Thai yoga massage
- Kirstin Innes
- 21 May 2007
Siamese, if you please
As a new school teaching the ancient healing art of Thai yoga massage opens in Glasgow, poor Kirstin Innes was sent to experience it all first hand
Amy Ku Redler has been practising Thai massage - known in Thailand as nuat phaen boran, which translates as ‘ancient’ or ‘traditional’ massage - since 1991. She studied in Thailand and has really become an ambassador for the practice since her return, first in London, where the Evening Standard named her one of the city’s top alternative therapists; now in Glasgow, with a practice soon to open in Edinburgh. ‘It didn’t occur to me that I’d have to start all over again when I moved up here,’ she says.
Thai massage works on the ten main energy lines in the body, channelling energy up and down as the subject is pulled into yoga positions. ‘Imagine there’s a traffic jam caused by blockages in the road,’ says Redler. ‘We pull out the blockages, creating a free flow of energy throughout the body.’ That’s the ‘unfaffy’ way of putting it, she explains with a smile; for an alternative therapist, she has a very sly sense of humour. ‘It’s also known as lazy man’s yoga,’ she says ‘because you get a yoga workout without putting in the work.’
Redler set up Mettá, one of the first professionally accredited schools of Thai massage, in 1999, and she’s about to open a Glasgow branch, located in the Yogasarvasya Studio in Partick. The 16-session course is taught at weekends and open to anyone who wants to learn. ‘It can be a personal development course for people who want to learn how bodies work,’ Redler explains. ‘It really teaches you about your body as well; you go on a journey with this course.’
I get a better idea of what’s involved during a massage session at Redler’s tiny, white therapy room. ‘It’s beautiful to watch, like ballet,’ she says, and she’s right. Perhaps like being in a piece of contemporary dance, both an audience member and a performer - it really does feel like a pas de deux, except without me contributing anything. I lie on a mattress on the floor, making myself as heavy as possible while Amy moves up my body from my feet, touching particular pressure points and arranging me into shapes with the weight of her legs. Redler, it has to be said, is tiny, and there are times when she’s supporting my whole body weight as well as her own. She explains that that’s one of the first things the course teaches practitioners.
‘Each massage is tailor-made - some of my clients are massive, rugby-playing blokes! Thai massage is all about angling, though - the positions you put yourself into are absolutely crucial, but you just have to learn how to distribute your body weight to create the amount of pressure needed.’
Although my body is being moved into some fairly complex yoga positions, I’m completely relaxed, wrapped up in baby blankets, and almost drift off. (‘Oh, don’t worry, I’ve had people dribble and snore on me before,’ laughs Redler.) However, the technique surprises me, establishing connections between ligaments and organs I didn’t know existed, and leaving me to contemplate my body as a whole rather than a succession of working parts.
Amy Ku Redler practises at Heart and Soul, Ruthven Mews, Glasgow. The Mettá basic practitioner course starts on late June. For more information see www.yogamassage.co.uk