A Spotlight on Richmond's Holistic & Alternative Wellness Community
At The Blue Lotus-RVA, we are committed to supporting the many skilled and gifted practitioners and businesses in our local community. This month, we showcase Stephanie Whitehead, Reiki Master specializing in animal massage and reiki. Stephanie has a heart of pure gold, and her passion and commitment to animal well-being inspires us. Seeing her work with animals and witnessing their response to her gentle touch is indeed heartwarming.
It is our sincere privilege to share her story with you.
Reiki Master Specializing in Animal Massage and Reiki
at The Blue Lotus-RVA
Stephanie's love for animals goes back well into her early childhood when she first discovered her special connection with animals. Since then, she has become a passionate advocate for the care and well-being of our animal friends. We sat down with Stephanie to learn more about what she does and how massage and Reiki can benefit animals.
TBLRVA: Stephanie, how long have you been practicing animal massage and Reiki?
Stephanie: I’ve been doing animal massage since 2007, and in 2019 I was certified in Reiki for animals. Actually, I was certified in Reiki several years ago, but found out there was a course for animal Reiki. And since I gravitate more toward animals anyway, it was right up my alley.
TBLRVA: What drew you to doing animal massage and Reiki?
Stephanie: Well, I always felt a connection with animals. Even pretty much before I could talk, I was fascinated with animals, and I seemed to just get along with them so well. Growing up I always wanted to be a veterinarian, but that just didn’t work for me. By the time I got older, I really wanted some way to help animals, and I was able to find organizations that offered certifications in animal Reiki and massage. I was able to study with different schools for animal massage, learning several different techniques, and I put together my own style of massage for animals using what I had learned and what I had asked my veterinarian about so I could understand what’s safe. And I have been doing that ever since.
TBLRVA: What are some of your memorable childhood moments that highlight your deep connection with animals?
Stephanie: I remember when I was a child there was a dog in the neighborhood and everyday I’d walk past his house. He would bark at me, I’d bark back, You how children are! And after that we’d play. So it seemed to be some communication there I wasn’t consciously aware of, but on some level there was some communication.
I found out to be very careful how I barked. One day, I got a little over excited in my barking and apparently said something wrong. He went after me and bit me on the butt! So I learned to be very careful, but besides that, it seems I have an affinity to bring animals in and calm them. I notice a lot of animals, especially when they’re anxious, tend to jump at the least little thing. So, if you can sit calmly and just be there with them – just be present with them and not look at them – they tend to calm down. They tend to get closer to you.
There was as dog when I was a little girl that was very skittish of everyone, and all the adults said, “No, don’t touch that dog!” But being the stubborn little rebel that I was went to touch him. And eventually after sitting with him – it took a few days of me going over to him and just sitting quietly and not doing anything else – one day he just came and sat with his back up against me, and that was it. And I think that might have been me unconsciously finding a way to Reiki because that’s what Reiki’s like. Reiki is that connection and that energetic link to everything around us. I think the dog felt that.
TBLRVA: It felt your energy and that calming presence and just being able to sit with someone who’s not thinking, “Oh! This is a skittish, bad dog!” But instead, just being with the dog.
Stephanie: I think a lot of times we think things about an animal, and we unconsciously either tense our body or take a certain stance that the animal can pick up on.
TBLRVA: Yes, because they pick up on those subtle senses that we might not pick up on.
Stephanie: Exactly. So of course they react the same way. They always react. But if you’re calm and you’re quiet, and you’re not really thinking of pulling the dog to you, or you make an effort in your mind to think “safe,” “calm,” the animal will tend to respond to that. And it might take a few days, it might take a few weeks. It just depends on the animal, what trauma they’ve been through and what fears they have.
TBLRVA: What are some of the benefits you’ve noticed animals have from Reiki and massage?
Stephanie: Aside from the obvious of being calmer, I’ve noticed pain relief, mobility is better.
TBLRVA: How do you know an animal has experienced pain relief after a session?
