Tutor blog

Three months in – life as a new massage tutor

As many of you know, Emma Conlon and Lydia Spry joined the teaching team here at BCMB at the start of the year.  3 months in Lydia Spry reflects on the journey so far…

When I graduated in December 2015 from the Holistic Massage course at BCMB I knew I wouldn’t be away for long. I knew I couldn’t be – the place means too much to me. This was a place where I felt truly supported. A place where I felt genuinely accepted. And – to top it off – I’d learned an amazing range of new skills that were going to set me on a new career path where I get paid for helping people feel better!

So – when the job of Assistant Tutor came up just a year later, I applied and hoped and prayed and interviewed and….

Well, here we are.

And of course,,, I should have guessed it… you might know what is coming… being a member of staff at BCMB feels… exactly the same!

BCMB are just as supportive, nurturing and accepting of new members of staff as their students. Not only were the first weekends treated as an ‘apprenticeship’ for me, not only did Andy give us training on being an Assistant Tutor, but also the lead tutors on my course have supported me at every step. I have been encouraged to push myself where I felt able and relax and be kind to myself when I felt something was going to be too challenging.

And it’s not just the staff – the students are the same. Emma Conlon got the job at the same time as me but started much quicker as she joined a course that had been running for 4 months. We talked about how tricky that might feel but she was teaching massage skills and up to her elbows in supervision groups before you could say ‘sternocleidomastoid’. Smiling, laughing and supporting everyone along the way. Everyone welcomed and accepted her in the same way that everyone is welcomed and accepted.

Because that is what BCMB is like. It is welcoming, it is accepting, it is nourishing. You can almost feel it in the air. Perhaps it’s coming down the stairs into the building – perhaps it is the welcoming cat at the door – perhaps it’s the memory of all those who’ve received massage in the building. Whatever it is you know that everyone feels it as soon as they come in the door.

News from our Worcester team

Our new Worcester students are now into the second week of their professional Holistic Massage Diploma training. Cleo and Colette, our assistant tutors on the Worcester team, tell us how the group is progressing, developing and growing – appropriately enough for spring!

“Bubble and Squeak?” asked one of the students with a look of surprise. “No, Bubbling Spring” replied Sarah as she was explaining a meridian point on the sole of the foot whilst students were learning about foot massage on this second weekend into BCMB Worcester’s 2017 Professional Training Course. We can still hear the laughter this question brought ringing around the lovely space we teach in.

We can safely say we are in for a year full of fun and laughter with this lovely 2017 group of students. We have been really looking forward to this year as it is our second year of teaching together as a team. We have found our mojo of working together and have lots of fun which creates a great environment in which to learn and explore. Sarah, our lead tutor is so experienced; a fantastic mentor who we are lucky enough to assist on the teaching team.

Our first weekend in February is usually quite an anxious one for the students. We both remember this feeling when embarking on our own BCMB training courses. Everyone is feeling a bit unsure and have so many questions swirling around their heads, “Will I get on with other students? Will I be able to learn the anatomy and physiology? Will I have to tell everyone about myself?”  It isn’t long though before they discover that everyone has their individual apprehensions and concerns and they are usually relieved when told that they don’t need to know each other’s stories. By lunchtime of the first day in the cafe (yes, we even have a fabulous cafe at the Fold in Bransford where we run the Worcester course) there is so much chatter and laughter as these students of mixed ages and backgrounds come together and get to know one another through their communal interest in massage.

This weekend in March was our second weekend together and everyone was so much more relaxed and connected. The students really enjoyed our supervision sessions where they get the opportunity to split into small groups, each group facilitated by one of us as tutors. In these small groups they have the opportunity to explore and share their successes, concerns and learn from one another’s experiences. This is a model that as a school, BCMB take forward throughout the course year and beyond into professional life as a massage therapist. We as tutors and assistant tutors all go to supervision to continue in our professional development, to share our experiences with peers and to talk through any difficulties and successes we have.

We look forward to observing and sharing in this year’s journey with 2017 Worcester BCMB group.

Cleo and Colette
Assistant Tutors BCMB Worcester

Cleo, Colette and Sarah all run private supervision groups for qualified practitioners in the Worcester area.  To find out more, including when our Bristol tutors run sessions, visit our supervision group section on our CPD page.

Feel more calm and together in 2017


BCMB tutor, Sarah Hoare, interviewed Lucy Heard (pictured right) to find out why this creative arts freelancer regularly attends the BCMB Student Clinics…


SH: Lucy, thanks for sitting down with me today. Let’s crack on – when did you start having massage at the Student Clinic?

LH: 1912! Well, at least 2 years ago. I go weekly, as often as I can. I generally book a block of 5 then take a little rest and book another block. Apart from the time when I didn’t do any sessions, and that was just wrong!

