“Located on the corner of Ionosphere and Tenacity…

head_img_worksmartThe Berkana Institute of Massage Therapy revealed today its massage therapy licensure program will relocate to Prospect New Town, Colorado as of July 2017. Plans to convert the current Lower Downtown Denver campus into a Massage Therapy Co-Op and Continuing Education Facility for NCBTMB Approved Providers and fellow Holistic Educators were also announced.

“Prospective students from Colorado and the entire nation seek out The Berkana Institute of Massage Therapy for its pillars of excellence: A faculty of devoted experts, mindful and holistic approach, small classes, accelerated learning, and professionalism. Our exquisite environment also plays a large role in students’ desire to attend and bolsters their success,” explained Jill Kristin Berkana, founder and director. “As our licensure preparatory program strives to be on the cutting-edge for our rapidly evolving profession, it was time to find a new home that could match our holistic intent, and remain true to our core values. With wall-to-wall windows, endless natural light, beautiful architecture that borders a large public park, and the overall tranquility of the neighborhood, our new location will empower students to learn and grow in congruence with this progressive, mindful, and artistic community.”

Conveniently located on the corner of Ionosphere and Tenacity in Prospect New Town, the new Berkana Institute of Massage Therapy location resides on a bus line and off of a major highway. Students can easily commute from most of Colorado’s premier Front Range destinations in as little as 20-40 minutes. Such accessibility permits students to reside in nearby locations most affordable and appealing to their personal styles.

Named “The Coolest Neighborhood in the United States” by Dwell Magazine and winner of the Governor’s Smart Growth Award for its innovative alternative to suburban sprawl, the prime location in Prospect New Town provides ample parking, restaurants, and boutiques all within walking distance—establishing The Berkana Institute of Massage Therapy as a true destination.

Pending approval from the Colorado Department of Higher Education, Private Occupational School Board, the grand opening of the new Prospect New Town location is scheduled for Mid-July 2017. Courses for the entry-level program will begin in the newly-renovated space in Late-July 2017. Inaugural, class-only residents from Denver and further away will receive special incentives. Furthermore, a Student Clinic will be established shortly after to serve the Prospect and Longmont communities with affordable massage therapy.

Berkana described plans for the Denver location: “As The Berkana Institute of Massage Therapy continues to align with the needs of the massage therapy and bodywork profession, we have not forgotten the wonderful city and people of Denver that helped establish our premier brand. For that reason, our Board of Advisors have agreed to convert the current LoDo location into a Massage Co-Op to further support our graduates and the greater community. In addition, we will dedicate a portion of the space to act as a Continuing Education Facility for local and international NCBTMB Approved Providers and fellow Holistic Educators.” Additional information regarding the plans to convert the Denver location into a Massage Co-Op and Continuing Education Facility will be released in the coming weeks.

About Prospect New Town

Prospect New Town is Colorado’s first New Urbanist community located on a former 80-acre tree farm in the southwest pocket of Longmont. Framed by snow-capped peaks and surrounded by farmland, it’s the perfect pocket of city in a rural setting. Locally owned restaurants and boutiques offer city chic with personalized, small-town service. It’s home to an array of lively, year-round events such as wine tastings, food trucks and cycling events. Intimate streets and walkways connect homes to numerous parks, shops and workspaces making it an ideal place to live and work.

For more information, please visit www.prospectnewtown.com.

About The Berkana Institute of Massage Therapy

The Berkana Institute of Massage Therapy is an nationally-recognized, accelerated, and premier Massage Therapy Licensure School dedicated to cultivating professional, competent, and compassionate bodywork artists in Colorado. The rigorous, 5-month program (offered in the Spring and Fall) is founded on a comprehensive curriculum, expert instruction, and state of the art equipment in a focused environment. Berkana students maintain an impressive 100% first-attempt success rate on the U.S. state licensing examination, the MBLEx.

The Berkana Institute of Massage Therapy is an approved school through the Colorado Department of Higher Education, Private Occupational School Board, The National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCBTMB), and the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA). Additionally, the school provides top-notch Continuing Education for the profession and greater Berkana community as an Approved Continuing Education Provider through NCBTMB. The Berkana Institute of Massage Therapy is approved by the VA to accept the GI Bill. Affordable tuition payment plans and opportunities for discounts are available.

For more information, please visit www.berkanainstitute.com.


Free Student Chair Massage? Nope!

NO FREEE STUDENT MASSAGESI have written this message about 3 dozen times in the last few years. This morning I started to write it again and so it seemed time to blog this out and save myself some time.

As a one-woman-show, massage school owner/operator I am only representing myself in this message, but I know many schools will echo my sentiments.

Every year I am approached by several companies who want my school to provide free student massages for their awesome and hard working employees. Most often the employers soliciting my school are non-for-profit providers of some kind of worthy service to the greater public; and so it seems reasonable that these workers should receive free massages from student therapists.

Your employees probably do deserve free massages, but the organization needs to budget and plan accordingly to pay for these real services.

There has been this broad misconception that somehow massage schools are in desperate need to have their students provide massage therapy in order to meet the clinical practicum requirements of their massage therapy educational program. The organizers/solicitors believe they are approaching the massage schools with a great opportunity for the students to work with their worthy group, and also get some much needed practice. Seems like a win-win! Nope.

Any legitimate massage therapy school is going to have everything set up to meet their students needs prior to opening the school. They have to in order to be approved by the regulatory bodies that are protecting the public. Additionally, most regulatory agencies require any new class location to be approved prior to taking students there, AND often that requires filling out a form, paying a fee, and then appearing before a regulatory board at the next board meeting. At least that is how it works for me in Colorado.

