Passing down the wisdom: ‘Become a prenatal massage specialist’ course offered in May
May 8, 2017
When Chula Gemignani was a little girl growing up in San Francisco, she used to make her way around the dining room table, massaging the shoulders of her parents' dinner guests.
They used to tell her she had a magic touch — that she should do it for a living. Little did they know it would become her life's passion.
Today, with more than 15 years' worth of massage experience — 10 of them in Nevada County — Gemignani has built a reputation for her extensive training and versatility. Her clients regularly seek her out for a broad range of integrated techniques, including Shiatsu, Swedish deep tissue, Jin Shin Tara, Trager, energy work, cranial sacral, stress relief, sports massage, myofascial release and more.
But when her pregnant clients came in looking for relief from the inevitable aches and pains, Gemignani was tentative and gentle — perhaps more so than she needed to be.
"As a therapist, I was extra careful with my prenatal clients," she said. "I kept wondering, 'Am I doing it right?' I knew there were other therapists out there who were feeling the same way. I wanted the confidence of a specialist beyond my CMT (certified massage therapist) certification."
As a result, Gemignani sought out and studied under Carole Osborne, a Bay Area prenatal specialist, renowned massage practitioner, author and instructor.
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Inspired to share
"She was such an inspiration to me — I took her 32-hour course," she said. "She was a huge resource. What I loved about her work was the structural integration and body sculpting that was integrated into prenatal massage. A lot of pregnant women are craving a deeper massage that will help them with all the structural changes their body is going through. But too often all they're able to find is a spa massage with light massage strokes. I wanted to offer something different, more useful. That's why Carole's certification rang true for me."
As it turns out, Osborne's training was just a jumping off point for Gemignani, who has since become known for her technique and expertise in deeper fascial work (the fascia being the thin sheath of fibrous tissue that encloses muscles and organs). She has developed her own method, "Dynamic Fascial Response," and has become known for her prenatal, postpartum, and perinatal (labor assisting) body work. Pregnant women are routinely referred to her by midwives, chiropractors, acupuncturists and other pregnant women, she said.
"It's such an honor to have been trusted by the community all these years," said Gemignani. "I'm now at the point where I'm seeing babies grow up. I'll say, 'I massaged you when you were in your mama's belly.'"
Today, at the age of 49, with 15 years' worth of experience, Gemignani is now seeing the value of sharing the knowledge and wisdom she has learned over the years.
"I've been wanting to teach for a long time," she said. "I've finally decided to make the time."
Gemignani will be teaching a 32-hour in-depth course entitled, "Become a prenatal massage specialist" from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily from May 19 through 22 at Cedar Ridge Healing Center in Grass Valley. She is currently putting the final touches on a student handbook, designed to be a lasting resource for massage therapists and doulas.
'Healthy moms = healthy babies'
"I'll never forget the way it felt to massage a pregnant woman before I was a prenatal specialist — I do not want other therapists to feel as insecure or as unsure as I did," said Gemignani. "I want to keep mothers and babies safe and well cared for by responsible massage therapists. For this, I have created a practical student handbook, filled with illustrations and learning material that will facilitate this dynamic class, which includes problem-solving, demonstrations, and — upon completion — solid practitioners."
The four-day course will include prenatal massage safety, techniques to help clients overcome healing challenges, a structural approach to manual therapies to help the prenatal and postpartum client, at-birth massage techniques, specific massage techniques based on Gemignani's Dynamic Fascial Response repertoire (which is inspired by fascial release), cranial sacral therapy, lymphatic drainage, stretch techniques and more. A prenatal massage on the last day of class will serve as the final exam. Participants will earn 32 continued education units.
"I tried a few other massage therapists for prenatal massage, but Chula was above and beyond," said Cameron McGowen of Nevada City, whose baby is due May 24. "Her table is set up in the most comfortable way and I always experience a lot of relief. It's all in her training — a less experienced therapist would be a little nervous. She's very adaptable. After all these years, she has so many tools on her belt."
Out of Gemignani's more than 500 Nevada County massage clients over the years, roughly a third are now pregnant women, and appointments are often booked weeks in advance. Her unique perspective has given her insight into the growing need for qualified prenatal massage specialists. This is what has inspired her to share her accumulated knowledge with other massage therapists and doulas.
"I want to be clear that this is not a replacement for medical care. We need to keep our moms and babies safe and keep our practitioners safe. It can be a big liability if they don't know some of this stuff," said Gemignani. "The most rewarding part of this work is helping people — making people's lives a little easier. When you massage a pregnant woman and bring her to a place of peace for the journey into motherhood, you're creating space in her to have peace in her family. Healthy moms equal healthy babies."
To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at Cory@theunion.com.