Monday, July 25, 2011

Thai Yoga Massage

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how ironic and sad it is that I work at the Pyramid and hardly ever get to take a class from another instructor. Equally ironic and sad is that I am constantly surrounded by excellent massage therapists, and I am almost never able to receive a massage. So it was especially valuable to me last Wednesday when I was able to receive a Thai Yoga Massage (TYM) from local Yoga instructor and TYM therapist Tammy Brown.

There is no question that Tammy's reputation as a Yoga instructor preceeds her everywhere she goes, but many people do not realize that she also offers TYM. Although I had seen it demonstrated at various wellness fairs throughout the country, my first TYM experience was with Tammy just a few years ago. Soon after I officially met her, she let  me know that she was going through training in TYM and needed guinea pigs. Wait--stop--twist my arm! So I was lucky enough to be one of her first "clients."

Fast forward to 2011 and I am committed to my own plan of self-care more than ever. That plan includes the things you might expect from someone at the Pyramid--daily exercise, healthy eating, meditation, and plenty of sleep. But working at the Pyramid, I also have access to an almost limitless array of other services--the Salt Cave, the Halotherapy Room, the Oxygen Bar, the Nautilus circuit, the inversion table, and over 40 different instructors and practitioners. So part of my plan includes partaking in as many of these offerings as I can, as often as I can. So when the opportunity to receive another TYM from Tammy presented itself, I could not refuse.

Of course, I have had the pleasure of many Thai Yoga massages from Tammy over the years, but schedules had gotten in the way and Tammy and I had not been able to connect for a while. This particular day was a day that I definitely was in need of some work, and Tammy's session was exactly what I needed.

One of the things I respect the most about Tammy is her precision. Whereas my Yoga training and interest have been mostly in the philosophy of Yoga, Tammy is clearly also an expert on alignment. Her attention to detail and form in the classroom is equally present in her massage sessions, and from the moment it begins, you know that Tammy is going to make sure that you are in proper form, that you get the most benefit from the massage, and that you do not injure yourself during it.

Those not familiar with TYM may not understand these references; although there are some traditional massage techniques used in TYM, a TYM session is so much more than a traditional massage. This type of treatment allows the recipient to remain rather passive as the therapist actively moves him or her through a series of postures designed to stretch and release the muscles. Some might liken TYM to a Yoga class where the instructor moves your body for you. Because it is an assisted process, often the therapist will help you get a deeper stretch while supporting your body for an intensity that you cannot safely get on your own.

Beyond her clinical precision, though, there is just something special about Tammy. Do not let her quiet presence fool you...she is a powerhouse of wellness expertise. She will greet you at the start of your session, ask some questions to get a sense of how to create a safe, positive experience, and then she will go to work with a smile. I'll admit--sometimes I like to open my eyes during a session sneak a peek at her working, because she is in her bliss when she is able to do TYM. Everything...her music choice, the way she prepares the massage room, and her soothing touch all work together with her expertise to create a special experience like none other.

During the massage I also find myself opening my eyes to see how she is doing what I am feeling, because sometimes the feel of it defies logic and I cannot picture what bizarre things she must be having to do so it can feel like that to me. I am often in awe at the workout that she must get during a TYM session, because in any given moment, she could be crouching over your back, pressing her foot into your hamstring, squeezing the back of your neck with her palms, or some combination of these and more. It definitely takes skill to provide a Thai Yoga Massage.

As she works, I find myself in my own state of bliss. No one can deny the benefit of human touch, and Tammy's calming, Reiki-infused touch is incredible. I immediately feel my heart rate slow down, my blood pressure relax, and my muscles melt down into the floor. For this one hour, I do not have to think...I just have to allow and breathe. I trust Tammy to move my body through the session, and by the end, I feel completely relaxed and ready to move on to the rest of my day. By the end of my session on Wednesday, I found myself wondering why I do not do this more often. Oh, yeah--schedules, money, time. And in those post-TYM bliss moments, I tell myself that there is nothing more important than my wellness, and I need to make time and budget for it accordingly.

Thai Yoga Massage with Tammy Brown: $70/session
TYM Benefits: blissfully priceless

If you would like to try a TYM session, please call us at 802-775-8080.

Thanks, Tammy, for an amazing session, and for being part of the Pyramid team!

William Kelley
Pyramid Holistic Wellness Center

Friday, July 1, 2011

A little piece of Heaven...for $6!!!

It's kind of embarrassing to say but although I work at the Pyramid and am surrounded by wonderful instructors all day long, I almost never get to take a class from another instructor because I am almost always teaching my own classes. But last night the stars lined up and I was able to take Darlene Kepner's Upbeat Yoga class.

