Author Archives: Cristina Alciati

About Cristina Alciati

Traditional Thai Yoga Massage Practitioner. Bespoke fitness and fat loss programs for busy women executives.

10 things to do before a Thai Yoga massage

List of resources for your first thai yoga massage treatment in essex

Don’t have enough time to read it all now? Pin this and come back later…

If you are curious about Thai Yoga Massage treatments there are a few things to consider before you fully commit to trying it out.

After all I am well aware of the many urban legends surrounding the beautiful art of Thai Yoga Massage. Some say it’s painful, others say it’s sleazy, others say it’s scary…

Yes, in some instances the above may be true, but serious practitioners will do their utmost to offer their clients a memorable experience. For all the right reasons!

Although I am clearly biased, Thai Yoga Massage treatments are awesome for your health in their own rights. However, there are ways in which you can ensure you get the most out of them.

Here is what you need to know to ensure your first treatment is a success:

1. Choose a qualified practitioner

It may seem like an obvious statement to make but by taking the time to research your local practitioner will ensure that you won’t get any unpleasant surprises. There are no rules in the holistic practitioners world that say you have to have any kind of qualification to offer massage services, however learning your trade from a reputable education provider means that they had to demonstrate their skills and knowledge of anatomy and physiology.

This allows your practitioner to become a member of a professional organisation AND public liability insurance. The fact that they are qualified to the required standards is in itself insurance that you are unlikely to get any nasty surprises when you visit them, however we all know that shit happens and in the unfortunate events that it does you will both be covered.

The Federation of Holistic Therapists is a great place to start to search for your nearest qualified Thai Yoga Massage practitioner.

2. Prepare yourself for a Thai Yoga Massage

Although nothing dramatic happens during a Thai Yoga Massage treatment it’s a good idea to come prepared. Passive stretching is a big part of what makes Thai Yoga Massage treatments unique so if your muscles are very tight and your joints stiff it would be a good idea to do something to loosen them up a bit before you see your therapist.

The treatment will help you get better but if you warm up a bit it will help your practitioner to help you out. You don’t have to do much, a simple relaxing walk before your treatment should do the trick. However, if you feel that you need something stronger you may want to try some Qi Gong to help you relax. This short practice from a Shaolin Temple specifically addresses muscle and tendon health. Give it a go.

3. Nourish and hydrate

In other words eat and drink before your treatment.

Drinking water during your treatment is natural and necessary to help your body detox itself, however getting hungry will disrupt the peace and distract you. The best thing to do is to have a light meal an hour or so before your treatment so that your stomach won’t be full and you won’t feel hungry for another couple of hours leaving you plenty of time to enjoy your Thai Yoga Massage treatment.

I would recommend a small meal consisting of a protein source and plenty of vegetables with perhaps a small serving of starches for extra fullness. And of course plenty of natural mineral water before your meal and to take with you to sip throughout your treatment.

light meal before thai yoga massaage

4. Familiarise yourself with the treatment

I had a few clients showing up for a treatment who didn’t really know what to expect but they heard they were great so they made a booking. I applause their courage and curios mind, however had they done some research beforehand they would have been able to relax more and not be on the defensive all the time for fear of what was going to happen next.

Also, please remember that treatments are carried out on the floor so if you struggle with this you may want to check that your local practitioner can offer the treatment on a massage table instead.

Thai Yoga Massage treatments are carried out on the floor

There is a page on my website about what to expect from your first Thai Yoga Massage treatment and I am thinking of making it a mandatory read for new clients who have never been to Thailand. 🙂

5. Dress for the occasion

The beauty of Thai Yoga Massage is that you don’t have to undress for the treatment. However, you will be moving a lot and will be put in all sorts of positions to challenge your current range of movement and push beyond your boundaries. Wearing the right clothes will ensure you can move freely and without wardrobe malfunctions.

I had plenty of people showing up wearing inadequate clothing (jeans, work trousers, shirts) and therefore not getting the most out of their treatment. I also had the occasional patient showing flesh that I didn’t want to see. It’s embarrassing for both of us so please guys cover up.

You also need to consider that in addition to the stretches there are long sequences of more gentle action as your practitioner works on your acupressure points. During this time you may start to feel cold. Ideally your clothes will be lightweight but warm too. Not needing a blanket will make it easier for your practitioner to work on your body and this in turn will help you get more out of your treatment.

