Wellness Warrior Wisdom - an Interview with Tania "Magic Hands" Kahika-Foote

Introducing Tania aka Magic Hands, as some in the know in the Far North call her. Tania has many talents in the holistic health department, but her biggest passion as a healer is in massage therapy. She is technically a Soft Tissue and Clinical Sports Massage Therapist and you'll find her at Strength and Soul in Whangarei - or on her page on Facebook - (Tania Kahika-Foote Massage & Wellness @TaniaKFMassage).

She was recently elected onto the Massage New Zealand Executive in August as the Regional Liaison Coordinator for New Zealand. Safe to say this is a girl going places for all the right reasons!

I got the lowdown from Tania about her approach to health and wellbeing - have a read!

What led you to into the realm of holistic health?
Well i have two answers to this question!  One pathway conscious and one pathway subconscious (ahhh isn’t that the best way that the universe works ;-))
I was working as a Functions Manager at a Hotel Complex and specialized in hosting International and National Sports Teams. I would see these teams arrive all their accommodation paid for, meals paid for, airfares paid for, sponsors arriving with shoes, watches, clothing etc and i thought - “hold on a minute!”, “how can i get on that bandwagon?”.

    At that time (cough cough 13 years ago) Rugby was the main sport that had all the money and that sort of fancy pants life attached to it, so i thought ok Tania, lets make a plan of how you can do this.  You can not become an All Black, you can not coach the All Blacks, you do not like blood and bodily fluids so being the All Blacks Doctor isn’t going to happen - that left Physio or Trainer.
I looked into Physio and that just didn’t quite give me the right vibe.  So that left becoming a Trainer.  At that time I happened to be looking after an International Rugby League team and so i asked the Trainer how i do i get your job?  He actually suggested i think about Massage.  It was just starting to become a necessity with some of the Elite teams (which means put in the budget).  I literally walked to the front desk got the yellow pages - again i reiterate this was (cough cough 13 years ago) so no goggling.  Asked him where to study.  Phoned up, went for an interview the next day and enrolled and started Massage School on the following Monday.  ABSOLUTELY loved it!  Within 6 months i was working with our Elite Athletes.

2. Now for the other aspect!  I come from a beautiful, spiritually gifted family.  My Great Grandparents and Great Uncle were healers.  They passed on many talents and treasured gifts to a their children.  In particular a Grand Aunty of mine who i spent many parts of my childhood living with.  Before i was the age of 5 years old i would be whisked off by her to tangi’s at the Marae all the time.  Many of my earliest memories are lying in the Wharemate snuggled up next to the coffin, listening to the kuias telling stories, giggling away to each other, and of course gossiping.  As a youngster there was always a pot of some sort brewing on the stove, a jar of some herbs, flowers or leaves sitting in the sunshine for weeks.  As you left the house in the morning, or before bed at night something was always given to me to drink or rub on.  
As i got older i spent hours and hours chatting with my Aunty, my Mum, my Nan about this aspect of the family, history passed down verbally.  Spiritualness passed down both verbally and silently.  
. . . and so the afternoon that I finished that shift at work that i mentioned above in part one, i drove over to my Grand Aunties house to have a cuppa tea with her and tell her i had decided to go to Massage School.  She took a sip of her tea looked up at me over her glasses and said “well it’s about time Babe, i have been waiting for you to come over and tell me that”, “that is exactly what you are meant to be doing.”
Of course at the time and for many many years afterwards I thought choosing Massage as a career was all my own doing.  But quite clearly, that was not the case...

Some might consider massage therapy a bit of a splurge or a luxury (but as we know it’s crucial!), what are some of the key benefits?
There are SO MANY benefits, this is one of those questions that i could go on and on forever.
I would have to say the number one benefit is PREVENTION.  A regular quality massage can help your body prevent injuries occurring. Your therapist becomes knowledgeable on your body and so is able to pick up early on if something feels off or a joint looks different to usual.  You too, start to become aware and in-tune with your own body and so it tells you quicker when something feels niggly or not quite right and you are then able to address it straight away instead of leaving it to manifest.  
My second benefit would be MINDBODYSOUL.  Having an hour to yourself is incredibly important.  Phone switched off and someone focussing entirely on you.  For some people this may be an hour of silence or and hour of chatting away with the therapist either way this is absolutely necessary for your mental health.
Then i could go on listing lots and lots and lots of other evidence based benefits and physiological reasons . . . .

