Archive for March, 2012

The woman who taught me Thai Yoga Massage is about 9 inches shorter and 40 pounds lighter than I am and yet, I once watched her lift and balance a heavy, muscle-bound guy who was three times her size on her knees, as if it was the easiest thing in the world.

This display of super human strength is what drew me to Thai Massage in the first place.

That and the massages.

But my gluttonous love of massage aside, the idea that I could move, lift and bend people into yoga stretches that they normally couldn’t deepen into on their own appealed to me. For years, I’ve been engaging in a form of dance called Contact Improvisation, one of the aspects of which involves using momentum and the body’s structure to lift and be lifted by another person somewhat effortlessly. It’s a wonderful partnership built on listening, compassion, and surrender. The idea that there was a body therapy that combined this with yoga and massage seemed too good to be true.

Thai Yoga Massage is very much like a partner dance between practitioner and client. The practitioner uses their hands, feet, arms, legs, and body weight, leverage and momentum to gently guide the client into various passive stretches that often resemble yoga postures. A rhythmic, rocking motion is used to fluidly position the client and increase the amount of stretch. The more attuned the practitioner and the more relaxed the client, the more harmonious, healing and beneficial the dance becomes.

My teacher once asked us which we preferred, giving or receiving Thai Massage. None of us had a direct response one way or the other. Both were equally enjoyable, albeit for different reasons. As a practitioner, you create sacred space of all that is within the boundaries of the Thai Massage mat, yourself and your client included. The movements are swift and slow, like Thai Chi. The gentle rocking and sway of your body is akin to floating in a calm ocean. It creates a meditative peace that washes over both you and the client.

The meditative buzz for both the practitioner and client makes sense when you consider that Thai massage was developed by The Buddha’s personal physician, Jivaka Kumar Bhaccha, more than 2,500 years ago. From India, the practice traveled to Thailand, where the Ayurvedic techniques implicit in Thai Massage gradually became influenced by traditional Chinese medicine. Drawing from both influences, the philosophy behind Thai Massage is to view physical illness or discomfort as a result of an imbalance in the body, mind, and/or spirit. The practice then is to re-establish harmony through guided manipulation of the body using passive stretching and gentle pressure along Acupressure points and energy lines called Sen lines. There are said to be 72,000 of these lines, however, there are 10 main lines that are sufficient to treat the whole body and its internal organs.

When energy flow is blocked or restricted, the result is physically felt, whether in the form of fatigue, muscle aches, sickness or disease. Thai Massage works to clear these blockages and return stasis to the flow of energy. The result is a seemingly paradoxical sensation of feeling both relaxed and energized at the same time. Added benefits of Thai Massage include reduction in stress, improved flexibility and circulation, and mental clarity. The effects are felt and visible immediately. Recipient and practitioner leave sessions with a glow of peaceful calm.

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“In this world, nothing is certain but death and taxes.”
–Benjamin Franklin

After months of procrastinating, I just this week sent off my tax returns. And while adding up my receipts, this Ben Franklin quote kept going through my head. The thing that kept me from from getting my taxes done earlier – as I am typically quite an advanced planner, is that I am also preparing to move to a new apartment. Taxes weren’t the only thing I found myself avoiding; I’ve been putting off packing too.

At first it didn’t make any sense. I’ve been talking about moving for quite some time and I am actually looking forward to it. But I couldn’t bring myself to begin packing. Over the three years that I’ve lived in this apartment, I’ve grown to become rather comfortable here. I created quite a beautiful sanctuary for myself and I found that I have been reluctant to take the pictures off the wall, gather up all my little treasures, put them into boxes and go somewhere else. It is the change I am resisting – that other pesky little thing we can all be certain of – that things change.

Even now, looking outside my window at the magnolia tree in the backyard bursting with flowers or the daffodils that seem to have sprung up overnight, I am reminded that in nature, there lies a world that continuously gives and receives, gets and let go. Each season transitions to the next, the new moon becomes a full moon, leaves fall and new leaves take their place.

Our lives and events are governed by the same universal cycle – birth, growth, decline, rest, and renewal. Endings are not an exception to the rule, they are the rule. So why then do we blame ourselves or others when we are faced with change? Why do we fight so hard against it?

Maybe we believe that there is something wrong with endings, that they are unnatural. Perhaps, like myself, we are comfortable and want to avoid the temporary upheaval that change will bring.  Do we fear the unknown? Is it because we are not in control of how and when endings and change will occur?

Whatever the reason, yoga teaches us that change is not only inevitable but necessary for growth and transformation. So instead of resisting the changes that will undoubtedly occur, try celebrating them. When we graduate from school, it not only signals the end of an era but the beginning of a new one and we have a “commencement” ceremony. When you experience an ending of any sort, think of it in the same way – as a commencement ceremony, a new beginning.

Life is schoolroom and in many cases our endings are graduations or promotions to the next level. Most of the time, endings come because we have learned one lesson and are ready for the next, or we’ve exhausted a situation and it’s time for a change of scene and new possibilities.

So as we head into Spring and towards the many changes that we will all face, recognize their necessity in your life, for when change appears, you can be sure it has a purpose. I’ll be keeping this in mind as I begin to load up my things into boxes, and tip my graduation cap in honor of the next stage in my life.


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