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Almost 85% of the Licensed Massage Therapists at A Massage Oasis have been with the company for four years or more, which is very rare in the Spa and Massage Therapy industry….why do they stay?  The answer:  They love their job.  They love the ambience, program quality, freedom to do their best work, great schedules, and fair compensation.  They love making a difference for others! Kristen Sharma, founded A Massage Oasis in 2006. She opened the first location at the UIHC in January 2009 with the help of her husband, Dr. Sunil Sharma, and opened a second location there just six months later due to popular demand.  The CRWC location opened in 2010.  Together they have found some of the most amazing, loyal and talented massage therapists in the Iowa City area.   If you are looking for an excellent massage (both table and chair massage) on the University of Iowa campus in Iowa City, we are the best choice….and EVERYONE is welcome.  You do not need to be a University of Iowa student or employee to use any of our services.  We are very grateful to have Daniel, Jodi, Kim, Shannon, Karen and Seth on our TEAM OASIS!!

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ACT offers wellness services, perks to employees

Free massages, fitness classes available

By Pat Shaver

IOWA CITY—Sandy Stewart received an email from a fellow ACT employee who had worked for the company for 37 years. It was feedback about the company’s decision to offer free massage services to employees.

“She has been at ACT for 37 years and said this is the best thing that has ever happened,” said Ms. Stewart, ACT’s wellness manager. “I don’t think people realize even the benefit of a 10 minute chair massage. The feedback has been amazing, I think people love it.”

Since the new CEO Jon Whitmore started in 2010, ACT has taken an aggressive approach to employee wellness.

“His goal was to be one of the best places to work, and wellness is right up there,” Ms. Stewart said. “The forward thinking companies that are doing this are looking at it more holistically than a fitness center. It’s total team member well being.”

In the fall, ACT began offering employees free massages.

“Any of the things you do for your employees that are positive are going to come back many times over,” Ms. Stewart said.

Ms. Stewart, who has received massages for 30 years, said research shows that the activity increases productivity, reduces stress, decreases absenteeism and leads to healthier, happier employees.

“Any time you hold stress in your body you are apt to illness and injury,” Ms. Stewart said. “By bringing it into the work environment it really helps mental and physical well being and there’s a convenience of not having to go anywhere.”

Upfront costs to the company for wellness initiatives are worth the investment, Ms. Stewart noted.

“I think a smart company is doing something to invest in the health and welfare of its workforce,” she said. “Health care costs are unsustainable with where they are now.”

During a Blue Zones committee meeting, Ms. Stewart met Kristin Sharma, executive director and owner of East-West School of Integrative Healing Arts in North Liberty. Ms. Sharma also owns A Massage Oasis.

A Massage Oasis was started in part so graduates from East-West School could have a place to work, Ms. Sharma said. The company, a professional therapeutic massage therapy program, has two locations at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics where massages are offered to patients, visitors and employees. They also have a location at the UI Campus Recreation and Wellness Center, 309 S. Madison St., Iowa City.

Upon hearing about what A Massage Oasis was doing at UIHC, Ms. Stewart approached Ms. Sharma about forming a partnership. A Massage Oasis is now the company that ACT contracts to provide employee massages.

When the program began in the fall, A Massage Oasis had massage therapists at ACT about nine days a month. That has since increased to about 12 days a month from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Ms. Sharma said.

“Over the years, more research has come out that shows massage really does make a difference,” Ms. Sharma said. “It increases morale in the workplace and decreases sick leave.”

What makes ACT unique, she said, is that the company is paying for the services. Other companies may bring in massage service, but the employee has to cover the fee, Ms. Sharma said.

“Making it a part of their benefit package I think is so smart,” she said. “It just creates great energy, a lot of people love massage.”

Employees at ACT can sign up for a 10 minute slot. They receive a chair massage, where they lay face down in a massage chair, focused on the shoulders, neck and upper back. The employee remains fully clothed and no oils or lotions are used, Ms. Sharma noted.

“We would like to continue to grow, we’re starting to market our corporate program,” she said. “I’d love this thing to go all over the state and all over the country because I love it so much.”

As an athlete in high school, Ms. Sharma fractured her vertebrae but she didn’t want to take medications and she didn’t want surgery, so she chose massage therapy. She has managed the chronic back injury for 30 years through massage, she said.

Massage is one of many perks that ACT offers to employees. Most days there are fitness classes on the ACT campus in Iowa City during the lunch hour and after the work day.  They offer, for example, Tai Chi, Zumba, jazzercise, yoga, cardio, strength training, laughter yoga and classes to improve joint problems, depending on the day.

There is frequently an on-site nurse available who can write prescriptions. During tax  season, the company brings in H&R Block to help employees file their taxes. On-site dry cleaning pick-up and delivery is also available. The company is focused on motivating employees to participate in health risk assessments and screenings and expects to offer an incentive program for participation.

ACT allows employees to take one paid day off for volunteering and gives three paid days for professional development.

Standing work stations and walking work stations are also available to employees. Also, this year, the campus went completely tobacco free.

“We thought we could really walk the talk if we were tobacco free,” Ms. Stewart said.

Ms. Stewart’s long-term goal is to establish a dedicated facility to expand its wellness programs. The hope is a facility is constructed in three to five years and would likely be called the Center for Well Being. It would include a daycare, pool, fitness center, space for fitness classes, locker rooms, showers, basketball court and racket ball courts. The building could also include space for professional development classes and an auditorium, among other features, Ms. Stewart said.

