By Hope Katz Gibbs, Bodymechanics School of Massage Santa Fe, graduation June 2, 2022
When María de los Angeles Bartholomew (aka Angie) signed up to be part of the first class at Bodymechanics Santa Fe program, the native of Ecuador who has been living in Los Alamos, NM since 2002, was excited beyond belief.
“I grew up in an environment where we were taught that having a healthy life related to our mental, physical, and most of all, spiritual health,” explains Angie, 48. “I was familiar at least with basic things of nutrition and exercise. But no matter how much we take care of ourselves, we can still get ill when our body experiences distress.”
Angie knows this from experience. In her mid-30s, her body started to hurt—a lot. And without any real reason.
“After dozens of visits to doctors and scores of tests, they found — nothing,” Angie shares. “The best diagnosis they could offer was fibromyalgia. Unfortunately, that seems to be a catch-all diagnosis without much information on what causes it or how to treat this condition to heal truly. I was prescribed medication to treat the depression that I was experiencing, even though I told my doctor I felt depressed because of the tiredness I felt after experiencing an episode of pain.”
Rather than take the medication, Angie looked for more natural ways to heal herself. “I discovered how to help my body stimulate the production of hormones that act like the opioids and analgesics to reduce pain and stress,” she says, noting that what helped the most was massage. “It has changed my life, and now I want to share this modality to help the healing process with others.”
Please scroll down for our Q&A with Angie (pictured, right, with fellow student Nick and kinesiology teacher Pascal)
What’s your favorite massage stroke, and why: I like anything that gives me a good stretch. Whether it is a technique to improve Range of Motion (ROM) or a myofascial release, it makes me feel expanded, as if I have more room inside me. That feeling does not just relax me; it invigorates me.
What do you hope to learn throughout your training? As I see it, the way we communicate is one of the essential tools in any interaction. The language of the body is a powerful yet sensitive tool. Among the many good things that we have learned, the most helpful in understanding the message that people share through their bodies. My job as a massage therapist is to respond in the most effective ways to help them find their path to healing.
What scared you most about becoming a massage therapist when you started the program — and how do you think you’ll feel by the time you graduate? I must admit that I care about not hurting my clients, especially in an unconscious manner. When they come to the clinic to see us as students, they share what is uncomfortable in their bodies, and I take what they tell me very seriously so I can be cautious about it. As humans, we tend to fear the unknown; I think that the way to overcome those fears is informing ourselves and never stop learning as we go. If we stay curious, we will find the answers. That thought always brings me peace.
Talk about your background: Where did you grow up, where did you go to college, what work have you done until now? I am originally from a beautiful coastal town in Ecuador, Bahía de Caráquez, in South America, where I spent so much time at the beach and was in contact with country living. My grandparents from my mother’s side were healers. They earned their living by farming and growing cattle, and they healed people for free. My grandpa was the chiropractor of the area, and my grandma was an herbalist who helped bring many babies into the world. My mother became a nurse and was exposed to both worlds of healing, natural holistic and mainstream medicine; growing up, I hardly ever went to the doctor. And my Dad, a marine biologist, would take me to his work experience, the gift of nature, and the importance of being physically active. Eventually, I was sent to college and earned a degree in Physical Education, Sports, and Recreation at the State University of Guayaquil.
Tell us about your work after college. I was a fitness instructor and opened a small business to manufacture sports and school uniforms. Entering the business arena allowed me to invest in real estate, which was one of the goals on my bucket list before I turned 25. I bought my own house at 23, and when that happened, I felt like a child getting his first bicycle.
How else have you used your experience as a physical education teacher before coming to massage school? Around 2000, Ecuador’s economic crisis was when the US dollar became our currency. I decided to pause with my business and accepted an offer to work in a boarding school as physical education, health, and English teacher for elementary and high school students. It was a wonderful experience. It was an academic setting surrounded by nature; it also served as a wellness retreat. Most of the food was farmed there, and a vegetarian diet was encouraged. Many of us were young teachers from all parts of the world, and we shared that love for a healthy style of life. There were a lot of opportunities for me to continue practicing my English with native speakers; that is how I continued with my English studies on my own.
What brought you to the US? I wanted to practice my English, so I went online to find a pen pal in America. The man who coached was named Daniel, and after two years of friendship, I visited him in New Mexico. After three months, he went back to Ecuador with me to ask me to marry him. Daniel and I have been happily married for 20 years. We live in Los Alamos with our two teenage children. I have continued my passion for investing in real estate and enjoy renovating houses. I home-schooled my kids for about ten years. Then, I worked as a substitute teacher to see if teaching was something I still loved. Although I enjoy interacting with young people, working the same hours in the same place every day is an environment that I find challenging. After researching what I wanted to do now that my children are nearly grown, I found Bodymechanics. Massage school has been a wonderful experience!