Reality Check! We can’t drop everything and on a whim pack up massage tables, chairs, linens, hygiene maintenance materials, forms, load it in a van…so our students can come massage your staff this coming Tuesday afternoon. Think about it. The students must have supervision, there is equipment, paperwork, travel, loads of people involved. This requires great effort and we can’t do it, and definitely not for free.

If you wish to provide massage therapy for your awesome staff who certainly do deserve it, please consider starting this conversation with a school a year in advance of an ONGOING arrangement, and find the funding in your budget to appropriately support the school’s efforts.

Alternatively, you can arrange with a school to buy a package deal of student massages in their student clinic, and I am sure they will give you a discounted rate.

Back in the day when there was very little regulation of massage therapy and massage education free student chair massage probably happened a lot. It is over now so please stop asking for free student massage in exchange for the great opportunity for our students to serve your community. You need to pay for massage… even if students are providing it, and you are participating in their education.

Massage Therapy and Integrative Healthcare: An Overdue Embrace


, , , , ,


“Medicine is like the Tai Ji. There are two theories of thought. But truly one does not exist without the existence of the other. They are intertwined as people try to make them a dichotomy.”       ~Brent Jackson

The intent of this blog post is to address and plead with the small and shrinking group of holistic health care practitioners, specifically massage therapists, who have a tendency to say negative things about western or traditional medicine to their clients, step out of scope with diagnoses and prescribing, and they do this all day long. I know this group well because 20 years ago, I was a full-fledged member.

This morning as I stand in my kitchen making breakfast, breathing and hungry, I’m reflecting on how many times traditional/western medicine has saved my life and the lives of my loved ones. My father, grandmother and brother have all suffered from serious bouts with Diverticulitis. My brother endured a temporary colostomy bag while his large intestine healed, and my dad had surgery to remove two thirds of his large intestine after years of suffering with chronic pain and acute flair ups of the disease. I recall his discomfort from time to time as a child, and watched him peel the sesame seeds off the top of his hamburger buns.

I’ve been a holistic health care professional for 27 years and counting, and a nutrition/natural medicine passionista for over 30, therefore, when I first started to have intestinal pain 22 years ago I decided to take matters into my own hands. This was also convenient because I did not have health insurance at the time. I did my research in naturopathic journals, read books on cleansing and fasting, talked with the experts at the health food stores and started a disciplined practice.  I have since done annual fasts coupled with intestinal cleansing for a week every year since I was 30. I have not had any significant problems, until now. This year the disease caught me. Seeing as I had done a short fast and cleanse 3 days prior to my attack it is possible that the cleanse itself is what exasperated and/or revealed my condition. I will never know. I will also never know if my lifestyle choices kept the disease at bay until now. What I do know now is I have it, I am fragile, and my life has been saved once again by western/traditional medicine.

While I was in the hospital I really wanted a massage. I was having horrible headaches due to the IV drugs saving my large intestine from rupturing, but no, sadly, there was no massage. While I was suffering an incredible wave of nausea with a completely empty stomach due to doctor prescribed bowel rest the nurse DID swirl her warm hand on my back which felt wonderful and comforting. She put lavender aromatherapy in the room, and cold washcloths on my forehead. They did allow my husband to come in and spoon me for an afternoon nap. This all was VERY powerful medicine, however, there was no massage therapist there to give me a much-needed neck and head massage. Why is that?

Some hospitals are finally providing massage therapy which is paid for by patient insurance and prescribed by the physician! With all my heart I thank the AMTA, the Massage Therapy Foundation, pioneers such as Ruth Werner, Xerlan Deery, Susan Salvo, Carole Osborne, Brent Jackson and too many others to mention for the progress massage therapy has made in the hospitals. Still, massage therapy is not fully integrated. Why is that?

Here is one prominent obstacle. There are still too many massage therapists practicing some form a shamanism, (for lack of a better word) making false claims about healing, telling clients to eat toxic essential oils, encouraging clients to forego doctor’s orders, diagnosing, and demonstrating to the greater medical community our profession’s inability to stay within its scope of practice and collaborate with consistent integrity and ethics. Sad.

Sadder still is most of the massage therapists doing this have positive intent and really think they are helping their clients! This is what they were taught in school by their beloved mentors, and now… some 20 -30 years later… they are telling the same very old story. Some of these folks are teachers and continuing to propagate the mythology and lack of professional boundaries.

Massage Therapists in every single inch of the United States should be required to take a certain amount of continuing education to renew their license including at the very least professional ethics and research competancy. Additionally, the Continuing Education providers absolutely should comply at a higher level so we know the people who are getting massage therapists up to speed, are up to speed. Last I heard, continuing education is only required for licensure renewal in 35-37 states.

If you are a massage therapist and you are not taking continuing education courses I hope this article will inspire you to pursue it for yourself and for your clients.  If you don’t like my message, please just take a moment to reflect on how many times traditional/westernized medicine has saved your life or the lives of your loved ones. Alternative Medicine is OUT  and Integrative Health Care is IN! It should not be us OR them but us AND them!

By no means am I saying that western/traditional medicine is perfect. Obvious to all of us paying attention, pharmaceuticals are completely out of control, along with health care costs. If massage therapy can get it together and collaborate with a high level of professional integrity we can position to replace at least some of the pills and surgery.