It was difficult for me to go at first. Hard to let myself have that space. It felt very indulgent. Well, it still does, but now I let myself go anyway! I’ve learned the benefits outweigh the feelings of guilt and self-indulgence. When I tell other people I’m having massage most weeks they say, “What? Really? Can you DO that?” There’s a lot of permission giving going on within myself. I think it’s easier because I’m not spending £50-60 a time. The affordable price makes a real difference to me. When I started going I wasn’t earning much money at all.

SH: Tell me more about the benefits?

LH: I feel much more grounded in my own body. Let’s say I know when I DON’T go! It’s really noticeable when I don’t go. When I do though, I feel more calm and more together. And the benefits go on for days afterwards. It’s not just about having a nice time at the time. I find I continue to absorb and reflect afterwards. I’m in a different headspace.

I don’t get as angry. And I can see things in a much more orderly fashion. In exchange for an hour a week, I get to clear out my head. It just works.

SH: Has your experienced changed over the time you’ve been having the massages?

LH: In the beginning I used to spend time lying there feeling I didn’t deserve it. I’d be giving myself a hard time for having time out, time completely dedicated to me, as if that didn’t have any value in the grand scheme of things. Like I should be working or helping someone else or whatever.

SH: What changed for you?

LH: Ha! I told myself to get over myself and enjoy it! I also recognised that I am helping someone else by going. I’m helping the student to improve. I went round a lot of different students early on and that really helped me to trust the process. I would go and not know who I was getting each time, and I’ve never had an unpleasant massage. It became about trusting that everyone who’s there is there for a reason, and the variety’s given me an overarching experience of the training. The massage is never the same twice, but it’s coming from a consistent place, individual style with familiar elements. It’s a bit like my yoga practice – I do the same postures again and again, but I have a different experience every time. It’s not like BCMB is churning therapists out of a factory!

I feel like I’m learning massage from the inside out. I’m getting insight into what the students are learning, and it’s nice when they share that with me, whether it’s telling me muscle names or what a particular technique is for.

And I like to pretend I really don’t give a monkey’s about taking my clothes off, when really I do! It’s all interconnected with life. It’s all about being present and being seen, if It’s OK to get deep and philosophical about it!

When I first started going I felt they needed to beat the s**t out of me, like it needed to be painful with big pressure on the tenderest parts. Now, with the regularity and the experience, I don’t feel I need that level of force. It can be a really pleasant experience, not seeking to fix anything or change anything, it can just be as it is in that moment.

It’s learning about letting go. Learning I don’t need to ‘help’ by say holding or moving my arm for the student. I am getting better at letting go. And I notice when my mind wanders, and I feel my body respond to the thoughts. Sometimes I catch myself tensing up and realise my mind’s drifted back to some tricky moment from the day.

There are moments of revelation too, suddenly getting clarity, or solutions, realising , “of course that’s what I should do!”

It’s also just really nice to know you’ve got a warm, comfortable, safe space booked in once a week. That’s nice!

The only downside is just getting to develop little relationships over perhaps 3-4 sessions. I don’t get to experience an ongoing relationship with one person, but that’s a compromise I’m willing to make because I know the quality will always be there.

SH: How do you schedule the sessions into your life?

LH: I try to plan so I’m not doing anything after my massage. I like to keep my clear head afterwards. The massage is like a signal, “this is the end of my day”, so I don’t lie there thinking about all the things I need to do later.

SH: With all your experience, any top tips for first timers?

LH: Let the students practice what they need to – be open to it and you’ll get a better session as a result. There’s no need to fight what’s being offered. I haven’t gone in with an agenda of my own, say to sort my shoulders out, for a long time. When you get comfortable with letting the student practice what they need to, you get great attention because they are really into it, really appreciative and really focused. It’s an exchange. They’re there to learn, and you’ll be surprised how working in areas other than your shoulders can help so much!

And you get to see them progress and grow in confidence. They really change along the way, and there’s always an interesting mix of people on the course, from dance instructors to boxers!

SH: And if someone was thinking about going to the Student Clinic, what would you say to them?

LH: Do it! Get on with it! Stop wasting your life!

SH: Well, that’s a perfect moment to end on! Thanks for taking the time to chat, Lucy. Happy Massage and Happy New Year to you!

If you want to start attending the BCMB Student Clinics, contact the office on 0117 946 6371

Teaching the long and the short: and I’m not talking body types!

By Jeremy Dymond, Holistic Massage Diploma Tutor

I spend most of my time as a tutor at Bristol College of Massage & Bodywork (BCMB) teaching the Level 4 Diploma in Holistic Massage. And I love it.