Tell us a bit about strength and soul and the philosophy...
At Strength and Soul we look at every single body that walks through our doors as an individual.  For example we could get 4 clients in a row recovering from a hip operation - but that doesn’t mean we will treat them all the same.  We look at their movement patterns, we look at their occupation, their hobbies, their lifestyle and then come up with the best individualised plan to get them back to optimal health.  Functional Movement, Prehabilitation and Rehabilitation are our core philosophys.  So you will never see us sending someone off to run around the block or do 100 burpees!
How long have you been performing/practising (?) cupping? Can you tell us a bit more about why you do it/rate it/the ancient principles behind it?
I have been incorporating Cupping into massage treatments for about 2 and a half - 3 years now.  I was working alongside a colleague of mine a few years ago and she was using them on a couple of her clients and i got to see first hand the benefits.  I was very impressed.
I just want to point out here that the Cupping that i do is only focussed on the Musculo-skeletal system.  I use the silicone cups and the vacuum pressure cups.  I attended a workshop last year where we had an intro into the glass fire cups that are used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).  I love fire and so incorporating fire and massage is right up my ally (hehehe) - but - after this course i developed a whole new respect for the use of those cups.  They demand respect and patience and time to learn and understand the ins and outs of the TCM way of treatment.  Therefore not something that I am practising at the moment.
In a nutshell the cups are designed to lift the layers of the tissue and allow blood to circulate into an area.  This is what causes the skin discolouration.  It does not cause blunt force trauma bruising, which most people think because of the change of skin colour, it is just a sudden pooling of localised blood.
I find them really beneficial on an area that feels stagnant and/or stubborn.  Such as a knot that i begin to work on, and you can start to feel it resisting you.  When I feel this sensation i know that if i carry on, i am just going to cause pain and post massage bruising (which are NOT OK!).  Basically its the tissue telling me to bugger off and there is no point continuing on because the area is going to start switching off to me.  I find that if i pop a cup on and leave it be for a little bit, the gentle continued blood circulation keeps the area happy and helps release the knotty or congested tissue.

What’s your favourite modality for healing?
Ooooh good question! I’m not sure i have an answer for this.  Of course Massage but . . .
I actually believe that every body is different and so each individual body will have a favourite and possibly a favourite for different ailments or needs.  Sometimes it is part of the healing journey to find what ‘your’ thing is.  But trust in that journey.
For me personally when i am feeling overwhelmed or lots mentally going on a walk at the beach is healing and calming and resetting.  If i am feeling a bit un-balanced or disconnected from my body and i sense it might be coming from an emotional aspect i get an Energy Rebalancing session with a gorgeous local therapist.  If i sense it’s physical i choose to have a craniosacral session (with my Mum :-)).  I get monthly facials and that is my healing luxury and my treat to myself. I also meditate and generally this is a daily practice, for me this is a check in with my body, is everything feeling ok.
Since i have been living in Whanagrei i have actually let getting a regular massage myself slip.  I used to get them fortnightly in Auckland.  But as of this month i am back to getting them regularly again.  And in case you are wondering yes i do pay for them, i believe in the transaction.
What’s your philosophy on energy/energies and the power of thought/the mind? How do you use visualisation techniques in your own life?