6. Get mentally ready (i.e. relax)

If you tend to be anxious or find it hard to trust people I would recommend spending some time before your treatment doing some relaxation exercises. Perhaps you can listen to some chillout music on your way to the clinic or maybe you can meditate for a while before you set off. Another option is, of course, to arrive 10 or 15 minutes and follow the prompts from one of the many mindfulness apps available for your phone.

Being mentally ready for a treatment that you may find scary at first will help you enjoy it more.

Remember your therapist is not there to hurt you or kill you or humiliate you. He or she is there to help you feel better and move better. There is a lesson in learning to trust your practitioner even if she or he is a complete stranger to you.

stalk your thai yoga massage practitioner on social media

In fact, if trust is an issue for you perhaps you could spend some time “stalking” your practitioner on social media to get a feel for what they do, say and see the world. You will also have an opportunity to interact with them before you commit to a booking.

7. Open up to your practitioner

Well done! You made it to the clinic and through the door! Whoohooo!

The best thing you can do at this stage is to tell your practitioner everything. Let them know how you feel about having your first treatment, any problems you are experiencing in terms of physical discomfort, any allergies, anything that might be causing you stress, your exercise routine, what you would like to accomplish, where you struggle, what prior experience you had with treatments and ask as many questions as you can think of to set your mind at ease.

The more information you can give your practitioner at this stage the better he or she will be able to serve you. I usually pre-empty this phase by asking clients to fill in a questionnaire so I am pre-warned about any important issues, however having the initial chat with a new client gives me a better idea of what they are all about and what I can do to help.

There are many different techniques that a trained practitioner can use during a treatment, however some may be unnecessary at this stage and having good background information can help your practitioner choose the techniques that will give you the results you expect.

8. Listen to your practitioner’s advice

As your therapist works his or her way around your body they will be able to give you advice on actions that you can take to overcome the issues that brought you to their treatment room. Sometimes it’s your diet that is less than ideal, or it could be the exercise you do or the fact that you don’t do any.

Most therapists will only be interested in your wellbeing and therefore they won’t have a secret agenda and their advice will be sincere.

Others, however, will have an affiliation with sellers of wellness products like supplements, lotions and potions. Be discerning and decide whether they are more interested in your or their bottom line.

9. Take action after your Thai Yoga Massage treatment

If it all goes well after your treatment you will experience lightness and a sense of increased wellbeing. You will feel peaceful and your body will respond in kind by being less tense and more flexible.

The secret at this point is to do nothing for a couple of days to allow the effects of the treatment to sink in fully. However, after that you want to start looking for ways to maintain and compound the benefits of Thai Yoga Massage.

The best advice I can give you is to incorporate some gentle exercise that focuses on movement and flexibility in your daily routine. You don’t have to spend too much time doing it, a 20-30 min routine every day or every other day will be sufficient. I especially like Strala Yoga for this purpose because it doesn’t involve holding poses for any particular length of time and involves a lot of movement. I don’t think there are that many instructors in the UK but you could start by subscribing to Tara Stiles’ YouTube channel and follow along some of the videos. Here is a good one:

10. Don’t leave it too long before your next appointment

For me Thai Yoga Massage is all about sports performance. It’s the same for most of my clients too. Others come to feel younger and able to move fluidly again.

Regardless of the reasons that brought them to my treatment room those who have regular treatments are the ones who see the biggest improvements in their quality of life and sports performance. Depending on your goals you will benefits from more regular treatments, the keyword here being “regular”, not necessarily frequently.

Not everyone has the budget for weekly treatments but unless you see your practitioner on a regular basis all the benefits you got from your visit will eventually be lost. This is because it’s very easy to slowly slip back into bad habits that were established over a long period of time. If you are serious about making changes you will have to make treatments a part of your exercise or wellbeing routine.

If you are based in North Essex and you would like to have a Thai Yoga Massage treatment but you are not too sure it’s for you give me a call, tell me what you are struggling with and I’ll do my best to advise you accordingly. 

5 signs active people need to stretch

Do you ever wake up in the morning feeling like somebody twisted your body overnight and you are not sure how you are going to unravel it? Or maybe you struggle to tie up your shoe laces and have to be creative with the ways in which you bend over to reach your feet? Or maybe you find it difficult to concentrate as sitting down at your desk is uncomfortable because you feel that your body is being pulled in unexpected directions?

It might well be that your body is trying to tell you that you need a jolly good stretch to reset it and restore it to a more functional state. You’d be surprised at how accumulated tension can affect your wellbeing physically and mentally.

You need to stretch to counter a sedentary life

Sometimes the signals that our body is sending us can be subtle and can be difficult to spot. So here is an easy recap of 5 signs that you need to stretch.

