmine; the Quick Fix, an intense foot and scalp massage; and Reiki, Japanese natural energy healing; plus fitness training, stress management, and wellness workshops.
Given that I’m training for the New York City marathon in November, Hamilton recommended a massage with varying techniques that would take into consideration the muscle soreness common to many distance runners plus the chronic lower back pain that several chiropractors have been unable to cure. To start, I chose the uplifting lemon and bergamot aromatic oil, and Gunshinan had me lie on the massage table face up instead of starting me in the conventional position on my stomach. “Most people harbor stress in their back, neck, and shoulders,” he explained. “So I like to work on that area last for a huge release.”
He began by lightly manipulating my face while pressing on key acupressure points, which really magnified just how much tension we hold in our jaws and between our eyes. As he moved on, it felt like whichever area of my body he was working on was getting all his attention. Gunshinan is the type of practitioner that doesn’t let his hands leave a client’s body, and his technique is thorough and intense yet gentle. He manipulates my shoulders and arms, raising them over my head to actively stretch them and increase their range of motion; he carefully works out the kinks in each finger and toe. And when it came to my lower back, he increased the pressure and depth of the tissue work, alleviating pain without causing me any. He also suggested some new stretches to help keep the area flexible after long training runs.
“To take responsibility for your own health, you really have to listen to your own body,” explained Hamilton, which can be applied to my condition and many other ailments. “But it’s also OK to just come in to relax.” Luckily, Hands On Massage can help with both.
Hands on Massage Therapy and Wellness Center, (203) 531-7929. 120-minute Zen Massage, $300; 60-minute Reflexology, $90; Quick Fix, $50; 60-minute Swedish/Sports/Deep Tissue massage, $90; Wellness Coaching, $300 per month