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True Massage & Wellness

Real Massages for Regular People

As someone who can boast an intimate relationship with carpel tunnel, I’ll take a real massage over fluffy robes and all-purpose Eastern chanting any day. Not the kind administered by a prissy therapist in some froufy, suited-up day spa, but the real kind -- complete with a firm, dexterous touch and a keen knowledge of the pretzel forms various muscle groups tend to contort into.

In favor of true serenity over the artificial oasis, I discovered Mary Jenn, the proprietress of True Massage & Wellness. Part of Mary’s wellness philosophy is that…“real serenity is found among the chaos. I feel in order to effectively do what I do for the people I do it for, I must be among them. If I want bodywork to be an everyday thing for people, I must be in an everyday environment so that people who are intimidated by a spa or put off by the 'new-aginess’ of a wellness center feel comfortable coming to me -- someone who is not that different from them.”

Mary started her work in massage therapy five years ago after a long stint in the high-tech world, and opened True in early 2005. After getting certified and working at renowned day spa, International Orange, she knew that it was time to open her own establishment for other wellness-minded folks. “One of the great things about True’s location is the fact that many of my clients simply walk over from work or home,” she says. “Also, a lot of them don’t necessarily want the day spa experience -- they just want a good massage, and sometimes they just want to be listened to…to have someone be receptive to all the subconscious things that might be happening in their body.”

Mary’s accessible approach to bodywork is one that I immediately warm to. On first setting foot into her cozy studio, I’m reminded of something I’ve picked up along the way, as a meditation buff: It’s a cinch to relax in a controlled environment, but it’s way more difficult to so in the midst of urban hullabaloo. Part of Mary’s magic is enabling her clients to be at peace and centered even when they’re surrounded by city noise or taken out of the typical spa environment.

Of course, Mary’s studio -- a well-lit, MUNI-accessible little vestibule that makes you feel like you’re visiting a dear friend for tea rather than getting swallowed up in some fancy pampering cavern -- is hardly what one would describe as a blusterous urban outpost. And even without the fancy accoutrements, True is outfitted with that intangible wellness glow that lets you know you’re in for a treat.

A massage with Mary usually means a mixture of modalities, ranging from Swedish to Shiatsu. “I think of modalities as a tool bag for a customized session,” she tells me. “For instance, deep tissue may not work on all parts of the body, so a blend is more beneficial.”

Mary also incorporates trigger-point therapy into her massages. Trigger-point therapy is a bodywork technique in which the therapist applies pressure to tightly wound, tender muscle tissue, which helps to relieve pain in other parts of the body, too. Mary will customize a massage to just about anyone’s comfort level, but deep tissue fans and those who suffer from chronic pain will especially appreciate her.

As she leisurely moves her hands across my shoulders and back, slowly loosening the knotty muscles with deep and precise strokes, my slight discomfort is outweighed by the fact that I can actually feel my limbs relaxing. It’s a fascinating experience; Mary’s massage, far be it from a frivolous pampering session that has you half-asleep by the end of the hour, works to make me totally conscious of what’s going on in my body, and which areas need the most attention.

By the end of my massage, I feel like putty: gloriously pliable and kink-free. I marvel on Mary’s fast-acting healing abilities but soon learn that she’s resistant to the term "healer". “My philosophy isn’t about fixing my clients…it’s more about being receptive to what’s going on in their bodies, moving slowly, and letting it be an interactive process,” she tells me.

Part of the interactive process, especially when it comes to repeat clients, involves teaching others about self-management and all the things they can do in their daily lives to relieve pain. “For instance, when your head falls forward, the muscles in the back and sides of your neck get strained,” she explains. “I let people know how they can get the right alignment…find the place where everything feels lighter.” And as far as massages go, I couldn’t ask for more.