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What is yogamassage and why I became a certified yogamassage therapist

Most yogamassage stretches are unlike any other stretches you may have experienced with other massage techniques. At first I was surprised and curious. After testing them out I was amazed.

It all began when I started to look for a course to deepen my knowledge in anatomy and/or chemistry and widen my perspectives in teaching yoga. Every course that came close to this wish would have meant full time studies with much more in the list and this was not an option. One day, thanks to a Facebook post by a friend, I found a course organised by Axelsons Gymnastiska Institut. Yogamassage, very interesting, I thought. What is this?
When I read the course description, I knew that this was it! Ayurvedic yoga massage. A technique which works with breath, stretching and warming up the muscle tissue at the same time. A technique which combines ancient knowledge of yoga and Ayurveda and contemporary knowledge of the human body. From a master who has learnt from the Master.
Kusum Modak, the creator of this yogamassage technique, has been the pupil of one of the greatest yoga masters – B.K Iyengar. I am not a very big guru idolizer (guru means remover of darkness in Sanskrit but not all gurus remove darkness, quite the contrary) but Iyengar is a real guru who has inspired and helped many people. Iyengar proved his teacher was wrong when he initially underestimated the undernourished and sickly boy who later became an international phenomenon.
Iyengar yoga is known for using props and this, among many other things that I like about Iyengar yoga, really resonates with me – if the body cannot do an advanced pose, use a prop for alignment – put a block under your hand or use a blanket where appropriate.
Because each time we go over the limit, the body will compensate somewhere even if your mind does not realize it there and then. The more we go over the limit, the more compensating patterns develop. The aim of Iyengar yoga is to balance, not to tip the balance.
I have been enjoying every single moment of this yogamassage course. Half a year and 190 hours of theory and practice behind me, after about ca 50 yoga massage treatments to different people, I have learnt more about the human body than I ever could if I had read anatomy from books. I am awed by the humbleness of the teachers and and have deepest respect for Vandana whose wisdom and mastery of yogamassage technique is extraordinary.

Yogamassage, unlike ayurvedic massage in general, is not very widely known and popularized in the world. In Sweden there are around 200 yogamassage therapists. I will not join their ranks as I had another ambition level with the course. But the tools we acquired are really powerful. What’s more, if you think about how the body works, yogamassage principles make a lot of sense:

  • Always massage/treat the whole body. Tensions create chain reactions and travel from one place to another. Focusing only on the problem area is not effective, we may get away from the root cause not close to it.
  • Sometimes it is not possible to find the origin to a tension/pain but when the whole body is treated, the relief will still come.
  • Combining breathing with massage and stretches gives a miraculous effect – each time we exhale, the body relaxes and exhaling in the right moment (yogamassage therapist knows and instructs when) can induce the effect of a stretch.
  • Working with physical body will have a tremendous impact on the mental body. Some people get emotional, some people confused, some experience great relaxation. Nobody remains indifferent. The best way to find balance if tipped for whatever reason is to accept.
  • Using also feet for massaging (we do not put full weight on the person but distribute it by leaning on a chair) is extremely good way to give a deeper massage and stimulate the blood circulation and connective tissue – works wonders with athletes and everyone else who does not have a high blood pressure or other contraindications.
  • Most yogamassage stretches are unlike any other stretches you may have experienced with other massage techniques. At first I was surprised and curious. After testing them out I was amazed.
  • How often do you have your stomach massaged, intercostal muscles stretched and your diaphragm stimulated during a massage treatment? Well, in yogamassage you do. Has a wonderful effect on anyone, helps with stomach problems which can range from IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) to breathing issues.

This course has also been a journey of my personal growth. I certainly have developed a different and more qualitative relationship to human body including my own. I notice tensions and compensation patterns in people that I was not aware of before. I have also become much better in receiving treatments.
For control freaks this is the most difficult thing – to be able to let go. But when you receive a massage treatment from someone, reciprocal relationship is required. The person who is treating has to give and the person who is treated has to receive.
Being able to let go when receiving will multiply the effect of the treatment. Reading the body and adjusting the treatment and stretches to each individual will increase the value of giving. But those skills – listening, relaxing, trusting, giving and receiving require practicing.
One thing is sure though – if one can relax on the mattress (a special mattress, not a massage table), one can also apply those skills in other circumstances. Like everything in the human body is interconnected so is everything we do, think and say. Learning and giving yogamassage has proven once again how true this is. Thank you, Vandana, Johan and course teammates for an experience I will never forget!
Read more from Kairi Ilisons yoga blog here!