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Ask the OG Team…

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You asked: Can Thai Massage help me to deepen my yoga practice?

We asked Elizabeth Ewanchuk, Thai Massage and Craniosacral Therapist at Octopus Garden.

Thai Massage is an excellent way to deepen and strengthen your practice. Here are two ways it does this:

1. Under the guidance of a mindful practitioner, Thai Massage encourages you to soften into a place of compassion and acceptance, allowing you to move beyond your perceived limitations.
2. By opening up the energy channels (sen lines) in your body, physical restrictions are eased and your body will become more open and flexible.
To help understand how this is possible, it’s useful to know a bit about the origins of this holistic healing system. Thai Massage is derived in large part from Ayurvedic medicine, so it’s a cousin to yoga. Like yoga, it goes beyond being merely a physical practice and embraces you in your entirety – physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. And like yoga, it helps you to fully occupy the present moment, to relate to things as they truly are.

Originally practiced in Buddhist temples, Thai Massage was revered as a sacred practice, with the physical body being the entry point for accessing the subtle energy body. The Four Divine States of Consciousness of Buddhism continue to influence and shape the approach of practitioners today:
Metta: The desire to make others happy and the ability to show loving kindness. Karuna: Compassion for all who suffer and a desire to ease their sufferings. Mudita: Rejoicing with those who have good fortune and never feeling envy. Upekkha: Regarding one’s fellows without prejudice or preference.

So let’s say that your iliotibial (IT) bands are tight. You notice the tightness particularly in asanas such as revolved half-moon, revolved hand‐to‐big toe pose, spinal twist, and revolved triangle. As your practitioner, I’m going to focus on balancing your entire body, with specific emphasis on opening restrictions in the sen line that corresponds to the IT band: Sen Kalathari.

As you can see from the picture, this sen criss‐crosses your whole body, so not only will I ease tension in your IT band, but by facilitating the free flow of your prana, I can also address issues relating to digestive disorders, sleep trouble, back pain, headaches, chest pain, high blood pressure, sinusitis, fatigued arms and legs, and emotional troubles. And you thought I was only going to get your IT bands to relax!

During your treatment, I work from a meditative place and plug into your body’s energy. Doing so allows me to determine intuitively where your body is holding tension and the best ways to open these restrictions. Your only job is to keep your mind and body as soft as you can and to breathe fully as I guide you through a series of flowing stretches and compressions. When we encounter a particularly stuck or painful spot, we both focus gentle, loving breath into the area while you keep your body as passive as possible. I deepen my meditation and employ various techniques to encourage your body to let go of the restriction. I may use my thumbs, elbows, forearms, knees, or feet to work more deeply or I may choose simply to hold you in the stretch, thus allowing your body to unwind on its own.

When we’re doing deep energetic work, at times you may find that your mind becomes a bit agitated. That’s likely because you’ve come up against one of your “walls,” your preconceived notions about your body and yourself. When this happens, it’s really important to remain in the present moment by connecting to your breath and to let go, to surrender to what really is. This will help you gain a more accurate picture of what your limitations are. It’s also a wonderful way to increase compassion towards yourself. And to boot, by letting go, your physical body will be more open and flexible.

Therapist Bio: Elizabeth Ewanchuck has the best job in the world! She has the privilege of supporting people as they create rich, vibrant, balanced lives for themselves. Plus, she gets to wear yoga gear and go bare-footed all day; it doesn’t get any better than this.
When not bending and stretching folks, Elizabeth can be found curled up with a good book and a cat, creating mischief in Kensington Market, or indulging her love of heights as a climbing enthusiast.
Contact Elizabeth for more details on Thai Massage and Craniosacral Therapy at Octopus Garden Holistic Yoga Centre or call her directly at 416.992.2440.

Thank you Elizabeth!

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