Zen Body Yoga + Wellness

Spreading the Zen to Tulsa!


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What is Thai Bodywork?

16Also called Thai Massage, Thai Bodywork is a combination of massage, Acupressure, energy meridian work and Yoga-like stretching.

Most people are familiar with “massage,” which involves working on the body’s musculature with compression and manual manipulation.  In the United States, massage is typically performed on a specialized table with techniques strongly influenced by Swedish massage, which became popular in the mid 1900’s via physicians in New York who practiced in the Swedish tradition, which includes rubbing and moving muscles with an ultimate goal of relaxation.

Thai Bodywork, by contrast, is deep, full-body work, incorporating Ayurvedic Principles. By relieving muscular tension, improving circulation, boosting the immune system and replenishing the body’s energy, the recipient leaves the session feeling physically and energetically blissful.

Thai Bodywork can be performed on a massage table or chair, but it is traditionally and most effectively performed on the floor, with the recipient lying on a comfortable mat and the practitioner kneeling or standing over her.  This allows the practitioner to use body mechanics and gravity to her advantage, promoting the longevity of her ability to perform massage, as well as allowing the use of elbows, knees and feet to apply deeper pressure when appropriate.

Progressing from the feet up, energy pathways are cleared, muscles are elongated, joints are mobilized, internal organs and all bodily functions are supported to move the client towards a more balanced state. While techniques of soothing muscle manipulation are used, the focus is on the health of the body rather than on relaxation.

History
13Touch is a vital part of healing, physical, mental and emotional, and healing touch has been in practice for centuries, perhaps since the dawning of mankind.

There is evidence of massage as an important practice in ancient Eqypt, as documented on tomb walls dated to 2500 BCE.  We have detailed information of the practice as an important part of Traditional Chinese Medicine from the 8th Century BCE, and we know that Thai Massage was codified as a healing system by 500 BCE.  Its practice is well documented by Ancient Greek scholars and in Biblical passages, as well as in the earliest extant Ayurvedic writings from India, circa 400 BCE. Trade routes between Egypt, Greece, China, and India have been in place since at least 2000 BCE, and it is likely that in addition to goods, knowledge and services were shared among the cultures.  Most scholars agree that Thai massage is strongly influenced by Ayurvedic massage from India as well as by methods of acupuncture and reflexology from China.

What is Ayurveda?
Ayurveda, which literally translates as the “science of life,” is a holistic medical science that has been practiced in India for at least 5,000 years.  Recognizing that human beings are part of nature, Ayurveda describes three fundamental energies that govern our inner and outer environments: movement, transformation, and structure. Known in Sanskrit as vata (air), pitta (fire), and kapha (earth), these primary forces, or doshas, are responsible for the characteristics of our mind and body. Each of us has a unique proportion of these three forces that shapes our nature. If vata is the primary dosha in our system, we tend to be thin, light, enthusiastic, energetic, and changeable. If pitta predominates in our nature, we tend to be intense, intelligent, athletic and goal-oriented, with a strong appetite for life. When kapha prevails, we tend to be easy-going, loyal, sturdy and nurturing. Although each of us has all three forces, most people have one or two elements that predominate.

For each element, there is a balanced and imbalance expression. When vata is balanced, a person is lively and creative, but when there is too much movement in the system, a person tends to experience anxiety, insomnia, dry skin, constipation, and difficulty focusing. When pitta is functioning in a balanced manner, a person is warm, friendly, disciplined, a good leader, and a good speaker. When pitta is out of balance, a person tends to be compulsive and irritable and may suffer from indigestion or an inflammation. When kapha is balanced, a person is sweet, supportive, and stable but when kapha is out of balance, a person may experience sluggishness, excess weight gain, and sinus congestion.

Ayurveda held a prominent place in the Buddha’s life during the 4th century BCE in India as he was attended by his personal Ayurvedic doctor, Javaka Kumar Bhaccha.  Although Buddhism is not widely practiced in India today, the Buddhist faith quickly spread east across Asia. Buddhism was widely accepted in Southeast Asia, and today, Thai people are predominantly Buddhist.  In fact, Dr. Javaka (or Shivago) is celebrated in Thailand as the honored guru of Thai Massage, and his belief in Loving Kindness is still invoked daily.

Unlike Ayurvedic Massage, no oil is applied during Traditional Thai Massage.  At Zen Body, however, essential oils may be applied depending on the client’s Ayurvedic constitution and any imbalances that may be present. Similarly, the practitioner’s touch, pace and sequencing will be directly suited to the client’s individual needs and imbalances.

