Can Thai yoga massage benefit mind as well as body?
- Credit: Archant
Alex Bellotti visits King’s Cross practice Senergize to try this unusual style of massage first hand.
A Thai yoga massage, I thought, that sounds relaxing. My mind of course skipped over the ‘yoga’ part and didn’t fully register the meaning until I found my leg bending around my head, stretching muscles I didn’t even know existed.
The strange part of it all is that it was nonetheless very relaxing. Pithily referred to by its native country folk as ‘yoga for lazy people’, Thai yoga massage has been practiced in Thailand by monks for hundreds of years. It essentially involves lying down flat on a matted ground, while a skilled practitioner slowly manipulates you into various yoga poses – at the same time also incorporating more traditional elements such as Indian head massage and even acupuncture (with hands instead of pins).
In my case, the practitioner was Louis Divine, who launched his Thai yoga massage business Senergize in King’s Cross in early September. A stone’s throw from the Guardian offices, the slick apartment is kitted out with candles, relaxed lighting and the obligatory ocean sounds CD to help put you at ease, while Divine explains some of the benefits of my upcoming session.
“It’s a preventative as well as a therapeutic practice so lots of people have regular massage to maintain their health,” says the 50-year-old. “The whole practice works on the mind as much as the body and can be a moving meditation for both the therapist and the receiver. This element of calming the mind is quite unique compared with other types of massage.”
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The basic theory of Thai yoga massage centres upon ‘sen lines’ – 10 major energy channels flowing through the body, not too distant in nature from the Meridian system followed in Chinese medicine. By stimulating the body’s sen lines and acupressure points, says Divine, it “clears blockages, boosts energy, increases blood flow and cleanses the lymphatic drainage system”.
Divine’s belief in the treatment is based on personal experience. In 2001, while living in north London, he was knocked off his bike on Essex Road and suffered severe injuries to much of his body. As part of his recovery, he was encouraged to take up yoga and found it so beneficial that he began studying it; he discovered Thai yoga massage three years ago while living in Amsterdam, and is now a Level 3 internationally qualified practitioner.
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Before beginning my session, he asked if I had any specific aches and pains: this largely boiled down to the typical neck and back stiffness acquired from sitting in front of a computer for five days a week. At this point, I should mention I was dressed simply in my usual work attire – you’re encouraged to wear whatever is comfortable, but in hindsight, slim fit jeans are definitely best avoided.
Because it is a holistic process, Divine worked step by step on each part of my body, starting with the feet and legs, then the back, arms, shoulders and finally head and face. He lifted each limb through a number of stretches and routines before returning to its left or right equivalent, repeating the process.
At times painful and at others comfortingly stress-bunking, the session came to a close when Divine encouraged us both to form a meditation pose for a few moments of silent contemplation. While feeling loose and supple as one might after a traditional massage, there was also a noticeable calm and balance usually absent from my terrible posture.
Admittedly, such tranquillity didn’t quite last the journey back through King’s Cross and a crowded tube, but with repeated sessions, I could certainly see the revitalising benefit not just for your physical, but mental wellbeing. Soon to be qualified to teach as well as practice, it won’t be long before Divine can help you take Thai yoga massage back home with you too.
A 60 minute session is £60, while a 90 minute session is £90; Senergize is also offering a 20 per cent discount to Ham&High readers on their first session. For London residents in Zone 1-3, Louis can also visit you in your home. Visit senergize.com