On a typical Saturday morning, cars wrap around the block in a leafy corner of Woodlawn as the achy and the stressed-out converge on the Baltimore School of Massage.
They come from the neighborhood -- and from as far away as Virginia -- for an hour of bliss and relaxation at the hands of massage students, clients of a small community of holistic healers in the eye-catching building on Dogwood Road.
"We're pretty popular in the community," said Lee Bean, director of the therapeutic massage school's student clinic, which offers cut-rate student massages supervised by instructors. "We do a lot of community outreach."
At the Wellness Center, the school shares space with acupuncturists, a chiropractor and clinical social workers offering traditional and alternative therapies.
Students and instructors often participate in community health fairs and events as well as going to local senior centers, giving demonstrations and sharing information about the benefits of massage.
The school's student clinic is the most popular feature, offering an hourlong, full-body massage at the cut-rate cost of $25, compared with $50- to $100-an-hour for a licensed massage therapist.
John Bloecher, former president of the nearby Meadows Community Association, said the school and center have been good neighbors in the mixed business-residential community of Woodlawn. "We have never heard a single, negative thing said about them," Bloecher said. "They seem to draw a really good caliber of people there."
Bean said the clinic, while introducing many to massage therapy, also allows students much-needed experience.
"It's really important that the students interact with clients so they can have a spontaneous reaction to the information the client presents to them," Bean said. "It really helps the students develop professionalism and learn how to relax with the client."
Relaxation was the goal when Jennifer Brown climbed onto a table at the student clinic recently. Brown, 37, has been coming to the clinic for four years and says she looks forward to the calming effect massage has had on her.
"Afterward, I feel like my engine is running a little bit slower," said Brown, who works as an actor and a project director for an association that does advocacy training. "It gives you the feeling that your mind, body and spirit are all as one."
In the solitude and quiet of a cubicle inside the clinic, Brown closed her eyes as student Cyndy Bartlett pulled on her ankles to stretch Brown's back. Classical music played in the dimly lighted area as Brown breathed deeply.
"Massage helps to release endorphins and toxins," Bartlett said in a whisper as she rubbed Brown's arms. "People don't realize how good it is for you. They just know it feels good."
About 500 students attend the school, and 300 participate in the clinic. Students are allowed to work in the clinic when they are half way through the intermediate portion of their studies.
Massage therapy involves manipulation of the body's tissues to reduce swelling, relax the muscles and speed healing. Legitimate massage therapists must be nationally certified and licensed by the state with 500 hours of professional training.
Bean said staff working at the student clinic have passed a national exam and belong to the American Massage Therapy Association, a professional organization with 1,400 active members in Maryland.
Bartlett, an advanced student, said giving massages has helped her health.
"Coming to the school and doing massages once a week, I think I boosted my immune system and reduced my stress," said Bartlett, who is scheduled to graduate in September. "I had had a bad cough from allergies for the past eight years, but it has been much better since I started this."
Carl Dahlstrom, 38, was so impressed with the clinic that he hands out business cards for the school to friends and associates. Dahlstrom, a director for technical employment at an information systems consulting firm, said he always feels he is in good hands at the school.
"They interview you so they can find out your special needs and adjust the massage accordingly," Dahlstrom said. "For the money, you can't beat it."
The student clinic is open from 1: 30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays; 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays; and 10: 15 a.m. to 3: 30 p.m. Sundays. Appointments: 410-944-3315.
Pub Date: 5/29/99