Having been born in 1920, Irene Gauthier lived through many hardships in her life and continued to thrive. She witnessed the Great Depression, World War II, the Civil Rights Movement, a Presidential Assassination, the Detroit Riots, the Moon Landing, and both the Korean and Vietnam Wars. She found the time in her life to nurture and raise a family, with enough energy to spare to become a successful entrepreneur and creator of the field of Myomassology. Way beyond the age of traditional retirement, she practiced Myomassology, taught classes, and assisted students in her school clinic.
Irene worked hard into her golden years, never ready to stop learning and growing. She forged a path for thousands of massage students to carry on her wisdom. She traveled the world offering master classes, earning a reputation as one of the foremost authorities on bodywork. The profound impact she had on the massage profession is immeasurable.
Irene’s inquiring mind and lively nature were the driving forces that kept her going at an age where many would be reliving memories and accomplishments of the past. Unwilling to limit herself, she still found it important to further her education by attending new seminars well into her 80's. She continued to keep her eyes firmly fixed on goals for expanding her school and her own personal growth.
Utilizing her natural born gift, Irene incorporated a variety of bodywork techniques into her practice. Integrating expertise with her remarkable intuition she created techniques to provide optimal healing for her clients and new material for her book. She possessed an unmatched intuitive ability to sense a problem area in someone’s body. Frequently she astounded her class by sensing a student’s source of pain and relaying the information from across the room, even with her back turned. When asked about it, she would simply shrug and say, “I could just feel it.” She gave credit for this ability to what she called her inner physician or the Master Creator. It was her belief that everyone has this ability, and they only need to quiet their minds and listen.
From knowledge and years of experience, she developed Myomassology as a comprehensive healing art. Myomassology provides the practitioner with a variety of skills to tailor to each session, allowing maximum healing to occur. Irene always said, "Regular massage is just rub, rub, rub. I do Myomassology!"
During a typical Myomassology treatment, Irene practiced numerous therapeutic modalities. Following her intuition, she adapted each of her treatments to the client's individual needs. However, she often concentrated on energy balancing, reflexology and cranial techniques, because she found them extremely effective. Clients in tune with her work would marvel at the energy that came from her hands. Irene’s humble response to this would be, “I’m just the jumper cables.”
Irene's reputation is highly respected in the bodywork community. Her students speak fondly of her. A commonly heard statement in regard to her training is, "Studying with Irene changed my life. It’s an experience I'll never forget."
When she was not teaching at her school, Irene's Myomassology Institute in Southfield, Michigan, she was found leading workshops around the United States, Canada, Barbados, Bermuda and Finland. Her traveling spirit took her to 50 states and six continents. On vacations she explored exotic locations hiking, snorkeling, white water rafting, parasailing, and horseback riding.
She attributed her good health to a natural diet primarily of organic fruit, vegetables, rice, beans, soy, and yogurt. In addition, she took vitamin supplements and herbs daily. She never indulged in nicotine, alcohol or drugs of any kind. She meditated regularly to maintain a sense of balance. She firmly believed one’s body is the temple in which the soul resides. Her dedication to her work of healing others also contributed to her longevity.
Irene acquired her curiosity and interest in natural health when she was young. Her memories of her father included his natural ability to heal animals on the farm. Her background in massage dates back to her Finnish ancestry. As a child, she was enthralled listening to stories about her great-grandmother in Finland, who used reflexology and herbs to relieve various physical ailments of her neighbors and friends. In 1938, she left the family farm in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and traveled alone on a train to Detroit to begin her life in a big city she had never before visited.
Irene attended beauty school and was licensed as a cosmetologist by the state of Michigan in 1939. Successful as a beautician, she bought her own salon in 1947. She may have stayed in that field, if it had not been for a bronchial asthma attack in 1949. Surely, that asthma attack was preordained for it introduced Irene to a doctor who used natural healing techniques to treat her condition. She was impressed that he did not prescribe any drugs. To her amazement and relief the asthma left and never returned. In its place a seed was planted, a spark, an unquenchable thirst to know more about the art and science of natural healing. Indeed, she may not have realized it then that this was to be the impetus that would eventually send her on a quest to learn all she could.
After obtaining a book on reflexology, Irene began to practice on herself. Having great success with this technique, she began to use it on her cosmetology clients while they sat under the hair dryer. Irene took a course in Swedish Massage in 1957 to gain the theory needed to pass the Detroit Board Exam, and became licensed to practice massage in Detroit a year later. She was compelled not only to practice massage, but to also forge ahead in her own personal growth and knowledge.
In 1961 Irene’s husband left her with four teenage children and a newborn infant to raise. Although some may have found this situation overwhelming, the challenge drove her to work hard to support her family. She lost her 17-year old son to ulcerative colitis in 1963. This tragedy inspired her to learn more about nutrition and food allergies.
In 1975 she studied with the Touch for Health Foundation and became an instructor of this method a year later. It was during this training that she met the individual who would become her very first massage student. Having no massage skills of his own, he asked Irene to teach him what she knew. After some hesitation, Irene began putting some notes together and was surprised how much material she had. This first student arrived with three others eager to learn, and the well-known classes in Irene's basement began.
