The Essence of an Amma Therapist
We wanted to capture the essence of an Amma Therapist, as most people aren’t familiar with this powerful lineage-based healing art. So, we sat down for a quick interview to do just that, with Rylen. It’s nothing short of inspiring, so take a moment to learn more about life as an Amma Therapist!
Rylen Feeney: BA, LMT #14733, Diplomate of Asian Bodywork Therapy & Chinese Herbs (NCCAOM), & Whole Food Nutrition Consultant AOBTA Certified Instructor, Director of Education, Senior Practitioner & Instructor.
You’ve been practicing Amma Therapy for 25 years. What is it about this modality in particular that keeps you going strong?
Amma is a lifestyle, not merely a practice. It’s not a job I show up for and leave the office behind at the end of the day. Amma becomes ingrained in each fiber of your being; it is who you are. It shapes your perspectives, the way you care for yourself and your family, how you foster your personal development. Amma is a holistic approach to healing and living. In order to practice Amma Therapy effectively, you have to embrace it and live the lifestyle to the best of your ability. Of course, that changes as your life evolves and as you age. But the aging and living process enables us to to practice more effectively; it helps to have personal experiences to be able to guide people more compassionately. For me, Amma is present in every moment of every day. For example, practicing successfully for a long period of time requires I keep a certain level of physical strength and mental discipline. So, I practice Qigong and meditation. It demands that I’m emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually clear with myself. Without that discipline and clarity you can’t be a conduit for somebody else’s healing. So, in a sense, every day I do Amma Therapy is a day I’m committing to my own self-development and growth because I have to stay balanced and energized, disciplined and clear.
As far as longevity goes, Amma Therapy is the ultimate self-healing modality. Unlike many forms of bodywork, which are physically demanding in a draining and unsustainable sense, Amma gives back. Amma is demanding of mind and body, but it does not drain you. Because you have to have a good flow of qi to treat effectively it is beneficial to the giver as well as the receiver. It feeds you and nourishes you, as it does the people you treat. That’s how Amma therapists are able to have long-standing, successful practices. My primary mentor and teacher, Faye has been practicing for over 30 years and still treats and shares a vital practice in New York. The average lifespan of a massage career is 10 – 12 years. Most Amma Therapist’s practice until they retire from the workforce.
What have been some of your most rewarding moments as an Amma Therapist?
As a therapist, always, my most rewarding moments are when people experience the depth of the work and recognize that depth. It touches them and they recognize the transformational impact. There’s nothing more rewarding.
As a teacher of 20 some years, I never tire of watching students transform, I love giving and passing on the knowledge of Amma Therapy to other people. And it’s even more rewarding when they become successful practitioners doing Amma Therapy and maintaining the lineage. Some of them, such as my first “official” student, April Crowell in Boise have been practicing nearly as long as I have. Her love of Amma is apparent in her practice and work. This is what inspires me. My relationship with my main teacher, Faye Schenkman is a cherished one. It has been and is integral to me. I feel a deep sense of honor and responsibility to carry forth the principles and healing art taught to me by Tina & Robert Sohn, Faye & Steve Schenkman, Anneke Young and Bob Borzone. When you’re practicing a lineage healing art, the connections with your elders are powerful; it’s a lasting thread that is bigger and stronger than the individuals alone. I am equally, grateful to my peers that practice along side of me, such as Michael Guida, what an asset for our students to have not one, but to senior practitioners that have a direct line to the founding masters of this art.
How many clients can a successful practitioner of Amma Therapy see in a day or a week?
I have no idea. I believe Michael has treated up to 12 in a day. For me it’s easier to say that there are times when I was teaching full time and treating about 25-30 clients per week. But it’s not about the numbers really; most important is that your last treatment of the day must be as strong as your first. That strength and consistency is what an Amma therapist achieves through being in good alignment with their own qi.
How has your practice evolved over the last two decades?
A lot! I would say I am more compassionate now that I have had more life experience. Yet, in some ways, I don’t feel any more confident or less confident than I did when I started out. I still go through phases experiencing confidence and at other times feeling a bit overwhelmed and searching for answers. I think my practice has moved through different phases of focus and specialty. When I first started, I worked a lot with addiction and digestion. And then it shifted to autoimmune, then women’s health and cancer recovery. When I was working at an Acupuncture fertility clinic, it was extremely rewarding, but I saw the same story, more or less, every day, so it was really limiting in that sense. It was a smart move for me to return to a general practice. I feel like I learn one condition really well and really deeply and then it naturally moves on and I start to attract clients that have a different need. Which leads me to opportunities for growth and to continue learning. It keeps my practice fresh and keeps me learning, as does teaching. Teaching really is the aspect that has made me the practitioner I am. I think students sometimes think you go to school and you learn what you need to learn and then you go out and practice – but in fact the schooling forms your base it is like riding a bike with training wheels – but the learning never ends. Chinese medicine is an endless reservoir to pull from so you never get it all.
In my evolution as an Amma Therapist, one of my first promises I made to myself was that I would practice Amma Therapy as it was taught to me for 10 years before I sought another modality. When hit the 10-year mark, Amma Therapy was still enough! It wasn’t until the 17th year of my practice that I embarked on adding serious course of study with another master, Lonny Jarrett in classical Five Element theory and the evolutionary development of Chinese Medicine to my practice. Adding Lonny as another mentor to my practice was transformational. While it’s always good to keep information coming in, I think it’s a mistake to seek other modalities too quickly. You need to practice your foundation first, because your strength and focus changes tremendously in those first five years, particularly if you’re engaged and fostering your personal development. Students are often afraid to practice such a “big” art right out of school so they think they need more – but if they practice with humility, sincerity and from the heart they can’t go wrong. The practice of Amma Therapy will transform them and those they touch everytime.