Male Massage Therapist Barry Cooper Runs a Yoga and Ayurvedic Massage Therapy Business With a Partner

Barry Cooper1. Tell us a bit more about you and your practice as it is today? i.e. are you a solo practitioner or a business owner? If solo, what kind of an establishment do you work for, how large is it, what is the clientele like, what is the specialty offered? If it is a business that you own, kindly include the same time of relevant information that will give the reader a good idea about your establishment/practice. Please also include where you live and work?

Well, what does my practice look like today? It is ever evolving and manifesting to a vision I have, lol. I consider myself both a solo practitioner and a business owner partner. I do jobs a sole proprietor, especially when I travel to teach courses as a CE provider as well as I own an establishment and me and my partner are together running Living Room Yoga and Ayurvedic Massage and Yoga in Saint Petersburg, FL where I now also live.

It is a small Boutique Establishment, she is an Occupational Therapist and Yoga Therapist and we can only fit about 8 students’ per. Class, and we have a massage room that doubles for private sessions and massage/bodywork treatments. The majority of our clientele range in between 30 – 70 yrs of age.

We stick mainly to Classical Hatha Yoga/Alignment based Yoga. When it comes to massage & bodywork my practice is mostly Asian Paradigm, a lot of traditional thai yoga bodywork futon, Ayurvedic massages and consultations and lifestyle change. I spent a lot of my first 4 years in Spa’s so I tend to do quite a bit of Western massage as well and love it. We have been partners for about 1 ½ in this space.

2. Tell us why you chose to go into massage and at what point in your life did you decide to do so? What were you doing at the time? Where did you first hear about the massage career? What factors influenced your decision? What were you looking to get out of this decision?

I chose to go into massage because I thought intuitively that I should be touching people. I was burned out Hospitality Professional for about 20 years, over 12 years at Walt Disney World Resort Hotels as a leader in front office line of business. I started practicing yoga to relieve my stress and mysterious things started to happen! I was in my early 40s when I went to massage school and it took me 2 ½ years to actually enroll in a massage program after visiting and looking into schools.

The factors that influenced my decision was long hours, angry guests, low compensation for experience and knowledge, and a desire to maybe work for myself and really follow truth.

3. What were some of your questions and concerns before further pursuing your massage therapy goals? Talk about concerns with school and the profession itself.

My questions and concerns were regarding males not getting enough massage work to eat and pay the bills, was there a program I could attend and keep my salaried job because I owned a home at the time and had a child. I wanted to try to finish my Associates Degree. Cost of the massage program was an issue also.

I discussed these most with the school I chose which was Florida College of Natural Health which at that time was in Altamonte Springs, FL. Made a decision to go there but did not do the Associates Program because my career at the time was too demanding as well as getting the finances to do that program was not there.

4. What is your specialty and what are the top three contributing factors to your success today?

My specialty is Ayurveda and lifestyle change, and Traditional Thai-Yoga Bodywork.

I believe one is stick-to-itiveness, learning to not listen to the noise out there. We are coming out of tough times and I am sure a lot of practitioners left this profession or had to close their doors. I keep going because I belong doing this. Two, is I love being of service of course, of helping facilitate healing in those that are in need. I get filled up when connecting to my clients and this translates into I guess some success. Third and final is just having good teachers and following my path.

5. What do you like about your specialty? What do you like about what you do in general as a career? Why?

I like that my specialty is centered on love and loving kindness! It is so natural, if you have hands, feet, knees, elbows, herbs from your kitchen, nature, oils and a giver and receiver and vice versa, and if you care positive things happen. It is the same answer for it being my career as well, the why also, magical things happen to all who are meeting, who are being touched.

6. What do you not like about what you do? Why?

I like being of service through touch, and the why is the opportunity to be able to assist someone in their wellness and healthcare needs, giving them another choice.

7. If there were three things you could change about your work or the industry as a whole what would they be? Why would you change them? What would you change them to?

Some of the things I would be interested in changing in my work and industry. One, would be to continuously get other practitioners to feel and know that massage/bodywork modalities stand on their own. That what they do, their knowledge, training and experience doesn’t need validation from the Modern Medical Establishment, or any other entity that it works. We have stood the test of time and we’re still here so do your thing regardless.

