Rob Zukowski is a New York State LMT, certified by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork, a Certified Medical Massage Therapist and holds a degree in Occupational Studies, with a focus on massage therapy, from the prestigious Swedish Institute College of Health Sciences. He has advanced training in sports massage, various relaxation therapies, and training in multi-therapeutic approaches to massage for oncology.

In addition to private practice, his experience includes being a massage therapist, lead therapist and member relationships manager in assorted fitness centers, spas, clinics and holistic healing settings and working in corporate wellness environments. Rob also works as a client services manager at a healing center, authors his own column on the subject of complementary and alternative medicine in a national HIV/AIDS magazine, works in student outreach and lectures on therapeutic massage for various pathologies.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Hot Stone Massage

Hot stone massage is a natural massage therapy modality in which warmed, smooth  stones are used to perform the massage strokes to maximize the therapeutic benefit. The stones that are typically used are a form of river rocks or some other very smooth surfaced stones made of basalt. The stones come in a variety of shapes and sizes to accommodate larger areas such as your back and upper legs, small stones for detailed foot work and an assortment of sizes in between to use on a variety of muscles and surfaces. These stones are heated in water or a steamer before use to an ideal temperature between 120 and 140 degrees. It is the high iron content in basalt helps the stones retain heat during the massage.  During your session, the massage therapist will often flip the stone during strokes to ensure the heat sufficiently gets into your muscle tissue from both sides of the stone. 

As with any therapeutic or complementary or alternative medicine treatment, it is recommended that you speak with your doctor before having a session. In the case of hot stone massage, there are certain cautions and contraindications that must be observed, such as, high blood pressure, arrhythmia's and other cardiac issues and diabetes, to name a few. Your massage therapist should also do a health intake prior to your session. 

The heat of the stones combined with the therapists pressure can help your muscles to relax, allowing the massage therapist to manipulate tissues more effectively. Certainly, all types of massage can help ease pain resulting from tense muscles, stiff joints or injuries, but hot stone work may very well provide a heightened level of relief. Some clients have noted that because the application of heat allows the massage therapist to penetrate deeper, that the affects are akin to deep tissue work, without the additional pressure. 

Cold, as we know, can lead to decreased circulation. Heat, on the other hand, may help increase circulation; it causes the blood vessels to widen, known as vasodilation. With greater circulation comes health benefits.  Poor circulation can lead to fatigue, which tenses the muscles, and a buildup of fluid and lactic acid in the muscles. Increased circulation delivers more oxygen to the muscles, which can help ease aches and pains. 

Robert Zukowski is certified in Hot Stone Massage by the Swedish Institute of Health Sciences 

Winter Massage Therapy Special through December 31, 2014: Hot Stone Massage
Now through December 31, 2014, any 60 minute Hot Stone Massage is is on sale for $60. Hot Stone Massages are available only at the Astoria location.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

November Meassage Therapy Special - Student Discount

College students, trade schools, technical schools, continuing education, part time or full time. Students of any kind take $25 off any 60 minute session or $30 off any 90 minute session. Visit for more information.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Swedish Massage and the Sympathetic and Parasympathetic Nervous Systems

While there are many diverse and effective massage modalities that can help in managing illness, injury, pain, recovery and the like, one should never underestimate the health benefits of a classic, Swedish massage. This modality is also often referred to as a relaxation massage. Relaxed is more than a state of mind, it is a state of health and body on a physiological level. There are, without question, real, positive physiological affects that take place at the hands -- pun intended -- of skilled therapist and Swedish or relaxation massage. Many studies have shown that trained, moderate touch, such as effleurage, quells the sympathetic nervous system, or the stress response, and initiates the parasympathetic nervous system. Why is this important to your overall health and wellness? I'm glad you asked.

The autonomic nervous system (ANS) is responsible for regulating the functions of our internal organs. The ANS is part of the peripheral nervous system and also controls some muscle function. We are usually unaware of ANS related activity in the body, such as pupil dilation or a change in heart rate or blood pressure, because these functions occur on an involuntary and reflexive basis. There are three main divisions of the ANS -- the enteric, sympathetic and parasympathetic systems. As it pertains to Swedish massage, we will focus on the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems.

The Sympathetic Nervous System and the Fight or Flight Response

The "firing" of the sympathetic nervous system is what initiates the flight or flight response (stress response). The physiological impact of fight or flight on the body can easily be considered a foundation on which stress related medicine is built. Triggered by episodes of stress, the fight or flight response is our body's automatic, inborn and unconscious response that is designed to ready the body to defend or flee from real or perceived harm or threat. Fight or flight is a mechanism of survival. When you are confronted with stress of any variety, whether it be from internal factors or the world around you, fight or flight is triggered. This response corresponds to an area of the brain called the hypothalamus, which when stimulated, initiates a sequence of nerve cell reactions and the release of chemicals that prepare the body for running or fighting.

