Massage therapist at Figure 8 works by touch without sight

Marianne Robbins provides massage therapy services at Figure 8 Women’s Workout with assistance from her guide dog, Natsumi. The three-year-old Golden Labrador resides under the massage table during appointments.

Marianne lost her sight in middle age. She can’t see a person’s shape. She has no vision in her right eye while her left eye has some light perception “like a lava lamp,” Marianne said. “I can see a blob but not detail.”

Before her massage career, Marianne worked at the Society for the Blind’s former location near 24th Street. She trained adults and children in the use of adaptive technology (computers and other devices that “speak”) and blindness instruction.

A few years ago, she contemplated a new career. Marianne had wanted to practice massage years before and knew of other blind people who trained as massage therapists.

She trained at the National Holistic Institute’s massage school in Sacramento and then spent many hours in internship and externship training.

Alicia Stephens, Figure 8’s owner, was an externship supervisor. Marianne provided clients free massage services for the opportunity to practice – a standard in massage schools.

After she achieved state certification as a certified massage therapist, Marianne established her practice at Figure 8 in May 2020 during the COVID-19 shutdown. Now that restrictions have eased, “things are going well with an established client base.”

Because massage therapists were included in Phase 1B of health care providers for the initial vaccine rollout, Marianne is fully vaccinated. She resumed her practice in late February.

“The state mandates very specific protocols for practitioners,” said Marianne, including special masks for clients and therapists, and sanitization protocol for cleaning the room thoroughly each time between clients – “down to every door knob, etc. that I will continue to do.”

Once a client is on the table, she uses the back of her hand, tracing an outline of the body to establish a sense of where they are. “You use what you have, a kind of attentiveness in a way I didn’t have before,” Marianne said. “If you have a lot of tension, press really hard. You feel more if you don’t have tension in your hands.”

Client and Curtis Park resident Lana Gregori, a former massage therapist herself, said she “can appreciate the skill, the attention and the presence she brings to her table. She listens deeply as you tell her about your body and invites feedback so she can customize your massage and focus on any areas of concern. Her touch is strong and seamless as she helps you to release tight muscles and stretch tight joints.”

Natsumi (meaning “summer” in Japanese) has been with Marianne for nearly two years, coming from Guide Dogs for the Blind in San Rafael. Natsumi is Marianne’s third guide dog. “She is the pick of the litter with her personality and work ethic,” Marianne said. But if a client has a severe dog allergy, her practice is not for them.

“I really care about women’s health and wellness. Clients at Figure 8 want to be well,” Marianne said. “Massage is a great companion to working out.”

Marianne charges $70 for a one-hour massage. She offers a reserved parking spot in the alley just north of the gym between the Bird & Bull hair salon and the Department of Motor Vehicles.

For more information, call 916 244-6779 or contact Marianne at [email protected]. For Figure 8 Women’s Workout information, contact owner Alicia Stephens at 916 704-6080 or visit

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