12 “A Lazy Man’s Yoga”
Yoga and Ayurveda are “sister sciences,” both codified in India with the goal of promoting health.  In general, Ayurveda focuses on physical health and Yoga focuses on holistic mental health.  In regard to Thai Bodywork, the Yoga influence is seen in the stretching postures, which are a small part of the tradition of Yoga, but the best-known aspect of Yoga today, particularly in the West.

In Thai Bodywork, the recipient remains fully clothed and is positioned on a floor mat.  This enables the practitioner to move, stretch and bend the recipient into a variety of Yoga-inspired postures. In fact, this modality is often referred to as Thai Yoga Massage or Thai Yoga Therapy, and has been called the “lazy man’s Yoga,” although it most certainly is much more than that.

While similar to a Yoga practice in that the body is used as a gateway to access something deeper, in Thai Massage, there is no physical effort or strain, and it is often possible to achieve a deeper range of motion as the assisted stretching allows the recipient to completely relax, helping to establish greater flexibility by promoting length in muscle fibers and connective tissue.

Joint mobility, muscular flexibility, myofascial release and increased blood and lymph flow are just some of the benefits of this portion of Thai Bodywork.

 Acupressure and Meridian Energy Work
Acupressure is an important part of Thai Bodywork, with principles influenced by both Traditional Chinese Medicine and the Ayurvedic Tradition of Ancient India.  This pressure applied on particular points which lie along the body’s energy lines is believed to restore the energy balance throughout the body.

The energy itself is called chi or qi in China, ki in Japan, prana in India and lom in Thailand.  The energy is absorbed from the air we breathe and the food we eat, and moves through us along lines called meridians or channels in China, nadis in India and sen in Thailand.  All of these lines, whether meridians, nadis or sen, contain numerous points where small energy centers exist in correlation with various parts of the body.  These points are found where two or more types of tissue meet, such as muscles, veins, ligaments, bones or joints, and they include the major and minor chakras of the Indian system. Each tradition believes that blocked energy is the cause of disease and that massage helps keep the vital forces moving.

28Thai Bodywork at Zen Body
The feet are the first, and some say most important, parts of the body to be worked during Thai Bodywork.  There are a large number of nerve endings make the feet very responsive to touch.  This, along with the many reflex points associated with every part of the body, make foot work a focus of massage in cultures around the world, and Thai Massage is no exception. Zen Body’s Thai Reflexology stimulates energy channels by massaging the feet to promote balance and harmony, physically, mentally and emotionally. Organic coconut oil or almond oil as well as other essential oils may be applied depending on the client’s Ayurvedic constitution and any imbalances that may be present. Aromatic hot towels complete this very powerful and extremely pleasurable treat for tired and aching feet.

Following the foot massage, the practitioner uses her hands, forearms, elbows, knees and feet to work the entire body with compression, kneeding, and acupressure, stimulating and balancing the flow of the body’s own healing energy, releasing blockages and bringing the recipient deeper into balance and harmony. All the while, relaxing assisted stretches improve flexibility and range of motion, tense muscles are soothed, and specific trouble areas or physical limitations are treated as needed.

Zen Body’s Thai Bodywork also places emphasis on working the face, neck, ears and scalp.  These areas incorporate important energy points, so treating the head has beneficial effects on the entire body. Facial massage, including marma point acupressure, helps tired and overworked facial muscles relax from their contracted state. It removes any stress-induced blockages that are present in the muscles and in doing so, also ensures that the recipient feels relaxed and rejuvenated. Stimulation of specific points promotes lymphatic drainage and the circulation of blood. And as a bonus, regular massage can make frown lines disappear and make skin appear healthy and toned!

If you’re still not convinced that a full Thai Bodywork session is right for you, try a 30 minute Thai Reflexology session. You won’t regret it!


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What is Restorative Yoga?

Restorative YogaRestorative yoga is an excellent practice for all levels and is particularly recommended for those experiencing mental and emotional stress or turmoil, those with a Vata imbalance (feeling scattered, anxious, unable to concentrate), or individuals with chronic pain or difficulty sleeping.

This is a deeply restful and nurturing practice, designed to support the body with an assortment of yoga props, such as blocks, bolsters, blankets and sand bags so that you may remain in postures that help you feel safe and at ease.

Join me in this Restorative Yoga sequence to relax and renew your mind, body and spirit as you enjoy being present in comforting and grounded restorative postures.