1 – You are getting older and you need to stretch more

It’s a sad thing but ageing isn’t something that any of us are going to escape. What really sucks about getting older is that just as you get a handle on your emotions and life skills your body starts to fall apart and stops playing ball. Your muscle mass decreases and your cartilage gets worn out reminding you of all the high impact activities you did in your youth. This results in your body getting stiffer, especially after sitting down (or even lying down) for prolonged periods of time.

The good news in all this is that you can do something about it. By dedicating a few minutes every day to stretching you can maintain your flexibility and make up for the wear and tear of everyday life’s activities. Go for a full body stretch first thing in the morning addressing all joints and all major muscle groups to feel rejuvenated and ready to face the day.

2 – Your energy levels are low

This may be counter-intuitive but when you feel constantly tired despite sleeping and resting it might be that your muscles are tense and therefore they are using up more energy than if they were relaxed. Although there is disagreement among experts about the benefits of stretching if you want to top up your energy reserves you need to stretch.

There are many different styles of stretching that you can choose from: from yoga poses that specifically address energy levels to other activities like Tai Chi and Qi Gong which include dynamic stretches not as strong as those in Yoga and yet just as equally effective at getting your energy moving and rising again. You don’t need to spend all day doing these, have a go at a few different styles and then choose the exercises that work for you. 20 minutes max is all you need to feel energised.

Tai Chi is good when you need to stretch

If this problem persists though you will need to double check your nutrients intake and your lifestyle, there might be other reasons why you are always feeling tired.

3 – Your muscles ache (you really need to stretch)

Recent studies on the benefits of stretching after a workout have concluded that the benefits are minimal. One such study conducted at the George Institute for Global Health at the University of Sydney found that out of two groups of people of which one stretched after a workout whereas the other didn’t. a quarter of those who stretched reported less muscle ache the following day compared to those who didn’t stretch.

However, stretching achy muscles has proven beneficial in reducing the discomfort. This is especially important if the aches and pains are the consequence of poor posture or over doing physical work in conditions that don’t necessary allow for proper form or, again, posture. A good stretching session at the end of the work day can help you correct your posture, improve your flexibility and therefore help you prevent injury.

4 – You are stressed

Have you ever noticed that when you are stressed over events in your life that your shoulders and neck tighten up? This is a common cause of muscle tension that I see in many of my lovely Thai Yoga Massage clients: there are stressors in their lives and as they deal with them their bodies tense up wreaking all sorts of havoc to add to their woes.

Stretching  your body when you are under pressure can bring welcome relief from stress and anxiety. Slow, focused stretching like you would do in Yin Yoga also can lower your blood pressure and breathing rate helping you restore balance.

A two hour Thai Yoga Massage treatment helps relieve the stress in your life by taking you through a sequence of slow, deep stretches that encourage muscle relaxation and also help you calm your brain and clear your head. By the end of the treatment you will feel your focus return and you will be able to think clearly again. Clients often report feeling a sense of lightness at the end of the treatment and are ready to deal with stressful events in their lives with renewed energy and focus.

5 – Your sports performance is sub par and you are prone to injuries

Regardless of your choice of sport you cannot access your strength fully unless you take care of your flexibility. A tense muscle won’t allow you to use your joints’ full range of motion thus limiting your performance somewhat. Because of this you might also be more prone to getting injured.

If you don't do well at sports you need to stretch more

I know this from personal experience from spending the past 40+ years doing all manners of sports and activities that required me to be both strong and flexible to be able to enjoy them and keep making progress. It’s not all about winning and being the best, it’s about loving what you do and knowing that you can do it safely and to the best of your abilities.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, stretching helps your circulation so that your blood can better deliver nutrients to muscle tissue, helping you perform better not just in your chosen fitness activity but in everyday life activities too. If this isn’t enough to convince you that you really need to stretch there if further research that shows that stretching can help you build strength in the same way that resistance training does: by creating micro tears in your muscles that get repaired leading to growth.

Can Thai Yoga Massage help me when I need to stretch?

Certainly!

Each treatment will take you through a series of stretches and mobilisation exercises that address your specific issues whether they relate to your sports performance, your wellbeing, your mental health or just to give you the space for some “me time”.

All you have to do to get started is click the button below and you too can experience all the benefits of stretching without having to do it.

BOOK A TREATMENT

To recap…

5 signs active people need to stretch

Give your martial arts moves the edge with Thai Yoga Massage

The first time I ever came across Thai Yoga Massage was during my first trip to Hong Kong to study Wing Chun at Grand Master Ip Chun’s school. I didn’t know what it was but one of my travel companions recommended it highly and I was sold on the idea of being stretched as that was an area of my personal fitness journey that had a lot of room for improvement. It still is, actually.

