John Conroy works his massage magic on a client at John Wooden Recreation Center.
Massage therapist Conroy of UCLA Recreation has been kneading, palpating and otherwise easing the aches of hundreds of UCLA staff and students for the past six years. Perhaps you’ve spotted him and his portable massage chair set up in a conference room at the Wilshire Center, or tucked into a corner just steps away from hard-charging exercisers at John Wooden and Kinross recreation centers. Maybe you’ve even enjoyed his services yourself — settling into the soft contours of his chair, feeling his soothing fingers sink into your tight shoulders or work their tingling way along pressure points up and down your spine.
A former construction worker, Conroy had a "transformative experience" 15 years ago while receiving a bodywork treatment called rolfing that led him to make make massage his life’s work. He is trained in deep tissue, cranial sacral and sports massage along with other modalities, and has certifications from the renowned Esalen Institute and the Santa Monica Massage School.
While he can count celebrities among the clientele he sees in his private practice, Conroy said he finds some of his greatest satisfaction in his work through UCLA Recreation, where he's on staff as a resource to campus members, who pay $1 a minute for his services. During as brief a period as 10-to-30-minutes, Conroy aims to deliver visible relief to countless sufferers of "modern-day life and busy workloads," as he sees it. "At UCLA, where so many people are hunched over a computer, it all ends up locked into your neck, shoulders and cranium," the tension-collecting area where the neck and back muscles attach to the skull.
"I’m fortunate enough to be able to stop thinking, to just have silence inside of me when I’m working on someone," Conroy said. "Then, when I touch someone, I kind of get a sense for what’s needed — I might find myself spending time along their spine or on their lower back. I’m not thinking about it. My hands are just moving."
Ultimately, Conroy aims to induce in a half hour or less a relaxation response — described by some of his clients as a kind of meditative state — that carries many of the same benefits as a full-hour massage, from a greater sense of calm to enhanced mental clarity.
The stress of modern-day life, busy workloads and hunching over a computer "all ends up locked into your neck, shoulders and cranium."
"John truly is a master at what he does, a real pro," said Celeste Miller, a graduate student at the Luskin School of Public Affairs, who described his massages as "both relaxing and invigorating." As full as her schedule is, she sets aside 30 minutes every week for a session in Conroy’s chair. "Not only is a massage a little respite from the routine," Miller said, "it also is great for addressing any twinges I might have, either from overly long study stretches or from my workouts and activities."
Conroy also works with undergraduates two days a week at UCLA’s Arthur Ashe Student Health and Wellness Center. And during upcoming finals week, he and several colleagues will head up to the Hill where undergraduates live in a complex of residence halls, to offer stress busters to students.
"When you get a student who’s been studying for 10-12 hours a day for finals and they come and get 20 minutes in the massage chair," Conroy said, "it’s almost as if they’ve had a 10-hour sleep. They have a relaxed body and a relaxed mind … and they’re able to hold onto it when they get back to studying again."
For more information, to make an appointment or to purchase a massage (advance payment is required), see this UCLA Recreation website. You can also visit the FITWELL desk at John Wooden Recreation Center or call 310-206-6130.