“Dana Christy, Certified Shiatsu Practitioner, Licensed Massage Therapist, and Chicago native, is the founder and head practitioner at WellSpring Healing Arts, a multidisciplinary wellness practice founded in 2017. She studied bodywork and East Asian Medicine at Zen Shiatsu Chicago and earned yoga teaching certifications for children and adults with Global Family Yoga and yogaview. She teaches therapeutic yoga for children and adults with a wide range of physical, cognitive, and psychological needs.”
About Dana Christy
Dana began studying trauma and healing at Vassar College, where she created her own major in Dance Therapy, focusing on helping survivors of sexual violence and veterans pursue integrated mind/body wellness. Since then she has pursued multiple trainings and courses of study centered around trauma awareness and trauma healing. She has extensive experience working with survivors, helping them address the vast network of physical, psychological, and energetic reverberations that trauma leaves in the body. Her goal is to hold space for all beings on their healing journey, to give every person the support they need to achieve and maintain a state of whole-self wellness.
I initially began working with survivors in college. I studied Dance Therapy and focused specifically on working with survivors of sexual violence, veterans, and individuals struggling with eating disorders, substance abuse and self-harm. Though I have added a range of treatment modalities to my repertoire, including therapeutic yoga, shiatsu, massage, and meditation, this focus on survivors has maintained its place at the core of my mission. In my current professional shiatsu and yoga practices, I continue to work with many survivors. Without any targeted advertising or branding, my practice has organically evolved to attract clients who are seeking some form of trauma healing. My specific niche has become working with survivors of sexual assault who now suffer from chronic health issues, such as debilitating anxiety, depression, chronic pain, autoimmune disorders, fertility issues, disordered eating, and self-harm. I have learned so much about the far-reaching effects trauma has on the body, and how many seemingly unrelated physical symptoms can often be triggered by trauma’s spiderweb of influence.
My Interest in Working with Survivors
Like many who are drawn to this work, I am a survivor of sexual violence. In my ongoing process of integrating my traumatic experiences, I have personally benefited from the incredible healing capacities of yoga, bodywork, meditation and alternative medicine. My recovery would have been nonexistent without integrated mind/body therapeutic methodologies. My own healing process has inspired me to seek out ways to help others move through their own journey of recovery. My mission as a practitioner is not to impose any kind of schedule or expectation on my client’s healing, but instead to hold space for the body’s self-healing capacities to take effect in whatever way is most authentic. I have so much gratitude for the many practitioners who have led me through the darkness of my trauma, continually guiding me as I navigate my growth. If I can help even one survivor in one moment of that journey, my mission in the healing arts will be fulfilled.
My Approach to Trauma-Informed Care
I want to hold space for survivors to pursue healing in whatever way feels authentic to where they are in their process. There is so much pressure in our society on how to heal, how quickly to heal, and what a state of being “fully healed” should look like. I believe that healing is a continual process that lasts a lifetime. I have no “goals” for my clients. They have the freedom to dictate exactly what they want to happen in every treatment. Consent is at the core of every interaction. I do thorough intakes before each session to try to understand what each individual might need from their treatment that day. Treatments can differ dramatically, even for the same client, based on what they present with that day. In some sessions I might not even touch a person’s body if that is not in service of their needs in the moment. I use all the tools available to me, including yoga, meditation, and energy work, to create a fluid, nourishing, and fully inclusive healing environment.
I am primarily trained in Shiatsu. Shiatsu is a form of Japanese bodywork that is based in the meridian system, a network of energetic points and channels that is also used in Traditional Chinese Medicine and acupuncture. I use pressure on those points and channels, as well as full-body stretches, to release stored tension in the body and to facilitate healthy flow of energy, or qi. Sessions are performed on a massage table with the receiver fully clothed. Shiatsu can be used to treat a variety of conditions ranging from musculoskeletal concerns (i.e. injuries, joint pain, muscle tension, postural issues, arthritis) to physiological imbalances (i.e. sleep problems, digestive issues, allergies, anxiety, low energy). It is an excellent tool for both acute and preventative health treatment as well as regular personal care. Clients report that sessions leave them feeling energized, balanced, nurtured, and grounded.