Cristina Alciati in Foshan, PRC with Grand Master Ip ChunFor those of you not familiar with Wing Chun, it’s a style of Kung Fu that involves quick and sharp movements to hit and overcome an opponent. It’s famous for teaching students the art of the 1 inch punch and fighting inside a phone box, i.e. up close and personal with your opponent.

When you learn Wing Chun in the West most people are of European built: fairly tall, strong, muscular and with good sized bones. However, being a martial art that originates from China it evolved to suit people with a smaller frame, not particularly muscular and typically minute.

It’s the combination of this body type plus the ability to stay relaxed under pressure that gives them the edge when practicing the art. Especially when they train with Westerners.

My travel companions and I learned this lesson the hard way when we arrived in Hong Kong: we watched several accomplished martial artists from the UK and USA being slapped around by their tiny Chinese training companions. These were the kind of guys that would intimidate anyone just with their physique. We were all actually trying very hard to improve our techniques and become more proficient but the secret wasn’t to get stronger, it was staying more relaxed and therefore becoming quicker and more unpredictable.

The importance of staying relaxed under pressure

Fast forward a few years and I started studying Brazilian Jujitsu and Escrima at my local Dojo. Again, especially with BJJ, being able to stay relaxed under pressure as well as being agile and flexible were the key to success. It was the same with Escrima: you start your training with long range weapons (rattan sticks) and again being able to flow instead of forcing the movements gives you an advantage.

When you are relaxed you can throw punches quicker and you can move faster around your opponent. You can call on your strength at the moment of impact to make your strike felt or to pin down your opponent. It won’t matter so much what the other person tries to do to you because you will be able to counter their martial arts moves with ease.

BJJ has some spectacular martial arts moves

A big part of the martial arts classes that I attended at Shen-Ti were the stretching sessions at the end of training. These were great to help us increase our natural range of movement to help us move better around our opponent as well as prevent injuries. They were also great for relaxation after all the exciting stuff during each class.

The thing is if you focus your training on building mass and getting stronger you are also creating muscular tension, i.e. what women call a “toned body”. This is brilliant for any physical activity and/or fat loss programs BUT, if you want your martial arts moves to really improve, you need to put just as much effort into relaxing and stretching as you do building your body.

Think about people who spend a lot of time sitting at their desks and how they develop hunched shoulders and short chest and abdominal muscles… that’s also what happens when you do too many sit-ups or chest flyes without stretching adequately afterwards.

The secret to unleashing your best martial arts moves

That’s where Thai Yoga Massage becomes your secret training aid that will give you the edge over your fellow students and competitors.

Unless you are naturally flexible in the beginning most stretches will be uncomfortable to get into and hold for any period of time. If you are really struggling with your flexibility doing the stretches on your own won’t help you much because they will feel like torture and you will wiggle and compensate and twist to get comfortable defeating the object of the exercise.

Man struggling to stretch

I know this because when I got back to exercising at full speed after a 3 years convalescence I was stiff like a plank and even the stretches I always found easy were really painful. It takes time, skill and patience to get a lot out of stretching and actually see improvements.

Or you could cheat and get somebody to stretch you.

Thai Yoga Massage isn’t that dissimilar from PNF stretching however it doesn’t involve any active participation from the client in the form of contracting the muscles to resist the stretch. Quite the opposite, in fact. The secret to successfully stretching past your comfort zone in Thai Yoga Massage is to relax and let the stretch happen as opposed to try and force it.

I worked with many martial artists in the past 6 years or so and they all reported being able to fight better because they were more relaxed and had more reach whether they were sparring or rolling. They had regular treatments and they reaped massive ROI for their investment.

But wait… what about this?!  👇👇👇👇

Capoeira martial arts moves

Although I only studied Capoeira for a short period of time I can promise you it’s very difficult to pull off these martial arts moves unless you spend insane amounts of time preparing your body for it.

Again it’s all about being smart with the tools available to you. If they are not good enough come and find me. I know I am.  😉

Jokes aside… when you invest in the right training, and you could say that Thai Yoga Massage treatments would be an ideal addition to any serious training program, the limits of what you can expect to achieve suddenly get that much broader. When you are more flexible you can deploy your strength better. You can balance better. You can kick people in the head. You can windmill yourself out of a sticky situation. You can swing at your opponent better. You can get out of chokes and bear hugs easily.

