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Introducing IPSB's Stories Series! Meet Sabrina Ortolano: IPSB’s Newest Co-Owner

Updated: Feb 29

Welcome to IPSB’s Stories Series, where we highlight our brilliant students, staff, and alumni who are all doing great things out in their communities. Because there’s no one type of bodyworker, the Stories Series aims to show the diverse backgrounds, passions, and career paths of IPSB’s accomplished bodywork community. 


We are pleased to kick off this series with Sabrina Ortolano - IPSB alum, longtime instructor, and as of Fall 2023, IPSB’s newest co-owner along with her wife, Cyndi. Sabrina’s multi-decade passion for this work and its large-scale community impact are what drives her vision for IPSB and we couldn’t be more excited to share her story. 


What's your name, business name, and a little bit about the work you currently do?


Name(s): Sabrina Ortolano, Moon Cycle Arts; IPSB - School of Integrative Psycho-Structural Bodywork

Pronouns: She/Her


I am primarily a massage therapist and wellness practitioner. I specialize in childbearing years and long term illness. I am a birth doula so I support people during labor and birth. My goal is always to see my clients for every week until they deliver, providing both massage and birth planning services, and every week for massage 3 months after. I also recently purchased IPSB with my wife, Cyndi.


Tell us about your journey to becoming a bodyworker. When did it begin, and why did you choose bodywork?


I was working in corporate event management and in the food service industry in 2002/2003, and I was just not happy with it. So in my downtime, I read a lot. One day I stumbled upon an article about Failure to Thrive, and this was what kicked off my journey into bodywork. Failure to Thrive is essentially the idea that your body stops working properly (or at all) when it doesn’t receive enough human touch. You see it more with babies and the elderly because they have less coping mechanisms. When babies aren’t touched and held enough, they literally lose the will to live. The elderly become more withdrawn, levels of dementia are higher, they’re less resilient to stress and change. But it’s an issue at every age. 


I started thinking about how our culture doesn’t support or normalize healthy, non-sexual touch. As children, most of us frequently receive cuddles and hugs from our parents. Then when we become adults, the majority of the touch we receive is sexual in nature. Many studies have shown that this lack of healthy, nonsexual touch has tangible negative effects on all of our bodies’ systems. And when we lack this touch, we subconsciously seek it in unhealthy ways. Touch is as important as food. Your body starts to become ill if not touched often. And this touch needs to be consensual and appropriate. 


I thought about how my own life, habits, and tendencies were affected by a lack of healthy, nonsexual touch. I realized that this was linked to some profoundly negative aspects of my life at the time, like staying in unhealthy relationships just because I needed someone to hold me. So in contemplating that, I began thinking about how I could be part of a solution.


One of the few ways we allow ourselves to be touched in a way that meets that need is through bodywork. 


So I got really excited about the idea of finding a way to be part of a community who looks to provide resources to those who need it. How much healthier would we be if we were receiving appropriate nonsexual touch on a consistent basis? A massage is not going to replace a healthy relationship. But it does help you create oxytocin, which reduces stress and pain, and promotes growth and healing, just to name a few benefits. It also helps to fill your emotional cup. When I felt like my cup was full, I was making decisions in a much healthier way. If you are starving you will steal. If you can be nourished, you will be making choices out of abundance as opposed to scarcity.


Why did you choose to attend IPSB?


I made an 8-page spreadsheet of pros and cons of every school in the country and totally overwhelmed myself. I thought, what’s the most important thing? I know I’m going to need to get a job, so which school is going to give me an edge? Every Los Angeles spa, chiropractor, and wellness center I called unanimously said IPSB. They said that their employees who graduated from IPSB had the lowest rate of injury, the longest rate of working for them, and the highest rate of requests from clients. Hearing unanimously from so many potential employers that IPSB was their preferred place to hire from really made my decision for me.


Everything they said was true for me, too. I was the healthiest I ever was going through IPSB’s massage program, learning Tai Chi, proper body mechanics, and learning to take care of myself first. Once I graduated, I had no issue getting hired. I thrived in the spa setting and now thrive in my own private practice. With IPSB’s unique educational approach, I’ve been able to practice bodywork for two decades now with no sign of slowing down. 


What are you most passionate about? 


My three great passions are 1) Learning. I need to learn like I need to eat. 2) Community. I love people so community is necessary for me to function and be healthy 3) Food. I love to cook, especially for large groups of people. Sharing meals is so special. There’s something special about a labor of love that can directly nourish and turn into cells in another person’s body. 


How does a career in bodywork allow you to pursue your passions? 


I’m in control of my schedule which is an incredible luxury most people don’t have. And I make more an hour as a massage therapist than I would make in most settings. While there is a lot more legwork that comes with having your own private practice, I can make a living salary from doing less work. This provides the freedom for me to pursue all of my passions. 


What advice would you give someone pursuing bodywork or considering school at IPSB?


If you want to do this well, it takes time. 18 months to two years for a massage therapy program feels like a long time, especially if you are looking for a quick career change. But it’s important to take the time to learn, change how you move in your body through the world, and really absorb the information so you feel confident going out on your own after school is complete. And practice. A lot. 


If you would like to learn more about Sabrina, you can find her on Instagram @themoongoddesskitchen, or on her website mooncyclearts.com. You can also find her at ipsb.com as well as on IPSB’s Instagram @ipsb_massage

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