Family Massage center leaving busy corner for homier site

Ashland’s Family Massage Education Center, dedicated to teaching how to do couple, baby or pregnant partner massage in the home is in its third year and, after a farewell party during First Friday tonight, will move to more homey environs at 77 Manzanita St.

Founder, director and chief instructor JoAnn Lewis says she and her other three teachers have loved the building, a former World War II-era barracks for departing soldiers, but the intersection of East Main and Mountain Avenue has become too busy and noisy, especially with sirens of neighboring police.

The Art Walk gala from 5 to 9 p.m. will feature free 15-minute massages (a donation to a scholarship fund is requested), meet-ups with local masseuses, live music, an art show and free Zorba’s raw chocolates.

FMEC draws up to 100 people a year to its classes on reflexology, parent-baby massage, pregnant partners massage and couples massage. There are also classes for singles.

The mission, says the center's website, is “education in positive, nurturing touch to improve health and wellness by learning massage for good communication and care.”

Massage, says Lewis, is among the oldest and most traditional of healing tools, stretching back to prehistory.

“It’s our first language — touch,” she says. “There is nothing that replaces human hands for healing and health.”

Lewis points out a recent study that showed patients who were touched by their doctors, even on the shoulder or hand, had 50 percent higher recovery rates — and that the practice used to be common among nurses, who wanted patients to heal and go home to make room in crowded hospitals.

“Touching with respect and permission is really essential to living,” she says. “When I was young, nurses would massage routinely, first thing in the morning and also in the evening, because they needed the beds. We were not meant to lay around. Massage is good for us. It also reduces violence and abuse in families.”

Massage (with a doctor’s prescription) is covered by many insurers, and it’s cheaper to do it first, before any surgery, rather than after, she notes. In addition, babies who get massaged show the health benefits and tend to have higher intelligence and live longer, she said.

FMEC teaches theories of massage that set it apart from the ideas of entertainment, luxury or treat, says Nadja Clarke, masseuse and office manager of FMEC. The center, she adds is “mainstreaming massage as a lifestyle and culture (that) improves the quality of life, health and the nervous system.”

Ashland, notes Clarke, is an extremely “massage-friendly community and I’d like to see that practice become more common in other communities.”

In their new setting, FMEC will welcome people to “come in an atmosphere of warmth and security, such as they’d want in their own homes,” says Clarke, a graduate in education of University of Iowa.

“I was teaching school but wanted to shift to health care,” she says. “Massage is stimulation, relieves pain, decreases inflammation and lessens blood pressure. Whenever you do that much stimulation to your body, in ways that exercise can’t do, it speeds the body’s ability to repair itself and it speeds healing.”

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email him at

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