Tending to body, mind and spirit at the spa

Mark Lumpkin, Ph.D


The spa at the Jewish Community Center’s Staenberg Family Complex is a haven, a quiet place to relax and unwind with a little help from the eight certified massage therapists there – and it’s getting even better.

“We have a gorgeous facility with a range of services and a great team,” says Mark Lumpkin, 45, spa manager. “Soon we may add some new services, including more aromatherapy massage, additional body treatments and facial massage.”

Services currently include Swedish relaxation massage, hot stone massage, sports massage, deep tissue massage, pregnancy massage, warm paraffin treatments and couples massage. Treatments range from $45 to $115. Gift cards are available.

A native of San Antonio, Lumpkin moved to the St. Louis area 10 years ago. He has worked at the JCC for about two years. “I have been involved in the healing arts for 20 years, and I enjoy the rare opportunity to explore the integration of body, mind and spirit through massage therapy, martial arts, yoga and psychology,” he says.

Lumpkin made time recently to talk about his work.

Why is therapeutic massage beneficial?

First, it helps connect your body to your mind, and gives you a greater awareness of your kinesthetic ability to move in relaxed manner. Massage also reduces blood pressure, aids connective tissue and helps your joint capsule mobility.

What does that last one mean?

Whether you have arthritis or you just ran a marathon-or you are sore or tired for any other reason – massage eases the muscle tissue around your joints.

What about stress reduction?

Massage therapy definitely reduces stress. You’re in a quiet, safe space where you focus on yourself, take an hour for self-care. What a luxury. You refill your cup and then go back into the world, restored.

Why is that important?

If you are stressed, it’s hard to give, hard to be present, hard to multi-task. When you are centered in your body physiologically and psychologically, it’s so much easier to deal with life’s stresses.

What about people who are too shy to disrobe for a massage?

You are always covered when you are on the massage table, but we are respectful of people’s boundaries. We always ask clients to undress to their comfort level. Plus, we also offer chair massage or a short table massage where you can leave on all your clothes.

Who are your clients?

Most of my clients are medical rehab clients, people in recovery from hip replacement and such. I have had orthopedic surgeries from several injuries, so I know what rehab is like. I also work on the ultra-fit, some of them semi-professional athletes.

What is your basic approach with each client?

I take a holistic approach. We talk about what’s going on medically and whether there are any psychological concerns about the body’s performance and biomechanics.

Have you always been drawn to this work?

When I was 18, I started martial arts training, and I loved it. Then I earned a bachelor of fine arts degree in sculpture and figure drawing. Next I got a master’s degree in counseling psychology, and at the same time I studied massage therapy. The result was that I got a clear insight as to what hands-on healing can do for people physically and psychologically.

You also earned a master’s degree and then a Ph.D. in mythological studies with an emphasis on depth psychology from the Pacifica Graduate Institute in California. How has that influenced your work?

Those subjects incorporate the physical and the esoteric – and that’s the cutting edge today of sports, sports psychology and medical research. Society is redefining what wellness is. Exercise and diet certainly are important, and more important is the synergistic effect of combining body, mind and spirit.

Is this fulfilling work?

I love to help people be better – and as I continue to be challenged, it makes me better.

Mark Lumpkin, Ph.D

WORK: Manager of the Massage Therapy Department at the Jewish Community Center, personal trainer, yoga instructor

HOME: Ballwin

FAMILY: Single

HOBBIES: Music, film, reading and exercise