“Heather, do you mind if I rub your belly?”
In an instant, I traveled back in time six years, when I was pregnant with my youngest son and tolerating the passers-by in a random place like the grocery store, which seemed, at the time, to be a hub of older people who found it appealing to touch pregnant bellies.
Just as quickly, however, my mind returned to the present, at Lakeview Yoga Studio in Peters Township, where I was laying on the floor surrounded by dim lighting and enjoying the sounds of tranquil music.
I was experiencing my first Thai Yoga session, or Thai massage, with Kate Olson, owner of Lakeview Yoga. It was something that I had never heard of, nor could I even imagine.
Kate asked me this question about three-quarters of the way through my massage, during which she maneuvered my body into various yoga poses as she massaged, rubbed and stretched my muscles.
Although stress reduction and relaxation was my primary goal with this first session – and was accomplished! – I discovered that Thai Yoga, also known as Thai Yoga Bodywork, offers a host of health benefits that are effective for both young and old.
“Thai Yoga is actually an ancient healing art that includes elements of yoga, Buddhism, and Ayurvedic Medicine,” Kate told me, “and unlike regular yoga classes, Thai Yoga sessions are generally performed on a thick mat on the floor, with the client lying down – but fully clothed — the entire time.”
During my session, I remained completely passive as Kate manipulated my body into positions that mimicked yoga poses. I have firsthand knowledge that this type of yoga is deeply relaxing while it encourages stress and tension reduction. In addition, Thai Yoga also can help improve flexibility and range of motion. For someone like me, who has performed stretching movements of any kind for a total of maybe five minutes in the past year, this was especially appealing.
Thai Yoga also is markedly beneficial for pain relief and headache relief, forces fresh circulation throughout parts of the body, and can aid in digestion.
While I remained in a very Zen-like state, Kate, who has been practicing Thai Yoga for about a year, sensed the transfer of energy between her and I – something that often exists between her and the client — as she remained mindful of subtle cues within my body that would help me to achieve balance. She had hoped to transfer feelings of positivity, encouragement and love through the touch of her hands, which were very supportive and healing.
Although I do not suffer from any physical ailments for which this type of bodywork would be especially beneficial, as a mother of two very active young boys and a business owner, the stress relief and tension reduction I experienced after my first session was enough to convince me to schedule a Thai Yoga session once a month.
My plan is to continue with the once-a-month sessions for well into the future, but Kate said that frequency of sessions is entirely up to the client. As if that one-hour session couldn’t get any better, then I’m told I can go as often as I want!
There may be some populations that should take caution before engaging in Thai Yoga, such as pregnant women, those with cancer and individuals who are suffering from various injuries. Kate advised that it is best to talk about your personal situation beforehand with the practitioner, and to advise them of any particularly sensitive issues.
In my opinion, everyone should try Thai Yoga…at least once. In short, your body will not only thank you, but will love you just a little bit more.
Heather Holtschlag is a Pittsburgh-based freelance writer, public relations specialist and owner of Healthy Fit PR. She enjoys working with clients in the health and wellness sector who not only fill her head with loads of useful information, but also serve as her motivation for living a healthy lifestyle.