Jason Ayala used to work in retail management and he would offer hand massages to co-workers whose fingers and palms ached from long hours at the store.
Earlier in his youth, he gave massage assistance to his father, whom he recalled as “always having body aches.” After years of therapeutic altruism, Ayala believed he could find professional success with his cathartic hands.
“I wanted to pursue a career in helping people relieve pain,” said Ayala. “It was a big leap of faith to drop everything and stop being the regular 9-to-5 person.”
Ayala received certification from Westport’s Connecticut Center for Massage Therapy in 2016 and opted to pursue an entrepreneurial career in his field. Today, the 26-year-old Ayala is running It Is Wellness Massage Therapy, a one-man practice operating out of a pair of Bridgeport locations: Preventive Health Care Solutions in the city’s downtown and Gravity Bodywork in the trendy Black Rock community.
“I have clients ranging from businesspeople to single mothers,” he said. “One of my clients had a traumatic brain injury and I have been working at rehabbing him to regain his movements and strength in his body.”
Ayala begins a client relationship with a slate of questions to determine the best course of action, which could range from hot stone massage that uses heated stones to relax sore muscles to assisted stretch therapy for limbering up joints.
“I will run through a health entry form with a client so I can determine their specific needs and history, and we can work together to create a plan,” he said.
Ayala charges $85 per one-hour session, adding that he came to that figure “because I didn’t want to make it overly expensive.” He also offers a monthly wellness plan at $60 per month consisting of “one session per month that can include upgrades like incorporating CBD (cannabidiol) into your massage, cupping therapy and sugar foot scrubs.”
Ayala advocates the use of CBD in his work, noting that “the body absorbs CBD very well and it helps relieve a lot of pain — more than a lot of other topical creams.”
As an independent massage therapist, Ayala has relied on social media and word-of-mouth marketing to find new clients. He has also made himself a ubiquitous presence at business networking events in the Bridgeport market and up Route 8 into the Naugatuck Valley. These events have helped him branch into another business pursuit of offering chair massages in offices and workplaces as part of a corporate wellness program.
“Everybody could use a massage,” he explained. “In doing that, you see an increase in employee performance — they are more efficient when they are working. And employees know they are being treated well by their employers.”
Ayala will also make house calls for clients who are unable to travel to his locations, noting that this service “makes it a lot easier for people who don’t have the ability to get out of their homes or are coming in from a long commute from New York and want to be able to relax in the comfort of their homes.”
But whether he is working in his massage studio, a residence or a workplace, he is always consistent.
“My biggest goal is to see the improvement in people,” he stated. “They experience healing when they are getting the work done. I’ve had people who came in with bad headaches and left headache-free, and others who came in with excruciating back pain and were amazed to be able to move. You want people to leave the table changed and not leave the same way they came in.”
Ayala is also looking for change in his life. He is pursuing chiropractic studies that he believed “would go hand in hand with massage.”
He also envisions partnering with trainers and physical therapists in a new wellness-focused venture. Ayala added that some of his peers have viewed his entrepreneurial spirit as an inspiration.
“A lot of my friends in massage therapy were nervous about going into business on their own,” he said.