Renewed in New York at the AMTA: Reflecting on the 2014 Chapter Convention

Enrich, Aspire, Grow…. that was the theme of this year’s New York Chapter American Massage Therapy Association’s (AMTA) Annual Convention. Upon returning from the event, the eleven massage therapy students who accompanied me and I can attest that this year’s conference delivered all three.

2014:15 gradsandAmy

Two weeks ago I attended the AMTA-NY Chapter’s 23rd Annual Statewide Convention. Of the twenty-three conventions that the state has held, this was the ninth one that I’ve participated in. Every year my students from Finger Lakes Community College’s Therapeutic Massage and Integrated Health Care Program fundraise throughout the academic year so they have an opportunity to attend the conference, which consists of over 25 different massage therapy workshops to choose from. These workshops cover a variety of both hands-on techniques and ethical/ business practices related to the massage therapy profession. This is a great opportunity for the students to receive additional education in the field of massage therapy beyond the information and hands-on techniques that are covered within a massage program. Students work diligently throughout the academic year to raise funds to attend the conference by offering chair massages, selling hand-made wellness crafts, hosting spa nights that include giving one-hour Swedish massages, as well as other fundraising activities.AmberandNatalia

Attending the conference offers the students a chance to reap the rewards of their hard work by being able to leave town with their classmates for the three-day, three night event. While attending, they learn invaluable information about their field of study, as well as network with hundreds of experienced massage therapy professionals. “I especially enjoyed the community aspect of the conference,” shared Tim Holmes, a current sophomore in FLCC’s Massage Program who joined us at this year’s event. “I felt everyone was there to support one another and help each other to succeed.”

The AMTA-NY convention also benefits those who are already Licensed Massage Therapists (LMT’s) in New York by offering up to 24 Continuing Education Units (CEU’s), which are now required for LMT’s to keep their registration current. As a result, I had the great pleasure to connect with several of my former students from FLCC’s massage program who graduated over the past twelve years since I began teaching in the program. On the first day of the conference, I ran into Michael Durso (’11) at one of the vendor’s marketplace tables, and he shared that he is excited about the conference and already greatly enjoying himself. Here he is checking out Patrick Ingrassia’s information about his massage training programs in Costa Rica.


This year’s conference was located at the Double Tree by Hilton Hotel in Tarrytown, NY; a quaint village located about 25 miles north of New York City in Westchester County.

Tarrytown - Photo by Anne PytlakOur group arrived that Thursday evening, and began workshops promptly at 8:00am that Friday morning, which continued throughout the weekend until Sunday afternoon.

Upon entering the convention, I conversed a bit with the AMTA-NY’s Chapter President of the past two years, Cindy Allen, and also with Pat Collins, the Convention Chairperson and Immediate Past-President. I asked them what they feel are the greatest benefits of the conference. “I think the conference is a great opportunity for massage therapists from all over the state to network,” said Cindy. “I also think we can’t discount the value of the CEUs for massage therapists, too. In just three days they can receive up to 24 CEUs.”

Pat chimed in that the conference also provides participants with very high-value educators and ‘super-star’ presenters who are very well known in the field. “As the government relations chair, this is also our member’s opportunity to cast their vote for who they want to represent New York State to the National Convention, and also who they want to represent them on the board,” shared Pat. “It also gives them an opportunity to let the state directors hear their voices and let them know what is important to them.” Pat also added that we shouldn’t forget that the AMTA-NY convention participants like to have fun, too. “The Saturday night banquet is always a great time and we have an excellent DJ. Everyone will be out dancing Saturday night.”


Each day of the conference consisted of seven concurrent four-hour long workshops. Some of the topics covered at this year’s conference consisted of Orthopedic Massage, Craniosacral Therapy, Essential oils for massage therapists, Pediatric Massage, Massage Ethics, and body mechanics, amongst other workshops. Presenters included some acclaimed practitioners in the field, such as James Waslaski, Eric Stephenson, Tina Allen, and Kerry D’Ambrogio. The students attended several various workshops, and they raved enthusiastically about their experiences.Ariel,Amber,Anne -photo by Anne Pytlak

James Waslaski’s workshops were especially popular. “I thought James Waslaski was brilliant and creative” said program sophomore Ali Newman, who also practiced as an LMT in the state of Virginia for over fifteen years. “The way he incorporated all of his knowledge together into creating his own technique is life-altering.”

