Category Archives: Inspired Stories

Creating a Sacred Space

Rodeo Beach CA

Rodeo Beach CA

My new massage therapy studio, on the east side of Iowa City, has been open for one month. I have received lots of the same feedback about my new space. My clients tell me it’s a magical place.


I ask each one what they mean by that. Here’s a compilation of what they’ve said. It’s the deep sea blue color of the wall that makes me feel I’m floating on water, it’s the sound of the water trickling over the rocks in the fountain that helps me drift away and along, it’s the photographs on the wall of favorite beaches and cliffs along the Pacific Ocean, it’s the low lighting of the screen lamps and candles that relax and help me let go, it’s the music playing softly and rhythmically in the background, it’s the soothing smell of lavender, it’s the placement of the furnishings which lets the energy flow, and so on.

This got me thinking about how much the healing space has to do with the healing happening in the space. How much our environment impacts us on a subconscious level. If you think about it you will quickly see what I mean. How do you feel in a sterile doctor’s waiting room? Are you calm and relaxed, or maybe a little anxious and on edge? How do you feel when you walk in nature? Are you absorbed by what you see and hear and transported beyond your daily stresses? What about when you walk into a place of reverence, a place where you worship or a place where you go to see beautiful art and artifacts of the world? How do you feel in your everyday life?

I am committed to my intention to create a quiet, healing and safe place for my clients. Each day, and between clients I clear the stagnant energy and refresh it with new universal healing energy. I set my intention for my time with each client, remembering the uniqueness of each and addressing and honoring what I have learned and continue to learn from them. I center myself before each session, anchoring solidly to my root and other chakras. I send gratitude to each and every individual who spends time with me and strive always to provide what it is they are seeking.

I like to share with my clients the fact that giving massage therapy to them is also deeply relaxing and healing for me. I experience a state of meditative focus where all my worldly stresses fade away and my focus and intention come to the forefront. I see with my fingers, letting them feel and tell me everything I need to know about the tissue I am working with. I use my sense of hearing to guide me deeper into the work. I get lost in the journey of each massage as it guides and informs me of the work at hand. For this I am very grateful and constantly healed.

Barb Brender, LMT, Massage Therapy in Iowa City: Planting my Roots in a New Studio!

Root Chakra Art

Root Chakra Art by Candida Maurer

Elephants are among the most grounded of animals with their huge bodies and great weight and they express earthiness to me. Since the color of the root chakra is red, I included the reddish trees and their roots in the drawing in order to symbolize the necessity of connecting deeply into the earth to find our ground. There are four petals on the lotus of the root chakra to again symbolize the steadiness of the earth energy.




This is an exciting time for me. I am plantng new roots in another location for my practice. I am sharing the space with one other extraordinary practitioner, Jenny Wolffe, LMT. Jenny and I have opened a beautiful studio on the east side of Iowa City. We call ourselves Integrative Practice: Bodywork & Massage Therapy. Our studio is at: Eastdale Plaza, Ste. 27, 1700 S. 1st Ave. Iowa City, IA 52240.

Here are the styles of bodywork and massage therapy we offer.

  • Swedish
  • Shiatsu
  • Integrative
  • Heated Sone
  • Seitai Shiatsu (Say-Tie)
  • Thai Yoga
  • Structural Integration (Rolf Method)
  • Chi Nei Tsang
  • Cranial Sacral
  • Reiki

Both Jenny and I have created a peaceful and healing space for our clients. The atmosphere is bathed in beautiful earth tones that remind us of our root and the benefits of being rooted to Mother Earth.

If you ever feel you are too much in your head, just take off your shoes and stand in your yard. Feel the support of Mother Earth and the soft coating of grass under your feet. Imagine growing roots from your feet through the earth. Become the tree, strong, rooted and connected both to earth and air. Reach up and let the air enter through your crown and down through your central channel, ending up at your feet, rooted to earth.

Our intention for our new studio is to mindfully and respectfully offer exceptional bodywork and massage therapy to our current clients and welcome new folks to come and see what it is we do.

Feel free to contact us with any questions you may have, we will help guide you to the care most appropriate for you.

Happy new beginnings in your life too, however they may be manifesting. And remember, our root chakra is our anchor to the earth and will support us through this incredible, ever shifting journey we are on.

Stay tuned for the announcement of our opening gathering in the month of July!


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.



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.