Author Archives: renewlifeenergy

About renewlifeenergy

Welcome, I'm Barb Brender, licensed massage therapist for clients in the Iowa City, Iowa area.

Inspired Stories of Massage Therapy: A Woman, her Epilepsy and her Dog

Pawz For a Cause Pup

Amber as a pup, now she’s a healthy 11 yo.

Sherry and Amber come to me for massage therapy and Reiki energy therapy. While I massage Sherry, Amber lies quietly and expectantly for her turn. She knows what’s coming and she also seems to know how good it is for her mom to receive Reiki energy and healing therapeutic touch. When I have finished with Sherry and have put her in a restorative yoga pose to open up her heart chakra and lungs, it’s Ambers turn.

I met Sherry and her service dog Amber shortly after starting my massage practice. They came to our healing center looking for someone who would be willing to work on both of them. It was a perfect match for me from the beginning.

After all of these years, and sessions I have learned a lot about this woman and her love and respect and devotion to her service animal. This beautiful golden retriever who watches her every move, listening too for a familiar sound that tells her Sherry is starting to have an epileptic seizure. Amber was trained from a puppy to be ultra alert and sensitive to the tiniest of physical changes and verbal indications of a seizure coming on.

During Amber’s session I am on the floor with her. First thing I do is nuzzle her soft pretty face and tell her I love her and place my hands on her head for some Reiki energy. It’s as though someone has pulled the plug on an inflatable dog as she sinks slowly to the ground and exhales a happy relaxed sigh.

I am honored to work with these two brave souls. I can’t imagine being in either of their shoes, wondering constantly when the next seizure will come, where I might be when it does, how severe it might be, will Amber be ok if I have to go to the hospital, what will happen, what will happen. They are brave and I admire and respect their courage very much, this dynamic duo.

Thanks to both of you for adding such richness to my life. For showing, by example, the many challenges we each face. By sharing your story with me and for including me in it. I am happy to have you in my life.



Reiki Benefits: How do You see Energy?

Reiki energyIn your Reiki (ray-key) session my intention is to improve the flow of your life energy by detecting and alleviating issues of energy flow on the physical, emotional, and spiritual level.

During your Reiki session you will rest comfortably on the massage table, fully clothed. After assessing your unique needs I will place my hands on or above your body, for several minutes each, in a series of positions.

Reiki is defined as “universal life energy” and has a similar affect as massage therapy, to relieve stress and discomfort, and to improve symptoms of health conditions. We all experience energy in different, but similar ways. You will learn your own unique way of experiencing Reiki energy and the benefits it provides you

Energy is everywhere and is part of everything. You have experienced energy, even if you’re not aware of it. Think about a time when you were resting in the sun and could feel it’s warmth and see it’s color through your eyelids, like explosions of fireworks. You were experiencing energy.

Recently a client told me she’d experienced something she never had before. During an energy treatment she saw a brilliant red-orange color that took on the shape of a horse. Another client told me that when I was at her feet she saw an explosion of color and experienced an overall feeling of warmth and well being flowing throughout her body from head to toe.

Experience a Reiki session and experience the “universal life energy” that supports your precious and unique being.

Massage Therapy Myth: No Pain, No Gain!


Massage Therapy - PainIt is my personal mission to set the record straight about massage therapy and pain. Here we go: Massage Therapy does not have to hurt and be painful to be helpful and effective! Notta, no way!

Just like in Girl Scouts, I take on this mission with vigor and the promise to do my best to stomp out this untruth, one client at a time. My mantra is: Pain, No Gain! Take that Nike!

When someone new comes to see me there are a few things I like to share about therapeutic massage therapy. One is that the pressure, (light/medium/firm/deep) used in a massage does not have to be firm or deep to be effective, another is that massage therapy does not have to hurt to be effective and often has the opposite effect. You should see the looks I get. Deer in the headlights, questioning posture, but nodding heads in agreement and relief. What, it isn’t going to hurt?

I don’t know where it came from or how it got started, but the outdated reasoning behind pain is gain is just not true. On a mere emotional basis think about how you react when you are in pain or anticipate pain; your body tenses and tightens, your mind prepares you to be hurt and puts you on the defensive and your whole being begins to shut down. Nice way to start a massage, don’t you think!?!?!


Are there times when you might feel some discomfort? Yes, there are. But discomfort and pain are two different things. I tell my clients to let me know when their discomfort exceeds a 3-4 on a scale of 1-10. I find that taking things slowly and methodically is the best approach when working with particularly uncomfortable areas. This approach has served me well when I coax a tight and sticky muscle to release and relax.

So take a deep breath, relax and release and hold this thought in your mind….pain, no gain….pain, no gain….pain, no gain….Namaste.


Canine Massage Therapy: What’s Good For Us, Is Good For Them!