You should powerfully advocate for yourself and your body whenever you are submitting to healthcare of ANY kind. For example, the doctor wanted to give me one more bag of antibiotics and I told him, “too much medicine, not enough nutrition” and so, he put me on soft food before I took the next bag.

My journey with Traditional/Western Medicine:

  • In 1977 I had pneumonia and was saved by medical intervention
  • In 1988 my son was born via emergency C-Section after a 40-hour labor at home with midwives. The medical intervention saved both of our lives.
  • In 1995 I was in a horrific car accident and medicine did not keep me alive but kept me out of unbearable pain.
  • Medical Intervention repaired both my right big toe which I crushed under 300 pounds of wood in Costa Rica, and my thumb which was damaged in two car accidents. I am walking/running and doing powerful massage today.
  • 2017 – Doctors and medicine kept my large intestine from exploding.

Let’s face it, if you crush your leg, do you really want a shaman to chant over it and apply some tree sap? If you are a massage therapist, please do get up to speed and keep up. It’s not hard to do! Our profession is investing considerably in research and many new valid discoveries have been made! This is terrific news!

And if you have not yet got the memos:

  1. Massage Therapy is fine for healthy moms-to-be in the first trimester.
  2. Massage Therapy does NOT remove toxins.
  3. A new muscle has been discovered. See if you can find it.
  4. The parasympathetic nervous system may not govern the Sacral Plexus.
  5. Massage Therapy does NOT spread cancer.
  6. There is MORE! FIND IT!

Back in the day I would read a rune to each and every client at the end of their massage. I calculated their astrological charts to better understand how I could help them. I had crystals in my massage room and I still do because they are pretty. Today I believe in magic. I like to do ceremonies under the full moon, and I’m known by family and friends (not clients) for my special “white witch flu brew” around cold and flu season. I cut my teeth on the mystical, and I also know it’s high time massage therapy really honor the boundaries of our profession so we can work with and support the healing of those who need it the most.

Here is some powerful work all massage therapists should read:

Tracy Walton’s “5 Myths and Truths about Massage Therapy”

The Impact of Massage Therapy on Function and Pain

Here are easy ways to stay connected to what is new:

The Massage Therapy Foundation

The American Massage Therapy Association

Research Perch

Showing up late to your Massage


, ,

lateI am a massage therapy educator, former practicing massage therapist of 20,000 plus hours and a mentor of over 300 graduates. Now you know why I’m exposed to, and experienced with this subject matter.  Let’s move on.

This article is not for me, and it is not for my graduates, but for the thousands upon thousands of clients our profession serves. Let’s talk about time management in massage therapy. My goal is to share with clients the perspective of massage therapists with regard to time and how it works in massage land.  This article is not intended to be an insult or to offend anyone in any way, but to educate the public on the unique perspective we massage therapists have with regard to time.

When we train to become your massage therapist, we crank our awareness of time management up to a level that is not normally understood or practiced in a lot of professional cultures. Specifically, we start to pay attention to not only the minutes of the hour, but the seconds of the minutes. When we come in to work to provide massage therapy for you, the person who reserved our time, we come in early to ensure the following:

  • The environment is prepared for you in every way.
  • We are mentally and emotionally prepared to devote ourselves to this time to serve you an awesome bodywork experience.
  • The condition of the drapes on the table (sheets) are hygienically and aesthetically prepared for you.
  • All odors or aromas in the room are neutralized.
  • The temperature of the room is comfortable for a person who is relaxing.
  • The song list that is prepared to play for you is at the appropriate volume to swiftly support your journey to bliss.
  • Our fingernails are extremely manicured so that we do not scratch you.
  • The amount of cream or lotion that we have is appropriate to meet your needs.
  • We have the water poured for you and for us.
  • We have flossed and brushed our teeth again because we had lunch or breakfast and don’t want to offend you in anyway.
  • We may have tended to  some other important hygienic and/or health concerns such as used the bathroom, washed our hands and arms, blown our noses, put on more deodorant, used a cat hair roller to remove any fluffs off our garments etc.
  • We make sure that the space is tidy, hygienically prepared, presentable, well equipped and pleasant for you in every possible way we can think of.

Once we know all of that is covered in advance of your arrival, we start to watch the clock and wait for you to arrive. We may do some deep breathing or stretching in preparation. We know we have exactly as much time as you have asked us for to provide a wonderful treatment for you. We are planning in our minds eye around that time. We have both agreed upon the price of our time together and that is to the minute, Folks.

When a client is late to a massage therapy appointment even by minutes, stress starts to bubble up for the massage therapist. The treatment will not only be shorter, but may be impacted by the stress experienced by the Massage Therapist. When you are late to your massage concerns begin to arise such as: Are they okay? How am I going to get it all done? Did I make a mistake in my calendar? Since I have to charge them for my time which they have scheduled, are they going to resent me when I have to charge them for the time I am spending waiting for them? Will I finish on time and have enough time to get the room ready for my next client? Or to pick up my child from Kindergarten? Or to miss traffic? Or, Or, Or? One late arriving client can create repercussions that effect the quality of the entire day for the Massage Therapist.

People are late and life is messy. Your massage therapist may at one time or another be late too. We all understand this. People are not robots. It may help you to know that this is not a comfortable situation for you OR your massage therapist no matter how unruffled they react when you are late. Their job is to conserve all potential for your therapeutic experience.  Your late arrival not only increases YOUR stress, but that of your massage therapist. We are paid for the time that you have reserved with us. The time you pay for does not begin when you arrive, but begins when the time you scheduled us to be working with you arrives. Additionally, we don’t want clients running through the door and launching onto the massage table without proper intake time. This starts to conflict with our ethical responsibility to perform a thorough intake with you before the hands-on work begins.