Once I recovered from the shock of being able to actually take a class (and I think once Darlene was able to recover from the shock, too!) I spread out my mat and water, turned off my cell phone, and sat down on the floor with the other students. I had honestly never sat on the floor facing that direction, and I was pleasantly surprised to see the mountain view and feel the cooling breeze entering through the third floor windows. In those few minutes, I enjoyed the scene--Darlene happily preparing for her class, checking in with new students and setting the mood with her excellent taste in music. I wasn't sure what to expect for the music from an "upbeat" class, but I soon fell into the rhythmic world music, enjoying the change from the usual new age class music. My breathing slowed down and I found myself slipping into a familiar state of peace.

Darlene has a voice that is so easy to hear and follow. Even her instructions were calming. I felt reassured, because her confidence in her teaching and herself came through. I knew I was in good hands when she started inviting us into her interpretation of the practice of Yoga.

Although the class started gently, it did not take long for me to work up a sweat. Downward dog...chair posture...planks. My type of class! And yet Darlene did a wonderful job of showing alternatives for every level. I watched as even the beginners in the class could follow and enjoy her non-judgmental style. The more advanced participants were also challenged. That is the joy of taking classes in Vermont for me--in more urban areas, there are so many people taking classes that they can split them up by level, so you would choose to attend a beginner, intermediate, or advanced class. But in Vermont, because we do not have the popularion, all levels are usually combined. I enjoy this especially because although I have been practicing Yoga for 20 years and teaching it for over ten, there are days when I want a gentler class...there are times when my body feels like it needs a beginner level. And then there are days when I really want to bust it out and use my practice to release serious stress and build strength. A mixed level class allows you to work at your own pace without feeling pressure to conform to the level of those around you. And although I consider myself a more advanced Yoga student, I wasn't created with the typical "Yoga body" so it is often more work for me than the average person to get into the asanas. In a mixed level class, it is always nice to be reminded of the basic cues, and it is great to see how others challenge themselves. In short, a mixed level class allows you to grow in ways that one might not imagine--and I was definitely not disppointed in Darlene's class.

I have to admit that the class went by quickly. I don't know whether I was just in a zone or I was so craving the experience of taking someone else's class that I was in what positive psychologists call "flow" and the experience of time was dramatically sped up for me. Either way, I watched and learned from Darlene's expert teaching style and had a wonderful time.

As we moved into the final few moments of class, I checked in with my body. I forgot how good it feels to just follow along with someone else leading, and especially when the instructor is as wonderful as Darlene. I felt awesome--energized and relaxed at the same I had just taken a mini-vacation. I looked around at the other students and imagined that they were feeling the same way I was. For a moment, I felt connected to everything and everyone. While that is definitely one of the goals of Yoga practice, I realized how easy it is in this life to feel disconnected. In that moment I realized that too much lately I have felt disconnected. Like many, I've felt more in the flow of work than the flow of the universe. Even instructors can fall into this pattern. As I rested in corpse pose, I felt a disconnected sadness that I had never experienced in my practice before, and I knew that I have to make some changes.

To say that this experience was intense is an understatement. It was one that came just at the right time that I needed it. It would not be an exaggeration to say that this class positively changed my life. And when I think of the small investment that I made--an hour of my time and $6--I feel so blessed to be surrounded by the tools to truly make a difference in my own life and the lives of those around me. Experiencing this class reminded me of why I wanted to keep our class prices at $6 in the first place--because I do not believe that the practice of Yoga should be reserved for the world's elite. Everyone should have access to a class like I took last night. I have so much respect and gratitude for our instructors who have also committed to this mission of affordable instruction.

With Darlene's smile and soothing encouragement, with the energy of the other students, the music, and the beautiful atmosphere of the ballroom studio at the Pyramid, it was easy to see why so many people take classes. And it was easy for me to recommit to myself to make sure that I take classes as often as I can. 

Of course there will always be things that come up--board meetings, emergency clients, facilities issues, and more--but aren't we all worth taking the time to invest in ourselves? 

I cannot wait for my next awesome class with Darlene--and the other wonderful Pyramid instructors. 

Darlene currently teaches Upbeat Yoga on Thursdays at 7 PM, Sun Salutation Sunday on Sundays at 10:30 AM, and Gentle Yoga on Mondays at 4 PM. For the full Pyramid class schedule, please visit our website:

Thank you, Darlene, and thanks to everyone!

William Kelley
Pyramid Holistic Wellness Center and
Pyramid Fitness