Our minds are incredibly powerful.  In a way i have been a first hand witness to this every day for the last 13 years as a Therapist.  Every person who has walked in my door has an ailment and it is amazing how many times the ailment has an emotional link to it an energy pattern.  I don’t document it or anything, it is just something that i am mindful of and gets added into the file in my brain.
But yes i do believe in the power of thought and how things can manifest in our body physically from a mental or emotional point of view.  For me personally i find it hard at times to voice my thoughts on a matter, i tend to meditate on a situation first, sometimes this is not always the wisest thing for me to do and a day later i will get a sore throat - a lesson that i do not think i will ever learn but i am doing better at acknowledging it.
I visualize/meditate daily doing a body scan checking in with myself to see any areas that need healing.  I also visualize and manifest big picture things around a full moon.  I also write these things down and one of the things i love is the next month looking at my list and ticking or crossing off those that have come true.

How does your Maori heritage influence your healing ability today?
I am firstly going to answer this question by saying it does a lot.  But i am a little unsure how to expand on that further and explain.  I think that when it has been influenced and embedded in to you from the day you were born, it becomes something that ‘just is’, it is inside you.  It is your blood, it is your spirit, it just runs through you and so without realising every decision i make, every touch, every gut instinct decision on treating a client ‘just is’.  Somedays i have a philosophical conversation in my head, especially if i am reflecting on a unique or tricky client i have just had and i think to myself.
Hmmm Tania did you do that based on 99% learned knowledge, skill and experience and 1% gut/spiritual instinct or was it 99% gut/spiritual instinct and 1% learned knowledge, skill and experience.
Can you share some of your wisdom or spiritual views about that? (ignore if already mentioned above).

Latest health find that you’re loving?
Oh gosh well nutrition wise i am going to say Kombucha.  This is not exactly a new find because I have been brewing for years.  But i do tend to go in cycles with it and brew and consume regularly then stop for like a month.  I am back on the bandwagon and with the warm weather i love getting home from work and pouring a nice cool glass into my wine glass and sip on it to unwind.
Aromatherapy - again not exactly a new find, but a couple of weeks ago our Northland Massage Group had the most amazing evening hosted by Carol Rose at The Aromary in Kerikeri and she exuded so much passion and knowledge of the oils (scientifically and psychologically which is right up my alley) which just grabbed me.  So i am finding myself wanting to read and know and use the oils more respectfully and consciously at the moment.

What’s on your plate lately – care to share any fave recipes?
I love being in the kitchen and experimenting.  I really enjoy the solitude and it calms me.  Plus the joy of sharing a meal.
Hmmm what to share, what to share??
Well seen our weather is starting to warm up and sometimes a glass of water after hours in the garden just doesn’t quite seem to quench the thirst.  Here is a yummy treat that is better than reaching for those fizzy drink options. This is a recipe i came up with last summer.

Honey & Mint Cordial

3 Cups Boiling Water

Good handful of bruised mint leaves

4 Tbspn Honey (feel free to adapt this amount to suit the sweetness of your honey)
Pour boiling water over mint and stir in the honey.Leave for several hours.

Strain off the liquid and store in a jar in the fridge (overnight is best).

When ready to use, pour a little of the honey & mint syrup into a glass and top with iced water or chilled sparkling water.
Your road trip looked awesome! What would you say were MUST do’s for anyone travelling around the North Island?
Ahhh it was awesome!!  We are truly spoilt in NZ with our gorgeous country and accessibility.  There are so many must do’s!  I have spent many many hours travelling around the North Island.
However this particular trip for us was to just enjoy having a drive around the countryside,  and to spend the weekend in Wellington (Shane had never been and i used to live there just after i graduated Massage school).  
We had gorgeous Wellington weather and so spent our days wandering around the city, the waterfront, Oriental Parade, checking out the markets.  Enjoying a beer or a wine and a yummy platter at the many bars and cafes, and just absorbed the vibrancy of the city.  We both love how everyone is so friendly in Wellington, it has such an eclectic mix of personalities, ethnicities and everyone just seems to enjoy being themselves and accepting of each other.
Our other highlight was when we got to the Hawkes Bay, it was just a quick overnight stop but again walking along Marine Parade and feeling the Art Deco history was pretty special.  Also it is a must to play Mini Golf in Napier - i did get my butt kicked but Shane who got 3 goddamn holes in one.  He also managed to get half of Marine Parade stopping to watch his victory dances.


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