Exchanging Words with Anchor Massage Therapy

Exchanging Words is an ongoing series of conversations with the people behind the places in the Exchange District. If you would like to be featured, please email with “Exchanging Words” in the subject line.

Feeling good is all about mind, body and spirit. Sara Martin, Principle Registered Massage Therapist at Anchor Massage Therapy, is all about marrying those components together into a healthy and well-rounded ritualistic life.

So what kind of people need massage therapy? Everyone, really. The trick is finding out what kind of therapy is best for you.

“It depends on your lifestyle and your work,” she says, noting that the four main reasons people come to Anchor are because of stress, relaxation, pain, and injury. “If you have an injury it’s going to be a therapeutic massage, and we’re going to rehab your injury. If it’s mental health, it’s more of a stress reduction massage, and we’ll get those happy hormones going in a space to relax, get that mind-body connection going.”

Martin explains that as a lifelong soccer player, it was a natural evolution to turn to massage and athletic therapy, and she’s quick to note that stretching is a key part of the athletic process that most people forget.

“We’ve got to prepare our body for sport,” she says. “Basically you’re saying, ‘Body, I’m going to start, stop, start, stop.’ So you warm your nervous system up to say, ‘Listen, I’m going to put you through something. I’m going to warm you up to get you ready for that.’ That’s why when you don’t warm up your body you strain something, you shock your nervous system.”

She notes that stretching is an important part to overall wellness, and that she incorporates it in all of her treatments. On a trip to Thailand, she studied Thai yoga massage, which involves stretching people out on the floor and rolling them around while working their extremities. It’s something she’s been able to incorporate into her own practice.   

“Both Eastern and Western medicine correlates, you just have to fill in the blanks,” Martin says. “In Chinese medicine it’s meridians, and in Thailand for Thai massage it’s energy lines, and in Western medicine, it’s arteries and nerves. It’s different technique, completely, more of a full-body stretch.”

Martin incorporates stretching into her own routine, and urges her clients to do so as well.

“I think for daily life you have to have these routines,” Martin says. “You get up in the morning and do your daily range of motion exercises to warm up your body for motion, or for the day. With a sedentary lifestyle like [working] a desk job, you might not move your body for three hours. You’re teaching your nervous system habitual movement patterns. This movement becomes your natural resting state because you’re not communicating with your body. These routines that we do give us a healthier motion within our day to day.”

Previous to working in massage therapy, Martin had a career in social work and helped found The Bike Dump, a program that teaches bike mechanic skills to marginalized people in the hope they find employment. After undergoing spinal surgery eight years ago, she switched her focus from the “basic needs” of social work programming to people’s physical and mental needs.

“I was kind of burned out, I had to switch it up,” she says. The two worlds aren’t that dissimilar, and having Anchor gives her the space to host counsellors, personal trainers, and nutritionists, which she’ll be doing in September by presenting a series of talks and drop-ins.

“All my experience is pretty much one in the same, but I’m approaching it from different angles to keep it fresh, but the work is still there. I’m still trying to help people, to heal people.”

Visit Anchor Massage Therapy at 102-270 Waterfront Drive or for more information.