Techno music thumps and throbs and spills from the room. The "Earth Room." It's early, about 9:30 a.m. An instructor leads 30 men and women, ranging in age from 18 to maybe 60, in movement exercises for a body essentials class.
Down the hall, behind a closed door, "The Ocean Room" contains ten pairs of students watching an instructor manipulate a "demo-body." He's showing them a technique for "bone-cleaning" around the scapula. "Focus on the uncoiling," he says. "Get in position, sink, and melt." Upstairs, in "the Moon Room," a dozen people sit on the floor, listening to a lecturer on the Far East. "They say that herbs are the heart and soul of Chinese medicine," he intones, "but that's like saying that drugs are the heart and soul of Western medicine. I'm not sure I believe that. It's more the whole package. Massage, herbs, diet, philosophy, movement, lifestyle." Just your normal morning at massage school -- specifically, at the International Professional School of Bodywork (IPSB) in Pacific Beach. In a few minutes, I'll become a demo-body myself, lying on my back in sensory repatterning class, as an instructor takes my left hand and leads my arm in a slow series of gentle loops. Relaxing music will play in the background as his soothing voice repeats, "We're allowing the limb...to feel...the space...it naturally inhabits...by its length."
IPSB is one of at least ten massage colleges in the San Diego area. And every year, 150 new massage trainees will graduate from IPSB and go out looking for jobs relieving the symptoms of our city's common stress.
One of the founders of IPSB, and, in some senses, the father of massage in San Diego, is Dr. Barry Green.
"I've opened five massage schools," Dr. Green, 61, tells me. "I was one of the first teachers of massage in San Diego."
Dr. Green remembers the change in San Diego's massage landscape.
"I came here in 1976," he says, "which is when they started having massage laws. In the summer of '76, there were over 300 massage parlors, which were unquestionably fronts for prostitution. You'd see in the windows of these businesses. They had those signs with the lights going around them, moving and blinking. The places had names like the Pink Pussycat. There was no hiding what they were. They didn't have to be discreet about it. And the city decided that if they were to create a licensing process for massage, that would essentially help eliminate those parlors. Within six months, there were fewer than 30 left. So that did what it was intended to do. And, of course, it helped create legitimacy [for massage]."
I point out that Green might have seen the opportunities and seized them, as an entrepreneur. But this wasn't the case.
Instead, he says, "I entered the field of massage for what is called 'personal growth work.' In the '70s, when a lot of us baby boomers were doing all of these new things that were coming around for self-development, I was one of those people who left his job and left his marriage to go find himself, so to speak. And I was in an organization that did a smorgasbord or buffet of a lot of different self-development practices from different traditions. And one of the things that we did was a very, very deep kind of healing and cleansing and clearing massage. It was initially like you would do self-massage to help clear your own body of tension and trauma.
"I had been a competitive gymnast in college, and I specialized in the still rings. I had these incredible arms. I weighed 127 pounds, but my arms were huge. If I flexed my muscle, then my whole hand couldn't cover it. That's what you developed into when you did those things. So when I started receiving these massages, my body was just so blessed and ecstatic from the experience, I just wanted more and more and more. I fell in love with it. So, eventually, what happened is, as I practiced and practiced, people started to identify me as the person who did massage."
Dr. Green says again that he had "absolutely no entrepreneurial thrust." He answered an ad for "Massage Teacher Wanted," and just like that, he was involved in a school. "And then my friend came out here from New Orleans," he says, "and she was jealous because I was running this massage school. But she was also a massage practitioner, and she got a job at another massage school that had just opened. And then we got together one night at Denny's, with another one of our friends, and we said, 'We can do this. We can make a school. We've been teaching.' So we decided to open a school up."
The International Professional School of Bodywork was born.
"We borrowed someone's living room for a year for small classes," Dr. Green says, "and after that, we got a little-bitty space on Adams Avenue, and classes got much bigger. From there, it became a very successful organization: IPSB. That was the start. It's possibly the biggest massage school in the city right now."
Dr. Green sold IPSB in 1981. He'd been the last of the original owners, and he sold it because "I didn't want to run a school. I just wanted to teach. But first I opened branches in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Hawaii. There's IPSBs all over now. It just kept expanding, and people liked it. So I ended up opening five schools over the course of my career, none of which I still own. Because I just don't like all that bureaucratic stuff. But I had a more expansive program as the years went on, and I offered that program to IPSB, but they didn't want to go in that direction. And that's why I started the last school that I did, which is Body Mind College. I had that from '88 to 2002, about 14 years. And I sold that, because it was just a pain in the butt to teach and run it. And now, basically, I'm the primary teacher of Body Mind College, and I do private practice."