New Year, New Column: A Walk Around Westfield is a column in which Patch explores a local experience from the inside.
What is restorative therapy? That's what I wanted to know when I learned from Timothy Styler that was raffling off a restorative therapy session during the holidays to those who donated $5 to New York Road Runner's fifth annual sneaker drive.
After sending an email to Evolve, I received a call from owner and licensed massage therapist Patrick Lerouge, who suggested I stop in to learn more.
Located on the second floor of 66 Elm Street is Lerouge's inner sanctum. The office, painted a tranquil blue, radiates serenity as does Lerouge as he calmly explained the benefits of restorative work.
While the massage table is front and center, that is merely the first stop along the journey to improving the quality of your life by living and moving pain-free, Lerouge said.
The therapist, who previously worked at Manhattan's Ritz Carlton and the Short Hills Hilton, incorporates Swedish Massage, Deep Tissue Massage, and the Trigger Point Technique into all of his sessions.
But Lerouge is quick to point out that there's a lot more to restorative therapy than just massage.
"Sure, it's going to be relaxing but what it's really all about is getting the body to communicate with itself," he explained. "We just go through our busy, busy days and we don't realize that our body is compensating for every single second that we're doing something. Eventually it runs out of patterns and something breaks because it's not doing the thing it was supposed to be doing."
Understanding where the life cycle—things going on in our lives that we can't necessarily control—and the body cycle—what's going on inside ourselves—intersect and impact each other can be the key to achieving a greater awareness of why we feel the way we do.
Lerouge said he doesn't want to be someone's "last resort." By awakening muscles that haven't been working, pain and discomfort can be prevented.
To get started, Lerouge recommends that the first three visits be within a 10-day timeframe.
"By doing visits close together like this, we will get a clear picture of what your body is doing normally, and we will have your muscle tissue communicating with your central nervous system better in that short amount of time. This newfound communication will show you how movement is the key to healing," he said.
After that, Lerouge offers a customized time line of how the rest of the sessions should be scheduled, based on how a person's body reacted to the first three.
"My phases of treatment at this stage are as follows: body corrective therapist, body coach and consultant," he said. "I have a six-month timeline but most people don't need that long. The majority of the people I've seen last about three months."
Increasing nutrient-rich blood flow will help things to heal faster, he explained.
"As I'm working with you, it's not about me healing that object in that one hour it's about me keeping you understanding that you need to keep moving," he said.
After gaining greater knowledge of restorative therapy, it was time for me to hop up on the table and get a hands-on (literally) grasp of it.
Lying facedown and fully-clothed, Lerouge began to assess where I had stiffness and muscles that weren't working as they should be. When he initially asked me how I felt my body was performing, I had said, "Great."
But as he loosened things up, I realized how stiff some muscles were and just how much tenderness and soreness I was storing in others. He also pointed out that when I came in and sat down, my shoulders were up around my ears and I had no neck.
While some parts were mildly uncomfortable, overall, the session was relaxing and felt almost like a yoga class without having to do any of the hard work.
I asked Lerouge if anyone ever falls asleep during a session and he said that is the single best compliment a therapist can receive because it implies not only that relaxation has been achieved but that a level of trust has been established.
When I left his office an hour later, he escorted me down the hall where we stood in front of a large full-length mirror hanging over the staircase. There Lerouge pointed out how much different my posture was. (My neck was back!) I didn't need him to tell me that I also appeared two inches taller and was feeling a mix of calm yet energized and clear-headed.
Lerouge said the best part of his job is when he hears clients tell him they are able to do things they hadn't been able to do in years. His enthusiasm is infectious as he shares stories of helping clients achieve a greater range of motion.
"I had an 85-year-old man who couldn't stand up straight and now he has his head up," he said. "He still has some pain but I don't think he realizes where he was a year ago. That's what makes me happy. He couldn't even get out of his chair before and now he's walking a mile and that's the progress I love to see. I'm just the doorway, you need to walk through it."
Lerouge said he wants everyone to understand restorative work because it can enhance all other areas of life.
"It helps every therapy; it enhances everything because all I'm doing is getting your body to communicate better, getting more blood flow, getting you to move better, and I'm going to teach you that," Lerouge said. "It's a no-brainer."
Lerouge said he looks forward to expanding his practice to include a "meditation side" and perhaps lifecoaching as well.
"We're building the whole," he said.