Teaching the work she loved came naturally to her. The program Irene taught in her schools evolved from the notes she pulled together for that first small class. Her quest for knowledge led her to seek more information and new techniques. As a result, her list of training seems endless. Some of the classes she completed include Nutrition, Iridology, and First Degree Reiki in 1979; Polarity and Hypnosis in 1981; Mari El Method of Total Healing in 1986; and Facilitator Training from Three in One Concepts in 1988. She continued to study CranioSacral Therapy with Dr. John Upledger, and Paul St. John's Neuromuscular Therapy into her mid-80's.
As a founding member of the International Myomassethics Federation and the Association of Michigan Myomassologists, Irene developed an organization that encompasses all forms of bodywork. It was important to Irene that people recognize the benefits of therapies other than Swedish massage. The term Myomassology was created to give a professional title to people who were serious about this work. She served as president of both organizations, and held various other offices on the state level.
She was a life member of the National Health Federation and the Upledger Foundation. She was also a member of the Michigan Holistic Health Association, the Touch for Health Foundation, and a member of the American Massage Therapy Association. She took part in various health fairs demonstrating therapeutic bodywork, and led workshops at the Spiritual Frontiers Fellowship retreats.
Through the years, she used every opportunity to educate the public about the benefits and rewards of Myomassology. To further this goal, Irene opened her first school at the age of 67, with one of her teaching assistants. It was the fall of 1987, and her daughter, Kathy, began working for her in the school office. The school's success prompted Irene and Kathy to expand and branch out to start their own school in 1993 called Irene's Myomassology Institute.
Through the combined efforts of this dynamic mother and daughter team, the Institute proved to be another jewel in Irene's crown of success. With increasing enrollment, the school continued to expand to almost six times its original size. Irene and Kathy spent several years planning and creating the new home for the school where they moved in 2002.
This state of the art building boasts large classrooms designed to provide an optimal space for learning massage. The student clinic is equipped with professional tables and private space for client comfort. The school store provides the supplies a therapist needs in addition to a variety of natural products. The eco-friendly building with solar panels, bamboo floors, low VOC paint, recycling bins and organic gardens is in alignment with their commitment to environmental issues.
Irene’s Myomassology Institute offers a broad spectrum of instruction in many types of bodywork and holistic health. The curriculum is founded on Irene’s innovative techniques and 50 years of bodywork experience. The school’s education not only teaches students a viable trade, but also provides them with a life transforming experience. As a nationally accredited institution, Irene’s still maintains its spirit as a family owned business.
Students at Irene’s are privileged to receive "The Science and Practice of Myomassology,” manual and DVD, in which Irene shares her knowledge and techniques learned from many years of experience. The manual was also translated into the Finnish language as Irene began teaching in Finland in the late 1980's.
The faculty, staff and alumni of Irene’s school are well acquainted with Irene’s accomplishments. In addition, she has been recognized by peers and dignitaries across the nation. In 2009 Michigan Governor, Jennifer Granholm, honored her with a certificate of tribute “for her exceptional commitment to education and to the health of the state’s citizens”. In 2010 Southfield Mayor, Brenda Lawrence, and the City Council presented her with a joint resolution for “outstanding work in the community”. In 2012 the World Massage Festival inducted her into the Massage Therapy Hall of Fame. In 2013 the World Massage Festival awarded Irene’s Myomassology Institute as Massage School of the Year.
For those of us fortunate enough to have had her as a teacher, therapist, friend or relative, we know Irene gave us all high standards to emulate. Her example of a healthy balance of mind, body, and spirit has inspired us, not just with words, but also with positive actions. She instilled in us the spark of her curiosity and hunger to continue learning our whole lives so that we can also take responsibility for our own well-being.
In celebration of Irene’s 90th birthday, Kathy threw a huge celebration for her mother. Irene’s Birthday Bash was attended by 1,200 well-wishers attempting to set a Guinness World Record for the longest massage chain ever! Although the record was then broken in Thailand, the goal of honoring Irene was achieved. The party was an amazing tribute to Irene’s years of dedicated accomplishments.
It was with great sadness that Irene’s passing was announced on October 25, 2010. At the age of 90, she was still coming to work five days a week to see clients and work with students in her school clinic. Although her presence is very much missed by her family and those at her school, her spirit lives on in us all.
If people needed her help, Irene could not turn them away. It was her goal to promote natural methods of healing and to encourage people to take responsibility for their health. She most certainly achieved her goal of carrying the knowledge she gained to future generations and making the world a much better place.
For over 21 years, Irene was a devoted sponsor of Plan USA. Her contributions changed the lives of children all over the world. If you would like to make a donation in her memory, go to www.planusa.org. Click on "Ways to Give" and then "Give in Honor or Memory Of".
If you are interested in Irene’s program, feel free to contact the school at 248-350-1400 or www.irenes.edu.