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Thai Yoga Bodywork: a doorway to yoga.

Thai Massage, Thai Yoga, Thai Yoga Bodywork--all describe various forms of an ancient bodywork practiced in Thailand, whose roots stretch back to India during the time of Buddha. A practitioner of this method uses a wide variety, of healing modalities, including therapeutic stretching, assisted yoga postures, acupressure, rhythmic massage, breathing techniques, energy balancing and meditation to bring the systems of the body into balance. Described as a form of yoga therapy, Thai Yoga Bodywork (TYB) can be used as a stepping-stone to start a yoga practice or to strengthen an existing one. In particular, the northern style of Thai Yoga Bodywork, developed from the Chiang Mai province, is known for its incorporation of yoga and Western biomechanics.

The session, which may last up to two hours, begins with the client comfortably dressed and lying down on a futon-style mat. The practitioner says a centering prayer, to set the meditative tone. As in yoga, the client is encouraged to focus on the breath and to go within to cultivate bodily awareness.

The bodywork then begins at the feet and moves up the legs. The practitioner follows the meridian lines, applying gentle pressure to warm the body, calm the nervous system and balance energy. When the client is calm and relaxed, the therapeutic stretching begins.

Using his or her whole body, the practitioner initiates the movements, slowly building toward stronger yoga-type stretches. Deep breathing is a critical component. As with yoga, it allows the stretch to go to its therapeutic edge--where the "medicine" is. As the stretch reaches its maximum extension with the out breath, organs are toned, and energetic and emotional releases can occur. It's important to find a skilled practitioner whom you trust, to take you to your "edge" but not beyond.

Deepening the Yoga Practice

Receiving Thai Yoga Bodywork can deepen one's yoga practice in many ways. Having the physical support of a practitioner allows the client to go more fully into poses, to stretch and move in ways that are not possible alone. Being relaxed from the massage portions also helps the client gain a stronger stretch. These elements allow the client to "surrender" to the stretch or pose, instead of using their own will to make it happen. For this reason TYB has been called "Lazy Man's Yoga." It's like having a personal trainer for your yoga practice.

Thai Yoga Bodywork can also greatly benefit those interested in beginning yoga. Because the client is learning poses and stretches "in the body" instead of watching and listening to an instructor, it can be a smoother, easier introduction. Those who are concerned that yoga may be painful or difficult find that the private, therapeutic sessions offer a greater sense of safety and ease.

What is most readily apparent to new clients is how wonderful the stretching makes them feel--calm, centered, relaxed, energized. Because yoga offers the same benefits, this alone can motivate clients to try, a class or learn a few poses on their own.

While TYB is a supportive adjunct to yoga, it can't provide the strengthening benefits of actually doing the exercises and poses yourself. At the end of each TYB session, the practitioner teaches between three and five yoga postures. Designed to address the specific needs and abilities of the client, these poses can then be practiced at home--increasing the benefits of the next TYB session.

Practicing yoga or receiving TYB is a process that fosters unity and balance on all levels. In a sacred, meditative way the practitioner of Thai Yoga Bodywork facilitates the increased flow of life force energy, promoting self healing and well-being.


Thai Yoga Bodywork for Two

Foot Walk on Thighs

The receiver lies down flat on her back. Keeping her legs on the ground, she raises one knee toward her head at a 90-degree angle. The giver sits opposite the receiver with her legs out straight, making contact with the receiver's inner thigh. The giver grasps the foot of the receiver's bent leg and leans back slightly, to stretch. The giver then kneads the inner thigh with her feet like a cat, moving between the knee and groin area. The giver repeats the kneading several times in a gentle, rhythmic way, increasing pressure as the receiver becomes more relaxed. Steady pressure can also be applied to tight spots. This technique is very beneficial for walkers and runners, helping to open and release tension in the hamstrings.

Evaa Whitley, LMT, has studied and practiced yoga and different types of bodywork for 18 years. An advanced practitioner of yoga with a focus on Ashtanga and Flow, she also incorporates lyengar and Kundalini. With advanced training in Thai Yoga Bodywork, she offers private yoga instruction, and can be reached at 828-215-2572.
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Title Annotation:breath + movement
Author:Whitley, Evaa
Publication:New Life Journal
Geographic Code:9THAI
Date:Jun 1, 2004
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