Hormones like adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol are released into our bloodstream and move through our bodies, causing a series of changes. Our rate of respiration increases, for example. A portion of our blood supply is diverted away from our digestive tract, hence halting digestion, and is redirected into our muscles and limbs, which require extra energy and fuel for retreat or physical retaliation. Our pupils dilate, we become more aware and our vision sharpens. Our impulses become sharper and faster, the sensation and perception of pain diminishes and our immune system mobilizes with increased activation. We become prepared, on every level, for fight or flight. You can surely imagine the long term affects on a body in a stress induced, frequent or chronic fight or flight state of being.

According to the Mayo Clinic, "The long-term activation of the stress-response system — and the subsequent overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones — can disrupt almost all your body's processes. This puts you at increased risk of numerous health problems, including anxiety, depression, digestive problems, heart disease, sleep problems, weight gain, memory and concentration impairment."

The Parasympathetic Nervous System and Rest and Digest 

On the flip side of the stress induced, fight or flight, sympathetic nervous system response is the kinder, gentler parasympathetic nervous system and rest and digest. To be more specific, the parasympathetic system is responsible for stimulation of the rest and digest response and activates during times of low stress. You need the rest and digest response for health and balance. This physiological state of being conserves energy as it slows the heart rate, it increases intestinal and gland activity, relaxes muscles, as well as sphincter muscles in the gastrointestinal tract. Your parasympathetic nervous system maintains and restores your energy. It directs blood to your digestive tract and makes sure you actively digest food. It also maintains your blood pressure, heart rate and breathing rate at a low level. It brings the body to a neutral and homeostatic balanced state where you can function better and heal. There is a tremendous amount of research indicating that relaxing, moderate massage therapy relaxes the autonomic nervous system, initiating firing of the parasympathetic nervous system and resulting in a state of rest and digest. The relaxation and wellness you feel after a good, quality Swedish massage is more than just a moment. It is a state of physiological health radiating from the inside out.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Get a GoodBelly

More and more people are becoming "intolerant" to one food thing or another. Why? The answer you get depends on who you ask.

The medical name for food intoerlances is non-allergic food hypersensitivity. Non-allergic food hypersensitivity should NOT, NOT, NOT be confused with true food allergies. Some people are allergic to shell fish or nuts for example. That's a whole other, very serious issue and one you should should see a doctor about as it can be life threatening.

Food intolerance reactions can include pharmacologic, metabolic, and gastro-intestinal responses to foods or food compounds. Celiac disease, for example, is said to be an autoimmune disorder caused by an immune response to the protein gluten. Personally, I am lactose intolerant. Give me two slices of pizaa and within 20 minutes I have all the signs and symptoms of gastro intestnal distess. There have been times that I bloat so bad that I cannot close my pnats; not that I open my pants when I eat cheese, you get the point.

My system just doesnt like dairy products. Can you imagine a life without cheese? What a cruel world. Grwoing up with a primarlit Italian family we lived on cheese. Yes, yes, I know; fat, cholstroal and the like, but no one ever mentioned cholerstrerol to a ten year old Italian kid in 1977 when grandma was making homemade pizza. Medicine has come a long way since I was a child and we know a lot more about these things then we used to. I am not ten years old anymore and my reaction to dairy products is much like those slef help help books of the "bad boys and why we love them" genre.

Lactose intolerance is also called lactase deficiency and hypolactasia. It is the inability to digest lactose, a sugar that is found in milk and to a lesser extent milk derived dairy products. They say, whoever they are, that lactose intolerance is not so much a disorder, but a genetically determined characteristic.

Enter probiotics. Probiotics are living microorganisms. When taken in adequate amounts, they have a beneficial effect on the body. There are many kinds of beneficial bacteria, but not all beneficial bacteria are probiotics. To be clasified a probiotic, the strain must be shown to survive the stomach’s acidic environment in order to reach the rest of the digestive tract where it does the majority of its work.

After ingestions, probiotics will evebtually make their way out of the stomach and do numerous important things to assist in digestive health. For example, they dwell in the intestine, thrive off of the same nutrients as undesirable bacteria and help to lower the gut’s pH. They are not a one time, quick fix. They will pass through your syetem when the cells of the intestinal lining shed. So probiotics are something you shoudl add to your normal, dailt routine.

