Imagine you are sitting in a forest, completely still. It doesn’t seem like anything is happening at first glance, but once you start exploring, you stumble upon a path you had no idea existed. This is how Jeffrey Spratt visualizes his journey, both literal and figurative, across many careers and continents until he finally landed here in Boston and opened his own Boston massage therapy practice.
Born and raised in Michigan, Jeffrey studied business, theater and psychology. He aspired to be a teacher, pilot and more. A business opportunity that took him to Japan for three years ended up changing the entire direction of his life. All that has remained constant throughout these sharp changes has been his desire to help people, which he now accomplishes by healing patients at his practice, operating out of the Seaport Hotel.
Jeffrey’s approach to massage therapy is not quite typical, though. After studying shiatsu and tai chi in Japan and graduating from the Muscular Therapy Institute in Cambridge in 2002, he describes his method now as “a total blend of East and West,” or Western science applied with Eastern philosophy.
Last week, Jeffrey and his public relations coordinator and client, Mary McManus, who had an incredible story of her own to share, came to IM Boston’s office to chat about the healing power of massage therapy, which often times goes beyond the physical.
How did your journey around the world bring you to Boston and the healthcare world? What appealed to you about this city?
There’s a soul to everything we do. People have it. Cities have it. I’ve always been attracted to help people, which has always been the propelling force to what I do. The human body has also always intrigued me, along with Eastern medicines and philosophies … throughout my journey I kept meeting people who had experienced the benefits of massage therapy. My friends went through a pretty bad car accident, and their massage therapist was instrumental to their recovery.
My first two trips to Boston were in February, and I fell in love with the place. If I loved it in February, then the rest of the year was going to be cake. I came with a restaurant company as a front house manager of P.F. Chang’s. I opened the original restaurant here and then made the leap into the healthcare world.
How did you get the opportunity to go to Japan?
I was living in Phoenix working at an airline trying to build up my hours to a pilot career. My friend also worked for the same company. It was bad economic times, so we decided to chuck it all and move to Japan. The original contract was just for a year, but I fell in love with the place and stayed for three. I found a position as an English teacher because teaching was something I was very much interested in.
When I returned from Japan, the massage therapy hadn’t started yet. I wanted to be a school teacher. As I tried to settle into making more money and getting back into the real world, I fell into the restaurant industry. I was in a prime spot, as P.F. Chang’s was just going national … but the lifestyle was killing me. I left them to be a school teacher, but I realized the classroom setting wasn’t for me. Massage therapy was thrown [back] onto my plate– it works for me, the student-mentor relationship … I started looking for schools and found one of the best ones was right here in Cambridge.
How do your experiences in Japan influence the way you run your practice? How does this set you apart from other massage therapy practices?
I think the biggest thing was the sense of duty, service and accommodation. Their culture is built on honor and duty. Providing service is the ultimate gift in their minds. My mission here in Boston … I feel is a sense of duty, honor and service to my clients but also to my profession. If I’m not honoring my clients, it reflects poorly on me, but also my industry. I know it’s the experience that lasts longer than any kind of souvenir you pick up … a fantastic massage can influence your trip to Boston, so I feel I am an ambassador for Boston as well.
I immerse myself in Eastern dynamics of the medical model. Eastern philosophy is a lot about balance rather than the symptoms … it makes a lot more sense to effect change at the root versus just doing something about the symptoms.
In your email to me, you talked about the “power of positive touch.” Can you explain what you meant by that?
Healing intention feels totally different and can go a long way in loosening up blockage. Experience on table is blissful. It’s part of the experience. In the now, this all feels really good. Change is happening, but it’s what the time on the table gives you on the outside… It’s like working out or dieting on a regular basis. You don’t go to the gym once and come out looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger. It’s the same as the effect of positive touch and massage therapy.
I’ll mention Mary’s journey– polio as a child. Abusive home life … medical doctors told her she would most likely end up in a wheelchair. She ran– through our work just last January– she ran a the half marathon in Bermuda.
Mary: They told me I needed a total knee replacement. My MRI showed my knee was blown out. They told me to stop running (well, they never told me to start, but that’s a story for another day). I had a calf muscle that atrophied due to the polio. I was blessed to find my way to Jeff. He had powerful intention to find a way to heal. They told me don’t run, but I did run. I did my first 5k with Jeff and then did the Bermuda half in January, and signed up to do it again. It’s going to be my annual event. Wounds are healing. Trauma is healing. That’s the power of positive touch.
How has your worked changed you as a person?
I am in constant awe, and I have to practice humility everyday. I am thrilled, love what I do, can’t believe I do this for a living — I mean, I rub people for a living [laughs]. My practice and my work has gone really well with my journey as a person. My work is designed to help people. Making a change for better is my goal, and I have to practice what I preach. It’s a give and take, yin and yang. The more I better myself, the better practitioner I become. I know if I mess up, I can’t be present for you.