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Mellow masseuse melts migraines, relaxes backs

By Connor Moriarty
On March 14, 2014

In a fast-paced college life filled with difficult classes, tough jobs and stressful social lives, Bonnie Jo Piper said she believes Miami University students need all the relaxation they can get.

Piper is a licensed massage therapist who owns Bodywork By Piper on South College Avenue. Though she may show up to her office every day, she hardly considers massaging work.

"It's therapeutic for me," Piper said. "I get just as much out of each session as my clients do."

Piper, who uses her given last name as her first, was born and raised in small towns across Ohio. After her divorce, though, she began to look for security and stability for her and her three children.

"I needed to have careers in place in order to raise my children," Piper said.

So Piper made the decision to achieve independence and to attend both massage and nursing school while looking after her two boys and daughter. She said she received help from her loving parents, but when she looks back on all she accomplished, Piper still has a hard time understanding how she did it.

"I went to massage and nursing school while rearing three young children, and it was for them that I was motivated to do that," Piper said. "I did what I had to do. I didn't view it as an option, just as what I had to do."

Today, after two of her children have graduated from Miami, Piper has opened her own massage business and works as a part time psychiatric nurse at The Lindner Center of Hope in Mason, Ohio. Since then, she has not questioned either decision.

Piper said she agrees with the cliché saying, "If you love what you do you won't work a day in your life."

If asked about her work, she talks about nursing-massages simply do not fall in that category.

"Massage is my passion," Piper said. "I feel bad accepting people's money because I really want to give them massages and I get just as much relaxation and meditation out of it as they do."

Piper said she believes her talent for massages comes out of her passion for the practice.

"People on the massage table realize I'm good at what I do because they know and can feel that I love what I'm doing," Piper said.

The main reason Piper said she loves massage is because she knows after each and every client has walked out her door, their life has improved in some way because of her.

"I see a noticeable difference in each person when they leave my office, and they look forward to coming back," Piper said. "That is so rewarding."

Associate Professor in the College of Creative Arts Pansy Chang has gone to Piper for massages on various occasions. As a cellist, which can be as physically demanding as a sport, Chang goes to Piper to pinpoint problem areas and to make sure her body is prepared to play an instrument.

"[Piper] helps keep my body working the way it should," Chang said. "She finds and fixes problem areas that I didn't even know I had."

According to Chang, what is different about Piper is she is personal. She asks about her life, asks questions about her stress, and focuses the massage based on that information.

So when Miami students come to Piper for help, she is thrilled. Whether it's a girl letting out some stress, or a guy getting the kinks and knots out of his neck, Piper said she can help them all.

"Girls come in upset and stressed about their boyfriend cheating on them, and they talk to me while I help them relax," Piper said. "Guys aren't nearly as vocal, but I can see how much better they look when they leave."

Piper said she believes without a doubt massage is one of the healthiest and most efficient ways of staying healthy, especially for a college student.

"It hurts me to see, young college students especially, in pain, both physically and mentally," Piper said. "I have had students come in and tell me they've had pain for years, and after the massage they tell me that that one massage made a bigger difference than years with a chiropractor."

Piper said because of her loving nature she has gotten from raising her three children, she wants to be a "mom" for Miami students.

"I build relationships with my clients based on great connection and trust," Piper said. "I provide an optimistic, positive and loving environment and I think my clients really enjoy that."

Through that environment, Piper continues to be shocked by the connections she makes with some of her clients. During the massage, while both Piper and her client are doing controlled breathing and thinking together, her client will say they were thinking exactly what Piper was thinking, word for word. According to Piper, meditative states such as that are more than normal.

"There's a cool transfer of energy during a massage that I still don't completely understand," Piper said through a smile.

According to Piper, she is more than happy with where her life is right now and hopes it continues this way into the future.

Piper's massage studio is open for anyone to come, and she offers various forms of massage, including therapeutic, medical and group massage.

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