Get the picture?

If you are ready to take your martial arts moves to the next level (and the next, and the next) don’t hang around and book your first treatment today.

As a lifelong student of martial arts I would be honoured to show you just how much better you can become. Your fellow students might call you a pain in the arse but, trust me, it’s worth it.

Stress at work? It happens. Whether your home office is located on the 30th floor of a tall building downtown, or located on the first floor of your home, looking out onto the backyard, you’re going to encounter stress. There are deadlines and clients and projects and trying to do too much with too little. Even just the time you spend sitting can lead to cramped up muscles on your neck and shoulders.

But do you have to sit and suffer, no matter what, just because it’s at work? The answer, fortunately, is a resounding no.

Depending on the type of work that you do getting up often to stretch your legs around the office may not be an option. Depending on where you work having a professional massage at work may also not be an option. Depending on how long you spend at work visiting a clinic to receive a Thai Yoga Massage treatment may also not be an option.

Some simple exercises, done while you’re sitting and maybe without anyone knowing what you’re doing. In the process you can do more than just calm your nervous system. You can help make yourself more alert, and even improve blood circulation. It doesn’t have to take long and you can do it at any time during the day whenever you need a break from the doldrums of office work.

So what are those exercises and how should you do them? This graphic helps to explain it but, if you live in Essex (UK), as soon as you are ready book yourself in for a proper treatment here.  😉

A treatment to help you clear your head

When people ask me about the Thai Yoga Massage treatments that I offer they are curious as to what they are as, surprisingly, not many individuals are familiar with them. Whereas most people focus on the physical aspects of the treatments they are often surprised when I mention the spiritual benefits. It’s something that I can only discuss with a few discerning clients!

A complete break from the daily grind to clear your head

When you are super busy all the time juggling many roles in your life it can be difficult to stay focused on the most important tasks in the midst of all the distractions. I see this a lot with clients who are visibly flustered and I can just tell they have that little hamster spinning the wheel in their heads…

Being able to clear your head and filter out the unimportant stuff is of the utmost importance if you want to remain relaxed and enjoy your work, hobbies, family and interests. I am sure you have noticed how it’s so much harder to be successful at anything when your head is in the clouds.

Have a break from your daily grind

Sometimes being able to meditate even for just 10 minutes first thing in the morning is enough to help you get focused and plan your day ahead. However if you are also experiencing physical tension in addition to feeling that your thoughts are scattered you may need help from an external source.

My personal experience (it might help you clear your head)

A few years ago I was going through a bit of a rough time in my personal life that was made worse by all the physical tension that I accumulated after years of constantly pushing myself to the limit, small accidents and dealing with conflict on a daily basis at work.

I was no longer able to think or stand up straight and I was in the grips of a permanent feeling of dread and fear. I just couldn’t shake things up and create a way out. That’s when I sought help from a very talented Holistic Therapist that was recommended to me by a client. Among the various treatments she also offered a mini version of a typical Thai Yoga Massage. It focused on stretches as a way of eliminating all manners of tension.

The “physical intervention” soon started to bear fruit: because I was able to relax more physically I was also able to think more clearly and with a more positive mindset. This compounded the effect of the treatments: thinking freely and reconnecting my creative side undoubtedly helped the body remain more relaxed and better able to recharge its batteries with rest.

How you can experience more clarity and clear your head too

I always insist that clients turn their phones on silence during the treatment. I do this too. The reason for this is that it gives them the chance to disconnect from their digital life and being always available. Let’s face it, we are all addicted to our digital lives to varying degrees. On my side going unplugged gives me the chance to work intuitively to make sure I focus on what my client needs.

I find that for most people the 1 or 2 hours of the treatment is the only time when they can completely let go and experience deep relaxation. In fact it’s unusual for clients not to fall asleep at least once during the treatment. Admittedly the location of the clinic, away from the busyness of most towns, helps with this too.

A moment of peaceThe thing is being able to go through the stretches is a lesson in “letting go” of fear and learning to trust. Whenever your limbs are encouraged to move beyond their regular range of motion the body’s own defense mechanism kicks in and causes the muscles to tense up to stop the stretch from going too far. Although this is great for preventing injury it also prevents you from experiencing the sense of freedom that taking your joints through the full range of motion that they are designed to withstand will bring.

Clients usually describe this feeling as one of lightness and happiness. Their bodies are no longer contracted to the point of causing constant pain, their posture is great and their thoughts are flowing freely once again. Having the opportunity to remain in silence for the duration of the treatment allows for introspection although I often find that people enjoy opening up and chatting with me to get an outside perspective on something that’s on their mind.