Ariel Toulson from the program’s freshman class concurred. “I loved my workshop with James Waslaski. I thought he was excellent!” Ariel shared excitedly. “Learning deep tissue and being exposed to a whole new realm of bodywork and healing to prevent surgery is amazing.” Ariel’s enthusiasm emanated from her face. Here she is with program sophomore Chelsea Morseman, waiting for one of James’s workshops to begin:


I ran across a few other familiar faces while visiting this class, too, including a couple of our program graduates – Dawn (’08) and Amanda (’08) who were also awaiting James’s stellar presentation.DawnandAmanda

In fact, James Waslaski’s workshop was so packed that I stumbled over massage table legs and chairs about four times while attempting to take these photos…or perhaps it was due to the class beginning at 8:00am and my realization that I hadn’t had my morning coffee yet…. (I was far more composed an hour later).

Many of the students enjoyed the other presenters’ workshops as well.  Program sophomore (and soon to be graduate) Natalia Padilla was impressed with Eric Stephenson’s sensitivity to having people of different skill levels working together in his classes. “Eric Stephenson was very conscious about the students practicing in class and he was very aware,” shared Natalia. “He gave us a great deal of feedback and individual attention.” Anne Pytlak from our freshman class agreed that Eric was an excellent presenter. “My favorite workshop was the low-back pain workshop with Eric. He was really great at explaining things, and I also had the opportunity to partner with someone in the class who has over fifteen years of experience as an LMT.”

Program freshman Nikki Leigh enjoyed Eric Stephenson’s workshops as well. Here she is waiting to begin his Body Mechanics workshops:


Other presenters were enjoyed and appreciated as well. Amber Stowell from the sophomore class attended all of the aromatherapy workshops with Marc Gian. “It was extremely educational,” shared Amber. “I took all of the aromatherapy classes, and I feel like I learned a lot and can add them into my massage practice. “

Tim Holmes attended the entire series of Craniosacral therapy workshops, and felt the teacher, Tad Wanveer, was “phenomenal.”

In addition to the workshops, another enjoyable aspect of the conference is the Vendor’s Marketplace, which is set up all along the hallway of the convention area near the workshop rooms. During class breaks, attendees have the opportunity to purchase massage products, sample items such as pain relieving gels and aromatherapy, as well as receive mini-massage treatments from vendors who are advertising their continuing education workshops and unique massage techniques. Vendors

I stopped by the Nayada Institute’s booth to receive a massage from the school’s founder, Patrick Ingrassia, with one of his self-created hot stone acu-rollers. I must admit, I enjoyed my mini-session with the acu-roller so much that I decided to purchase one. I wasn’t the only attendee to purchase one, either. Here is Patrick in the process of making a sale with another LMT attendee soon after I bought mine.Patricksellingroller

After receiving my acu-roller mini-session, I walked to the other side of the hall to receive a deeply relaxing facial massage from continuing education provider Yuri Esperson. I decided I should take full advantage of all of the opportunities the convention had to offer, after all….free samplings of massages don’t display in a runway before my eyes every day.



Once again, the final evening of the conference concluded with a buoyant evening of delicious food, generous awards and raffles, and, of course the dance.

Our group always actively participates in all of the events at the banquet. “I almost felt like I was at a wedding reception at the banquet. It was so much fun!” shared Nikki Leigh.

IMG_3733 LaurieNataliaAli

Lucky program freshman Renee Bartley won a certificate for a free class during ‘Fascia Week’ at the Red Pines Training Center in Albany.  As you can see, she is very excited about her prize.

Rene - award

My colleague Maria Petricola and I sat at a table with a bunch of LMT’s who graduated from FLCC’s 2008 class. Here I am enjoying the company of Sarah, Amanda, Dawn, and Leasa.

