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3 ways to open the heart with Thai Yoga Massage. By Natasha de Grunwald
Feeling anxious, stressed or overwhelmed? Is this affecting the relationship you have with yourself and your partner?
One of the most effective ways of reducing these feelings is to access the heart’s intelligence. Through shifting the rhythms of the heart, the whole body responds and the brain (part of the central nervous system) switches off the fight, flight and freeze response. In the body, the nerves and vessels intertwine with each other whilst co-creating health between the heart and brain (and let’s not forget the gut, sometimes known as the third brain).
Whilst many people think the brain is the biggest communicator it is actually in constant communication with the heart, which is sending more information to the brain than the other way round.
In ancient Thailand, the Shamans, traditional doctors and healers, understood this vital connection and in Thai medical theory these two organs were never seen as separate. The Thai word to describe the heart and mind is ‘Jit Jai’ meaning ‘heart-mind’.
The body has many Jit-Jai points which can be gently worked on in Thai bodywork to connect the pathways between the heart and mind. This touch technique, whilst gentle, is incredibly powerful and deeply therapeutic.
Activating these points will create instantaneous coherent alignment for the heart-mind, resulting in a sense of peace, calm and relaxation. Jit-Jai points are gently pressed in a specific pattern and take a skilled touch.
One of the incredible and lesser-known aspects of Thai Massage is that the interaction itself has profound benefits, for both the giver and the receiver.
The heart, mind and emotions of both participants can become aligned through this style of focussed and healing touch which dates back to ancient times.
Thai Yoga Massage is a diverse bodywork modality. It is known for its visual stretches and deep pressure, but it is so much more than that.
It is primarily Buddhist medicine; the Buddha taught ways to live a harmonious and healthy life. The massage itself is carried out with a lot of focus, being in the present, having breath awareness and practicing compassion through touch.
Here are three simple Thai Yoga Massage techniques to help you and your partner reconnect and ease away those troubles of the heart-mind bringing you into deeper connection with yourself and each other.
These should be practiced in order from gentle to deep. I believe that whilst you practice these techniques it is best to start gently so you and your partner can familiarise yourselves with light touch before going deeper.
Before you start carrying out the techniques there are a few tips to focus on for safety and self-care:
• Take a moment to become present and relax your breath. Place your hands together in a prayer position. Ask for guidance from any deities, teachers, guides you have a connection to.
• You should always slowly apply pressure: never land heavily on your partner’s body as it may hurt them.
• Always ease the touch off again: we want to avoid any sudden movements because it is not pleasant or relaxing.
• Ask for feedback so you know that the pressure is right.
Simple Jit-Jai point. This is a very gentle/subtle technique with no pressure (which would be dangerous).
• Have your partner lie down on their back.
• Sit next to them.
• Very gently place your hand (flat) on their sternum (breastbone).
• You should only have the weight of your hand on them.
• Do not lean any more than this onto their body.
• Imagine your hand melting through the layers of their body and connecting with their heart.
• As you rest your hand here also bring attention to any information you are receiving with your hand.
• There is a heart-mind point in the centre of your palm.
• Hold still for a few minutes, do not rush this as it is a beautiful, connecting and relaxing technique.
• You should both feel calm and connected during this technique.
• Outstretch your partner’s arms and step over them so you have one foot on the floor and are kneeling on the other knee.
• Put one hand either side of the front of their shoulders (on the pectoral muscle).
• Keep your arms straight and move your weight so you lean onto both hands. Your partner should feel that this opens their chest a little (counter moving the usual rolling forwards of the shoulders).
• Repeat a few times. Leaning in and out, always easing on and off.
• Have your partner sit on the floor with their legs in front or cross-legged.
• Take their left hand and place it on their right shoulder.
• Hold their bent arm at the elbow with your right hand.
• Use your left hand to guide your partner gently into a twist to the right.
• Repeat on the left with their right hand on the left shoulder and twist them gently to the left. The hand which is not working can be guiding them into a twist between the shoulder blades.
• Ask for feedback so you know how far to take this technique. This is not a deep twist but should feel effective and creates space between the shoulder blades.
All Images © Thai Massage Dissected (Natasha de Grunwald), Handspring Publishing 2021