Thai massage presses idle bodies into shape

My sen lines are severely clogged. Which isn’t as serious as blocked arteries, but Thai masseuse Theresa Gulliver tells me it’s still…

My sen lines are severely clogged.

Which isn’t as serious as blocked arteries, but Thai masseuse Theresa Gulliver tells me it’s still not healthy.

I sit cross-legged on a thin mat in a small second-floor room on Fourth and Wood while Gulliver describes the six main sen, or energy lines that run lengthwise along my body.

The deepfreeze has just begun and my joints are stiff as Gulliver, her right knee in my back, begins to stretch my arms behind my back.

Not that my appendages are ever limber: my exercise regime consists of walking to work; my arms are tired after a vigorous hair wash.

Gulliver is getting to know my body’s limits before she gives me a full Thai massage, a combination of stretching and rubdowns.

“You could stretch more and learn to touch your toes,” Gulliver tells me after she tests my arms and legs for flexibility.

Except flirty attempts in dorm rooms and high school hallways, I’ve never had a massage. So I jumped (not too high, of course) at Gulliver’s offer to give a Thai massage.

“We spend so much time in our heads and it’s time we take the opportunity to get into our bodies,” said Gulliver.

“Like yoga, (Thai massage) is about increasing awareness of our bodies.”

Gulliver, 29, is a licenced Thai masseuse and will be offering sessions starting this month.

Sessions last 30 minutes to three hours, but professional massages are typically about an hour and a half.

She trained at the Lotus Palm School in Montreal and attended workshops in New Mexico before receiving her licence.

“I love doing it,” said Gulliver.

“It’s exciting for me to give. I’m also getting stretched through my body alignment.”

Thai massage has been practised for 2,500 years, according to several estimates.

Jivaka Kumar Bhaccha, a doctor of therapeutic medicine from Thailand, is considered to be the first to practice Thai massage.

It’s been evolving ever since, says Gulliver.

Different practitioners focus on stretching or acupressure, while some add more spiritual components to their sessions.

Gulliver takes a spiritual approach.

Before we start stretching together, she silently prays over me.

Relaxing is key, she tells me as we begin.

Over the next hour, legs are stretched and pretzeled, thighs are squashed and arms are coiled.

Then I’m on my back while Gulliver kneads her way down my legs, pushing energy through my sen lines.

The combination of stretching and deep massage is a comprehensive body treatment, says Gulliver.

The practitioner guides the recipient through yoga postures while thumbing and palming pressure points along the body’s energy lines.

This relieves muscle tension, increases blood circulation, balances the body and improves flexibility, says Gulliver.

“The practitioner has to be in tune with the recipients — their movements, feelings — so they open up,” she says.

The appetite for holistic living is strong in Whitehorse, said Gulliver.

And though Thai massage is not as well known as yoga or the traditional Swedish massage, it should prove popular, she added.

“It’s different — a unique form of massage,” said Gulliver.

Gulliver asks people to identify body ailments and circle points of stiffness on a genderless body outline before starting the massage.

Ninety per cent of people circle their necks and lower backs, says Gulliver.

I’m no different, and circle accordingly.

“We spend a lot of time hunched over a computer,” says Gulliver.

Me again.

“We’ve evolved into a technological world,” she adds.

“We need to bring what happens on the (massage) mat into our everyday lives.”

I’ll try.

But I recall the words of columnist and professional contrarian Christopher Hitchens when thinking about the long path of self-improvement in front of me.

A heavy smoker and no amateur when it comes to hard drinking, Hitchens recently wrote in Vanity Fair about his make-over experience.

“Without suffering, no beauty,” he wrote.

“As I look back on my long and arduous struggle to make myself over…I am more than ever sure that it’s enough to be born once, and to take one’s chances, and to grow old disgracefully.”

Sessions with Gulliver cost $1 per minute. For more information call 393-4440.

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