Transitions

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Written by: Calista Evraets

Zen Body-74One of the things we often talk about in yoga practice is being present. Being present can mean a lot of different things, but lately I’ve noticed that while I don’t have too much difficulty being present with the each individual pose, I tend to ignore the transition from one pose to the next as if they were dead space. I’m in such a hurry to reach the next pose and be present, and I fail to notice the way I get there. Recently, I spent a couple of classes paying special attention to my body during those transitions. What was moving? What was stable? At what moment was the tension on a certain muscle released? Where did I feel the stretch as I moved into that forward fold?

With some exercises and poses, the majority of the muscle growth takes place during the return rather than the holding of the position or pose. I realized I’ve been wasting the potential for growth by rushing through the transitions to get to the next pose. Sometimes taking it slower results in a better physical workout!

Life often mirrors my yoga practice, and the transitions in my practice led me to note the transitions in my life. I’m too frequently guilty of rushing from one thing to the next without noticing the journey. As big life changes come along, I’m looking forward to the next phase, trying to hurry through the transition where I don’t feel that anything is happening. In doing so, I’ve missed the potential for personal growth. So much of life is a transition! How much did I gloss over in my haste to get to a better place?

I challenge you to notice the journey and the transitions, both in yoga and in life outside of your practice! It can be as simple as noting the change in the fall leaves from one work commute to the next, or using that drive time to listen to an audio book or some music that feeds your soul! It could come in the form of looking at how you’ve grown as you wait for that promotion you’re expecting, or for your baby to sleep through the night. What has changed? What has stayed stable? Be present today during your transitions, and see how much you can grow!


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Fueling Your Body: Pumpkin Overnight Oatmeal

Written by: Calista Evraets

blogWith our fast-paced, busy lifestyles, it can be hard to make time to nourish our bodies with healthy foods.  It’s easy to get caught up in the day and miss a meal, or settle for fast food because of time constraints.  This recipe is a great one because it’s easy to prepare in advance for breakfast, or to take along for lunch!

This is the time of year where people seem to go a little pumpkin crazy, but don’t discount the health benefits of this fall food!  Pumpkin is rich in vitamins A and C and beta carotene, has more potassium per serving than a banana, and is high in fiber.  It’s a great addition to your diet, especially when it’s not mixed with a lot of sugar!

Ingredients:
1/4 cup whole oats
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/3 cup milk
1/3 cup pumpkin puree
1 Tbsp Chia seeds (optional)
1 Tbsp chopped nuts (pecans or walnuts taste great in this recipe!)
Dash of cinnamon and cloves
Honey, maple syrup, or agave nectar to sweeten to taste (I use about 1Tbsp maple syrup)

Instructions:

Combine all ingredients in a jar and shake well.  Refrigerate at least 6 hours, until all liquid is absorbed.  Will keep 3-4 days in the refrigerator.

One of my favorite things about this recipe is how easy it is to customize.  As long as you keep the fruit, milk, oat, and yogurt ratios about the same, you can change it with what fruit is in season, or what you have on hand at home.  If pumpkin isn’t your thing, try omitting the spices and throwing in fresh or frozen berries instead!  Applesauce also makes an easy fruit replacement.  If you don’t do dairy, you can use coconut yogurt with a non-dairy milk option!  The combinations are nearly endless!


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10 Ways The Master Challenge Can Enrich Your Life

Written by: Calista EvraetsMaster Challenge FB

Have you ever noticed the chart outside the studio door and wondered what it’s all about? The chart is a simple way to track the number of classes you’ve attended. Each month presents a new opportunity to complete Zen Body Master Challenge! If you complete twenty-two classes in the calendar month, you’ll get a Zen Body Master Challenge t-shirt, but there are lots of other things you can gain from taking the challenge!

