I was reminded of my love for Thai Massage during Yin Teacher Training last August when Paul Grilley taught us The Stiff White Guy Routine – or what I prefer to call (after I stop laughing) “Assisted Yin.”
Assisted Yin is exactly that: one individual receives the Yin Yoga and the other provides it. The receiver remains relaxed while the provider folds and holds the receiver’s body in classic Yin positions for up to five minutes. This eliminates effort for the receiver and facilitates a deeper level of physical and emotional release.
Last Sunday I attended a workshop taught by Terri van de Sande from Esprit-de-Core, a lovely Pilates Studio in Los Altos (for locals it’s just behind Chef Chu’s). Terri is a Pilates instructor and Thai Massage expert. During the afternoon workshop we worked in teams while Terri introduced to us basic Thai Massage techniques. I was looking for a few appropriate moves to add to the Assisted Yin treatment I offer clients.
Terri is a very generous therapist, and when she learned who I was and my reasons for being at the workshop (most of the other attendees appeared to be couples) she asked me to be her “demo body”. Who was I to refuse a request like that? By the end of the workshop and my stint on her futon I knew what I needed: some non-clinical, hands-on, deep stretching, relaxing beyond belief bodywork. Sooner rather than later.
And so, last night, I met Terri at Esprit-de-Core. She set up her mat, asked me to lie down and put a pillow under my head. I closed my eyes and handed my body over to her capable hands.
Thai Massage is practiced fully clothed. More fluid than Assisted Yin, Terri pulled, held and dragged my body from one position to another for ninety minutes. She drew me into backbends, forward bends and twists. If Assisted Yin gives Yin Yoga to the receiver then Thai Massage, in its own way, offers a nuanced classic Yoga experience. Most of the time I had my eyes closed and allowed the work to happen to me rather than feeling I had to actively help.
Any massage is, of course, physically therapeutic, but Terri’s energy tuned into my need to clear a little emotional baggage. It wasn’t long before I released a few sighs and then a few silent tears.
I love Thai Massage. Of all the massage techniques I’ve experienced, it remains a favorite. But if you’re new to bodywork, or have never tried Thai, these tips may help:
- Wear very loose, very comfortable clothes.
- While the technique is practiced fully clothed, in many ways the work feels more intimate than classic massage in that the practitioner may need to place her hands and feet in unusual locations. For instance, to help stretch my shoulder, Terri put the heel of her foot in my armpit. To work my hamstring, she “walked” her feet on the back of my thigh.
- Be prepared to hand yourself over. It’s important that you trust your therapist. If you try to help while she positions your body you’ll lose some of the therapeutic benefits of the treatment.
- Avoid eating a few hours prior to your Thai Massage. You’ll feel better receiving the treatment on an empty stomach.
- Drink plenty of water afterwards.