Although I cannot promise that you will suddenly rediscover your inner Picasso I am confident that you too will benefit greatly from some quiet “me time” with plenty of space for your mind to wander wherever it wants to go.

Ready to clear your head?

BOOK YOUR FIRST TREATMENT NOW

Thai Yoga Massage Essex at the Nature’s Medicine Clinic in Purleigh

When I first started with Thai Massage Essex I was offering treatments at my home in Witham, Essex. It was great for a while as I live in a very quiet area on the outskirts of town with very little noise during the day and a lot of light coming through the giant windows.

I would normally set up the mats in my front room and on the warmer Summer days I have been able to treat clients on the lawn, under the hawthorns and apple tree. My cats sometimes would come to say hello to clients and they always knew which ones were the “cat people” and which ones weren’t.

Eventually though I felt the need to find an additional venue in more formal settings where I could treat people who perhaps were not so keen on visiting somebody’s home where there were pets.

By pure chance I saw a message on Facebook posted by one of the lovely ladies at the Nature’s Medicine Clinic in Purleigh, Essex. It’s a new branch of a well established group of Clinics operating at various locations in London, Sussex and Essex and it so happens that my teacher also offers Thai Yoga Massage treatments at one of their venues.

A new home for Thai Yoga Massage Essex

I love love love this place. Set on the outskirts of a working farm in a secluded location, the clinic is surrounded by beautiful landscaped gardens with a heated pool on one end and plenty of well established trees alongside the hedge ensuring privacy from the main road.

The treatment rooms are hosted within an old cottage that has been exquisitely decorated to give clients a warm welcome in an understated chic environment.
Thai Massage Essex is also here

On 30th May 2015 I gave a couple of demos at the Clinic’s open day to spread the word about Thai Yoga Massage Essex and what I do.

I joke about it on the home page but unfortunately there is a huge problem here in Essex with men mistakenly associating the ancient healing art of Thai Yoga Massage with the infamous red light district art typically practiced in seedy areas in major (and minor) cities around the world.

There is also another myth that portrays Thai Yoga Massage as “excruciatingly painful”. This is simply not true as typically treatments are conducted with the utmost respect for the client and his or her boundaries and pain is never an option. However, I have experienced the rough end of massage during one of my travels myself so I am well aware of what goes on out there, I just don’t want Thai Yoga Massage Essex to be associated with it.

One of the "treatment rooms" at Thai Massage Essex

Summer house by the pool… in the rain.

At the Clinic in Purleigh I can offer treatments in different “locations”: in one of the treatment rooms within the main building, in the Summer house by the pool or on the lawn under the trees on the other side of the pool. The choice is very much with the client depending on whether he/she prefers more privacy or is happy to enjoy the warm Summer days.

In Thailand massage is carried out pretty much everywhere: on the beach, on the pavement, in clinics, within shopping malls, etc. both client and practitioner are fully clothed so as long as there is enough space for one person to lie down and the other to work around them, there is enough space. All you really need is a bit of floor space and something for the client to lie on comfortably so they don’t get bruised on the hard surface.

This is my typical set up in the treatment room upstairs at the Nature’s Medicine Clinic. 👇

 

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I received some amazing feedback for my demos on the day and a few people have already booked their first treatments at the clinic. I am very grateful for my “models” who patiently laid on the floor why I was illustrating some of the basic techniques used in Thai Yoga Massage and often had only one side of their bodies treated. I know how weird that feels! 🙂

Ready to experience Thai Yoga Massage?

You can book your treatment HERE.

Spotlight: the bridge (kidney stretch)

Of all the stretches and massage techniques used during a typical Thai Massage session the bridge, also known as the kidney stretch, seems to be the one that worries people the most.kidney stretch

Perhaps it’s because this is an unusual position to find yourself in, perhaps it’s because it requires you to trust completely in your therapist and let go of any kind of control.

Why is kidney stretch so beneficial?

First of all in order to be taken into the kidney stretch you have to make sure that the plants of your feet are firmly resting on your therapist’s knees. This is for balance and support but it’s also to use your own weight against the therapist’s kneecaps to stimulate the acupressure points on the soles of your feet that are connected with the kidneys.

Acupressure is a big part of Thai Yoga Massage as it works to release energy blockages along the Sen Lines. These are thought to be energy channels similar to the Meridians found in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture. The points relating to the kidneys are situated on the soles of the feet, more or less around the same spot where the kidney meridians have their origin. Although the kidneys are stimulated via other points on the body during a treatment, the points under the feet are worked on multiple times.