Canine Massage: Toby

My canine friend Toby meditating.

Reduce your stress by reducing your pets stress with a massage. When I was learning all of the different techniques of massage I did two things to practice at home. I made bread, the kneading of the dough was an exercise for my hands and taught me how to “see” with my eyes, and I massaged my dog, a lot!

When I say canine massage is a good thing I really mean it. My dog was very chilled and happy and even learned how to ask me for massage. A gentle nuzzle to my hand when we were sitting around relaxing told me she’d really appreciate a little rub. It’s been proven that our animals are stress reducers for us. Why not return the favor with a canine massage.

Like humans, there are many benefits of massage therapy for our dogs:

  • Improves trust and bonding between dog and human
  • Calms the nervous system, reduces anxiety/stress, eases traumas
  • Builds self-confidence and sociability
  • Increases overall sense of wellness
  • Reduces discomfort from stiffness, inflammation and muscle spasm
  • Improves muscle tone, spinal alignment, flexibility and range of motion
  • Increases energy, concentration, alertness and endurance
  • Promotes blood and lymph circulation, improves cardiovascular health
  • Heightens immune system function

My current canine companion Toby (the handsome little guy meditating in the photo) is a rescue dog. I have always adopted rescues and am familiar with their idiosyncrasies; shyness, fear, lack of trust, anxiety, worry and suspicion to name a few. By giving him massage on a regular basis, he learned to let his defenses down, to trust me, to relax and enjoy this compassionate touch. In just a short time I have created another little massage junkie who now lives with me in harmony and is a happy go lucky little guy.

Massage Therapy: What are Muscle Knots and What Causes Them?

Massage Therapy Muscle KnotsIn nearly every massage therapy session I give, nearly every client has muscle knots and asks me what they are and what causes them. To understand them is to appreciate their complexity, here we go!

In the science world many call them Myofascial Trigger Points. In massage school we called them “LSD,” Little Squirty Dudes. And that they are, just when you think you’ve got one pinned, they squirt out from beneath your touch. The physiology of muscle knots is complex and is still being researched and studied by the scientific world. In my world muscle knots indicate a place that is stuck in constant spasm caused by a build up of toxins.

Muscle Knots are toxic, irritated molecules that cause most aches and pains. They cause pain that can move in random, confusing patterns and partner with other problems and injuries. Think of the knot as a bed of tissue fluid pollution consisting of waste products from muscle cells. As they intensify in contraction the byproducts accumulate causing pain and discomfort. New research continues to support this theory which originated from the pioneer of trigger point research, Dr. Janet Travell.

One of the goals of massage therapy is to “flush” trigger points out of the muscles by pushing stagnant tissue fluids out. When new oxygenated blood arrives to the area it is much less toxic and assists in the recovery of the muscle. Deep breathing also assists as it sends oxygen rich blood through your system.

Next time you receive a massage and you feel your massage therapist riding the lumps and bumps in your neck, shoulders and back you can help in your own healing by taking a deep breath, relaxing and releasing as you assist in the flushing out of your muscle knots.

Massage Therapy Can Release Emotional Memory

“Touch has a memory.”  ― John Keats

The touch of massage therapy can release emotional memories stored in your muscles. Emotional memories stored in your muscles might be happy or sad, joyous or traumatic. It is a natural response to massage therapy to have these memories triggered.

Ida Rolf, biochemist and creator of Rolfing or “structural integration” believed that we store thoughts and their emotional reactions in the cells of our body.  That memories are stored in our brains and our physical bodies. That touch can trigger memories in the muscles that our mind has forgotten or buried.

When this occurs in a client’s massage session I reassure them that they are safe and in control. I remind them that they do not need to be concerned with the affect this has on me and that I am prepared to hold space with them without expectation. I tell them I will stay or leave the room, that I will bring them a drink of water or a tissue and reassure them that what they are experiencing is completely normal.

I remember the first time a memory was triggered for me when receiving a therapeutic massage. I didn’t know what I was experiencing until much later. In the moment I thought it was just another random thought drifting through my consciousness as I relaxed and let go and received. When I experienced it again I started to pay attention to when it would be triggered. I began to realize that when the massage therapist was working in a certain area of my upper back the memory would start drifting to my consciousness. It doesn’t happen every time and there is more than one memory that comes back, some happy, some more somber. I have learned to embrace them all, to accept them and to let them flow in and out like the ebb and flow of waves along a beach.

I invite you to share any experiences you may have had with emotional memories when receiving a therapeutic massage.

Inspired Stories of Massage Therapy: The Little Girl in the Purple Taffeta Dress

This is the first in a series of blogs about experiences I have had as a massage therapist. My intention for sharing these is to explore the many and varied ways massage therapy touches the lives of both therapist and client, as we travel our own unique journey.