1. Yoga will become a regular part of your day.
Coming to a class at least five times per week will help you to make yoga a habit! It’s a big deal to plan to spend that much time at the studio, and you’ll find yourself planning your days around yoga classes. The next thing you know, you’re in the habit of setting aside time to practice!
2. Yoga skills will advance.
It goes without saying that practice makes perfect, but you might be amazed by how quickly your strength and stamina builds when you’re practicing almost every day.
3. You’ll feel better about your body.
This can come in a number of ways. Stronger, more toned muscles may help give you a boost of confidence. You may gain more appreciation of how amazing and strong your body is. You may feel a sense of gratitude toward your body as it carries you through each class.
4. Your posture will improve.
Yoga helps to strengthen the core muscles that surround the spine, so as your strength builds, you’ll find yourself walking taller!
5. Sleep may come easier.
Practicing meditation regularly can help condition your mind toward relaxing at the end of the day. Additionally, regular exercise can help to physically tire the body. If you work at a desk all day, your mind may be tired but your body may not have burned enough energy to be ready to settle down for restful sleep.
6. Planning around yoga classes can improve your diet.
After a few days of practice, you’ll start to learn which foods fuel your body to be active for your class. Since twenty-two classes is a big commitment of time, figuring out meals in advance may help you to eat a healthier diet.
7. Your stress levels may drop.
Eating better, sleeping better, and getting regular exercise can contribute to less stress, anxiety, and depression. Meditation will also give you a great outlet when you’re feeling stressed.
8. You will make new friends and build a community of encouraging people.
Yoga people are the BEST people! Every class is full of people making a similar commitment to their health and well-being. You might find yourself making plans with your yoga friends outside the studio!
9. It’s a great opportunity to try new classes.
Is there an instructor you’ve never taken a class from? Have you been meaning to try a restorative class, but haven’t found the time? Choose those new classes as part of your personal challenge!
10. You’ll feel confidence in your ability to reach a goal.
At the end of the month, when you reach your twenty-second class, you’ll be proud of your strength and follow-through!


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De-stress at the office with yoga stretches and breathing

Written By: Amy Miller

I see students in my yoga classes and private sessions every day with some issues relating to their work in offices, whether it’s low back pain from sitting, neck and shoulder pain from hunching forward over a keyboard, wrist pain from typing or using a mouse, or some other ailment from an unfriendly desk or chair.  All of this is compounded by the stress we feel in our daily lives and it leaves many of us aching from head to toe.

I can empathize.  I used to spend many hours sitting at a desk and there have been times in my life when I have been a regular at the Chiropractor’s office.  Since I’ve been doing yoga regularly, though, I’ve been relatively pain free.  I know getting to a yoga class daily isn’t an option for everyone, so I’ve created this video for you with a few exercises you can do at your desk that will have you feeling better soon!

Making these yoga exercises a part of your routine can decrease or even eliminate body pain, fatigue and tension and increase overall muscle strength and flexibility, and can even relieve headaches.

What Will Help You Bloom?

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Written by: Calista Evraets

IMG_20151008_131019As an avid gardener, I often find interesting parallels between my own life and my work in the garden. One of the challenges that I love about gardening is figuring out what a plant needs in order to bloom. Sometimes when I plant a new type of flower, it just doesn’t thrive the way I’d hoped it would. Then I have to do some research and figure out what I can do to help it along. Is it getting the right amount of sunlight? Is the soil too acidic or too basic? Maybe I’m over-watering. I recently noticed that while it’s easy to do research about my plants, it’s a lot harder where my own growth is concerned!

Perhaps you see a similar situation in your own life. Our lives are dynamic, and we continue to grow and change with our environments. Do you feel like you’re stuck in a rut? Has your routine become monotonous to the point where you don’t feel like you’re moving forward anymore? Maybe your stress levels are high and you feel as if you’re constantly running around without any time to enjoy the present. What can you change to feel more at peace in your daily life? For some of us, it may mean breaking out of the routine, trying something new, or exploring a new hobby or schedule. For others, it may mean cutting back on new calendar items, or saying no to some of the requests for our time and energy.

The same thing can hold true in our yoga practice. Many of us began our yoga journey as a way of achieving personal growth. Practice can become routine and static, and we may need to branch out and try something different. If you’ve focused on high intensity classes with lots of movement, maybe it’s time to try the stillness of a restorative class. Maybe you haven’t put as much focus on the meditation aspect of yoga, and you would benefit from a Kundalini class. If you’ve felt afraid to try something outside your comfort zone, you might appreciate the confidence that comes from taking an aerial workshop and realizing the amazing things your body can do! If you’ve felt your practice needs some fine tuning, it might be a great time to schedule a private session, where you can work one on one with an instructor.
One of my favorite things about yoga is this: I’ve found that when I make changes to my practice to achieve personal growth, other aspects of my life tend to slip into a healthier path with less struggle. My stress levels improve, I find strength and confidence, and I’m able to be present in my life, rather than always looking forward to the next minute, hour, or day. I encourage you to give some thought to what you need to bloom! You might be surprised at the answers you find!