Astute Santa Feans might recall how the Santa Fe School of Massage recently shut down after decades of training massage therapists, but they might not know Washington-based school Bodymechanics took over the old space on Agua Fría Street with its own curriculum. This marks the third campus in the school’s quiver and the first in New Mexico. Owner Shari Aldrich tells SFR that in 10 months and with a part-time commitment, new students can be massaging it up. We checked with Aldrich to get the inside scoop on what’s what with Santa Fe’s newest massage school.

Would you say there’s a singular mission when it comes to Bodymechanics, or does it go further than that?

I would honestly look at it from three perspectives: The overriding mission of mine is to help a million people get out of pain—mentally, emotionally, physically and financially. I’ve been through all of those, and it drives me to want to help people. As far as the students coming in, the mission is to create exceptional massage therapists with solid technique, good marketing, good communication skills and strong critical thinking skills. The third mission is to educate the public on the benefits of more natural health care. In 2013 I was doing an extreme mud run and lost a finger...after getting stuck on an obstacle. That injury directly related to how I honed in on this mission.

Do you think we’re all longing for more touch after the long pandemic, and do you think massage therapy will have to evolve now that we all know how quickly a virus can lose control?

I would definitely say that touch depravation is bad, and studies have shown that people can die without touch. We like to say we’re not first-line defenders, but we’re certainly second-line defenders in helping with people’s mental well-being and health. As far as evolving through COVID, as an industry, massage therapists have always been conscious of hygiene, and that part hasn’t changed. And it won’t change, and that is definitely something we emphasize in our program. As far as the evolution of massage therapy, I don’t know there’s going to be a lot of change unless we keep wearing masks. As an industry, massage therapists took [the pandemic] very seriously. We are the only industry in the field that is being alone with someone in a room for an hour.

When it comes to the educational aspects, have you noted any kinds of change in who wants to learn how to massage and why? I’d imagine there are lots of people setting out to help others at this point, and massage seems a good entry point.

In the last two months, it has actually been intense with people who are interested in the program. I just started a class in Tumwater [Washington] with 17 students, and a full class for me is 18. Through COVID, our classes were averaging about eight students, and to see that change was inspiring, actually. To see the people coming in, there were those who were choosing something that’s more fulfilling for their soul and heart than only working for a paycheck. We’re getting professional people who are phasing to massage because they want to help their spouse or their community. It’s a 10-month program with staggered starts through the year. I’ll be offering a full scholarship for one student and everyone else who applies and is accepted [before the June cohort] will get a $3,000 discount—so they should call soon. The overriding idea is to be helping people out of pain.