Long before yoga studios lined up every corner and meditation was as much a part of everyday life as brushing teeth, my mother was at the forefront of Chattanooga’s holistic health scene. While many in the South were suspicious of alternative non-Western treatments, I was dragged to acupuncture sessions and holes-in-the-wall grocery stores while I was learning mindfulness techniques to combat my innate fear.
After years of merciless eye-rolling, I finally began to understand what Mom always knew to be true: the right holistic health treatments can be a wonderful addition (or even replacement) to modern medicine.
During my own wellness journey, I’ve followed in my mother’s footsteps and opened my mind and body to try off the beaten path treatments and techniques whenever possible. So when I saw a little studio in Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia called Mad Hatter Massage and Wellness that was doing “cupping yoga,” I just couldn’t resist.
I’ve explored the world of holistic healing more than most, but “cupping” was still a complete mystery to me. Aside from the sporadic circular bruises left on the slender backs of celebrities and, perhaps best known, Michael Phelps’ broad shoulders during the 2016 Olympics, I assumed it was a passing wellness trend acted that was reserved for the elite.
I was wrong.
Cupping, which originated in China centuries ago, is an ancient form of alternative therapy that involves placing cups on the skin to create suction that makes healing easier due to increased blood flow and a variety of conditions including muscle pain, inflammation and poor blood circulation treated.
Would you like to try it out?
Cost: Cupping yoga is done in 30-minute sessions and costs $ 40. Facial cupping ($ 30) is also available to help with jaw, jaw, and neck pain.
To book: online at madhattermassageandwellness.com or call owner Mattie Bearden at 423-405-4486.
Location: Mad Hatter Massage and Wellness, 1404 Battlefield Pkwy., Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia.
There are two main categories of treatment. The more traditional form, wet cupping, involves heated glass cups and controlled medical bleeding – a tough “no” for me. However, more common in the United States is non-invasive dry cupping, which uses rubber or plastic cups and, luckily, is 100% blood-free.
Located in a small mall right off the busy Battlefield Parkway, I immediately felt a zen-like energy entering Mad Hatter Massage and Wellness. Owner Mattie Bearden, LMT, FMT and self-proclaimed “Chaos Coordinator”, shares the humble space with SoulShine Massage Therapy, and together they have created an oasis of wellness in one of the most unlikely places.
Upon arrival, Mattie led me to a cozy, dimly lit room where I gave her an overview of my current physical condition and identified my persistent problem areas (lower back and shoulders). She explained that I do three to four purposeful, gentle yoga positions over the course of the session, and that they use two different types of silicone cups: static and sliding. Used together, the cups are aimed at functional movements, or movements that are regularly performed that are restricted by pain or limited range of motion, as well as intuitive movements where the body essentially listens to the brain to determine what movements he wants to make.
After a guided meditation to calm my midday and midweek mind, she first let me stand barefoot on a circular reflex zone mat for a few minutes. Good holistic therapists view the entire body as a connected unit, and Mattie is no exception. Covered with small, evenly spaced plastic dots, the mat provides gentle acupressure stimulation to promote blood circulation and the flow of oxygen in the feet, which in turn sends relaxation signals to the brain and opens the rest of the body to practice.
When my feet were (very) awake, it was time for the good stuff.
First, she made me do the “Child Pose,” an essential yoga pose that gently straighten your back, hips, and thighs as you bend over your legs folded under you. After massaging my problem areas with a Thai herbal massage for pain relief, Mattie placed several static silicone cups along my hips and shoulders. Once in place, she ran the sliding cups up and down my back to stimulate blood flow while relieving tension in my hips, lower back, abductors, shoulders, and neck.
After taking several breaths in a child’s pose, she made me sit up straight with my legs outstretched and do a quick toe touch to assess my current level of flexibility while massaging my back with more herb grater and gently using a Luk Pra. squeezed kob, a homemade compress made from Thai herbs wrapped in cloth.
Next up was “Butterfly”, an upright sitting pose where the heels are pressed together while the legs are spread apart. With about eight cups on each of my thighs, she let me flutter my knees gently or engage in intuitive movements. Immediately I felt a feeling in the deepest part of my thigh muscle, a quick discomfort that I recognized as a relief that I could never have remedied with simple stretches alone.
Staff photo by Troy Stolt / Mattie Bearden slides “sliding cups” along Kate Brennan Tew’s thighs to relax muscles.
While still in the butterfly pose, she moved the cups from my thighs to my shoulders, upper back and chest, which made me move more intuitively by shrugging and shrugging. Of all the cupping positions, this felt the strangest. My shoulders were more sensitive to the cups. It was like dozens of wooden clothespins caught on my skin and pulled me to the ceiling. It didn’t hurt, but I was definitely ready to remove it as soon as the time came.
After my shoulders were free, Mattie let me tiptoe again to check my freedom of movement. I barely touched my toes at the beginning of the session. In the end, I comfortably wrapped my hands around the soles of my feet. A few deep breaths later, followed by a quick and much-appreciated foot rub, we were done.
As with all forms of therapy and exercise, persistence is the key to real long-term change; However, after just 30 minutes with Mattie, I walked more energetic, less anxious, and with a noticeable decrease in my back and shoulder pain.
In addition to cupping yoga, Mad Hatter offers a variety of customizable, affordable holistic treatments to meet each client’s unique needs. A self-proclaimed zealot for continuing education, Mattie is both extremely knowledgeable and approachable, which makes her studio perfect for those unfamiliar or even intimidated with the world of holistic healing.
If there had been Mad Hatter Massage and Wellness in the 90s, my mom would have been her best customer. And take this off me, that’s about as believable as you can get it.