I have tried a number of different probitioc products in pill, chewable and liqaid form. The one that works best for me is product called GoodBelly. Goodbelly is a probiotic juice drink. It is soy free, gluten free, lactose free and non GMO. Not ony do I use the product daily, but when I am going to give in to my urge for cheese or milk or products that contain milk and dair products, I have and extar serving. Typically, I do not have any of usial synptions of my food intorance at that point, and if I do, they dont last long.

This past summer, I was speding a few days on Fire Island with a friend for his birtheday. Whenever I travel, I tend to pack food. Two staples are granola and GoodBelly. While I am not vegan, I do my best to eat as vegan as I can for reasons of health. The only two places that I know of in Manhattan to get GoodBelly is Elm Health, I go to the one on 7th Avenue and 14th Street, and Whole Foods, I frequnet the one on 7th Avenue and 24th Street. Wouldnt you know it, I had forgotten to pack my GoodBelly. We were alomot to the ferry when I realiozed that I had left the product at home. Lucky for me the GoodBelly web site has a map of locations where their products are availble. Unlucky for my firned; I asked him to drive almost 10 miles out of the way just to get my GoodBelly.

From the GoodBelly web site:

"GoodBelly probiotic drinks contain live and active cultures of the probiotic strain, Lactobacillus plantarum 299v (LP299V®). This particular strain was chosen out of many, due to the 16 well-documented research trials that indicate their ability to promote healthy digestion.* Additionally, these trials substantiate that LP299V® has a superior ability to survive the stomach’s harsh acidic environment in order to inhabit the intestine.

LP299V® has been used by millions of people safely for almost two decades. LP299V® was initially developed for use by gastroenterologists in Sweden to help their patients recover from surgery.

We offer a variety of products to suit individual tastes. All GoodBelly products contain 10 – 50 billion colony forming units of probiotics per serving.** It just depends on which product you choose, but even the minimum of amounts has been documented to be adequate in populating the intestines when used on a daily basis."

If you suffer from poor digestive ghealth, wheter it be non-allergic food hypersensitivity or just in general, you shold do some reaserach and talk to your doctor about adding probitics to your routine. If you get the go ahead, try some GoodBelly. They even have one of those "try us for 12 days" challenges. You can get details at and

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Some Winter Cold Tips

My favorite seasons are spring and fall; not too hot and not too cold. With winter here and frigid cold upon us, and not going anywhere soon, I tend to ramp up my vitamin intake as well as change some of my usual habits. 

When in come to vitamins...

Biotin, which is technically classified as vitamin B, is all cosmological. The cold winter air can wreak havoc on skin, hair and nails. Biotin works from the inside and rebuilds from beneath the skin.

If you are like me, the cold weather tends to keep you indoors a bit more than in the milder months. Being cooped up inside can lead to a little bit of cabin fever and cause some brain fog and concentration problems. There is less stimulation when you are staring at the same four walls more often than usual. Fish oil can help clear your head and concentrate better. I use it year round to keep my brain clear and focused for studies.

Vitamin B-12 is awesome. The cold, the darkness and the cloudy winters can lead to depression and anxiety. B12 is one of the first vitamins depleted during times of depression and anxiety. 

I sing the praises of Vitamin D. Since vitamin D is partially relayed through sunlight, northern residents don't get a lot of it in the winter months. I really can’t say enough good things about vitamin D. I take 2000 mg every day, year round, at my doctor’s advice.

It can be found in small amounts in a few foods, but most vitamin D  (they say 80% to 90% of what the body gets) is obtained through exposure to sunlight.

Vitamin D, in part, is used for preventing and treating rickets, weak bones, conditions of the heart and blood vessels (including high blood pressure and high cholesterol). It is also used for diabetes, obesity, muscle weakness, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, bronchitis, premenstrual syndrome and tooth and gum disease. Some people use vitamin D for skin conditions and boosting the immune system, preventing autoimmune diseases and preventing cancer. The list goes on and on if you care to look it up

You may take the train, bus or car instead of your usual walk when the cold weather is upon us. Now, you may not think that riding the rails has all that much of an impact on your exercise, but it does. There is this 10,000 steps a day program that I tend to do in addition to my regular work out. At my last job I traveled from an outer borough into the West Village of Manhattan and I wore a pedometer. By walking to the subway stop that is one stop away from my closets stop, taking the train to 23rd Street instead of Union Square or direct to the West Village, I gave myself a 2.5 mile walk to and from work. That’s 5 miles a day or 25 miles in a work week. In the winter, I went the closest and most direct route which brought me down to a mile a day. That’s 20 less miles of walking per week.

I used this calculator to find measure the caloric difference. With the longer commute I was burning about 3136 calories just by commuting to work. The shorter commute, around 627 calories.