The other benefit from this technique is that, as the hips are being lifted off the floor, the spine, the abdominal and quadriceps muscles get a gentle stretch and, if your therapist is taller than you, you will be able to enjoy the feeling of almost being suspended upside down which in turn will allow the vertebrae to naturally stretch a bit further.

Because the arms are resting on the floor this technique will help your chest to open and to let go of stress and anxiety and create the space for happier thoughts.

To get the most out of this technique it’s imperative that you, as a client, remain as passive as possible throughout. “Helping” your therapist with this technique will backfire on you as you won’t reap the full benefits of the stretch and will put your therapist at risk of injury if you either resist or push yourself up.

The bridge, although a technique with plenty of scope to be executed in isolation, is usually part of a sequence of exercises aimed at mobilizing the spine by gently flexing it backwards and forwards. This will make your core stronger and better able to cope with every day life activities and even, hopefully, help you prevent injuries in the event of a banana skin moment resulting in a fall.

If you think you will benefit from the kidney stretch book a treatment HERE.

Thai Yoga Massage, Reiki, Acupuncture: differences & similarities

Thai Yoga Massage Statues at Wat Pho, Bangkok

Thai Yoga Massage Statues at Wat Pho, Bangkok

Thai Yoga Massage is probably best known to the masses as the relaxing treatment with a lot of stretches that makes you feel good and makes you sleep better.

Not many ordinary folks seem to be aware that Thai Yoga Massage is considered a healing art and as such is deeply rooted in ancient Indian, Buddhist, Thai and Chinese medical traditions. Because of this patients are not just looked at as physical beings, but also from an energy point of view.

This article will discuss some of the differences and similarities between 3 styles of treatments: Thai Yoga Massage, Acupuncture and Reiki. The last two are also energy treatments originating from the Far East. I will also briefly discuss how they can complement each other to provide patients with a more thorough healing experience and practitioners with a deeper understanding of the work they are carrying out.

Brief history of Thai Yoga Massage, Reiki and Acupuncture

Both Thai Yoga Massage and Acupuncture share a long history spanning over 2500 years and are both intrinsically linked to the traditional medical culture of their respective countries of origin. Nowadays, perhaps in recognition of their increased popularity, they are the subjects of evidence based research to prove or discredit the efficacy of the treatments.

The first official record of Chinese Medicine can be traced back to some time between the first century BC and the first century AD. Whereas the first written mention of Thai massage dates back to XVII century medical scriptures written on palm leaves (Asokananda, 2002, p. 5) of which a large part was destroyed during the Burmese invasion in 1767. What’s left of the original scriptures offers vague and incomplete anatomical assessments but they are nevertheless the only remaining historical source.

In contrast to both Thai massage and Acupuncture, Reiki is a relatively new healing art – its origins dating back to the mid-XIX century (Lambert, M., 2000, p. 8). Unlike TYM and Acupuncture the history of Reiki isn’t deeply steeped in traditional Japanese medicine but is more similar to a religion: its foundations being based on a story about the experiences of Dr. Usui (as told by him) that practitioners are asked to have faith in. Instead of being borne out of years and centuries of studies of human ailments and afflictions Reiki was based on “revelations” that Dr. Usui had after fasting for 21 days during a meditation retreat on a sacred mountain.

The common denominator between all three styles of treatment is the concept of life energy permeating every inch of the human body and the idea that illnesses and diseases happen when somehow an imbalance or blockage to the free flow of this energy occurs. The ultimate aim of each treatment is to restore the body’s equilibrium (www.acupuncture.org.uk) resulting in the patient’s healing. How each style of treatment approaches this task differs significantly.

Similarities between Thai Yoga Massage, Acupuncture and Reiki

1. Ming Era Acupuncture Chart

1. Ming Era Acupuncture Chart

According to both TYM and Acupuncture the life energy flows through specific channels running under the skin along the whole of the body. These channels are conceptually similar to the network of veins and arteries but in neither tradition they are considered to have an anatomical basis.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, of which Acupuncture is a part of, the energy lines are called Meridians. There are said to be 12 major and 2 minor meridians in the human body. Of these 12 are linked to specific organs and all have a role in the elimination of disharmony. The pathways of each meridian and their branches with all the associated pressure points have been extensively documented in medical text books throughout the centuries and are often at the basis of other styles of holistic therapies like Kinesiology or Acupressure.