Some massage therapists will not practice a strict timing discipline, but most do, and all should. For our profession this is a measure of professionalism. For those who do keep strictly to the clock, please do your very best to be at least 5-10 minutes early for your massage so that you can receive the most benefit from your skilled massage therapist who is not compromised by the stress of a late arriving client. Consider distance and traffic patterns. Plan the rest of your day accordingly.

If you are going to be late, please text or call your massage therapist right away so they don’t have to imagine what is going on. Make sure you understand and agree to the policies your massage therapist has for missed appointments, late arrivals, sickness and emergencies.

Your massage should be a wonderful and life enhancing experience. It’s fantastic that you are taking this time for yourself to receive the benefits of therapeutic massage! You will receive immediate positive results from practicing this form of self-care. Be sure you get the maximum benefit by planning accordingly so that you can be on time to your session and prevent a late arrival from compromising your intended goal to feel much better.

Jill Kristin Berkana

Founder/Director Berkana Institute of Massage Therapy and Bodywork Passionista

Accident Advice from a Massage Therapist: What you see is not always what you get!


, , ,

falling-off-bikeI am writing this article because I am regularly hearing from my beloved Alumni, family and friends that they have had accidents; or their friends, family and clients have suffered accidents. I have some advice to share because the trend seems to be to give these events little attention (if that is at all possible) and just carry on. This can be a big mistake.

If you have:

  • fallen down stairs
  • been in any kind of a car accident
  • run into a tree skiing
  • fallen down on your roller blades
  • slipped on the ice
  • etc…

YOU have had an accident. For the sake of this article, let’s assume these things:

  • Every event that involves you at a higher speed running into something, or a thing running into you as it was rapidly flying through space is an accident. In other words, either you ran into it, or it ran into you, and the “its” could be just about anything.
  • If you are air lifted or carried to a hospital in anyway with bleeding, serious trauma, unconsciousness etc., obviously seeing a Doctor is your first defense!
  • My main motivation for this article is the myriad of whiplash victims I have encountered or heard about who are in a mild fender bender and go about their lives, when debilitating pain presents 6 months or later after the event. Often when this happens, the potential coverage for treatment is no longer available.

Normally when you are in an accident, you are in shock. The level and intensity of that shock will be determined by the event, the damages, the injuries, and by who you are constitutionally. When you are in shock, the natural thing for you to do is to begin to cope as best as you can with the situation. You will start processing the event in the realm of “how can I make sure everything is ok”. You will look at the property involved, the people involved, start to negotiate the planned events that are getting derailed, (if you are able to) and try to shape the event in such a way so it will drop conveniently into your reality in a way that it will fit, and everything will be just fine.

Within that negotiating process, you will be forced to pay attention to pain in your body. This is not a time to be a tough guy or girl… this is the time to listen to the feedback your body is giving you. Your body is going to have endorphins coming to the rescue to help you cope with the scene, so you will not have a real accurate assessment of the feedback your body is giving you. You are not going to feel the pain that truly represents the physical damage….yet.

You will naturally try to diminish the extent of things to help you cope. This can be a real big problem because you must advocate for yourself, and/or have someone else advocate for you if you are not able to. It’s way too easy to say “oh I’m fine… I just feel a little soreness there, it will be fine tomorrow… I’ll just take an Advil and put some ice on it”. In this day and age and culture we are all conditioned to say “it’s no big deal… I’m fine”, and tough it out. You may not BE fine, and if you say you are fine, and convince yourself you ARE fine, and convince your advocate that you are fine, you could miss out on opportunities to receive treatment, AND THE COVERAGE OF TREATMENT YOU ARE ENTITLED TO,  that may have a phenomenal impact on the immediate and long term outcome of your recovery.

If your accident is anything beyond a minor incident you should see a doctor. Not being a doctor, you are not qualified to diagnose anything at this point so you need to go to a doctor to figure out what damage you have truly sustained. Do you have a concussion, do you have bruises and contusions, is anything broken, is anything ruptured, is anything bleeding that you can see or can’t see? These are the issues the DOCTOR is going to check for you and make sure you are cleared or treated for. The DOCTOR is the one to help you make sure there are no hidden problems that could potentially be REALLY bad right now or later.

What the doctor may not see and may not consider, or may not consider a problem for you later is SOFT TISSUE DAMAGE AND THE LONG TERM CONSEQUENCE OF THOSE.

You may not fully realize the long term effects of the soft tissue damage (muscle, tendon, ligament and the nerves that work with these structures) until several months, if not years after the accident.

Depending on the musculoskeletal damages you have sustained in the accident, the support you receive in the early stages of your healing could greatly influence the long term impact of the accident on your life.

If any of your injuries involve a sprain, strain, broken bones, soft tissue injury, whiplash, or surgery, Massage Therapy can be very supportive to your healing process and have a powerful and positive influence over the final result. Depending on the nature of your accident and the injuries, you most likely will not be able to receive massage therapy until the chronic stage of your healing.  If you are working with a doctor, neurologist, chiropractor or an osteopath, you can ask them about working with a massage therapist, and see if they are open to writing you a prescription. It’s possible that your insurance plan will cover massage therapy for you.

Throughout your healing process, massage therapy can greatly support you in coming back to yourself as much as you can in the face of the trauma you have experienced. Physical Therapy, Chiropractic, Strength Training and Emotional/Mental Healthcare professionals may also be part of your recovery team.