2008GradsandAmy AmyandMaria

Oh….Have I mentioned already that massage therapists love to dance and have fun? At last year’s conference, our massage students were the first ones out on the floor. This year, it seemed nearly the entire room got out on the floor at once, and our group was right in the center of it, mixed in with several of FLCC’s massage therapy alumni.GirlsontheDanceFloor - photo by Anne Pytlak

Group photo2014

Leasa (’08) can always be counted on to raise the heat on the dance floor.


So…. Reflecting on this event two weeks ago, this was indeed another successful year at the AMTA-NY chapter convention. FLCC’s current massage program freshmen are already planning fundraising activities to raise funds to attend next year’s event. Renee Bartley, who will be our Massage Club president next year, urges all of her classmates and next year’s Freshmen to get involved so they can attend the conference next year. “Although I loved all of it, my favorite part of the conference is the sense of community within the massage therapy profession,” shared Renee.  “We’re all coming together from different parts of New York State and specialize in different modalities, and we are at different levels in our education. The professionals were very patient and really willing to work with us students and help up. Of course, the dance is also so much fun, too.”


…In exactly two weeks from today, I will be departing for Thailand once again with six students and program graduates. Come back and visit often, as I’ll be introducing my fellow travelers very soon!

Happy Spring!

*A special thank you to Anne Pytlak and Aromatherapy Guild/Ian Barbour for contributing photos to this post.

Inspired at the AMTA-NY 2013 Convention – Adirondack Style

Massage Students AMTA 2013

Inspired and renewed…that is what connecting with over 300 other massage therapists in tranquil Lake George in upstate New York can do.

Sagamore - woods

This past weekend I attended the American Massage Therapy Association New York Chapter’s 2013 Annual Convention. Two of my colleagues and fifteen of FLCC’s students from our Therapeutic Massage and Integrated Health Care program accompanied me to the event. This year’s conference was held in Bolton Landing, New York on Lake George, a 33-mile long lake located in the southeast base of the Adirondacks. This is New York State’s twenty-second statewide AMTA convention, and the event’s location circulates to various areas of the state from year-to-year. Founded in 1943, the AMTA is America’s oldest association for massage therapy and bodywork professionals. The AMTA acts as an advocate to advance the profession of massage therapy through continuing education, insurance benefits, conducting research supporting the benefits of massage, and committing to the ethical practice of massage and bodywork. National, regional, and statewide conferences are held annually to support continuing education for professionals and promote the advancement of massage therapy.

AMTA sign

This year’s state conference was held at the luxurious Sagamore Resort, a historical lakefront retreat for spa and golf enthusiast. Upon exploring the history of the resort, I discovered that it was opened in 1883, and was twice damaged by fire in the early 1900’s.

Sagamore - front view

The resort was completely reconstructed in 1930, and is famed for hosting numerous high-profile figures over the decades. Apparently, the Sagamore was one of former president Richard Nixon’s favorite retreats. So, I decided on my first day to take a stroll around the grounds, since we would be occupied in our workshops and presentations during the majority of the weekend.

Sagamore -deck

Sagamore -Lobby 2

On my way down to the spa and hot tub area, I learned that the Sagamore prides itself in being “A smart resort for nice people.”  Well, I must say, I was quite grateful that I was not a guest at a dumb resort for mean people…..

Sagamore - sign


 It was beautiful at the Sagamore, though. The resort offers stunning views of Lake George, and the early spring weekend lingered around sixty degrees with semi-sunny beams of light peeking down from the cumulous clouds. For those of us who reside in upstate New York, these conditions are quite favorable for this time of the year. I was happy.

Sagamore- deck 2


The rooms were quite cozy as well. Chelsea and I agreed that the couch in her suite was especially comfy.



Many of my students in FLCC’s massage program participated in this year’s Massage Club at the college. Beginning at the start of the fall semester, the students dedicate several hours a month fundraising and participating in club activities to raise enough money to come to the spring conference. Activities have included several chair massage events, a “spa night,” and selling items the students made by hand, such as jewelry, aromatherapy eye pillows and rice bags, and framed original art and photography (if I haven’t mentioned yet, we have some very artistically talented students in the program). As the club's faculty advisor, it is a pleasure for me to witness the students reaping the benefits of their months of diligence by participating in the convention.

