Massage Business Goes From the Table to the Mat

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At massage-therapy business Mat Magick, partners Jennifer and Ian Brooks are packing up the oil and moving their work from the traditional table to a mat on the floor.

Jennifer Brooks started the business, the sole owner at the time, as a way to call her own shots in life.

“I started this business, originally Kneaded Bliss Massage, about two and half years ago,” Jennifer Brooks said. “I worked with other people and was just not satisfied with not being able to do what I wanted to do, like I was being dictated what I had to treat, or how I could treat, and that wasn’t working well for me. So I decided to go out on my own.”

She performed the typical kind of massage therapy — on the table, making people hurt so good — but the business, which has enjoyed a period of great success since the end of the shutdown, took some time to gain some steam at first.

“It was a very slow start,” she said. “Not gonna lie, I had maybe two clients for a couple months. As word was getting out — the word-of-mouth is amazing in this town —the business was building, and I was wanting to learn more ways of helping my clients. So I started learning the mat-based therapy. It’s like stretch therapy.”

Since reopening after the COVID-19 lockdowns, she said her business went “boom,” and she found that she was booked out maybe three weeks in advance, sometimes four. Not being able to meet the needs of her new or existing clients because of the long wait time, she knew something needed to be done, she said.

That’s about when Ian Brooks, her partner in life and now in the business, was looking to branch out on his own from the business he was massaging at.

“So he had finally quit his job and was looking to start his own business and was working here out of this office, when all of the sudden he went: ‘Wait, why don’t I work with you? Why don’t we just run this business together?’” Jennifer Brooks said.

Bringing him on came at the perfect time, she said, because the business was already in flux.

“I was really looking for a way to start transitioning people away from the table and onto the mat,” she said. “It’s easier on my body, but it’s more effective treatment for them. We can get right to what’s bothering them. It’s longer-lasting results. It’s deeper work. They don’t have to come in to see me as often. So that transition of having people come off the table and onto the mat caused me to want to rebrand everything.”

She changed everything from the business name to its mode of practice.

The mat-based approach requires a lot of compression work and jostling of the body, getting the joint to move, gaining some traction in the muscles. Once they can get a person’s body to relax through the compressions and the jostling, they take the client through a stretching regimen which can be quite therapeutic, she said.

Ian Brooks has a background in neurosomatic therapy.

“It’s postural analysis-based,” he said. “It’s integrating what you see with what we know about how the body works. Where is there more freedom? Where are you holding yourself back? Where are you getting in your own way? Where can healing just happen once we get that little tension opened up?”

Due to his studies in neurosomatic therapy, he found out he was “kind of an alien in the massage industry.” It was hard for him to find a foothold in the world of massage when he came out of school.

“I discovered I had the natural gift for massage and I had the intellectual thing that had been trained into me, but it was kind of hard to find a place,” he said.

His school was trying to put together a therapist that had the intellectual foundation to understand anatomy in an in-depth way, while connecting what can be seen with the posture and the movements of the body, or how the body holds itself together.

“I have an in-depth look and feel of the body so that I can really interpret what I’m feeling in a way that many clients seem to really appreciate,” Ian Brooks said. “It can be a breath of fresh air.”

He said that work with Jennifer Brooks became really enticing, especially because of her shift to the mat-based approach.

“I feel like this situation really gives space for the weirdness of what I find myself to be in relationship to the world (of massage),” he said. “This feels like I can really step up and bring all of that forward for the clients instead of being trapped on the table. While it’s still centered in the massage and stretching stuff, it’s easy for it to blossom into connecting into their movement practice and what have you.”

Before neurosomatic therapy, Ian Brooks studied personal training. Pairing the two worlds together, he taught some corrective exercise courses at Bodymechanics School of Myotherapy and Massage in Tumwater. 

That’s actually where the two met, as she was a student in a different program at the school. Well, that would have been the case, had she not skipped a certain class.

“He was a daytime instructor and I was a nighttime student,” she said. “So we never crossed paths at the school. He subbed for one of my classes, but it just happened to be the day that I was skipping class.”

Upon hearing this, he laughed, saying, “It was the field trip day. Come on, it doesn’t get much easier than that.”

They actually met on an online dating website, they said through nervous laughter.

“I was reading his profile and I realized that he was an instructor at my school, so I was like: ‘That sounds like a bad idea, so let’s do that,’” Jennifer Brooks said.

However, it turns out it was a really good idea, she said, and after their first date, which was on New Years Eve 2015, there was no doubt about that.

“There’s an ease between us,” she said. “There’s this huge, encompassing world between us. There’s things that we talk about that are just way out there, and it’s not things that I have ever talked about with anyone else. There’s a comforting connection. I knew, like right away that we were going to be together.”

At the time of their meeting, Jennifer Brooks had already begun the process of declaring that she wanted to take the personal training (PT) courses at the school.

“So after we were together, I went to start the process of the PT program and he tells me that he’s the instructor there and the owner still doesn’t know that we are together,” she said. “And when (the owner) went to introduce me to the PT instructor, we were like, ‘hi, nice to meet you.’”

After a few months of clandestine meetings and cloak-and-dagger affairs, the couple finally came clean about their relationship. Or, something like that.

“We kept it quiet for a while but then we said, ‘This is silly. We’re adults here. Best to keep it on the up and up,’” Ian Brooks said.

Their connection of deep conversations, and communicating the needs and wants of their hearts caused them to decide to have a baby together about a month into their relationship.

Fast-forward five years, and they have two kids and the same last name to boot. Now, with working together again, their relationship has come full circle. And over the years, they have picked up a few things from each other when it comes to massage.

“I would say our styles are very complementary,” Jennifer Brooks said. “I tend to be more intuitive. I’m the quiet therapist. I’m listening to what the body is saying, and trying to feel what it’s doing and moving in the areas it’s leading me. He’s far more analytical. He’s what he sees, and I’m what I feel.”

Not to sell himself short, he took the time to put a small caveat on her analysis.

“I’ll feel it,” he said. “I always say that I feel it first, but it’s like, in the figuring out of what I’m feeling, I have now analyzed it anatomically, three-dimensionally and all kinds of other ways.”

Thanks to the partnership, Mat Magick is open seven days a week and is located at 10501 Creek St. SE in Yelm. Go online to mat magick.com to learn more.

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