If what has happened to you is the fault of another party, it is important that you receive all the care you need, keep solid records, and if necessary get an attorney to represent you. Don’t settle for as long as it takes to finally understand the long term damages you have sustained. This can take months to years. I recommend you keep a daily journal to record what you are feeling from day to day.

I hope that none of us are in any accidents! In the event you are I wish you a swift and complete recovery! Hopefully at least one piece of this advice will come in handy. No matter what, do not try to sweep what is happening under the rug and tough things out. You must pay attention to your body and what is going on as the healing process unfolds or you could miss a great opportunity to receive support and save yourself from bigger problems down the road. Specifically, pain resulting from musculoskeletal dysfunction.

If you do not have any injuries from your accident, please do take time to rest and find ways to nurture yourself before you go back to your normal day to day activities. Even a minor accident is a trauma that you will need to recover from.

Why am I qualified to give you advice? I have been in the field of Massage Therapy for 26 years as an educator, school founder, curriculum architect and a practitioner. I have had hundreds if not thousands of client’s who present with chronic injuries from accidents in the past that impact their lives later on. I have been in accidents myself. I have been in 2 major and 3 minor car accidents, I have fallen off horses, bikes, skateboards, and had a stint as a Karate enthusiast where I was falling hard, being punched and fighting. If you want to know more about me you can read my bio here.

Jill Kristin Berkana

Jill K. Berkana BCTMB Founder/Director Berkana Institute of Massage Therapy and Bodywork Passionista




, , , , , ,

brittanie adDisclaimer: This article is an effort to educate and recruit massage therapy students.

If you are considering embarking on an education and career in Massage Therapy, there has NEVER been a better time to do this! I would like to share with you my perspective and hopefully encourage you to move forward in your research and also to consider if the Berkana Institute is a potential fit for you.

As an educator who strives to be on the cutting edge and provide the most current and up to date professional education that we can for our students, my team and I have been extremely challenged in the last 2-3 years. The reason we have had this experience is tremendously exciting and that is what I wish to share with you.

The American Massage Therapy Association has supported the Massage Therapy Foundation which creates and facilitates Massage Therapy Research. The result is valid research which strongly indicates that Massage Therapy is much more valuable than previously known to the health and welfare of people; and specifically supportive to those who are suffering and in pain.

The days of Massage Therapy being considered a spa type luxury item are OVER. Massage Therapy is HEALTHCARE and preventative WELL-CARE. Additionally, we are learning what we as a profession have been doing (or not doing) that has been damaging to our professional reputation, and to our clients. The profession is re-evaluating those outdated methods and ideas so we can better serve the best interest of the people we serve, and do no harm.

There has been a profound and accelerated evolution in the practice and profession of massage therapy and it’s on RIGHT NOW! RIGHT NOW massage therapy is being accepted and recognized as legitimate health care and as an alternative to pharmaceuticals for pain management. With the growing epidemic of opioid addiction this is a very big deal. Jobs for Massage Therapists in and out of the hospital setting are on the rise and this will continue. As an educator, I am on the fast track with my expert colleagues to create and implement education that will prepare our graduates for what is happening now and what is coming for this profession.

If you are considering a career in Massage Therapy don’t stop looking. Look at all of the schools and look at what is currently happening in this profession. The profession of Massage Therapy needs caring, ethical and intelligent practitioners more than ever and RIGHT NOW!

Here are some links that you can use to explore what I’m referring to in this article.

The Impact of Massage Therapy on Function in Pain Populations

Opioid Addiction Epidemic

5 Myths and Truths about Massage Therapy: Letting Go without Losing Heart

About me and my program…

Let me share with you who I am and why my opinion might be worth your consideration. I have been in this profession for 26 years. I was very lucky to attend what I believed to be the best school in the nation at the time, and had the great fortune to study with some amazing pioneers in this field who all had connections to the HUMAN POTENTIAL MOVEMENT. The school I attended was HOLISTIC, which means I was not only learning massage and bodywork technique and science, I was also studying the basics of psychological phenomena, and was encouraged to participate in careful self-inventory and self-development to ensure I would be prepared to work with the complexity of clients at their most vulnerable state.

I then went on to have 16 years of full practice work in eclectic environments and cultures, with opportunities to serve an extremely wide variety of clients. I provided about 20,000 hours of massage therapy and peaked in my practice in 2005. I decided it was time to share what I had learned so I could indirectly reach a larger audience. I needed more hands! Having been an international explorer, and having a brief education in international business I decided to create the first international/residential massage school.  I chose Costa Rica. I trained 180 amazing massage therapists in the 7 years I lived there…there were monkeys, and it nearly killed me… enough said.

Fast forward, I returned to beautiful Colorado in 2012 where I have founded the Berkana Institute of Massage Therapy in the heart of Denver, Colorado.  I have facilitated my original entry level massage therapy certification program in Costa Rica and Colorado 29 times and have signed 300+ diplomas.

This unique apprenticeship style program is refined with every term and it has been touched by over 2 dozen experts. Graduates have a 100% first attempt success rate on National Board Examinations and are holistic entrepreneurs who diversify Massage Therapy in practice as independent massage therapists in private practice, as employees and independent contractors.

The Berkana Institute is designed to be a charming and small, professional boot camp which provides a seriously accelerated, high caliber education. We only accept 32 students per year in 2 classes of 16. We teach our students to provide exceptional massage therapy and bodywork, that is highly ethical and professional, and is provided from a compassionate and mindful place. Excellence is our guide and we work very hard. This program is not a good fit for everyone, and perfect for a certain type of person.

