Sitting across from Kathy Gruver, PhD, LMT,RM, at a table outside the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf on the Santa Monica Pier on a recent Sunday morning, I can sense this youthful and athletic 44-year-old strives, not so much for perfection, but for the perfect balance. Not surprising. Helping people heal or guiding them to their perfect balance is her lifelong mission.
A clear type-A personality, who talks a mile a minute, in clear and concise sentences, Ms. Gruver goes back again and again to the mistake she made while vaulting in the air not thirty minutes earlier, as if to process in her head what she could have done differently.
“I want to move forward but today I took a step back.”
Step back or not, in my eyes Ms. Gruver is a bit of a daredevil, even more so if I factor in my fear of heights and the familiar sense of dizziness that prevents me from even a peek down when I find myself at some altitude. Yet, by the end of our conversation, Ms. Gruver’s contagious enthusiasm has me thinking, for a not so brief moment, that I should give this trapeze business a try.
Ms. Gruver is no stranger to extreme sports: white water rafting requiring jumps from 25 ft cliffs; sky-diving and rappelling are her ideas of a relaxing week-end, adrenaline and all.
I ask her if ego-boosting and a renewed sense of self-worth, or maybe a need to prove something to herself, play a part in wanting to push her body to its limits. She hesitates for just a second and admits that there might be a connection but, in truth, she finds that exhausting her body relaxes her. Her sustained physical activity of choice, right now, is a hip hop dance class, the intensity of which leaves her feeling spent but at peace.
I watched her for over an hour as she climbed up a metal structure and, properly harnessed, gracefully vaulted in the air, legs in a wide split, eventually letting go of the trapeze to lock hands with an instructor. I don’t know about you, but I used to go to the circus just to see the trapeze artists fly, mesmerized by their grace and weightlessness, mixed with a hint of fear that something could go wrong. Elephants, horses and clowns, I did not care for, a sentiment that Cirque du Soleil tapped into with their wildly popular shows.
It turns out that, if you are so inclined, anyone above the age of 6 can give it a try. The Trapeze School New York has five locations around the United States, the LA one perfectly perched on the edge of the Santa Monica Pier, and they will attempt to school you in the art of flying. Ms. Gruver tried her hand for the first time just a year ago and quickly became a convert. Not to mention pretty proficient.
Squaring this intense and in your face personality with her lifelong work of practicing healing massage and naturopathy is not as hard as it might seem at first. In fact, it’s quite refreshing to chat with someone who advocates proper nutrition, alternative medicine as a complement to our Westernized care, and who can place her hands on a stranger’s body and coax them to reveal more of themselves they might have bargained for, and find out that sitting still in slow yoga classes or long meditation practices is not her thing. As many meditation teachers will tell you, finding what works for you is half the battle.
Ms. Gruver started out as an actor but life had other plans for her. Small and big events tend to add up, when we are not looking, sometimes nudging us off course, towards waters more suited to our vessel. In Ms. Gruver’s case, the terminal illness of her mother when she was 8 and a mentor during college, who massaged people for free, and pushed her to take over on a day when it was very busy, are only two of the blocks that went into building her career in the healing practices. Three books, a tv show in the works based on her book “The Alternative Medicine Cabinet“, and speaking engagements are only some of the rewards for her dedication.
“I am not interested in giving relaxation massages. I can, but it’s not where my strength lies.”
Ms. Gruver’s practice in Santa Barbara, CA, includes all kind of clients: men, women and children; post-stroke recovery patients; cancer patients and even a pretty fit 105 year old lady. She has helped in delivery rooms, welcoming new lives, and even eased the suffering of two terminally ill clients on the painful road towards death.
I asked Ms. Gruver what advice, if any, she had for women approaching menopause and negotiating body and mood changes.
Her first suggestion was to ask our health practitioners about the benefits of magnesium, a mineral she has had big success with in helping with mood and sleep issues; menstrual cramps; muscle ache; constipation and even fybromyalgia.
The second was “find a physical activity that works for you. I don’t like to call it exercise. That word conjures images of gyms and any form of exercise we might have disliked in the past.There is no such thing as too old when it comes to moving our body: find what is fun for you, whether it’s walking or dancing.” Or trapeze.
“How we feel is how we will be perceived. My 105 year old client played tennis until she was 95. She exercises every day and looks beautiful because of the vibrancy that comes through.”
And, finally, think positive thoughts. In her book “Conquer your stress with mind/body techniques,” Ms Gruver mentions we have an average of 60,000 thoughts a day, a large majority of which are of a negative nature, whether it’s about the driver going too slow or a type of music or food we hate. Changing that negativity to more positive affirmations has a proven link on our stress reduction and physical wellbeing.
On that note, let me wish you a wonderful day. I mean it.
To know more about Kathy Gruver and her work, please check her website
Photos C&S and/or courtesy of Flo Selfman