Best of both worlds
Looking for a dynamic therapy that combines elements of massage, yoga and Ayurveda? Look no further, writes Laura Greaves.
There’s no doubt that modern life is growing ever busier and more frenetic. Gone are the days of doing just one thing at a time - in the 21st century it’s all about multitasking. We expect virtually everything in our lives to do double duty, from telephones that are portable record stores to refrigerators that also do the online grocery shopping.
So why should complementary therapies be any different? In a world where rushing is as normal as breathing, therapies that combine elements of different modalities for greatest benefit are becoming increasingly popular. Thai yoga massage (TYM) is one of those therapies. As the name suggests, TYM is a dynamic blend of massage, acupressure and assisted yoga poses. It also incorporates some principles of traditional Indian Ayurvedic medicine. An integral part of Thai culture, it was reputedly developed 2500 years ago by Dr Shivago Komarpaj, the personal physician to the Buddha and senior monks. Today, TYM is a cornerstone of traditional Thai medicine, along with nutrition, herbal medicine and spiritual practice.
A practice, not a therapy
Danielle Mondahl, from Caloundra on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, discovered TYM during her yoga teacher training. “Other students were studying it and after receiving it and loving it I decided I would study TYM so that I could confidently touch/massage students during the savasana - or relaxation - part of my yoga classes,” she explains. Mondahl adds TYM is not so much a therapy as a practice. “It uses a beautiful flowing sequence where the practitioner moves around the client’s body and applies assisted stretches along with massage and compression techniques. The practitioner uses palms, fingers and thumbs, elbow, knees and feet to apply techniques in a rocking motion, followed by ‘chopping’ and ‘sweeping’. The client will feel completely nurtured, safe and cared for throughout the session.”
Unlike traditional massage, TYM uses no oils and the client remains fully clothed. In keeping with other energetic healing modalities, however, TYM practitioners work with traditional ‘sen’ or energy lines that run throughout the body. “The techniques have really fun names such as ‘sanuk’, which literally means ‘having fun’, as well as ‘thunderbolt’, ‘palming shoulders’ and ‘cow face',” says Mondahl. “Sen lines include kalathari, which is an emotional line and requires feeling, intuition, experience, and mindfulness to locate.”
Less pain, more peace
As with most massage, the physical benefits of TYM include pain relief and improved joint mobility; it also promotes relaxation and reduces stress. “I’ve had clients that have been blown away by how gentle but effective it is - these are people that have been going to remedial massage for years demanding super firm pressure,” says Mondahl. “Pain comes from the brain, not from the body, and giving the nervous system a chance to settle down is the first step to reducing pain. Allowing beautiful, gentle work to unwind the nervous system without firing it up is the key to pain reduction.”
Thanks to its Thai traditional medicine roots, Mondahl says TYM also packs a powerful emotional punch. “From an Ayurvedic perspective, emotional issues are caused by a vata imbalance - too much air or ether. TYM is - quite literally – grounding, because it uses downward-moving compressions,” she says. “I've had clients become quite emotional during massage as they have not received compassionate touch for some time. It’s beautiful and transformative when they let their guard down and allow the tears to flow.” A certain degree of surrender is necessary to get the most from the treatment, so finding a qualified practitioner that you feel comfortable with is essential. “Express your desired outcome and preferred pressure and begin with a 90-minute treatment rather than 60 minutes, as the nervous system needs a generous amount of time to unwind,” Mondahl advises. “And, because it is a full body experience, the treatment deserves 90 minutes to do justice to all the techniques.”
“Thai yoga massage made my pregnancies easier”
For Sunshine Coast PR director and mum-of-three Katie Wilke, 32, Thai yoga massage had the biggest impact during and after pregnancy. “I attended prenatal yoga classes and always came away feeling relaxed yet energised. When the teacher, Danielle Mondahl, started offering Thai yoga massage, I was curious to see if it would have the same effect. I have given birth to three children in four years, and pregnancy yoga and Thai yoga massage have both made the journey more pleasurable. My neck, back and hips ached from restless sleeping positions and I had painful veins in my legs – massage definitely relieved these symptoms.
“It’s nothing like a traditional ‘static’ massage - it’s very active. You basically sign your body over to your therapist and they manoeuvre you around. For example, Danielle would hold my arm up and massage in and around the shoulder joint as she moved it around - she is incredibly intuitive and could identify problem areas without me saying so. Thai yoga massage was also great post-pregnancy as my body readjusted with hormonal changes. I used to love hard sports massages, but they just don't agree with my body at this stage of my life; during a Thai yoga massage, however, I have never felt any discomfort.
“I love that it's a holistic experience, for mind, body and soul. I come out feeling completely recharged, content, and satisfied throughout my entire body, on both a physical and emotional level. Plus, a 90-minute massage for a mum of three feels like I've been in paradise for a week!”