Enter Calcium. If you do not get your usual amount of exercise during the winter months, it can lead to muscle weakening. When our muscles aren't doing what they should as well as the should, more pressure is placed on the bones. Calcium strengthens your bones. 

Vitamin c has been and still remains a staple in the cold/flu season battle. Drink pure fruit juices, many of which contain 100% of your daily vitamin C requirement in a single glass, or look for pill options. Personally, I prefer a liquid or gel or natural source, but something is better than nothing. Just watch your sugar intake with those juices.

Stay hydrated. Most people tend to drink water more during the warmer weather. But, spending more time indoors involves turning up the heat. All that unnatural heating lends itself to dry skin and chapped lips. Hydrate from the inside.

Zinc is the closest you can get to a "quick fix" vitamin during cold and flu season. Not only does Zinc boost your immunity, but it has been proven to shorten a cold when you already have one.

Other Tips:

Make sure to moisturize. It’s critical that people moisturize their skin in the winter months. Sources suggest that applying moisturizer immediately after showering locks in the moisture. With all the products out there, I still rely on Vaseline petroleum jelly, at least for my lips fingers and toes. You can get over the greasiness.

Don’t skimp on the sunscreen. It may be a summertime staple, but sunscreen is essential during cloudless winter days, especially if there’s sun-reflecting snow on the ground.
A long, hot shower feels great in the winter; but soaking in too much hot water can strip your skin of much of its moisture. Go for luke warm.

Crank up the humidity. Room humidifiers can help re-infuse dry, artificially-heated air with some much needed moisture. Yes, humidifiers can be pricey. I often fill a metal pot with water and place it on the radiator to let the water evaporate into the air. If I am feeling all fancy like, I will use a natural eucalyptus, pine or mint oil in the water to help clear clogged nasal passages from winter sniffles.

And finally, a lukewarm bath with oatmeal or baking soda, can help relieve skin that is so dry from the cold that it has become itchy.

As always, these are my opinions from my own research and not medical advice. You should always check with your doctor before taking or increasing vitamin intake, using certain products or changing your diet, exercise and health habits.

Monday, January 6, 2014

My Top 7 Seasonal Blues Busters

I have been reading an assortment of articles on doing away with post holiday, winter blues. Many of the ideas didn't quite apply to single, city dwellers.

Plan your garden for the spring for one. That's a great idea, but I live in NYC. I only have weeds that grown between the cracks in the sidewalk. Spouse "date night" was another suggestion. Again, a great idea, but I don't have a spouse and I am guessing my having a date night your husband is out of the question. There were a lot of suggestions  that revolved around activities and time with your kids. Marvelous idea! Love and raise those kids healthy and happy. Me, I'm a family of one.

So I thought, what would I do to quell the seasonal blues and boost my mental health and mood?

Below is my top seven. Enjoy and be of sound mind.


I have spent 1000's upon 1000's of hours doing volunteer work and mentoring volunteers. Not only are you helping others in some capacity, but rest assured, its a feel good moment for you as well. Look up organizations that do the work that speaks to your heart. The vast majority will have volunteer opportunities pages listed needs from a day activity to long term projects.

2. Meet someone new

I am talking about a new friend. We all have social media friends that we have never met. You read each others blogs and comment and tweet all the time. How about meeting face to face for coffee? You already know you have some things in common, take it to another level. If you have trouble finding what you want, comment and I will try to offer suggestions.

3. Do something free and cool

I can tell you that there are 100's and100's of things for free in NYC. Meditation, yoga, an assortment of classes and activities. Try something that you have wanted to thats different and wont cost you anything. Here is a start: To celebrate 50 years of philosophy classes in New York, Philosophy Works is offering their 10 week corse as a gift to you – no regular fee, just a $10 administrative charge. Visit

4. Change your commute

Maybe it sounds silly, but if you walk the same route and take the same train every day it gets boring. If you take a different street or subway, its a whole new view and chance to people watch people you haven't watched before. I do it all the time. If you are a visual kind of person the change of scenery and scene will be a treat.

5. People watch

Seriously. I do this a lot. I know its cold, but go to Times square, pop your ear buds in, listen to your favorite songs, drink some hot tea and watch the chaos that is Times Square. It's like reality TV. It's amusing and invigorating.

6. Something a little wild? No Pants Subway Ride!

Do it! I've done in a few times. It's a little bit wild, a little bit cold but a lot of fun. All these people getting together for an amusing and entertaining common goal has an awesome sense of community. The only two requirements are:

Willing to take pants off on subway

Able to keep a straight face about it

Check out for details.

7. Something healthy or holistic?

If you are in New York, or close by, check out the New York Open Center. They have a lot of free introductory classes. Check out

Have at it and be healthy!