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Yoga Tree teacher Kumiko Koba and student Satoko Yoshikawa appeared in videos for Yoga Works.


Why I Love Thai Yoga Massage
2014.02.24 - BLOG

I first encountered Thai Yoga Massage about ten years ago. It happened near the end of a sweaty vinyasa class when the teacher paired us up for a couple of restful postures based on what she called “Thai Relaxation Massage.” It was simple stuff requiring nothing but body weight, gravity and openness to a new experience. The result was a beautiful stretch and a profound sense of relaxation. I was hooked.

Long before I understood that yoga is much more about the movement of energy than bones and muscle, Thai Yoga Massage gave me the sensation.

When the opportunity presented itself, I signed up for a Thai Yoga Massage course. To be frank, it was less than the mind-opening experience I had hoped for. The teacher prioritized technique and drills for memorizing a sequence. It was more technical with less warmth than I had expected. I was left with the feeling that Thai Yoga Massage could be a great healing modality, but that learning it required more time than I could commit at that period in my life.

Meanwhile, I kept encountering Thai Massage in random and fun ways. Every AcroYoga workshop I attended included some variation on Thai Massage. Likewise, many yoga workshops that I attended included partner work that I intuitively felt to be a close cousin of Thai Yoga Massage. Later, when I delved into the art of spotting and physical adjustments for yoga teaching, I discovered that adjusting students bore much in common with Thai Yoga Massage. It all came back to the same sensation I felt at the end of that first vinyasa class: energetic connection.

A few years later I had a second chance to participate in a Thai Yoga Massage course. This time the teacher was Sebastian Bruno. He emphasized the power of touch above technique and sequencing, both of which he described as important, but secondary to developing awareness, feeling energy through touch, and sharing the profound experience of connection. His approach resonated with everything I knew and believed about yoga.

According to Sebastian, what today is called Thai Yoga Massage is based on an ancient healing system born in India in the time of Buddha. It combines acupressure, energy balancing techniques, Ayurvedic principles, and assisted yoga postures. Whether you are the giver or the receiver in Thai Yoga Massage, you are encouraged to breathe and feel the body as it is being balanced and healed. In other words, it’s a lot like a meditative yoga practice.

I recommend Thai Yoga Massage to anyone with an interest in yoga or healing. If you have never experienced Thai Yoga Massage, you’ll likely be surprised at how relaxing and restorative the practice is for both the giver and the receiver. I think of it as a dialectic toward synthesis. After a little bit of practice, you will start to let your mind get out the way and find a flow that feels natural. Therein lies the ocean of stillness that is yoga.

I also recommend Thai Yoga Massage for yoga teachers. After attending just a couple of short courses in Thai Yoga Massage, my ability to spot and adjust students in my yoga classes improved by leaps and bounds. My understanding of human anatomy deepened and my sensitivity heightened. I started looking less at the shape of the posture and tuning into the energy of the human body in front of me, which gave me an intuitive understanding of when to make an adjustment and how much pressure was necessary to deepen a student’s awareness.

When Sebastian returns to Tokyo this coming March, I will again attend his Thai Yoga Massage courses. Some of the students who have studied with Sebastian at Yoga Tree have gone on to offer Thai Yoga Massage sessions to clients. But my main interest in studying this ancient healing discipline is for my own yoga practice. It’s a form of meditation that teaches me to observe and accept circumstances as they are and experience the energy of joy that resides within us.

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