I felt like I was doing a flow of yoga poses or modern dance moves. I felt graceful, fluid and flexible. The practitioner used thumbs, palms, elbows, feet, knees and strength to press, pull and stretch my body. Nothing was hurried. The rhythm was smooth. One movement melted into the next. Lying on a mattress on the floor, fully clothed except for shoes, socks and jewelry I experienced my first Thai massage.
Capitol Hill is now home to two Thai massage therapists, Aries Indenbaum at Freed Bodyworks and Kana Nildum at Lavender Retreat. Both were attracted to Thai massage by their desire to help others heal and feel better in their own skin.
“I was already a massage therapist when I received one of the best massages of my life,” explains Aries. “I was emotionally and physically exhausted and tried a Thai massage. After the experience I felt taller and full of energy. I knew immediately that I wanted to learn how to do it.”
She enrolled in Thai massage school in the area. Afterwards she felt she still needed more instruction. She traveled to Thailand three months later.
Aries immersed herself into her studies. “It was similar to learning choreography or a dance routine. After you learn it, then you practice and practice. After you master the pattern you can then enhance or change it according to a client’s needs.”
Kana, who is also a traditional massage therapist, has been practicing Thai massage for 14 years. “I learned from my grandfather when I was 17,” she said. “He inspired me.” Kana’s grandfather, who is also a physical therapist in Thailand, learned Thai massage from his father. “I saw how my grandfather helped rice farmers who were very stiff walk well again and how he helped clients who couldn’t move an arm be able to once again swing their arm without pain. I wanted to learn how to help people feel better without medication.”
What is Thai Massage?
Thai massage is a system of massage and assisted stretching developed in Thailand, and influenced by the traditional medicine systems of India, China, and Southeast Asia. It loosens and stretches muscles, improves movement and releases pain. It is said that Thai massage was created by Shivago Komarpaj, believed to be the physician to Lord Buddha, some 2500 years ago. Traditional Thai massage is an ancient art practiced by Buddhist monks in temples.
Thai massage is a therapeutic procedure that provides relaxation and restores healthy blood circulation. It can also help lessen energy blockages, improve weak, dysfunctional organs, lessen aches and pains, stress and tension, improve flexibility, help with nerve problems and improve postural alignment.
Thai massage differs from traditional massage by its use of the body’s energy line system, known as Sen lines. There is a theory that there are 72,000 Sen lines that line the frame of the physical body. The Sen lines correspond with the Chinese acupuncture medications and the ancient medicine practice from Indian Ayurveda. Aries pointed out that in Thai massage, therapists focus on 10 of the Sen channels. It is believed that good health and freedom from pain result from the unhindered flow of vital energies through the body’s tissues. The Sen channels are the main way for distributing these energies throughout the body.
Who Can Benefit from Thai Massage?
Thai massage is ideal for everyone because sessions are customized for each individual. Aries said she pursued learning the system because she thought it would serve many of her clients. “I see a lot of active folks, larger-bodied athletes, people in chronic pain and stressed-out Washingtonians. I see folks seeking trestment that is both deep and relaxing. Because of my increased leverage and ability to use my full body’s strength in Thai massage, I’m able to deliver that deeper pressure with more ease and fluidity to more areas of the body.”
Because I am flexible I didn’t think I could benefit from Thai massage. However, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Before my session with Aries, I had an annoying, lingering ache in my right shoulder and arm. It would disappear after my monthly traditional massages, but come back after a few nights of convoluted sleeping positions. After my Thai massage, it is now weeks later and the ache in my arm has yet to return.
I also experienced a feeling a flexibility deep in my hips. After my massages I felt as if I was floating out of the room. I slept deeply after each massage.
“Thai massages are great for runners, people with tight hips or who have neck and shoulder problems,” said Kana. “It’s especially good for athletes because it can go deep. Yet it is also good for those who want relaxation.” She also recommends Thai massage for anyone with poor posture, for people who sit a lot or who sleep in an uncomfortable position. “It’s like taking a good yoga class but you don’t have to move yourself,” said Kana.
Thai massage can also relieve tension headaches, boost energy and calm the nervous system.
In order to stay healthy and pain free throughout life, it is important that we learn how to keep our body in balance. Thai massage is one tool we can use to assist us on our path to wellness.
To contact Kana: www.lavender-retreat.com or call 202-450-2329. To contact Aries: [email protected] or call: 202-321-9715.
Pattie Cinelli is a holistic personal trainer who specializes in helping clients reach their health & fitness goals. She is also a journalist who specializes in stories about wellness and writes profiles of unique individuals. She started her fitness column in the Hill Rag more than 25 years ago. Please contact Pattie with questions or story ideas at: [email protected].