You get to see people with little or no experience of massage start to dip a toe in; dive headlong; swim, sometimes flounder a little; gain support, knowledge & experience; grow confident; and sail on beyond with a professional skill for helping others under their belt.

This weekend though I’ve been teaching an ‘Introduction to Massage’ two-day workshop at BCMB. Which I also love.

Like the Diploma course you get to see people with little or no experience of massage start to dip a toe in; dive headlong; swim, sometimes flounder a little; gain support, knowledge & experience; grow confident; – you may have spotted some repetition here! – and sail on beyond to carry some of these basic skills in to their lives (and maybe on into the Diploma course).

So what’s my point – why the repetition?!63768_3526_1_H007

…well, the two courses are so different to teach… in the full Diploma course there’s so much juicy detail, intriguing anatomical learning, valuable physiology & pathology information, developing & refining of people skills, creation of clear a supportive connection with people, and interesting ways to effectively apply this knowledge to the hands-on work of the actual massage.

There’s no way you can cover even a tenth of this in a 2day Introduction to Massage workshop!..

… but one of the reasons I love the short Introductory workshop is because I’m unendingly in awe of how it captures the essence of the full Diploma course… in just two days!

It reflects the person centred, nurturing, accepting ethos of the Diploma course, and of the College as a whole.

It captures the main principles underpinning the Diploma course and offers a lot of the, oh-so-important, sensitive, connecting, hands-on work.

The two days may not give anything like the superb depth of knowledge and growth of skills people gain form the Diploma course but it really does capture the college’s essence, and it is this essence that drew me to BCMB and gives me the greatest pleasure to share it with others.

Jeremy Dymond

Jeremy Dymond

Jeremy Dymond was drawn to massage having experienced many benefits from it while suffering a back condition. He trained with BCMB in 2010 and now works in private practice in Bath where he also lives. He is an assistant on the BCMB Professional Training Course in Worcester. He uses influences from Yoga, Pilates and Tai Chi to look after himself and further support his massage work. Always keen to be outdoors and active, be it on his bike or walking and camping, Jeremy forever looks to make better use of his body and to find effective ways to relax his mind. He finds great satisfaction in using massage to help others get the best from their bodies.

Teaches: Holistic Massage (Bristol)

What is Holistic Massage by Andy Fagg, Director of BCMB

What is holistic massage?

The term holistic massage can be woolly, vague, wet. At best, practitioners may talk of treating the “whole person” – body, mind and spirit. At worst they just burn incense, play whale music and charge you a stupid price.

Actually I like the word holistic although I agree with those who object to its “holiness” connotation. So just what is the “whole” that we refer to here?

At BCMB, massage is seen as a process of engagement, a dynamic communication of touch and response. There are three aspects to “wholeness”:

  1. the whole client, with physical, emotional and spiritual needs;
  2. the whole practitioner, present and focused, paying good attention;
  3. a whole range of techniques used as appropriate to the situation.

So how does massage work?


Holistic Massage - handsAs I touch your body, a whole range of physiological responses can occur, affecting the skin, sensory nerve receptors, muscle tissue, circulation of blood and lymph, ease of joint movement, breathing, digestion and so on. My skill as a therapist means I vary the depth, speed and intention to enable different responses to occur.

Yet there is much more than this.


Your emotions are body felt sensations. Anger, joy, fear, hope, shame, sadness – consider how each feels and you will evoke a physical sensation.


Also, your tissues display your conscious and unconscious belief systems. If you are confident and outgoing, you will present with very different postural and muscular patterning than if you feel insignificant and unimportant.

So when I touch you, I literally touch your view of yourself and how you feel. And that is the product not only of who you are now but also all your personal history up to that moment.

There is more.


holistic massage - AndyWhen I touch you, not only are your physical and emotional responses present, but so are mine. All my physical symptoms, feelings and personal history are also in the room. Of course, as a professional therapist, I take care of myself elsewhere, but I may also draw on my experience to support your personal process. So I may develop an expertise in working with clients whose experiences relate to mine. The range of outcomes from each therapeutic relationship is enormous, rich and constantly exciting.


As human beings, we are physical entities. Part of the deal of the human condition is that each of us has a body! Yet we have a culture that marginalizes the body, teaching us to be ashamed of its size, shape and functions. Many of us are not properly “embodied”. Our families, the media, partners and our own inner critics try to tell us that our bodies are not good enough.

The role of holistic massage is both radical and simple, namely enabling people to live fully in their bodies.   That’s it!

In future blogs I will define massage in one sentence and reveal the 4 principles that guide our work at BCMB with students and clients.

Andy Fagg

BCMB Founder and Director

12th May 2016

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