Treat Yourself Right

. January 29, 2013.

I have never been pregnant. Nor, do I ever plan on being pregnant (which is probably a good thing, because I’m a guy.) I do, however, see women who are pregnant, and many of them look like they are stiff and sore—happy, mind you, but in an aching sort of way. I recall when my wife was pregnant with our girls she sometimes looked in pain. I’m not referring to the in-labor type of pain, but more of the waddling-around-the-grocery-store, Cheerios-is-too-low-on-the-shelf-to-bend-down-for type of pain. I thought to myself, “That doesn’t look comfortable.” Unfortunately, I couldn’t do much to help. Well, I could’ve picked up the Cheerios and put the box in her cart, but I couldn’t help the aches. Happily for expectant mothers, there is someone who can.

Feeling relief

Julie Kouyate is a licensed massage therapist who operates out of Ann Arbor’s Excelsior Massage Therapy. She is trained in making women feel relief all throughout the pregnancy process. “Mothers-to-be carry such a load emotionally and physically,” she says. “The wait and expectation can fray nerves.   Massage properly administered during pregnancy can reduce excess fluids, help lift the pelvic floor for a break from added weight, and lower heart rates of mom and baby.” According to Kouyate, “Massage can help relieve sciatica, swollen feet, low back pain, and can improve mood.” I believe her. I know that if someone were to dissolve my aches and pains, I’d have a hard time feeling grumpy, too. I don’t have to be pregnant to understand that concept.

Julie can empathize with moms-to-be, having assisted in several births and from having four children of her own. Her treatment is comprehensive. She works on women until full term as well as specializes
in aiding women during labor.   She offers support if you have pain sensations in one area by applying pressure to a different area. This changes the intensity of the pain, according to Julie.

Benefits for the whole family

Now, are you ready for this, dads? It also turns out that you don’t have to be the one getting the pregnancy massage to gain from Julie’s touch, either. “If Mother feels calmed,” Kouyate says, “the whole family benefits. Fathers—let’s not forget them.” (Amen to that!) “They hold up half the world while mother is pregnant.   Mind you, he could never really do anything right during this time, even with his valiant efforts. Dad needs care, too, so he can hold the family up!” Now, guys, I know what you’re thinking: Did she just say that we should get massage therapy, too? Yes she did. 

Dude. Is that cool?

My answer to that question is a macho “yes!” How do you think top-level athletes help keep their bodies in shape? All of the running, weightlifting, hard impacts, quick cuts and jumps can take a toll on a body—so can all of the meetings, desk slouching, phone calls and commutes. (I respectfully decline to say which of these two categories I belong to.)

The bottom line is massage therapy can benefit the entire family, no matter whether it’s Mom or Dad who is working out the kinks. Kouyate is trained in deep tissue techniques and Thai massage among others.
She also specializes in head, neck and foot work. If you’re a fan of aromatherapy, Julie can provide essential aromatherapy oils to make your session even more soothing.

Just as an aside, I’ve always felt the aromatherapy industry should market certain scents to men: lawnmower, baseball glove and new TV. I asked Julie if she had those in her studio, and she replied, “Um, no.”

Aroma or no aroma, the benefits of massage therapy are overwhelmingly great. We all get caught up in the Frogger video game of our everyday lives and forget to take time to treat ourselves. Our bodies and minds deserve to be scheduled into our iCals. After conducting some research in the field for this column, believe me—your body and family will thank you.

Excelsior Massage Therapy is located at 1820 W. Stadium Blvd, Ste. 300. From now through August 31st, they are running a special. You can contact Julie Kouyate for more information at 734-330-7903 or visit

Jim Keen is a freelance writer and life-long Ann Arborite. He lives in town with his wife, Bonnie, and daughters, Gabbi (15) and Molly (11). He is the author of Inside Intermarriage: A Christian Partner’s Perspective on Raising a Jewish Family (URJ Press). He can be reached at Or follow him on Twitter: @jckeen