…As it is playfully referred to in Thailand, is better known as the ancient Indian and Buddhist practice of Thai Massage. Steeped in tradition, Thai Massage combines a unique blend of yoga and pressure-point massage that leaves one feeling relaxed, refreshed and rejuvenated.
The phrase “Lazy Man’s Yoga” is derived from the Thai Massage practice of gentle manipulation of the client’s body through various yoga postures while applying gentle pressure using palms, thumbs, elbows and feet. The massage is slow, rhythmic compressions combined with stretches along the body’s 10 energy lines.
Luckily, you don’t have to go all the way to Thailand to experience this incredible massage. Two practitioners here on the Cape whom I had the honor of meeting have both been to Thailand and studied Thai massage. Valerie Twomey of Spirit Well Massage and Yoga is located in West Chatham and has an excellent web site (www.capecodmassage.com), where visitors can learn about Thai massage, as well as find the times and locations of her various yoga classes.
Jennifra Norton, a South Dennis resident and a native Cape Codder, is a Bancroft graduate who has been practicing primarily neuromuscular massage for 11 years. She has also studied with Paul St. John and has a regular yoga practice.
It was “love at first touch,” says Jennifra, of experiencing her first Thai massage. “Discovering a combination of the two things that I love, yoga and massage, was a breakthrough.”
Jennifra was inspired to travel to Thailand this past January with her teacher, Jonas Westring. Jonas teaches Thai Yoga and Therapeutic Yoga internationally and in the USA, including program centers like Kripalu Center, Mount Madonna Center, Omega Institute, New York Open Center and Integrative Yoga Therapy. Jonas travels to Thailand every winter to deepen his understanding of the ancient healing arts of this culture and takes with him a group of 15 students who desire a similar experience.
In Thailand, Jennifra learned to pray in Paoli, visited temples, and studied at Chaing Mai. “Learning to pray in Paoli has enhanced my practice,” she says. “Paoli is the ancient language of the Buddha.” Indeed, listening to Jennifra pray in Paoli was a very beautiful thing.
Jennifra had powerful experiences in Bangkok. While visiting the Temple of the Emerald Buddha at the Grand Palace, she joined a monk in a 20-minute chant that left her “whole body vibrating.”
Bringing back the wisdom of such a culture and integrating it into her life and work here on the Cape has been exciting. During my massage with Jennifra, she began and ended the treatment in silent prayer at my feet. Included in this prayer she explained, is homage to Dr. Shivago Komarjgaj (loosely translated) who was the personal physician to Buddha.
The prayer is translated as follows:We invite the spirit of our founder, The Father Doctor Shivagakomarpaj, who came to us through his saintly life. Please bring to us the knowledge of Nature. That this prayer will show us the true medicine in the universe. In the name of this prayer, we respect your help and pray that through our bodies you will bring wholeness and health to the body of our client.
The god of healing dwells in the heavens high while humankind stays in the world below. In the name of the founder, may the heavens be reflected in the earth below so that this healing medicine may encircle the world. We pray for the one whom we touch, that he/she will be happy and that any illness will be released.
After the initial silence, Jennifra began the massage by manipulating my feet and legs, gradually working her way up the body to my head.My first reaction to this type of massage was overwhelmingly…relief. For a type A personality like me, having someone actually moving my limbs for me brought tears of gratitude to my eyes. It also brought back some of the earliest memories I have of my mom putting socks on my feet!
“If you want it done right, you have to do it yourself” and other deeply ingrained work ethics began falling off my tense shoulders (shouldering the responsibility…) as the massage continued and the lightness of giving over control replaced the tension I had been holding.
Jennifra pushed, pulled, stretched and massaged my limbs and torso with a rhythmic order and grace. A complete series of Thai poses are designed to stretch the entire body from toe to head. Similar to going to a yoga class…without lifting a finger! Immediate benefits included increased blood flow and a calming of the nervous system.
Thai Massage techniques vary within Thailand. The Southerners use a more gentle massage approach, incorporating fewer of the large postures and include more of a muscular massage technique.“This approach might be more appropriate for an older, or less flexible person, or someone with an injury,” says Norton.
Communication is important, and it is up to the therapist to be aware of any injury, sensitivity or illness a client may have. Don’t be shy about communicating your concerns to the massage therapist before and/or during the massage. You know your body best. A good rule of thumb is to go only as far as you are comfortable going.
A standard full body Thai Massage lasts between 1 1/2 and 2 hours and usually costs around $110. It is a real workout for the therapist as well as the client! While this might not fit into everyone’s budget, I can honestly say that the feeling I went home with was priceless.
BY BETH CHRISTY