Have you ever had a Thai massage before? I ask many clients this question before a session begins. Often the answer is no, I haven't. They are anticipating a new experience, perhaps slightly nervous being under the hands of a (somewhat) stranger. We are set up to work on mats on the floor, yoga blocks and blankets placed around the comfy mat, batik sarongs on hand to cover exposed skin. Thai massage is a unique body work experience, being on the floor is very grounding, and for many people, more comfortable than being on a massage table. There is more space for your body to spread out, feeling more like lying in bed than on a narrow table. Thai is a long form of massage, my sessions are 2-3 hours, allowing time for the body to fully relax, enter a parasympathetic state within the nervous system. Deep compression and working through bound fascia and habitually contracted muscle tissue takes time. We spend years, perhaps decades accumulating stress and injury or disease in the body. Therefore the longer the session, the deeper the release.
How do we release? Have you ever had someone tell you to relax? It usually doesn't really work like that...often being told to relax creates more resistance. Enter: THE BREATH.
We begin by taking a few deep breaths together, I often tell people, "you will get the most out of this session if you actively participate with your breath." Allowing the breath to come into a rhythm of deeply releasing sighs. This feels strange and foreign to some. Our breath is an automated function of the body, meaning that you don't have to think about it, it just happens. Yet most people rarely breathe to their full capacity, and there is often imbalance within the breath cycle - either the inhale or exhale is longer, or not complete.
To demonstrate this, try this exercise from Deepak Chopra's "The Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga":
Right now, take as deep a breath as you can, and notice how uncomfortable you begin to feel when you are holding on to something that is meant to be released. Now, exhale as fully as you can and hold your breath with your lungs fully emptied. Again, feel the discomfort that arises when you are resisting taking in something that you need.
I cannot stress enough the importance of the breath during my massage sessions. I always coach people's breathing, directing in hales and exhales as we move and pressure is increased. Gradually easing in to a depth the recipient can breathe with. I spend time warming an area, exploring the body and places of stagnation, injury or blockage. I apply broad compressions, then work more precisely into knots and trigger points. I use therapeutic oils to soften tissue, fascia and muscles.
The entire session is set to the backdrop of Metta - a meditation on loving kindness and compassion. I aim to move with metta and grace, fully present throughout the entire massage. I am with you every breath of the way. The results? Profound release, emotional and physical. Two hours feels like 20 minutes and it's an experience you won't forget. I call them spirit sessions and I would love to have you on my mats.