Second, I would love to see most practitioners go into business for themselves, like have massage establishments of all kinds, acupuncture, Ayurvedic practitioners, structural integrationists, herbalists studios on everywhere on every block somewhat like in parts of Asia.

Lastly, the other thing I would change about my industry and why is that I want every human being in the World to get a massage, to know that we can assist them in some way feel better and even get or stay better. Coming to see us that there are other options than what they have been doing.

I feel even the massage schools and all this credentialing could be more focused on this when educating the public rather than the fear they cause by thinking that they have to protect the public. This could be changed by education and experience, the experience of come get a massage, get an acupuncture treatment, let us help you take care of yourself and we are just yearly maintenance once your back in the game.

8. How long do you plan to practice and what do you plan to do after?

I hope that I am mentally, physically, and spiritually with loving, caring intent be able to touch someone until even the last day in this body. There is only now and this is my way of life so there is no separation.

9. Do you currently have another job or business whether full time or part time? Tell us a bit more about it and how you are able to juggle that with your massage career?

No, no other job

10. What are some mistakes you made in your career pursuit that you’d like to warn other students about so they can learn from your experience and avoid it?

Wow, hmmmmm… Do lots of massage from the beginning, forget this crap they are trying to do with entry level massage practitioner, experienced practitioner etc.

Stand by your work and how you do it.

Stand by your rates $$$ even if you have to get a part-time job or something. There are people out there that need you and have what you have to offer. I went through this when it comes to sliding rates, offering discounts, going to people’s homes and doing 30 minutes etc. lol!

Working in spa’s for commission only and sitting there with no clients for no pay. I should have walked out long ago.

11. What would you advice someone who is looking at massage therapy schools? What do you recommend they look for and how? How do you recommend they determine whether the school is the right one for them?

I suggest they find the best one that they could afford with the best teachers, sit in classes, make sure the school prepares them for their boards If it is a licensed State or if they are going to move to a licensed State, maybe a school that has their own clinic so they are working with clients while they are learning. A school that is up front about job placement. I did this job in a massage school, it is a tough one and so there are never enough jobs to place someone in. Maybe a small school where they don’t have the pressure to register 50 plus student a term etc.

12. What do you recommend for someone who wants to go to massage school but cannot afford it?

Yes, I think about this a lot because this same thing kept me throwing the idea around for almost 3 years before I started. I kind of like the idea of maybe a student being able to do 200 hrs. at a time, or 100 hrs here for this modality, and 60 hrs or whatever is needed for anatomy, and maybe it takes them 2 yrs to get 750 hrs. but they can figure it out in these types of programs so they can afford it. It will take the States who regulate so much to change and help out here as well as the owners of these schools.

13. What are your three biggest points of advice for an aspiring massage therapist today? What should they do/not do? What should they think about and consider?

Just, do you really want to do this career and if so are you thinking you can make a lot of money doing it. Consider this question. If so most of us don’t.

Do lots of massage if you do and help people the best way you can

Take care of your health and well being!

14. Any open thoughts / comments – anything else that you’d like to share about yourself, the massage industry, profession, future, etc? If nothing, make one prediction for the future of massage?

Not much else to share just that thank you for this opportunity and that my prediction for the future of massage is no matter what I believe we are going to be needed more and more. It might just look different if you’re concerned about compensation.

I feel more and more people do to the state of modern medicine which is good, at the same time they are looking for something else, they are going to lay on our mats, on our tables and get what they always needed, care!

15. What is your passion outside of massage? What are your hobbies and interests which you pursue when you are not working? Tell us why you enjoy what you enjoy.

My passions outside of massage are spending quality time with my boys, my beautiful girlfriend, and experiencing life. Like travel, meditation, and learning how to grow herbs and building a vegetable garden. I like a good movie as well, reading books. I like playing with essential oils and making massage oil blends. Bike riding with my loved ones are just a few.

Barry Cooper is a Licensed Massage Therapist. You can reach him on his website here.

Neal Lyons is a founding member and volunteer contributor at the MTSI Institute, an information based portal dedicated to guiding and assisting aspiring massage therapists establish a successful career in massage. Neal is a published author and has collaborated on several mobile applications that serve the massage profession. You can view his published work on Amazon, iTunes, Barnes & Noble, Sony and Kobo. You can connect with him on Facebook, Twitter and on Google+

Posted in Interviews with Professionals

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