From the temples of Thailand to Down East — Thai yoga gaining popularity

Posted May 18, 2011, at 1:28 p.m.
Last modified May 18, 2011, at 2:21 p.m.
Britta Sunde, owner of Advanced Massage Therpay and Wellness Center in East Machias.
Britta Sunde, owner of Advanced Massage Therpay and Wellness Center in East Machias.
Thai massage is a type of massage in Thai style that involves stretching and deep massage.
Thai massage is a type of massage in Thai style that involves stretching and deep massage.

Pain, stress — in fact, much of the outside world — seem to disappear under the capable hands and movements of Thai yoga massage master Britta Sunde.

This is not your traditional lie-on-a-mat and move in oddly twisted positions kind of yoga. Thai yoga massage, also called Nuad Boran and widely known as traditional Thai massage, is an ancient healing art, a practice that Sunde calls “a dance between the client and the practitioner.”

Sunde, who has trained at the world-famous Integral Yoga Institute in New York City, is gaining a strong following Down East at her Advanced Massage Therapy and Wellness Center.

“This is just amazing,” Jude Valentine of Eastport said of her Thai yoga massage sessions. “I have never felt more physically whole.”

She said it has increased her sense of well-being and allowed her to move more freely without pain.

“Both my husband and I attribute the massage work to reducing stress, improving circulation, increasing energy, and increasing flexibility and range of motion in stiff joints. I find visits to her office to be like stepping into a peaceful oasis in the midst of these crazy times,” she said.

“You know that wonderful feeling you get when you stretch?” Sunde asked. “When you are actively stretching, like first thing in the morning, it is completely different from the healing benefits of passive stretching.”

In a Thai session, Sunde guides each client through a series of yoga postures while she works her palms and thumbs along the body’s energy lines and pressure points. The client is clothed and completely passive.  

“This is a 2,000-year-old form of body work that originated in India, but really took off in the temples of Thailand,” Sunde said recently at her East Machias studio.

“It’s really about compassion,” Sunde said. “It is a healing tool.”

A Thai session combines deep tissue techniques with deep passive stretching to create flexibility, improve circulation and alleviate muscular pain and tension.

Sunde says Thai yoga massage is intentionally practiced in a quiet setting. “It really is meditative and quiet,” she said. “It connects and makes you aware of your own body.

“In comparison to regular Swedish massage, it is much more engaging,” she said. Sunde enjoys this connection with her clients. As she speaks of the art of healing massage, Sunde talks of putting her clients first, of helping them deal with their physical problems.

“I’m committed to learning more and more all the time and providing the best service for my clients,” she said.

Sunde has been a nationally certified and licensed masseuse for 15 years and has been practicing her art at East Machias for the past 10 years. Two years ago, she received intensive schooling in New York City for Thai yoga massage, attracted to the art by the needs of her clients.

“About 99 percent of my clients have restrictions in movement,” she said. “While I believe stretching is absolutely key to their recovery, not everyone is faithful about doing exercises on their own. Now I can use Thai yoga massage to do stretches with the client.”

Sunde said the practice is very therapeutic and very healing. Used in combination with Sunde’s therapy massage, it can be a life-changing experience.

“Not only is it a nonintrusive form of body work, but the client remains fully clothed throughout,” she explained. Sunde places the client in yoga positions and massages various muscles and areas, learning even more about the stresses and pain her clients carry.

“When I go back to regular massage, I know exactly what area and muscles need work,” she said. “This teaches me so much about sensitivity and tuning in.”

From her 10-year-old son to 70-year-old clients, Thai yoga massage requires no experience and has no age limit.

Sunde said she also offers medical massage, manual lymph drainage, Swedish massage and myofascial release, but she really loves to combine them all.

“It really brings it all into balance,” she said.

Sunde may be reached at 255-8989.

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