The theoretical basis of Thai Yoga Massage is very similar to that of Acupuncture but only takes into account 10 Sen lines (out of the 72,000 that allegedly run through the body).

When comparing the pathways of the Sen lines with the Chinese meridians there are many similarities raising the question of whether the two traditions are the result of different evolutionary strands of a common healing system. One of the main differences between the Sen lines and the meridians is that the formers are not being linked to specific organs but are linked to conditions and ailments of the human body.

As far as Reiki is concerned it’s considered to be a “safe, non-intrusive healing energy which channels itself to wherever it is needed in your body or the person you are treating” (Lambert, M., 2000, p. 6). There is no such thing as energy channels according to Reiki, instead practitioners work with the intention of balancing the chakras considered to be “spiritual energy centres located in seven major points on the etheric body (aura)” (Lambert, M., 2000, p. 24).

Also, whereas TYM and Acupuncture are based on the idea that the life energy flows within the human body, in Reiki the “energy originates from the ‘universal source’ rather than directly from the healer” (Lambert, M., 2000, p. 6).

Differences between Thai Yoga Massage, Reiki and Acupuncture

The point at which each treatment differs from the others is in the techniques used to bring about healing: in Thai Yoga Massage the practitioner uses his/her body weight (through hands, feet, knees, elbows) in a non-intrusive manner to apply leaning pressure to the energy lines and therapeutic pressure points. He or she also guides the patient through a sequence of yoga poses to apply passive stretches to the energy lines as opposed to the muscles. Also the treatment is based “upon the principles of loving kindness and compassion” (De Grunwald, N., p. 3) and carried out in a meditative mood reminiscent of Buddhist practices. Although during a general 2 hours treatment the practitioner follows a set sequence of massages and stretches, they are encouraged to rely on their intuition to feel for the energy lines.

In contrast, Acupuncture is an invasive treatment (can be quite painful) that involves thin sterile needles being inserted in specific positions, that can be pinpointed with accurate measurements, along the meridians connected with the patient’s ailments. Unlike with Thai massage which is completely hands on, there is very little touch involved and after all the needles have been applied the patient is usually left on his/her own for a few minutes to allow the treatment to have effect. Each treatment is typically conducted in a clinical manner with the Acupuncturist acting more like a Doctor than a healer.

Woman doing Reiki

© Amaviael | Dreamstime.com

Finally with Reiki, practitioners channel the universal energy into their patients by positioning their hands on or near different parts of their bodies (12 different hand positions). The more advanced the practitioner the less likely they are to actually touch their patients as this is not a strict requirement for a successful treatment.

The hand positions in Reiki are very similar to some of the hand positions in Thai massage: over the eyes, under the base of the skull, over the pectorals, on the abdomen, along the back. The two treatments also share the intuitive component which the practitioner is encouraged to tune into for guidance as to which areas of the body need to receive the energy. Interestingly, Reiki has the unique ability of allowing the practitioner to treat him/herself unlike the other two treatments which are very limited in this respect.

Although each style of energy treatment offers many possibilities for healing in its own right, these have the opportunity to significantly expand when different aspects from all treatments are combined together to give patients a truly (w)holistic approach.

Thai Yoga massage, as taught in the West, could do with enriching its theoretical foundations through the extensive documentation of meridians and acupressure points available in Acupuncture. This would help cut down on the hopelessly vague explanations often offered by TYM teachers of different schools that tarnish the credibility of Thai massage as a healing art.

In addition Thai Yoga Massage patients could benefit immensely from receiving Reiki energy and from their therapist being able to tune into their clients’ bodies on more subtle levels than just through physical touch.

Bruce Lee once said that no single style of martial arts has the answer to all the situations a fighter might encounter throughout his/her life. This idea couldn’t be more true for holistic treatments as well.


References:

  • British Acupuncture Council Website:

http://www.acupuncture.org.uk/public-content/public-traditional-acupuncture/what-is-traditional-acupuncture.html

http://www.acupuncture.org.uk/public-content/public-traditional-acupuncture/history-of-acupuncture.html

  • Asokananda, H.B., 2002, The Art of Traditional Thai Massage, Nai Suk’s Editions Co. Ltd
  • De Grunwald, N., Thai Yoga Massage Practitioner Diploma Training Manual, Self Published
  • Lambert, M., 2000, An Introduction to Reiki, Collins & Brown Ltd
  • Dale, C.,2009, The Subtle Body, Sounds True Inc.

Images:

  1. “Acupuncture chart 300px” by Unknown – Imagery From the History of Medicine (original in Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris).. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons