What we eat, what we drink and how we treat our physical and spiritual bodies is important. This week we are going to explore my newest best friend to my body, Thai massage.
The Tampa Bay area has a great selection of yoga studios, and now you can find some of the best healers practicing the art of Thai massage right in your own home! I invited licensed massage therapists Tres Armour, Justin Kaye, Justin Rocket and Johnny Erb to my home studio recently to teach me a little about Thai massage. It also was a great opportunity for these guys to meet each other, exchange ideas and begin forming a community of healing.
All layers of the body need massage. In yoga, with pranayama, we massage the body from the inside out. In a seated or passive meditation position, we are massaging the psyche and our spirits, striving for a slice of inner peace. All living creatures, especially humans, need to be caressed, touched and loved.
Dating back 2,500 years, Thai massage feels like yoga or stretching, except you are manipulated into the postures or stretching by a massage therapist.
“The receiver gets to be completely at the grace of the Thai bodyworker," Rocket said. "They are on their mat, they get stretched, they get compressed, they get a little bit of traction.”
Using pressure from the hands, feet, fingers, knuckles and elbows, the body worker uses light and heavy pressure depending on what the receiver needs. As in the practice of yoga, breathing is the key.
“It becomes a nice, flowing, rhythmic dance with the breath, and with the movement with the recipient and the giver," Armour said. "You know the giver is getting the benefits of the yoga, as well; they are getting the strengthening aspect of it, whereas the client or recipient is getting the nice, passive stretching, traction and energy work" along the sen lines of the body.
Rocket compared working with sen lines to Qi from China or prana in India.
Erb explained, “When we are working those lines, we are opening up the energy or consciousness or the presence of god in the body.”
My experience with Thai massage was transformative. I knew that the breath was going to help guide me. Letting go of the weight of the body is a difficult thing, but once I did, I felt like I was a marionette being carefully manipulated over the waves of an energy dance floor, and yet I barely moved from my mat. I was profoundly affected by the many layers the technique revealed to me.
“The thing that resonated the most with me practicing Thai, and with my clients, is that it’s so dynamic," Kaye said. "As the giver, I get to use my physical strength and my intuitive strength.”
They all agreed that working the sen lines encourages energy to flow through the body more easily. That leaves the recipient deeply comfortable, finding deep meditative effects after completing a session.
The sessions take place on the floor. The recipient should be in loose, comfortable clothing. Sessions are typically 90 minutes to 2 hours and require very little space.
For the massage therapist, “it’s very athletic," Erb said. "It’s so many things happening at once: it's stretching, it’s decompression, it’s traction, it’s synovial fluids being invited into articulating some cartilage. Our goal is to bring higher consciousness to the receiver.”
Amore added, “You get all the benefits of both massage and yoga. You get the benefits of doing a nice, passive yoga class without the strengthening aspects, but you might develop strength by gaining flexibility in other places.”
I could almost see the colors of all the vibrant energy and love that this group has for this art. For two hours, the guys exchanged ideas and showed each other techniques.
At one point, I was on my side. Erb was holding one leg and one arm back into Naṭarājāsana, the dancer pose, and had two feet on my hip. It was heaven!
I felt like warm taffy being pulled and stretched to eventually find a chewy, desirable consistency. My body felt like it was humming when it was all finished. The prana, which translates to “vital life” or “vital energy,” was raised in a manner I had never felt in any yoga class or massage.
I was honored to witness this exchange between these modern tradesmen and how it flowed freely without ego, without hesitation. This is the true nature of Thai massage, to be passed down to each generation. Yoga and most of the healing arts have longevity because of the passion of their students and teachers.
I am a believer, and I know once you try Thai massage you will feel the same way.
Or get in touch with one of the therapists mentioned in this column:
- Tres Amour, 813-925-0034
- Johnny Erb, 813-293-0203
- Justin Kaye, 407-910-2646
- Justin Rocket, 813-846-8819