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Massage Oasis joins UIHC – The Daily Iowan

Massage Oasis joins UIHC [source]

BY EMILY MELVOLD | MAY 08, 2009 7:29 AM

A trip to the hospital is seldom labeled relaxing, but a new center at the UI Hospital and Clinics is helping employees and visitors unwind.
A Massage Oasis opened a new location near the fountain entrance of the UIHC on Monday, providing a walk-in service for patients, faculty, and visitors. They can sign up for 10- to 30-minute chair massages for $1 per minute.

Workers at the company, which has contracts with the hospital, said they already had one location in the Pomerantz Family Pavilion, and they want to add a more “convenient” location.

Since the addition of the second massage center, Oasis has double its business, said owner Kristen Stephens.

She pointed to stress from the recession as a possible reason for the increase.

“People are a little more stressed with budget cuts and the economy the way it is, and we just really love to help them de-stress,” she said.

UIHC faculty are the most frequent customers, she said, and many have become repeat clients.

“It’s excellent — it gets all of my kinks and pressure points,” said Gary Pirkl, a nine-year employee of the UIHC who has received two 30 minute sessions. “I come away a lot more relaxed and refreshed after.”

Massage has many health benefits, Stephens said, including reduced muscle pain, enhanced circulation, and improved thinking, among others.

She would like to see more people incorporate massage into their health routines, she said.

“People think massage is just about being pampered, but it’s more than that,” Stephens said. “It’s about wellness.”

The neck, shoulders and back areas are the main focuses for the Oasis chair massages. All of the staff members are licensed, and five of Stephens’ seven employees graduated from the East-West School of Integrative Healing Arts in North Liberty, where Stephens serves as director.

The school — awarded Small Business of the Year in 2008 by the Iowa City Area Chamber of Commerce — was formerly located in downtown Iowa City but moved to North Liberty because of an increasing numbers of students.

Mark Linahon, a graduate of the school and professional masseur, serviced three clients within one hour on Thursday afternoon. He stressed the importance of massages, noting he gets one every week.

“$10 and 10 minutes can make a big difference in your day,” Stephens said. “It feels like we are adding just a little more warmth to the hospital.”

[Filed under: Iowa City Massage]

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A Massage Oasis: Touch heals patients and their families

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Ann Scholl Rinehart
Carrie Eckermann gives a chair massage to Kelly Nissen at A Massage Oasis, Iowa City.

Daureen Hoverson’s 8-year-old son Dawson couldn’t take it any longer as he watched his mother enjoy a chair massage at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics (UIHC) recently.

“Mom,” he chided, “I should be the one getting a massage!”

True, Dawson has had a tough time since a toy sheriff’s badge penetrated his eye in January 2008 after he rolled over onto it in bed. But the multiple trips to UIHC have proven stressful for his mother, too. Hoverson says she first noticed A Massage Oasis during a visit a week prior. This time, the Freemont, Neb., woman decided not to just walk by the station, located on Level 2 at Elevator L in the Pomerantz Family Pavilion. Instead, she signed up for a 15-minute massage — her first ever.

“I think it’s wonderful,” she said after the massage. “I feel good. I feel more awake now and less tensed up.”

Such benefits of massage are becoming more and more well known, says Kristen Stephens, executive director of East-West School of Integrative Healing Arts in North Liberty, Iowa, and owner of A Massage Oasis. In addition to lowering stress and improving mood, Stephens says massage has been shown to reduce muscle pain, boost the immune system, lower blood pressure, enhance flexibility, relieve headaches, improve thinking and increase productivity.

She’s grateful that the UIHC was open to having a chair massage station in the hospital. The idea took root more than two years ago when Stephens was volunteering on the Women’s Wellness Committee at the UIHC. At first, the idea was to offer massage to pregnant women, and then it took off from there. Why not let everyone benefit from massage?

“We believe that this amenity is reflective of our efforts to create a welcoming environment and to provide services that are responsive to the needs of our patients, visitors and staff,” says Amy O’Deen, senior assistant director at UIHC. “It has proven to be a wonderful addition and complement to the array of support services we offer throughout the hospital.”

The grand opening of A Massage Oasis was Jan. 5. Through early March, more than 6,000 minutes of massage have been provided.

“I have heard many accolades and expressions of appreciation that this service is now available in the hospital,” O’Deen says. “A hospital can be a physically and emotionally draining environment, so massage can provide much needed stress reduction and respite.”

Social worker Kelly Nissen, A Massage Oasis regular, agrees. The 43-year-old woman often has shoulder and neck discomfort because she is frequently on the phone. Since her busy schedule doesn’t always allow for her to get a full massage, she appreciates being able to get some relief from her pain without leaving the hospital.

“I was pleased (UIHC) would look at something that’s a nice complement to what we’re already doing here,” Nissen says. “It says a lot about UI health care and about taking care of all the needs of the patients and the staff.”

Stephens says, so far, the majority of clients are hospital staff. To meet the demand, a secondary satellite location is in the works, as is a “mobile” unit.

As she watches Carrie Eckermann, a graduate of her North Liberty school, give Nissen a massage, she tears up a bit.

“It’s fun to be able to help people not feel so much pain,” Stephens says. “I was born here. I have so much pride in being able to help the community I grew up in. It’s so fun to be able to educate people about other options they can integrate into their health care plan.”

After completing the massage, Eckermann says that she loves giving massages in a hospital setting. Some people share their stories; others say little, she notes. She enjoys the interactions – and “just seeing that they feel better when I’m finished with them, that they’re going to walk away a little taller, a little more relaxed.”

A Massage Oasis is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The cost is $1 per minute. For more information, visit

Ann Scholl Rinehart is a writer living in Cedar Rapids.

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