Stephanie: Well, you see a dog that comes in either limping or walking very slowly, and then when they walk away from the massage or the Reiki session, they’re a little bit spry. There’s a bit of a spring in their step. They don’t move as slowly as they did. And dogs will tell you right away when they’re hurting. So will most cats and most animals. Especially mammals will have some sort of indication that there is pain involved. With dogs, their ears will droop or their head will droop. Cats will sometimes have their ears back with their eyes almost squinting. It’s like you can almost see somebody hovered over in pain. It’s that look in their face. And I’ve seen times when dogs where obviously uncomfortable and they would sit and fidget, then turn around and try to find a comfortable spot. And after the massage begins you almost hear this sigh, or for cats, they purr. Or, believe it or not, a snake doesn’t make a sound or anything, but you see their eyes half closed like they are relaxing.
TBLRVA: Are there any other benefits you’ve noticed?
Stephanie: Well, I’m pretty sure it gets rid of toxins because my husband now calls me The Poop Lady! So far, almost all of the dogs I’ve ever massaged have pooped, either in the middle of a session or right after. I had one client who was terminally ill with cancer. He hadn’t been able to go to the bathroom, and he hadn’t been able to move very much. He was in a lot of pain. After I did the massage with a little bit of Reiki here and there, the dog was put back into his owner’s van. When they got home, the dog got of the van himself, went right over to one of the spots and pooped. The owner called back very excited because his dog was able to move more freely on his own and went to the bathroom.
So be warned that if your dog gets massage, the likelihood of poop is high! This is why when I go to a client now, I carry poop bags for them. Just in case!
TBLRVA: What was the most unusual animal you’ve given massage or Reiki?
Stephanie: Probably, the snake. I’ve worked on lizards, cats, and mostly dogs. The lizards I gave mostly distance Reiki. I didn’t do any massage on them because their bones are so small, and I don’t want to take the risk of damaging the bones or hurting the muscles or anything. So they mostly got Reiki. But the snake was a fairly large yellowish-orange and white albino boa constrictor. I just would take long, slow stokes and then lift my hand that was there to gently restrain him. (let him go). And if he would raise his head, I’d try a little rubbing underneath. And that’s how I found out they really like that apparently. And then just give it Reiki. Snakes seem to respond to it (Reiki). With reptiles, you can’t tell as much, but they seem to respond to it. But the fact that he seemed calm and that he seemed to want me to rub under his chin by pressing on my fingers indicated to me he was responding to what I was doing.
TBLRVA: Are there any tips you can share that can help people care for their pets when it comes to Reiki and massage?
Stephanie: Sure. Sit with your animal with your hands on your animal – one on the chest and one on the withers. You want to just sit there calmly with them and just think of a loving light surrounding the two of you. There’s a connection between your heart and their heart, and just take long slow strokes along the back, along the sides. You can very gently, rub the ears from the bottom to the top between your two fingers in a rolling motion with your thumb. You want to make sure that the pressure you’re using is very, very gentle. It shouldn’t be any more pressure than you can stand on your own eyelids. For lizards, I would recommend only doing Reiki, or you can rub along each side of the ridge of the back with just two gentle fingers. Don’t put any pressure because their bodies are very small. If the animal is domestic or is your pet, feel free to pick them up or hold them in your hands and just concentrate the thoughts of love and protection and health and well-being on them as you make slow gentle strokes. If they’re feral or wild animals make sure you’re sending them love, sending them health, and sending them thoughts of protection from a distance. Don’t get too close. Don't think that because an animal looks calm they won’t bite.
It was a real pleasure to sit and talk with Stephanie about her work and experience with animals. This month she will be offering a free seminar, Benefits of Reiki and Massage for Your Pet, on August 24, 2019. Come out and learn how massage and Reiki can improve the quality of your pet’s life! And, you will have the opportunity to meet Stephanie and ask questions you may have related to your pet! Sign up today by clicking here to visit our Meetup group page.
Now through September 30, 2019, Stephanie is offering a 20% discount on her services. Click here to book a session with Stephanie today!