Test Drive

The Thai Yoga massage is like nothing you’ve experienced beforeI’ll Thai Anything OnceThai Yoga Massage Provides Serious Stretching and Real Rejuvenation 

By Ashley Kahn

My back knotted and my curiosity piqued, I made an appointment for a mystery massage. No traditional table rubdown for me – I was set to discover the secrets of the Thai yoga treatment.

I joked all the way to the studio, convinced I’d emerge from my spa session smelling like peanut sauce and lemongrass.

What I experienced during my 90-minute massage, however, was no laughing matter. The stretches were deep, the touch expansive, and the effect … transformative.

Licensed Massage Therapist Christine G. Scheu certainly knows her stuff. She owns and operates A Touch of Health in her Midtown home on Jackson Street.

Contrary to its misleading moniker, the traditional method originated in India and was brought to Thai temples by Buddhist monks. Scheu’s approach was developed for the Western body, with special attention to body type and movements to complement nutrition.

This is definitely not your standard backrub. Instead of lying undressed on a table draped in sheets, you position your fully clothed self on a cushioned floor mat, awaiting the manipulations of the practitioner.

Scheu likens Thai massage to tango dancing in that she leads and you follow without resisting or anticipating the next move. Your task is to relax deeply so that when she lifts and twists your arms and legs (or swings your feet swiftly over your head), you don’t feel compelled to hold them in place.

A rather high-strung but lovable control freak, it took me a while to reach complete submission. In fact, in the whole of 90 minutes, I’m not sure I ever did. Scheu calls the process “yoga for lazy people,” but it troubled me to remain so inactive while she seemed to be working so hard.

“You can’t heal or rejuvenate when stressed,” says Scheu, who has a lilting German accent and kind eyes. “Your body is too busy coping with life.”

Her healing Thai yoga session combines massage with movement. In other words, you will be rubbed and caressed as much as you will be bent and flipped. If someone were to walk in unannounced, he or she may deduce that you’re practicing for Kama Sutra Pose-Off ’09 – the G-rated, clothing-on version, of course.

Don’t be alarmed. There is absolutely nothing unseemly about this massage. It’s simply different from the types usually offered in Tallahassee. Instead of lying there like a lump, you are engaged in a series of motions that will surprise and inspire you, and teach you things you didn’t know about your own body. For instance, that your feet could land firmly on either side of your ears. And that it could feel good.

Again, don’t be alarmed. Trust that Scheu can judge your limitations, and she won’t push them. She follows sen lines, or Thai energy lines, that differ from Chinese and Japanese chi lines. The process is more intuitive than scientific, because each person’s body is different every day.

A session starts with a standard shoulder massage. As the massage progresses, your head, neck, back, torso, legs, feet and hands will be touched – sometimes with Scheu’s hands and fingers, but often with unexpected parts like her feet on your feet, or her belly to your back.

You will feel a stretch in your spine and hips as Scheu rotates your arms and legs to cross your body. You will relax as she uses the heel of her foot to massage your own instep. Ultimately, in those last minutes on the floor, you will slip into a trance as her thumbs trace along your forehead, around your nose and behind your ears.

When you finally sit up – take your time – you may feel a bit groggy, but deeply relaxed and inexplicably energized. Scheu recommends a massage once a month to help the body heal from life’s unavoidable stresses.

Workout at Work

Author/teacher Cyndi Lee offers a yoga workout you can do at your desk:

Sit on the edge of a chair with your feet placed squarely on the floor about hip distance apart. Place your palms flat on your thighs, and feel length in your spine — head balanced over heart, heart balanced over hips. Inhale and exhale evenly for five counts each. Repeat as many times as you’d like.

For more exercises, visit yogajournal.com/basics/751

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