The founder of Teepee Bristol on tree hugging in front of truckers, travel and massage training
I trained in Crestone, a remote place in the shadow of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in Colorado. It’s in the Bloodless Valley, an area considered so sacred by the local Native American Indian tribes no battles were ever fought there. It is such a beautiful, intense place and my training observed various traditions of the local Blackfoot tribe. I wanted to recreate a little bit of Crestone energy in Bristol. Teepee is a little holistic hideaway in a big city, a respite for burnt out urbanites where they can receive some great bodywork.
Bad health brought me to where I am now. Ten years ago I was unhealthy, burnt out, rundown, stressed and had several health complaints that were getting worse. I started having reflexology as a way to get out of the office for an hour a week, and it actually started making a difference. I haven’t looked back since.
While surfing in Puerto Escondido a few years ago I busted my ribs. I was stuck under a palapa watching the waves for three weeks getting very restless. My Mexican friend told me to put pineapple on it, advice I ignored at first. One morning I was in so much pain I cracked open a tin of pineapple slices and placed them on my ribs. Unbelievably, the pain reduced in an hour and I was up and about in a few days. I have no idea what happened, but the pineapple definitely worked.
Part of the training at Crestone involved us going out in the knee-deep snow at 6.30am every morning to do various meditative practises. The first morning we were told to go out and pick a tree. The second morning we were told to go back out and stand by our trees, then eventually hug them, to feel the tree energy. Unfortunately I’d chosen the first tree I’d seen, a young narrow sapling next to the main road. I had to endure the next three months of truckers shouting insults at me as they drove past. It was definitely character building.
In Mexico I stayed with a shaman who made musical instruments out of vegetables. I spent eight hours a day peeling and scraping gourdes [similar to butternut squashes]. Hundreds of them. Beads were then tied round them to transform them into beautiful percussion shakers. It was very therapeutic.
The best massage of my life was from a blind man in Lhasa. It was over my clothes, with lots of tapping and rubbing of points. It was unbelievably good, I couldn't tell him where any of my aches were because he didn't speak English but he magically worked his way round to all of them intuitively.
A disappointing massage is like a kick in the face, but even worse, because you have paid for it. I have had some disappointing massages in my time, in some really nice spas. You really do need to go on recommendations.
I have a fantastically varied client base, but it’s quite representative of Bristol. There are the skateboarders coming in with leg injuries, office workers with shoulders of steel from working at a computer that need loosening up, ravers who need detoxing before the weekend starts again, and the really holistic types who come in for their weekly treatments.
I offer reflexology at a drop in centre for sex workers. It’s had some amazing results. One service user decided they no longer needed to take their valium after having regular reflexology sessions. Coming from someone with long-term substance misuse problems, that is a very definite result.
I relax by cycling round the West Country at weekends. From Bristol city centre you can be out in open countryside in fifteen minutes, and reach Cheddar, Bath, Wales, Wiltshire, or the Cotswolds all in an afternoon.