Thai massage soothes body and soul
By Toni Hoh
For The Post-Crescent
Article first appeared July 14 in
Now I can say I have something in common with Oprah Winfrey. We both love Thai
massage. After just one, I can see why Oprah is hooked.
Thai massage — also known as Thai yoga massage — opens up a new dimension in
massage, combining deep stretching with massage to create an energized feeling
and a sense of overall well-being.
Inna Mazur, certified massage therapist with The Massage Factory in Grand Chute,
performed my Thai massage. She is one of just a handful of Fox Valley people
trained in the practice.
"Thai massage a lot of times is described as a dance and one person is leading —
that's me — and you're following. You don't need to help me with the stretches
unless I ask you to," Mazur instructed me before we began.
It wasn't difficult to relax in preparation for the massage — soft music,
soothing scents and dim lighting beckoned me into the room. Stretching out on
the floor mat specially made for Thai massage, I breathed deeply and closed my
eyes behind a light cloth Mazur placed over them to help me stay focused. My
journey was about to begin.
Beginning with my feet and moving up to my head, Mazur massaged my reluctant
muscles, urging them to stretch with firm yet gentle pressure along with
rocking, tapping, range of motion maneuvers and compression. In Thai massage,
therapists use their feet and elbows as well as skilled hands to coerce muscles
into relaxation. Mazur's fist pressing into my shoulder as she rotated my arm
felt phenomenal. The release of tension in my shoulders and back was almost
palpable during a Cobra stretch with me on my stomach and Mazur pulling my arms
up and upper body up from the floor.
Left alone to meditate after the massage was over, I found myself wanting to
sleep and dance at the same time. Relaxation plus energy is a wonderful state of
"In Thai massage, like with Chinese medicine, they believe there are energy
lines going through your body, so we're affecting the entire body this way and
it stabilizes your energy," Mazur said. "This type of massage is really
cleansing because of the stretching."
Because massage increases circulation and intake of nutrients and oxygen to the
muscles, there is a release of metabolic products, according to Mazur, who
stresses how important it is to drink plenty of water before and after a massage
to help flush out those toxins.
Thai massage is unique in that recipients are fully clothed and it's typically
done on the floor. Some practitioners, including Connie Erickson of Traveling
Hands Massage in Grand Chute, perform Thai using a massage table. Its benefits
include the ability to address problems deeper in the muscle.
"You feel more lengthy. You feel more energized (with Thai massage) than wiped
out from a relaxing massage," said Jen Schneidewend, 30, of Appleton, who says
she hasn't gone a month without some type of massage in years. "You feel looser
and your posture is better.
"I like to get all different types. It kind of depends on what's going on with
me. If I feel stiff, a deep tissue massage can work out the stiffness. Thai
works great if you're an exerciser and you overdid it and are kind of sore. You
need those stretches and it's hard to get deep stretches yourself."
Bill Richey of Kimberly is a case in point. A regular marathon runner and
triathlon participant, Richey went to Mazur for some help after a recent race in
Green Bay. While he was happy about qualifying for the Boston Marathon for 2008,
Richey was having trouble walking in the days following the Green Bay event. A
Thai massage was the answer.
"I was very stiff and couldn't hardly walk," said Richey, 41, who says he also
has used the Thai modality when he develops knots in his shoulder from sitting
at a computer all day. "I had a hard time with stairs and had to go backwards. I
went to the Thai massage and it felt great. I came out and the pain was gone,
the stiffness was gone. It was amazing.
Mazur was called on to massage members of the internationally known Riverdance
troupe when they performed at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center last year.
She performed Ashiatsu massage — a technique often mistaken for walking on
someone's back that actually involves the therapist supporting his or her weight
from bars and using the feet to work muscles. Lead dancers especially need to be
massaged every day, Mazur said, because of the extreme use of their muscles.
Healthy people without any specific health issues should get massages once a
Mazur, who said she is one of two people in the Fox Valley certified in Ashiatsu,
has been performing massage therapy for four years.
Growing up in the Ukraine, where massage is part of the medical system, Mazur
estimates that she received hundreds of massages growing up.
"My doctor would write a prescription for it," she said.
Local interest in Thai massage is growing, according to Mazur, who said she has
noticed that women talk about the mental component — they feel more relaxed and
happy — and men say they are more stretched, so they feel better.
Katie Cunningham, 34, of Grand Chute, has added Thai to her massage options.
"I still love getting the other type of massage because it's very relaxing, but
with Thai I feel more open and energized," Cunningham said. "The first time I
had it done it was almost a tingly kind of energy. It's definitely uplifting."
Thai may be the latest massage modality to find its way to the Fox Valley, but
it isn't alone in nontraditional massages available here. Among them are the
vichy shower water massage, which uses seven streams of hot water to relax
muscles. With the client facedown on a table and draped in a towel, shower heads
move up and down the body starting at the base of the neck.
"It's very stimulating, like lying in the rain," said Gina Van Boxtel, massage
therapist with Modacapelli in Appleton, who described the sensation as
Tori Pagel, a certified massage therapist with Salon de Amici in Neenah,
performs LaStone massages using hot and cold stones rather than hands to provide
"The only time I use my hands is when I apply the oil. Everything else is done
with the stones," Pagel said. "It's a deeper penetrating massage. It's very
relaxing, but you don't feel like you've been worked on when you leave."
Pagel uses the same types of massage movements as she would with her hands but
has been doing it so long that the stones — which are heated between 130 and 150
degrees — are like an extension of her hands. Also available is hot stone
massage, in which hot stones are placed onto the client's back at the end of a
Massage in general, according to Pagel, is "a path of exercise, so if you get
the right kind of massage, your muscles feel like you were exercising."
Toni Hoh: email@example.com