Yogassage

Instructor helping client in yoga pose
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Combining both the practice of yoga and techniques of massage therapy, yogassage incorporates some participation from the client in addition to therapeutic touch from the massage practitioner. This treatment uses breathwork and stretching to ease muscle soreness, encourage injury recovery, and promote overall relaxation.

What Is Yogassage?

Yogassage likely developed from Thai massage, which also uses assisted yoga poses to stretch muscles and mobilize the body during treatment. Typically, yogassage will be performed in one-on-one treatment sessions by a massage therapist who is also trained as a yoga instructor. Some yogassage is offered in a class setting with multiple instructors or practitioners who aid clients throughout the session. All parties generally remain clothed during yogassage, though as nude yoga gains popularity, so may nude yogassage.

The amount of client participation and movement during a yogassage session depends on the client’s abilities and comfort level. Sessions are not meant to be aerobic but focus on body awareness, deep breathing, and grounding. Practitioners typically focus on relatively simple yoga poses so clients who are beginners can hold poses, maintain balance, and use muscles to build core strength with being overly challenged or needing to expend too much effort.

Yogassage takes the work out of yoga by calling upon the massage practitioner to manipulate the muscles and limbs into various movements and stretches. These movements counteract the daily stress and pressure we put on our joints and bones. Though every session will vary depending on one’s needs and comfort level, there are a few commonly used yoga positions that combine easily with therapeutic techniques:

  1. Downward-facing dog (adho mukha svanasana): The client holds this pose while the therapist pulls back on the front of the client’s thighs, creating a gentle hamstring stretch and bringing the heels closer to the ground. The therapist may also stand in front of the client and put pressure on the lower back, easing day-to-day tension carried in that area.
  2. Cross-legged sit (sukhasana): This simple seated posture allows the massage therapist to apply pressure on the tops of the shoulders, rotate the arms, or pull the elbows back to create a pectoral stretch.
  3. Seated forward fold (paschimottanasana) or child’s pose (balasana): Adding a forward fold to the simple cross-legged seated posture or moving to the knees as in child’s pose exposes the entire back for the therapist. Any kneading or palming techniques counteract posture issues or daily gravitational pressure on the vertebrae. The massage practitioner may also grasp the wrists and pull forward to deepen this hip-opener pose and create a stretch through the arms and into the shoulders and upper back.
  4. Corpse pose (savasana): With the client lying on their back, a massage therapist can bend, stretch, or rotate any limb. Pulling on the ankles or wrists, raising and lowering the legs, or bending the knees into the chest all create gentle ways of stretching muscles, releasing tension, and promoting relaxation.

What to Know Before a Yogassage Session

Clients seeking yogassage need not be particularly limber or flexible, and it is not necessary to have experience in yoga to receive yogassage. Poses can be adjusted to fit almost anyone, regardless of age, experience, or ability. Yogassage may be good for someone who prefers a more interactive massage experience, a clothed massage, or a heavily assisted yoga practice.

Any professional who performs yogassage should be appropriately credentialed. Check to make sure the individual is a licensed massage therapist, as well as a certified yoga instructor, before scheduling an appointment. For a greater understanding of what to expect from a yogassage experience, search YouTube for clips that show sample sessions.

Benefits of Yogassage

Both practicing yoga and receiving massage therapy can help reduce a person’s stress levels and encourage body-mind wellness. The combination of yoga and massage puts an emphasis on breathwork and relaxation throughout the session, facilitating a mindful approach to melting away tension.

Traditional massage allows the client to completely relax while lying on the massage table but is often limited primarily to this horizontal posture. Yogassage, in contrast, is able to incorporate other postures, including some inversion, which helps counteract gravitational pressure. For instance, the downward-facing dog position inverts the spine, allowing it to decompress from its usual upright position. This alleviates strain on the whole spine, but especially the lower back, where many people carry aches and tension. A massage therapist can even further aid this decompression by applying light pressure in strokes from the base of the spine to the neck while a client is in downward-facing dog pose.

Contraindications of Yogassage

Though yogassage draws from two ancient practices and is not an entirely new discipline, it is not yet researched or widely studied. Some professionals who practice yogassage also offer workshops, but it is not currently taught in an organized academic capacity–for example, for continuing education credits. This makes it all the more important to find a professional who is credentialed in both massage and yoga.

Yogassage is not meant to be strenuous or difficult and should be able to be tailored to anyone’s abilities, but some individuals may find the stretches or movements uncomfortable or painful due to injury, joint issues, or other factors. Consult with a professional to see whether yogassage is right for you before making an appointment.

 

References:

  1. Field, T., Hernandez-Reif, M., Diego, M., Schanberg, S., & Kuhn, C. (2005). Cortisol decreases and serotonin and dopamine increase following massage therapy. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16162447
  2. List of yoga poses: A-Z asana guide. (2017). Yoga Journal. Retrieved from http://www.yogajournal.com/pose-finder
  3. Prairie Yogi. (2013) Thai Yin Yogassage. Retrieved from http://www.prairieyogimagazine.com/2013/03/thai-yin-yogassage.html
  4. Swicord, M. (2011, November 12). Yogassage and more… Retrieved from https://zuddhiyoga.wordpress.com/2011/11/12/yogassage-and-more
  5. Wenig, J. (2013). Yogassage routine demo. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BuimqpmDZfc
  6. Yoga for anxiety and depression. (2009). Harvard Mental Health Letter. Retrieved from http://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/yoga-for-anxiety-and-depression