About Josh, Certified Massage Therapist

Photo of Joshua Alexander, San Francisco massage therapist


I have been in private practice since 2005, when I graduated from The Heartwood Institute. I received my Certificate in Massage Therapy (CMT) with 780 hours of training in Shiatsu, Swedish, and Deep Tissue massage, with integrated training in basic whole foods nutrition, Polarity Therapy, lymphatic drainage, and Connective Tissue Massage. While there I also completed Reiki Level II and workshops on topics ranging from Flower Essences to Chakra work.

Since then, I have continued my education with over 50 hours of training in TouchPro style chair massage and additional workshops and classes. Currently I am in the internship phase of certification in Absolute Balanced Mastery, an exciting form of energy work.

As a residential school, Heartwood offers an immersive learning experience. Situated on a mountain in Southern Humboldt County and populated by holistic teachers, students, staff, and retreaters, it has a reputation for changing people's lives, and my experience was no different.

Start at the beginning

In a past life (circa 2001) I worked as a web developer. I sat in front of a computer all day, interacted with people mostly by email or phone, and got paid to help businesses that didn't necessarily meet my ethical standards.

In the midst of this work, I realized a simple fact with profound implications: I was not doing work that contributed to the kind of world in which I wanted to live.

If I kept doing what I was doing, spending my energy in the same ways, I would continue to be "part of the problem". Thinking about all the people who have spent their careers and lives in toxic and unsustainable industries, producing things that diminish rather than uplift us, I couldn't say I was spending my life much differently.

Personal growth has been my main focus since high school. I turned my focus on this seeming problem that I would later have a name for—right livelihood—and worked on figuring out what to do instead of design & programming. Things began to fall into place, first as I learned Emotional Freedom Technique and began using it extensively, and then as I received my first Reiki training. Along the way I was slowly coming to realize that helping others in the ways I was being helped might be what I was looking for.

Massage school

Before arriving at Heartwood, I had received only two professional bodywork sessions. I didn't know at the time how little I knew! After several years of studying Emotional Freedom Technique, I was mainly interested in energy work, specifically energy psychology, and didn't know how to pursue it—formal education tracks for these subjects are only just beginning to form. All I was sure of was that if mind and body were indeed connected, then learning to work with the body would be a step in the direction I wanted to take.

At Heartwood, so much change happened in so little time, I likened a week at school to a month of therapy. I chose Heartwood because it was the only massage school I found that explicitly supports its students in doing their own healing work before going out into the world to help others.

I was supported in my process by the land, the food, the staff and instructors, and my classmates. Looking out over the mountains or up at the starry night sky was inspiring. The food, organic and vegetarian, prepared consciously and lovingly by the kitchen staff, was cleansing and nurturing. The program promoted self-healing in different ways, from healing movement classes to good nutrition to class heart circles, and our instructors gave us the room we needed to move through our challenges in our own ways. My classmates and I held safe space for each other's needs, whether it was sharing personal trauma, letting go and crying when necessary, or just speaking a difficult truth.

Along the way, I learned that mind and body were more intertwined than I had ever imagined. That energy work came in many different forms. That there were specific systems of bodywork designed to release emotions locked deep in our musculature and posture. That all forms of touch can be transformative. That presence is the most important thing. That the body, mind, and spirit responds more to love than "fixing".

The Real World

I had to let go of so many of my expectations when I started working. Every spa, every clinic, every studio has its own culture and clientele with their own expectations and usual ways of working. Even in private practice I've had to learn what to let go of and what to keep from my training, workshops, and client suggestions.

Growing a private practice in San Francisco seems to be unlike anywhere else. My experiences simply don't match up with those of therapists across the country. The City is its own unique market.

My focus is still on personal growth and change, although more and more I find less of a "split" between mind and body and spirit, as I pursue further training and work at "opposite" ends of the spectrum, from "new age" energy work to the very Western-medical structural integration methods.