Ibiza wellness: Top Ibiza therapists – Shell Therapy Massage

It was a fortuitous series of events that led Michelle McLaughlin to pursue a career in massage therapy, but as with many events you look back on with hindsight, there’s every possibility she had been preparing herself all along for this particular destiny. Having studied biology, anatomy and physiology at school in Manchester and as a keen martial artist (she is a black belt in Karate), Michelle already possessed a deep understanding of the inner workings of the body. Nevertheless, it was only when a fellow therapist on the other side of the world spotted her untapped talent that she was really able to step into the light, honing her expertise over a period of years in Panama before moving to the white isle, an island that resonated with her from the very first time she visited over 10 years ago.

Michelle now heads up Shell Therapy Massage, a mobile service that can travel to any Ibiza venue or event and provide the highest quality massage services. Specialising in a range of diverse techniques, Michelle also leads Wataflow sessions – a powerful underwater process that can lead clients to confront fears and inner trauma, and in some cases, feel entirely reborn. With a focus on inspiring others to love themselves, Michelle’s outlook, experience and approach can – and does – change people’s lives. “It’s a joy to be able to offer my services to those who are enjoying the island – residents and tourists alike,” she explains. “Ibiza will always be in my heart.”

What personal experiences led you to massage therapy?
I like to say that massage therapy found me. I was travelling around South America looking for opportunities to work as a scuba diver instructor when I met and helped an English guy who was in a severe state of ill health after contracting dengue fever and malaria at the same time. I helped him recover, and consequently he put me in touch with a good friend of his, Tony, who ran a dive centre on a Caribbean island in Panama. I went there to learn and work, and I met Tony’s wife Georgina. We had a lot in common, both of us were black belts – me in Karate and her in Kung Fu! She helped identify skills in me that she though meant I would make a great therapist, so she offered to personally mentor me and pay for my courses. In return, I managed their businesses while they moved back to the UK. I was there for almost four years in the end.

At the time, did you feel like you’d stumbled upon the right path?
As soon as I started the training, I knew it was the start of something special. Georgina was a fantastic mentor – meticulous, knowledgeable and dedicated.

Do you put these events down to fate?
Therapy wasn’t something I had ever considered learning before then – I had never even had a massage! It was all very serendipitous. As soon as I finished my training and began treating clients, the immediate and overwhelming amount of great feedback gave me the confidence and the drive to pursue this as a career and lifestyle.

Is there one style of therapy in particular that you’ve become known for?
I’m renowned for doing incredibly strong but comfortable deep tissue work. I am now integrating fascial release, trigger point and remedial techniques into this treatment. In saying this, all my massage experience and styles bring a valuable understanding and edge to my work.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt from your craft?
Probably one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is to be honest with myself and my clients. To take a completely holistic approach to each individual and never assume. The diversity and individuality of every person is immense. This is especially apparent in the water work. It’s important to know when to refer to a different specialist to meet the needs of your clients.

Who is deep tissue massage suited to?
Deep tissue massage is good for active people, treating stress, aches and pains, or those with particular issues around tension, injuries or scar tissue.

Tell us about some of the benefits of Thai massage?
Thai Massage is a deeply relaxing but also energising treatment. It resets and rebalances the body and mind. I would recommend it for those suffering from insomnia and lethargy, and those looking for muscle recovery and deep stretching.

Is there anything else you offer in terms of massage?
Indian head and face massage can ease suffering for those with headaches and migraines, and it’s also a process that activates the energy channels, leaving you feeling uplifted. Face massage is a great way to achieve a natural and non-invasive facelift. Circulation is improved and the production of collagen and regenerative cells is increased.

You’re also an expert in the Wataflow technique – can you explain this technique?
Wataflow is a very unique experience in comparison to my other bodywork styles. The energy you feel in the water is magnified and people’s experiences and journeys are infinite and very personal. Wataflow is a healing treatment that can release past emotions that have stored in your body, allowing you to feel more open, more free, lighter and, on occasion, reborn. I feel very privileged to be able to hold space for receivers through this practice and to facilitate a special flight through the water. It is truly magical experience.

What changes do you note in clients after any of your treatments?
After a massage, clients are generally more relaxed, stress-free, happy and without worry. They often detail feeling releases in the body that, in turn, leads to ease in the mind. After a Wataflow treatment, peoples’ experiences differ greatly – some report they are transported to deep state of relaxation, some report remembering memories they felt they had long forgotten, others describe visions or feelings of tranquility and deep connections to the universe.

In modern life, why is it so important to take time to look after ourselves?
Some people see massage as a luxury, but I look at it as general maintenance, especially in modern life, because the spectrum of different benefits is just too vast to ignore. Massage is a delightful way to maintain health – without it, problems can occur much more easily. Prevention is better than cure, and it’s also much more fun! I have weekly massage sessions myself to ensure I am functioning to my best capacity. Being a bodyworker, it is very important for me to keep myself aligned, both physically and mentally. I believe that the energy you give during a treatment makes up the most of the receiver’s experience. This is why it is imperative that I feel fit and vibrant.

What is your personal wellness philosophy?
To love yourself. If you love yourself, you will take care of your body. You will feed it healthy food, you will exercise and be more conscious and connected to it, in the process understanding yourself more. You will nurture nourishing and positive thoughts, boosting your mental capacity and your body’s ability to heal.

How do you relate that to everyday life?
Loving yourself allows you to love others. You raise your vibration and attract good energy into your life. You become grateful for the small things and are more prepared for life’s surprises – good and bad.

Why do you practice on the island?
I’m originally from Manchester, England, but I’ve been living in Ibiza full time for three years and I want to create a life here – it’s been a long time since I lived in a city, I’m an island girl now! I’m also passionate about my work. I work among some of the most wonderful scenes – crystal clear waters, luxury yachts, exclusive villas, forests, parties, retreats and even building sites. There is never a dull moment. I also came to Ibiza because of the vast wellness community here – it’s a dream to work here with so many top quality therapists and healers. I feel blessed to surround myself with a team of incredible colleagues.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your work?
I’m so very grateful to my army of local, regular clients and all the new souls who help me on my journey. They continue to overwhelm me with their feedback and appreciative words – far and away, that is the most rewarding aspect of my work.