Women in health: alternative health practitioners

By Heleigh Bostwick

Observer correspondent

January 9th, 2014

Sandy Jefferts (not pictured) opened Green Mountain Rieki Institute in 2009, where she used light touch or no touch to practice Rieki, akin to meditation. (Observer courtesy photo)
Sandy Jefferts (not pictured) opened Green Mountain Rieki Institute in 2009, where she used light touch or no touch to practice Rieki, akin to meditation. (Observer courtesy photo)

As more people discover alternative health care as a complement to traditional, Western medicine, the number of practitioners has increased to meet demand. Two local women are among those who have turned their passion for alternative health care methods into practices—Green Mountain Reiki Institute and Massage and Bodywork Happens.

Green Mountain Reiki Institute

“Reiki is a complementary health care method that’s used in balancing the body, mind and spirit,” said Sandy Jefferis, owner of Green Mountain Reiki Institute. “It’s akin to meditation.”

A former labor and delivery nurse, Jefferis discovered Reiki when she was having a health issue several years ago.

“It was extremely helpful,” she said. “I was drawn to it, so I decided to do it part time.”

That was back in 2009. She now works as a Reiki practitioner full time and hired a part-time practitioner, Heather Meisterling, a few weeks ago.

“I do Reiki every day for about an hour,” she said. “It really enhances well-being and sense of joy in your life and helps your body heal.”

People visit Jefferis for a number of reasons.

“Sometimes there are medical issues or maybe they are having trouble falling asleep. Reiki helps them relax,” she said. “Some research studies have shown how effective Reiki is for relaxation and pain management, as well as reducing anxiety and depression.”

Reiki sessions last about an hour and clients are fully clothed when they’re on the treatment table.

“There are specific positions on the body where I place my hands and I use either a light touch or no touch,” she said.

“When I’m finished, my patients are usually smiling and the most common comment is that it felt so good,” she said, laughing.

Jefferis is also co-president of the Vermont Reiki Association and volunteers her services at Vermont Respite House once a week, where she uses her skills as a Reiki practitioner on residents and their family members, staff members and other volunteers.

“If people are coming often, I suggest that they do their own Reiki and learn it themselves,” she said. “It’s very easy to learn, but you have to learn it from a teacher in person.”

Once a month, Jefferis offers 15-minute sample Reiki sessions.

“It’s donation only and it’s a good way to see if you like it and want to try it out,” she said.

Visit for more information.


Massage & Bodywork Happens

“My first ever massage was when I was 16 years old and I really liked it,” recalled Jennifer Lunna, owner of Massage & Body Happens in Williston.

Lunna, who settled on a career in radiology, didn’t pay much attention to that feeling until about five years ago.

“I liked radiology, but realized it wasn’t what I was supposed to be doing,” she said.

In April 2011, Lunna quit her job and started taking classes at Touchstone Healing Arts School of Massage in Burlington.

“I went to a workshop and it clicked,” she said. “Yup, this is what I’m supposed to do.”

In June of 2012, she started her own business, Massage & Bodywork Happens, explaining that the name comes from the catchphrase “stuff happens.”

“I do deep tissue, hot stone, and Swedish massage, as well as polarity flow at the beginning and end of a massage, which balances your energy,” she said, adding that she also does some reflexology and myofascial release work for clients.

“When you touch someone, it triggers the parasympathetic nervous system and helps decrease stress, depression and anxiety, as well as help with sleep problems,” Lunna said. “Relaxation massage benefits people all the way around.”

Lunna enjoys working with her clients, who range in age from 30 to close to 70 years old, and are equally split between male and female.

“I enjoy working with my clients and getting to know what they want,” she said. “Sometimes they come to me thinking they want one kind of massage, but their body is telling me something else.”

Fran Stoddard of Williston has been visiting Lunna for a couple of months.

“I’m a Taiko drummer and had a shoulder seize up that she’s helping me work through,” she said.

“I’ve spoiled myself a couple of times,” she added, laughing. “It’s been very nice.”

To learn more, visit