Alaska native Sabrina Hargrave had been working in finance for most of her life. She has spent fifteen years climbing corporate ladders, moving from position to position, increasing her salary… yet not her happiness. Stressful jobs had left her feeling disconnected from herself, and although she had meaningful bonds with other people, she didn’t feel like she was following her purpose. She was living a life created by belief systems that had been embedded in her since a very young age. Talking about that corporate grind, Sabrina shares, “We’re taught that these are the types of jobs that you can do that you will be successful and make money at, yet often our hearts are over there with these more passionate, creative jobs. I was a very creative person when I was younger, and I shut it all down to follow the route of ‘this is where you’ll be happy because you will make the most money.’ I pushed really hard and was good at it, yet felt like something was missing.”
Often, the only way Sabrina could find some respite from the stress of her job was by receiving a massage. However, after being injured during a deep tissue massage, Sabrina found herself afraid to get another massage and risk being injured again. “I was so upset because previously, massage had been the only thing that could really get me to relax and calm down. Then a friend suggested cranial unwinding, and I never looked back. It worked perfectly for me,” she says.
A Change of Pace
Eventually, Sabrina’s mother was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, and Sabrina flew down to Phoenix to visit her. While she was here, Sabrina’s mother bought her a massage as a birthday present. Sabrina struck up a conversation with the massage therapist, and the subject moved to cranial unwinding and the success she had had with it. The therapist was well-versed in the modality, and she told Sabrina all about the school she had learned it from: SWIHA. Sabrina suddenly knew what she had to do. “The therapist gave me all the information about SWIHA,” Sabrina says. “I went home, called my husband Chris, and told him that I wanted to quit my job and go to this school. He was like, ‘Let’s do it!’”
Talking about the shift in mindset that led her to such a big move, Sabrina says: “You get to this point where you’re feeling sick all the time, like your body is shutting down at an early age, even though you are ‘doing everything right.’ It dawns on you one day: this isn’t where I need to be. I need to be over there, living my purpose.” Sabrina claims that making the move required letting go of all the beliefs that other people had embedded in her and realizing that she could be successful AND do something she is passionate about at the same time. “You just need to believe in yourself and make it happen.”
And “make it happen” is exactly what she did! Three months after that fateful massage, Sabrina and Chris sold their house in Alaska, wrapped up the loose ends of that chapter of their life, and drove down to Phoenix to start the next one with Sabrina enrolling in SWIHA’s 750-hour Massage Practitioner program with specialties in Cranial Unwinding and Medical Massage.
Keeping the Balance
When Sabrina started attending SWIHA, she realized that it was very different from her previous experiences in higher education. When asked about those differences, Sabrina immediately mentions SWIHA instructor Suzie Mclaughlin as the very embodiment of what makes SWIHA so successful at creating excellent, knowledgeable therapists. “Suzie genuinely cares about the success of her students and finds creative ways to teach dense subjects that could otherwise be monotonous and boring. That is something I will never forget. I have a bachelor’s degree and am halfway through an MBA, and I’ve never been so stimulated through education as I was in Suzie’s classes. I’ve taken Anatomy and Physiology classes before, and I remember more information from her classes than any other classes I have ever taken at a traditional college,” she says. Suzie also went beyond teaching the things you would find in textbooks. “She also taught us about important life things, like finding a balance between work and your personal life. That has stuck in my head, and I feel like for the first time in my life, I am doing a really good job at keeping that balance.”
That balance has manifested in her life in some pretty huge ways. Sabrina had been married for five years before she attended SWIHA. Throughout that time, they had been trying unsuccessfully to start a family. “My body was telling me that I was too stressed and too out of balance to be able to start a family,” Sabrina reflects. “SWIHA has completely shifted me. A month after graduation, I got pregnant with my daughter, Norah. Learning to embrace what stress is coming towards you, feeling it fully, allowing yourself to sit with it, and let it go— those are the things that SWIHA teaches you.”
Putting the Tools to Work
Sabrina still uses the tools that she received in her classes in her business Wunderbar Wellness. From the Business Portfolio class, she uses the client intake forms, business cards, and the strategies she learned on how to price her services against her operating expenses. Even the classes that she seemed to have some resistance to in the moment, like Communications, really brought things forward that she might not have ever thought about and helped her to be prepared for things she didn’t even know she would need to be prepared for. “During Communications, people seemed to think, ‘These things would never happen,’” Sabrina shares. “Well, when dealing with hundreds of clients, the chances are that they will and DO happen. If it weren’t for those conversations in the non-bodywork classes, I wouldn’t have been prepared. Verbal release, emotional release… so many things can come out of a massage session, and I feel like SWIHA gave me the tools to navigate through them.”
Sabrina started her practice working on seriously ill individuals in a medical facility. Then that medical facility shut down. Sabrina talks about the uncertainty of that time and the wonderful opportunity it opened up: “I was a new mom with a baby, and I was trying to figure out where I could practice what I love doing. I was desperate for a space I could afford right out of school. I walked into Desert Ridge Mountainside Fitness, and I was super excited to become a member. They had a daycare so I could bring my daughter when I was working out.” It also turned out that the gym didn’t have a massage therapist yet. “I remember thinking, ‘What are the odds of this?’” She asked them if there was anyone looking to serve as a massage therapist there, and they said that they had been looking and hadn’t found anyone yet. After discussing terms, she started offering massage services there 90 days later after the city of Phoenix approved it. “It was everything I could have hoped for,” she says. “A great space with a day care that I could use while I was working and that my clients could use while they were getting a massage from me. I do everything there, from deep tissue to cranial unwinding. The population isn’t what you think working at a gym. It’s not just athletes that come in. I have a full spectrum of clients, from young people to elderly people, athletes, whatever you could imagine.”
At Wunderbar Wellness, Sabrina has several other therapists working as contractors as well. They all share the space and the clients, providing what is best for each individual client. Her work is typically a combination of therapies, including cranial unwinding, medical massage, reiki, myotherapy, myofascial, trigger point, Swedish massage, and aromatherapy tailored to what the specific client needs in the moment.
Sabrina is extremely passionate about cranial unwinding as a modality. “It is a way to calm your nervous system down to bring you into rest and digest, which is where you heal. People are often stuck in their analytical minds, second guessing their intuition. On the table, you can feel things in your body and then have a thought about what created whatever that thing is. We don’t do that enough. Cranial unwinding helps people connect to their intuitive minds, which is so powerful for self-healing. Helping empower people to heal themselves has a ripple effect, and the whole world could shift from that if we all work on it together.”
Sabrina would like to offer the following advice:
“You can choose to be decently okay at something that you’re comfortable doing, that you know will pay the bills, or you can choose to do something that you’re amazingly good at and have a passion for that might require a leap of faith in the beginning. Embrace the gifts that you have been given. Don’t deny those. Allow yourself to be open to them. Jump in with both feet. The people that I know that have gone through programs at SWIHA that are the most successful and happy are the ones that took the leap of faith to fully embrace their gifts and what they’ve learned and took the chance to use them in a profitable way.”