The AMTA-NY event consists of three days of concurrent seminars and presentations related to massage therapy. This year’s presentations included topics such as Lymphatic Drainage Therapy, pregnancy massage, massage ethics and business development, treatment of shoulder, wrist and forearm pain, exploring fibromyalgia and massage therapy, deep tissue body mechanics, and myofacial release techniques. The students were spread amongst several of these workshops. I traveled around to visit them.

Students - workshop


Here is Natalia getting ready to begin the Mothermassage workshop.

Natalia -workshop


 Here, Tonya, Lisa, and Hannah were studiously waiting to hear Ruth Werner’s ebullient lecture.

Tonya,Lisa,Hannah - workshop


I especially enjoyed Ruth’s entertaining and informative lecture. Ruth Werner authored A Massage Therapist’s Guide to Pathology, (now in its 4th edition) and is the president of the Massage Therapy Foundation. I am here with Ruth after her enlivening presentation about the Ethics of Client Communication.

Ruth WernerAmy and Ruth Werner

 I was also delighted to learn that several of our program alumni were attending the convention as well, seeking continuing education for their massage therapy practices. Sarah (‘08) was the first alumna I saw during breakfast.

Amy and Sarah

  Not long after, I saw Chauncy (’05) and Tracy (’10) partnered up and waiting to participate in the workshop on full-body postural assessment.

Tracey and Chauncy

I continued to be greeted by several others as the day progressed. All of them either have successful private practices or are currently working as licensed professionals at businesses.

SarahStephLisaAlumni - AMTA

 Vendors also filled the hallways, sharing information about bodywork and massage products, book, and even giving mini-sessions.

Amy KidaMo - vendors


Dale - demo

AMTA registration

On Friday, the group attended a business luncheon with keynote speaker Dr. Kathleen Doyle from the New York State Department of Education Office of the Professions. Dr. Doyle shared current legal standards for the practice of massage therapy in New York and updated us on recent trends in the profession.



 By Saturday night, everyone was in agreement that they had gained an immense amount of knowledge about new techniques and concepts related to therapeutic massage. We were ready to socialize, eat some delectable food and boogie. I sat with my colleagues and some of our program alumni, including Evie (’04) and Kaide (’08), who now own a very successful massage practice together in Trumansburg, New York.

Evie, Kaide, Amy


Oh, but before the festivities began, there were many prizes to be given out during the AMTA-NY’s raffle of products generously donated by various sponsors. Well, it seemed our current students and alumni took home about 75% of this year’s prizes. Students were winning items ranging from hot stones to jojoba oil, to Topricin lotions, and more. The biggest prizes went to some of our alumni, though.

 Angela (’04), for instance, won a brand new massage table.


 ….and here is Evie right after learning that she won a one-week craniosacral intensive course with the Upledger Institute (redeemable at a location of her choice), which is valued at about $800. Yes, she was very excited (who wouldn’t be?).


 My colleague Maria and I visited with our students for a bit after dinner. This seemed a great opportunity for a group photo.


 Well, the evening was capped off with a very active dance floor, and Alyssa (a sophomores and soon-to-be graduate) was the first one out on the dance floor (and one of the last, too).

Alyssa - dance floor

If I haven’t mentioned already, massage therapists like to have fun. We were not a shy group on the floor, as you can see. Our group, of course, was right up front near the DJ, dancing right up until the final song.

AMTA-dance floorAMTA NY Banquet


Students- dance floorLisaandHannahHeidiandJulie




After one final workshop on Sunday, we departed this beautiful place with an abundance of knowledge and new skills. We agreed that this convention was a success and a great asset for state LMT’s (Lisenced Massage Therapists). In a few months, I’ll begin the fundraising process all over again with next year’s students. We’ll be heading to Tarrytown, New York for a more urban version of this educational retreat.

Until then, I’ll be here, writing and sharing about yoga, or Thai massage, or Asian philosophy, or tree toads, or whatever other whim I’m fancying in the moment.

Amy blogging- Lake George