My environment has always been athletically oriented. I am an American Red Cross certified swim instructor (WSI), and was also an AFAA certified aerobics instructor. I also used to figure skate, since about the time I could walk until about my mid-twenties, from childhood competitions to Rockefeller Center’s Fashions on Ice.
I bear the honourable distinction of being Canada’s first (and possibly only) certified teacher of Yogic Arts, a fusion form combining yoga, martial arts and Thai massage.
I developed an interest in yoga when a degenerative spinal condition began limiting my mobility and affecting my daily life. Or more accurately, affecting my mobility and limiting my daily life. It became especially hard to cope when at 32 years old, I went from being an athlete to hardly being able to walk a few blocks without having to stop and rest; groceries and laundry became a challenge.
Although a combination of yoga and swimming helped to manage the pain, along with conservative treatments including spinal injections over the course of five years, my condition worsened to the point where an artificial disc replacement became necessary in 2006.
Relatively speaking, recovery was instantaneous; within days my back felt better than it ever had. By three months following surgery, I was back to roller-blading and step classes, and my interest in yoga perhaps waned slightly as I relished all the sports I’d once been forced to give up.
Between the disc degeneration and a contracted posture that developed in reaction to low back pain, I had lost about an inch in height. Since my surgery I have regained that inch, and then some, and while physiotherapy helped me regain some of my former flexibility, I realized that it was time to get back to yoga, to strengthen and stretch myself and start pushing the limits again.
My first Thai massage experience was to receive it: to be manipulated, sat upright, supported, laid back, folded over, stretched this way and that, and massaged at the same time (what?) while I was put in these yoga postures – my first reaction was the very same as many of my now clients’ first reactions: “Wow! I’ve never felt anything like that in my life!”. (If you have back pain, get a Thai massage right now.)
And that was it for me: This was the life I had long been looking for. I’ve had the honour of studying with Kam Thye Chow, the founder of Lotus Palm School, and co-authored a publication entitled The Art of Using Props within the Lotus Palm Thai Massage Form that is included in Lotus Palm’s Level 1 teaching module. Each of my teachers – Mia Blackwell, Shai Plonski, Blake Martin, Jyothi Watanabe, Kam Thye Chow and Sukha Wong, has brought something special to my practice, from techniques, to perspectives, to the littlest nuances that create an exceptional massage experience.
One of the best parts of Thai massage, for me, is that it is as good for me, as a practitioner, as it is for my clients. As I bring a recipient into each yoga posture, I am myself assuming yoga stances. As such, the “physical application of loving kindness” is a two-way line. It is an exchange of positive energy, and as I care for myself, I am able to care for others.
I am blessed to practice and teach Thai massage, to pass on this skill that has enhanced and changed my life.
I feel privileged to be able to bestow that feeling of “Wow” upon someone, to “do yoga to someone” and share its benefits.