If you would like to speak with me directly, please call me at 303-377-3111 ext. 3, or feel free to write me at jill@berkanainstitute.com. Here is the Berkana Institute website: www.berkanainstitute.com

Jill Kristin Berkana

Jill Berkana BCTMB Founder/Director Berkana Institute of Massage Therapy and Bodywork Passionista

When Massage Therapy Becomes Torture… Our couples massage in Mexico


, ,

20151002_173721Let me be clear to state that I do not believe the occurrence I am going to describe which took place in Mexico is a reflection on Mexico. I don’t know what the rules or regulations are in Mexico to give one permission to perform massage therapy, and I don’t know if the incident I am describing to you was a result of no rules and regulation, or lame rules and regulations being followed, or rules and regulations being broken. In any event, I am sure there is some awesome massage therapy happening somewhere in Mexico… just not in this place at this particular time. So very many things went wrong during our couples massage, I will simply put the voice recording directly following here. If you are a professional massage therapist, I’m hoping you will understand what all went wrong and WHY it was wrong.  If you don’t know why, please feel free to ask me and I will get back to you on that.

We bought a couples massage in Mexico at a 5 star resort. We paid $171.00 for the session which was a 50% off rate, and we did leave a 20% gratuity. I felt we should not punish the “therapists” who worked hard and did their best. We were brought into the lovely and clean looking spa, filled out some paperwork (good move here) and both sent to our locker rooms to remove our clothing and put on robes and slippers. We were then brought to the room that was dimly lit, had fake cloth rose petals strewn everywhere, a hot tub that was filled with cold water, two massage tables with no face cradles and pretty folded swan shaped towels and lit candles. Very romantic and pretty.

The first Massage Lady (no, I am not going to call either of them “therapists” ) came in and poured a ton of essential oils into the tub (We still think that water is warm at this point) and she then used the remote control to activate the jets. She then motioned to an entire bottle of champagne and glass glasses and said “this is for you”. What’s a couple to do? We drank some of it, fully knowing that alcohol consumption prior to deep tissue massage (which is what we ordered) was contraindicated. We added some hot water to heat the water up a bit since the water was cold and we then relaxed for about 20 minutes in the tub. All was well at this point, and I was curious more than anything about how this was going to go down.

The ladies came in and they told us to get on the tables face down. There was the swan and some other things on the table but I did get on the table prone and there was no face cradle. I’m thinking at this point, this is going to totally jack my neck. Then they came in and remove all the junk on the table, and then inserted a non adjustable face cradle that felt like 3 bricks and asked me to scoot up and put my face in the face cradle. The massage began and I knew this was going to be torture. This was a deep tissue massage and the woman was using LOADS of some lube and the pressure was zilch. I felt that my skin was barely moving. I hung in there for a while, waiting for her to check in on comfort and depth, which she did not, and so I said to her “permission, mas fuerte por favor” which means “excuse me, make it stronger please” From this point on, I got the depth, but every single technique now was a forearm smoosh. EVERY SINGLE TECHNIQUE FOR 80 MINUTES.

We got through. At the end of the session I asked Michael how his was. It was not good. As I was sitting there talking to him, we noticed on his bottom sheet which was previously not exposed there was a smudge of what looked like blood. I quickly started to look at him to make sure he was fine. He was. The stain looked like a 3 inch long by 1 inch wide schmere of blood. At this point I became very upset. We got dressed and I discretely spoke to the woman at the front desk about the blood stain. Not knowing the standards of Massage Therapy in Mexico, I did not go into my great dissatisfaction with the entire massage.

Once we got back to the hotel room, I put on my voice recorder and we reviewed our experiences. Here is what I recorded:


The whole experience was terrible. They did call us to let us know that the stain on the sheet was probably chocolate from their chocolate body mask offering, and they did offer to let us sit with our feet in their special fish tank where the fish eat the dead skin off of our feet. Ummm, No thanks. This is just a guess but I don’t think that treatment meets with normal hygienic standards.

In the end, I’m probably going to write this large chain of resorts and inform them that some serious remedial education is needed, and offer to put a team together to provide it. I won’t be paying to receive massage therapy again at this resort. They did know I was a massage therapy educator and expert from the U.S.

Jill Kristin Berkana

Founder/Director Berkana Institute of Massage Therapy and Bodywork Passionista

Stealing Thunder


, , ,


I was thinking about this today when it came out of my mouth with my step kids. The two girls have birthdays right next to each other and when the first birthday comes, the second kiddo is always sure to say things like “are you going to remember pizza for MY birthday TOO?” or “ Daddy, don’t forget when MY Birthday comes I want the PURPLE dinosaur” etc.

The second child will even try to wrangle the attention of the party goers and take control of the scene. Here is when I say. “Hey, don’t steel your sister’s thunder. Your birthday is right around the corner and that day will be all about you. Let her have THIS day!”

This behavior is a classic power/attention struggle. I see it play out at my Institute with my students and my Instructors, on social media, as well as in the Massage Therapy Profession. I see it in myself too. This is actually one of my great lessons still to learn. As a child, I would literally stand up in front of the television and act out and sing the entire Gilligan’s Island theme song while the family yelled at me to move out of the way. As you can see, I want you the reader’s attention RIGHT NOW, and that is probably why I am I writing this blog.

WHY does one feel the need to be sarcastic, make passive aggressive remarks or step on someone else’s toes for their own immediate ego gratification? What is it about needing attention that leads us to unsavory and selfish behavior?

