Yoga Or Massage?

By Renee’ Fulkerson

Yoga or massage? I say both!

Massage is – manipulation of tissues (as by rubbing, kneading, or tapping) with the hand or an instrument for relaxation or therapeutic purposes.

My first professional massage was gifted to me many years ago by my then-boyfriend now-husband. It was at a very high-end spa and included a long soak in a beautiful tub surrounded by candles and flowers. Once warm and relaxed after my soak. I was ready for the massage part of the package. A gentleman entered the room, draped me with linens, and applied warm oil. His massage strokes began long down my back. I remember thinking to this feels so good. I understand now why people enjoy and will splurge on a massage for themselves or gift to another. Although, there was a point during the massage where I did feel some discomfort. At that time, I did not understand why? I thought to why would this gentleman want to add some pain to all of this pleasure? I haft to laugh at myself when I think back to being so naive.

Fast forward to several years later in what seemed like a different lifetime. I now was a licensed massage practitioner. At the beginning of my practice, I did offer more of a relaxed feel good only massage. Because at the time, I was a licensed esthetician and was transitioning my skincare clients into my massage clients. An opportunity came to relocate. And I soon found myself gravitating from the spa setting style of massage to offering pre and post-race massage at downhill mountain bike races. I did feel a bit out of my element at first but, I adapted quickly and found my stride. From then I was hooked on offering a more sports-friendly massage style. That is not to say the athlete did not feel relaxed. After all, I was relieving some aches and pains. Fast forward to many years later and what seemed like a different lifetime. I was married with a house and a new baby boy I decided I wanted to become a yoga teacher. Again I started more in the feel-good realm with music, candles, and essential oils. At that point, my husband and I had an outfitting backpacking business. And space next door became available and, a yoga studio was born.

As life continued, an opportunity came about to relocate to the Island of Kauai.  Where I soon began my YogAlign teacher training with Michaelle Edwards. The founder of the YogAlign Method. I came back to a more anatomy-based yoga teaching style to go along with my sports massage technique. For now, and in the past, I am always learning new things and having new ideas. It feels good to be building off of the skills and knowledge I already have.

When coming back to massage therapy, I think about what that means for me today. Massage therapy has continued to play a role in my life and is a part of the YogAlign method. Self-massage is a piece of the YogAlign practice. It can be with your own hands, various size balls, or a little extra attention from the teacher. Either way, it feels good even when you are your massage therapist. Another way massage plays a part in my life is going back to get a client on the massage table. And depending on why they are on the table in the first place dictates how I will proceed. For some, it is the everyday aches and pains of a life well-lived. And for others, it could be more specific. An example may be a recent injury, recovery from surgery, or postural abnormalities such as Thoracic Kyphosis or Lumbar Lordosis. 

I tend to think of Kyphosis and Lordosis as hills and valleys of the spine and back. With committed YogAlign practice, you can achieve incredible results when dealing with posture issues and deformities. But, massage therapy can also add a lot of value. By working with massage techniques towards and away from the spine and focusing on the hills and valleys idea, you can self-heal. I have seen and experienced this myself. All while manipulating the fascia of these two areas produces positive results. Kyphosis gives a hunchback appearance in the upper back that I consider the hill. Where Lordosis has a swayback appearance right above the buttocks that I think of as a valley. Therefore when massaging a Kyphotic back. I am going to use manipulation that works the superficial back line fascia medially towards the spine. Creating space and freeing the tissues for more movement. The opposite would be correct for the Lordotic issue also, known as swayback. I would massage the superficial back line fascia laterally away from the spine. Creating length and possibly alleviating some of the compression. The possibilities are endless to the benefits a massage therapy session can yield.

Lastly, self-massage is also a part of my daily routine, as is YogAlign, and if I have sometime in the morning before I get out of bed. I like to do a quick foot, leg, and low back rubdown especially, when I have taken a long walk/ hike the day before. At the end of the day after, a nice shower, and before I go to sleep. I allow myself an hour in bed to quietly decompress from the day. This time includes full foot and leg, arms and fingers, back and scalp self-massage. There are times this does not happen but, it always happens in my YogAlign practice. So, I am covered.

When looking for a yoga class or massage practitioner, always check their credentials, ask questions and make sure it is the right fit for you and your personal needs.