I am also a licensed massage therapist trained in deep tissue, trigger point, prenatal, and sports massage. Oftentimes I incorporate these western massage techniques throughout my shiatsu treatments. Because western massage is typically performed on a client’s naked body, and I only offer clothed treatments, I feel more comfortable using these massage techniques in situations where they are most effective and appropriate (i.e. for tight neck and shoulders) rather than offering full-scale western massage treatments.
I also teach private yoga sessions in what I call Yoga for Wellness. This is a way of differentiating what I teach from what you might find in a typical gym or studio yoga class. Yoga for Wellness is a complete practice crafted for each individual’s unique needs. In addition to promoting overall health, it addresses specific physical, psychological and emotional imbalances. I focus less on what poses look like and more on how they feel. I am not attached to an ideal sequence, alignment, or flow of postures. I focus on using yoga (and its components of breath and meditation) as a tool to cultivate a safe, sustainable mind/body connection.
How My Practice Holistically Addresses the Impacts of Sexual Trauma
Shiatsu and Chinese Medicine inherently view the body as an interconnected web, where every symptom and sensation is connected with every experience and emotion. Because this perspective on healing is built into my training, I have been able to use it to help clients move through their many physical, emotional and energetic manifestations of trauma. I am always looking at each individual as a whole person, rather than a collection of symptoms, and am therefore focused on helping them achieve and maintain a holistic sense of well-being on all levels of their existence. Though I certainly address any symptoms a client may present (such as pain, digestive issues, anxiety, etc), I am also conscious that the root causes of these symptoms are as important to address – if not directly in every single treatment, then at least collectively over the course of the therapeutic process.
Yoga, similarly, involves every aspect of being in every moment of the practice. Building or re-building a safe, sustainable connection between mind and body is at the core of yoga philosophy. This is a crucial process for trauma survivors who often have their mind-body connection severed. It is important for survivors to have guidance in nourishing this connection, so that the practitioner can help them navigate any triggering experiences or emotions that may arise.
I craft each session around the client’s specific needs in that moment. This means that sensitivity, presence, flexibility, openness and consent are as important in any treatment as any massage or yoga techniques. I give clients the opportunity to dictate how they want every part of the session, from the music to the lighting to the direction we face in the room, to go. I remind them at the beginning of every session that they can ask for whatever is happening in the session to change at any time, and I check in with them regularly to ensure that the work feels comfortable and authentic in that moment. I have no agenda for the treatment beyond creating and holding a safe space. If that means doing a 45 minute intake and a 15 minute massage, that’s okay. If that means doing the most minimal verbal intake and spending more time with just the body, that’s okay too.
Maybe we won’t do savasana, or we’ll only do savasana. I make sure the client knows that they are in charge of what happens to them.
As I said, I have come to specialize in working with clients with chronic illness. The link between chronic illness and trauma has been well-documented. I feel motivated to help individuals suffering from other common manifestations of trauma such as addiction, mental illness and self-harm. But beyond that, I feel a strong sense of urgency in making therapeutic wellness practices more accessible to people of all socioeconomic statuses in bodies of all genders, colors, and sizes.
I feel particularly drawn to working with individuals in the LGBTQ+ community. I identify as pansexual and, though I have the privilege of presenting as cisgender and straight-passing, I am aware of the daily micro and macroagressions experienced by queer folks. Just living life in a body that doesn’t conform to the white/cis/straight/male ideal is a form of trauma. I also recognize that yoga and massage are often “whitewashed” and seen as inaccessible to people of color, even though POC may be the most in need of healing due to both present-day racism and generations of internalized trauma. In addition, I feel drawn to working with folks in all body sizes. Our fatphobic society is a breeding ground for disordered eating, which too is a form of physical trauma. I hope to provide an inclusive space for anyone whose body does not fit with our society’s expectations about what bodies should look like. All bodies are deserving of healing.
I offer sliding scale rates to clients in need, as one of my goals is to make therapeutic healing practices accessible to individuals of all different races, genders, sexual orientations, and socioeconomic statuses. WellSpring Healing Arts is not my full time job; I work 40+ hours a week as a Montessori school teacher. This is an intentional choice. My job and paycheck security gives me the privilege of being more flexible in what I charge clients and how I schedule my time. Simply put, I am not in this for the money. I recognize that many practices such as massage or private yoga are simply unavailable to many individuals based on their financial realities. I hope to do what I can to make wellness more inclusive.