These moments can play out in group settings in some of the following ways:

  • Interrupting to tell the punch line, or the ending of a movie, or sharing the information that someone else is clearly supposed to be delivering.
  • Making snarky or sarcastic remarks that you think are funny and cleaver, but are actually hurtful. These remarks are usually subtle enough that you get away with it. Kind of like passing gas while walking.
  • Trying to make a group laugh at the expense of the leader, and/or derailing the leader’s train of thought.
  • One upping in any way. Name dropping. Monopolizing a mentors time when there are others that may be shy to ask questions. Asking questions when REALLY what you want to do is prove that you know something.
  • Just being a total jerk. Amazing how many people get away with this on Facebook every day with people they should treat with common courtesy and respect.

The very basic practice of mindfulness and being aware of how you respond, (or better yet noticing how you WANT to respond prior to responding) in a group or team setting will help you uncover why you feel the need to grab some power from the moment. It is okay to grab some power from the moment, but it’s not okay to do that in such a way that is hurtful or demeaning to others. This negative expression of power tripping, however subtly done, happens a lot and serves no one.

I don’t claim to know what motivates anyone other than myself. I want to feel important. I want to feel special. I want to feel like my contribution matters. I want to feel love and appreciation. I’m guessing this, at the bottom of the barrel, is what motivates most of us to vie for some type of recognition.

Noticing this behavior in others, and being annoyed by it, I’m going to turn my attention to where I can create change. I’m going to look at me. I’m going to breathe, watch my thoughts, and when I’m having an especially MINDFUL moment, bite my tongue when I want to add something to the conversation that really does NOT help, can hurt, and only serves to bring attention to myself.

In a world where no one is free from dysfunction, all we can do is try.

On a walk one day in the jungle several years ago, one of my beloved students shared this quote with me: “Before you speak, ask yourself: is it kind, is it necessary, is it true, does it improve on the silence?” – Sai Baba

May we all take this brilliant advice to heart, shower love and attention on ourselves and those around us so all may feel satisfied and filled up enough to enjoy a moment of just being in the silence, or letting someone else be in the spotlight sharing without our input.

Jill Kristin Berkana

Jill Berkana LMT Founder/Director Berkana Institute of Massage Therapy and Bodywork Passionista


The Illusion of Safety, and the GIFT in losing it.

Safety-Net-PhotoIn the last month I have been managing a series of traumatic events that have challenged me to my core. Still, this should not level me. No one in my immediate family has cancer. We are not starving. We are not living in a war zone, and we are not homeless. I have not been in a horrific car accident, I am not fighting for my life in the ICU with my family at my bedside. I have not lost the use of my body or mind. Have I lost my composure? uhuh… a few times.  I am dealing with the temporary and privileged inconvenience of having my Massage School’s headquarters become uninhabitable after a sudden freeze and boiler malfunction. Yep. It sucks.

When this grim misfortune destroyed the plumbing and heating in the building we called home for the Berkana Institute we were 6 days away from launching our new class. A class full of eager and trusting students, many who had traveled and relocated from their home to attend, and who had struggled to find housing as close to the Institute as possible. All who were expecting to be learning in the grounded and exquisite environment of the Victorian Mansion on Race Street.

At first I had to kid myself, and I did a very good job of that, that we would return in a day. Then the kidding lengthened into a week, of course we only needed a place to have our classes for one week! I found that remedy and savior in our loving neighbors at the Unity Temple next door. Phew! We carried on having our Orientation there, and I assured my new beautiful class that all was well, and we would be returning back to the mansion as soon as they turned the water and the heat back on. No. Big. Deal.

Sitting in the kitchen surrounded by the Service Pro emergency team, my landlord, and the plumbers on that ill-fated Tuesday afternoon when they were speaking the dirty language of months to repair, my landlord turned to me and in a way that can only be described as a slow motion punch in the face and said “well, I don’t know what YOU’RE going to do”. That phrase repeated in my head as if it was bouncing off the inside of my skull “well, I don’t know what you’re going to do” “well, I don’t know what you’re going to do” “well, I don’t know what you’re going to do”…

After a period of the incessant head game of terrifying word pong I finally gained control of the monkey mind and became crystal clear. “OK! I KNOW what I’m going to do! I am going to find a new building! I’m going to survive this catastrophe and serve my students an amazing massage therapy education regardless of the loss of the building! The school is NOT the building! WE are the school!” became my mantra.

Classes began and everyone was solid! Everyone was excited! Everyone was open! Everyone was eager! Anatomy and Physiology was being taught, Massage Tables were being opened, dressed, stripped, cleaned and folded up. We continued, and we all worked hard.

Every moment of every day that I am not in class teaching, bathing or sleeping I have been seeking the new home for the Berkana Institute of Massage Therapy. I have communicated with and engaged in one way or another with several dozen commercial realtors. I have read Craigslist 8-10 times per day to see what has been posted in the last few minutes. I’m having Craigslist nightmares. All of the schools equipment has been packed by professional movers who are waiting at the ready for the new address. I have fallen in love with places, shared my excitement with others and then been completely disregarded if not totally ignored by several “professionals” who verbally made commitments. I’m sorry to report that ethics and integrity are not ever present in the Commercial Real Estate field in the mile high city. I feel as if I’m kissing toads.

Next week we will have our classes at a new temporary facility that is beautiful and home to a rich culture of holistic health care practitioners. How long we will be there, we do not know, and there are bumps to negotiate with equipment management and scheduling issues there too. I imagine the students will continue to beam their bright understanding natures into the experience and I will continue to eat this elephant one bite at a time, chewing well every bite.