I had entered this particular room in PICU, at Children’s Hospital, twice a week for the past several weeks. Prior to that I had worked with this little 4 year old girl on the pediatric floor. I had been following her and her mom for the past year as they went through the process of diagnosis, treatment and now the last process, her transition from this life. In PICU she was no longer conscious and was supported by many machines to keep her in the living world. Her mother was processing the very somber fact that her daughter would not be coming back to her. Her mother was graciously allowed to let her daughter transition in her own time and under her own terms. I will not forget the sensitivity and devotion the hospital was showing to this family.

I was touched by so many different aspects of this, specifically the courage and joy I’d seen in them from the very start. This little girl, with a myriad of handicaps, disorders and diseases was one of the child stars of the pediatric floor. Every doctor, nurse, aid, volunteer and staff member knew her and would light up when they saw her and she would light up too. She was special and she touched many lives. Her mother was special too. The two of them were a seamless, dynamic team. They did what they needed to do, they felt what they needed to feel and they were always sharing their own found joy and acceptance with the rest of us.

In one of our last sessions it began to become clear that her mother was beginning to accept the inevitable. She had talked to me, on more than one occasion, about having to decide to let her little princess go. She told me she wasn’t ready to but understood she needed to. She knew in her heart that it was the only thing she could do to support her daughter, but she needed a little more time. She was anxious and excited to show me the beautiful purple, taffeta, floor length dress her family had gotten to have her daughter buried in. I could feel how proud she was to have the perfect dress for the perfect little princess she was about to surrender. I was struck by the importance this symbol had for her and could see, and feel under my fingers, her relief and resolve. In our past several sessions she had not been able to relax during her massage but today she seemed to have a calm about her, and her muscles seemed to be accepting my touch as she was accepting the inevitable.

I had one more session with this family. I did not know it would be my last time to touch and comfort this little girl and her mother. I had been silently saying my final goodbyes to them each time I left, not knowing if they would be there the next time I came around. This visit was different, I could feel a calm and quiet in the room, I could sense it from her mom, I looked around and everything was the same as it had been for weeks. The beautiful purple, taffeta, dress was still hanging majestically on the wall at the end of the bed, so her little girl would know it was there, that’s what her mother would tell me.

When I left that day we exchanged what had been our normal goodbyes. Her mother thanked me whole heartedly and told me how helpful having these massages was to her and to her little girl. She always reassured me that her little girl knew I was there and loved the massage. I gave her a hug and held the little girls hand and told them they were an inspiration to me and will be in my thoughts.

The next time I made my rounds and approached their room I could feel it before I saw it. They were no longer there and the room was empty. The lesson I learned from them struck me deep down in my gut and remains there to this day. It was a lesson about the power of courage, love, determination and letting go, in our own time and our own unique way. And in that moment the tremendous loss I felt at not seeing them there and knowing what that meant, was replaced with my gratitude at having the opportunity to know them and walk a few steps with them along their journey.

Barb Brender Massage Therapist in Iowa City

I have been a massage therapist in Iowa City for many years. My work is continuously rewarding as I witness the transformation massage therapy makes on my clients. You may come in with discomfort in your body and a stressful mind, but you will leave with relief from both. You will know that you have done something important to take care of your health and well being.

I continue my education through workshops and classes, honing in on specific techniques to add to my toolbox of therapies. I am certified in Pregnancy Massage and feel rewarded working with expecting moms.

Massage Therapy has always been a part of my life. For many years I was exclusively on the receiving end. I know first hand the accumulative benefits of receiving regular therapeutic massage. I know how important it is to find the right massage therapist and how important it is to communicate with my therapist. I have learned how to listen to my body and understand the language it is speaking to me.

In my blog I will share the benefits of therapeutic massage, inspiring stories and helpful resources. I encourage you to contact me with your questions and comments. Blessing to all! Barb

Massage Therapy: An Investment With A High Return

Therapeutic Massage Therapy is one way to invest in your health and yield a high return. It’s an investment that impacts your overall heath and well being and all that’s required of you is to stop, relax and breath. Massage therapy is an easy and enjoyable way to gain a high yield on your own health investment.

All types of Massage Therapy; Swedish, Shiatsu, Integrative, Heated Stone and Reiki will stimulate circulation and oxygenation that increase flexibility, mobility and loosen your joints. Stretching and manipulation of muscles will keep you moving more smoothly with less discomfort. Calming your nervous system and stimulating feel good hormones will increase your overall coping abilities and outlook on life. These are just a few of the benefits of massage. And all you have to do is stop and get off the fast moving train of life and onto a massage table.

Your body is the vessel you travel the world in and houses your energetic and spiritual self. You eat healthy, get enough sleep, do cardio exercise 5x a week and meditate as part of your daily routine. Make one more investment in your health and well being and begin a massage routine. Your body, mind and spirit will prove it is a healthy investment with a high return.