Words on Wellness
DESIGNING THE RESTORATIVE-YOGA/THAI-YOGA-MASSAGE EXPERIENCE by Tamara Ulisko
Phil Marvy and I recently hosted a workshop of restorative yoga, enhanced with Thai yoga massage, at Ahimsa Yoga… I thought it might be fun to give other yoga teachers/TYM practitioners a peek into our process! While there is a lot to be said for combining the two modalities, there are definitely challenges unique to this synthesis.
We started out by designing a 2 hour sequence that would work for 8 people (and still give each one a good dose of massage). It took some thought. Not every restorative pose lends itself to Thai massage, especially if there are a lot of props involved, which can get in your way… and not every Thai adjustment leaves the receiver in a position that is relaxing/beneficial enough to be considered restorative. Consider that after administering 2-3 adjustments to one person you will be moving onto the next, and possibly leaving the previous receiver there for 10 minutes or more before you come back to them. The position you left them in had better be comfortable!
There were a lot of adjustments we would have loved to do, the kind that are fun to introduce to TYM newbs… but in treating 8 people, we had to take time and efficiency into account. We realized that some of our favourite adjustments were either one-sided (so would require double the time to do both sides), or required more involved setups or ins-and-outs (sanuk doesn’t seem like a big deal when you’re doing it on just one person, but multiply that by 4 or 8 people and it becomes a lengthy process!)
We came up with a sequence that felt balanced and symmetrical, that moved from more active transitions to more passive ones, that moved from more exterior areas (shoulders, back) to more interior ones (belly, inner thighs). Energetically this seemed to work. There was a trust and rapport built up over the course of those 2 hours, as well as a deeper “sinking into”, or surrender, that was nice to feel.
As a TYM practitioner, it was fascinating for me to treat 4 bodies in a row (while Phil took care of the other 4)… to have the contrast of 4 different bodies/energies responding to the same series of massage moves. I found myself getting better at adjusting on the fly, becoming more responsive, more immediately, to each individual’s needs.
The TYM did a great job of relaxing and releasing students deeper into the restorative poses. But more than that: I think the TYM adjustments, sprinkled as they were throughout the class, acted as a recurring invitation to drop one’s monkey-mind and come back to the body. TYM seemed to induce deeper breathing with each round, with almost every individual. A nice complement to the restorative experience!
I highly recommend putting together a class like this – I love going deep with an individual TYM, but there was something wonderful about looking around the room and seeing 8 faces in bliss, 8 bodies sublimely tucked into blankets. And as with a traditional TYM, the bliss wasn’t limited to the receivers, it permeated the givers as well… I pretty much “floated” home afterwards, just like our students did!
I want to thank Still Light for the gift of Thai Yoga Massage, and Ahimsa Yoga for providing Phil & I with a venue for our workshop. And more to come, I hope!
You can find Ahimsa Yoga at www.ahimsayoga.com
Phil Marvy at www.compassacupuncture.ca
and me at www.facebook.com/tamara.roamingyogi