While I am chewing and deciding what to gnaw on next my beloved apprentice Heather is fighting the good fight after being in a tragic car accident. She has escaped the ICU and gets stronger every day! A professional leader that I admire greatly is focusing all of her energy and time to hold her man’s hand while he goes through 30 or so chemotherapy treatments, and too many people have lost the use of their arms and hands yet still smile and love and do whatever they can to help others. People are dying in war zones and from starvation every minute of every day. Let’s not forget how rich we are.

We are fragile. No one is safe. Anything can happen. Life is not a sitcom and unexpected trauma can be expected. When you are in the middle of the storm you will be forced to be present, and as you balance your act on the edge of the unknown and possible devastation you get to know what you are truly made of and what really matters. That is the gift. When the rug is suddenly pulled out from under you, you get the rare opportunity to feel that fragility of life, and recognize how important we people are to each other. We remember that what matters most is how we show up for ourselves and each other as each moment of our precious life passes.

Every challenging experience can break you down to your raw and essential self. In that state of unknown chaos we have this rare chance to reflect upon, and rearrange how we are living. We have a rare chance to rise to a new and improved version of ourselves to bring forward into tomorrow.

Tomorrow I will talk to the realtor at 9:30, see the storage facility at 10:30, meet with the new property manager at 11:00, start to sort through the stuff in preparation for the movers between 12:00 and 1:00, look at Craigslist half a dozen times by then, try to remember to eat and drink plenty of water and at 1:15pm until 3:00pm I will show up and honor my students with the very best that I’ve got. May we all walk a righteous path especially when the path is washed out.

And yeah… of course the Berkana Institute of Massage Therapy will rise from the ashes of what we call fate. Our work is not hardly close to done. ❤

Jill Kristin Berkana

Jill K. Berkana LMT Founder/Director Berkana Institute of Massage Therapy and Bodywork Passionista


News Flash: Massage Therapists do not have special magical powers!


, ,

crystal-ballRecently an article came out on Facebook that went semi-viral in the massage circles that was titled “20 Secrets Massage Therapists know about your Body!” While the article had a few reasonable tidbits of valid information, for the most part it was packaged, or should I say, TWISTED into an article that will do nothing good for our profession. It could prevent first time clients from seeking massage therapy, and it supports stereotypes that are not serving our profession.

Additionally, it has proven to provide some form of validation to some massage therapists who are making false and unethical claims, and/or support working out of scope.  I want to be clear to state that I don’t blame those who contributed to the article for the end result.

The article is not so much the problem itself, but how many in the massage therapist community have responded to it. The article has been shared between thousands of massage therapists accompanied by dozens of comments that I find truly shocking. Comments like  “yep, I’m psychic”, “well don’t let this scare you we are only trying to help. We know even more if we are psychic which many of us are” and “My clients usually get readings when they come to visit me”, and many more disturbing comments like this.

For the few very confused Massage Therapists, Listen up! You do not have magical special powers. Hopefully, you DO have a solid education, knowledge, and experience that would lead you to being able to professionally assess that your clients have certain conditions or have had certain life experiences, but you are no more psychic or magical than any other person on this planet. If you FEEL things it is simply because you are a MASSAGE THERAPIST, and your job is to touch a person for an hour or more in a focused and therapeutic way. You would have to be completely disassociated from your body not to FEEL things, and connect the dots with your knowledge and experience. Of course there will be indicators that your clients might need another pillow, or have had children, or are stressed out. DUH! It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out someone’s bra is too tight if they present with strap marks around their torso and have shallow breathing.

For those massage therapists who think you have some magic or extra special abilities with your clients I would highly recommend that you get your ego in check right away because that approach is dangerous and will hurt people. You may have natural abilities with providing quality of touch and a heightened intuitive sense, but that does not mean you have special magical powers! I know a lot of people who are naturally gifted in the kitchen! I know many people who are naturally good with mechanical things! I know lots of people who are naturally great with kids… this does not mean they have special or magical powers or are better than anyone else.

For those massage therapists who are also providing psychic readings for their clients or are in anyway telling clients what is going on in their lives beyond structural kinesiology issues, musculoskeletal anatomical dysfunction issues, and simple self care advice you may be completely out of scope. That is, unless you have on your business card “psychic and massage therapist” and you have license to practice both diciplines, and your clients are there because they have consented to receiving the services of both of your practices. This goes the same for massage therapists who dabble with crystal healing, aromatherapy, herbology, astrology, homeopathy, nutrition etc.

As for anything in the spiritual realm, there are priests, clergy, shamans, etc. who are professionals in the field of spiritual guidance and counseling. For mental/emotional support there is an entire mental/emotional health care field who we should refer to when our work ends and our clients need assistance. It is in your scope if you are a trained professional. If it is out of your scope, don’t go there! Reading a couple Eckhart Tolle books does not count for being a spiritual professional, and your personal spiritual belief system is none of your clients’ business.

Your job is to provide professional massage therapy and bodywork. Your job is to listen, and be compassionate. Your job is to be empathetic. It is completely unethical to get your ego stroked by having blurry boundaries with your clients. Furthermore, if you approach your massage therapy clients with an agenda to heal them, chances are you are going to do harm because YOU have an agenda and a plan to fix them. That is their job, not yours. Mindfulness, respect, gratitude, and humility will serve you and your clients better than any power trip. Please reel it in folks.

Jill Kristin Berkana

Jill K. Berkana LMT Founder/Director Berkana Institute of Massage Therapy and Bodywork Passionista