Could a Thai massage be the answer I’ve been looking for? That is, a relaxing way to stretch but with someone else doing the work? I’m not a fan of stretching (although I recognize it’s beneficial). I often get bored and restless (what can I say, I’m impatient by nature), and also, I view my workout as my run itself, and when I’m done running, I just want to hop my sweaty body into the shower and be done with my workout, not prolong it all with stretches. I realize this is the wrong way to view stretching — please don’t follow suit! I’m terribly, terribly inflexible since I rarely stretch.
But Thai massage would help stretch me, right? Since Thai massage therapy was launched a few months ago at the Miraj Caudalie Hammam and Spa at the Shangri-La Hotel in Toronto, and I was invited to try it out, I was very eager to learn what it was all about. At the time, I was in the midst of training for spring races so I felt like it was a great time to test it out and learn more about it. Here’s what I learned:
What to expect in the treatment room and what to wear for Thai massage? The first difference you’ll notice about a Thai massage is that there is no massage table; instead there is a Thai yoga mat on the floor (think thicker and covering a wider area than a typical yoga mat). Also, there are no lotions or oils used in this type of massage. And finally, rather than strip down to your skivvies as you would for a Swedish massage, you are fully clothed for a Thai massage. At the Shangri La, they recommend loose, comfortable clothing you can easily move around in (I’d forgotten a set of clothes, but the spa was able to loan me some leisure gear for my treatment).
What are the roots of Thai massage? It’s a healing art form based along what are called energy or sen lines, explained Celia Au of the Miraj Caudalie Spa. “These energy lines are closely following the circulatory system, and so when you work along these energy lines, a couple of things happen. Energy lines can be blocked, and some people may hold a lot of stress and anxiety and when having these compressions during a Thai massage and working along sen lines, they unblock these energy channels, balancing out the energy levels,” explained Celia. As such, your Thai massage can be a relaxing treatment but it can also be energizing treatment with psychological benefits as well.
What movements can you expect in Thai massage? Rather than the long, slow strokes you know from Swedish massage, the movements in a Thai massage are gentle and incorporate compression and flowing exercise movements. If you do yoga, you’ll likely recognize many movements as being similar to yoga postures. “It has been called the lazy man’s way of doing yoga,” said Celia. But don’t give up your yoga class just yet. While the movements are similar, the therapist is doing it for you. On the one hand, this can be good for you (Because the therapist is putting you into your stretch, you can allow yourself to completely relax and focus on your breathing). Compare this to a yoga class where you may be focusing on your balance and your core, or lengthening your spine.
What benefits can you expect from Thai massage? It will get blood flowing to your muscles amd increase your mobility. “When yo u’re doing a rocking motion, for example, you’re actually lubricating the joint and that’s where the integrity of the stretch comes into play,” says Celia. And depending on the type of practice, the breathing is a meditative part of the treatment. “It improves of your own breath; the breathing and rhythmic movement during treatment almost puts you in a trance-like form.”
Who would benefit from Thai massage? “It’s beneficial for anyone, but I would say for someone who’slooking to increase range of motion, or who wants to familiarize themselves with stretching, or someoen who wants to try yoga. Also, someone who’s very active, such as an athlete, since a lot of the time they can have a build up of lactic acid in muscles, and they get tight with activity and it can help having someone stretch them,” says Celia. She says people who old a lot of anxiety or who are looking for mental clarify can benefit from the treatment as well. Above all, she says to come try it with an open mind. “Some people might think it’s too active a massage for them, but it’s actually slow movements.”
Thai massage, 75 minutes, $210, Miraj Hammam Spa by Caudalie, Shangri-La Hotel Toronto.
August 10, 2015
When my favourite luxury hotel launches a new wellness package, you don’t have to ask me twice if I’m interested. The Shangri-La Toronto launched the “Running is Shangri-La” package this month and I was fortunate enough to enjoy a staycation at the hotel to try it out.
Along for the fun were my friends (and fellow #werunSF half-marathon racers last fall) Sasha Exeter of SoSasha and Justine Iaboni of Jetset Justine.
The four new run routes launched with this package have been designed to allow travelers to see different areas of Toronto and were amended and approved by Ben Kaplan, editor of iRun magazine and author of Feet, Don’t Fail Me Now. They include:
- a 3k route, which takes you by the historic St. Lawrence Market and through the financial district (and you get great views of the CN Tower)
- a 4k route, which takes you north up University Avenue so you get to sightsee Queen’s Park and University of Toronto
- a 5k route, which takes you west to the cool Queen St. W. shops and to Trinity Bellwoods Park
- a 20k run (or less — you simply can turn around earlier for a shorter run) that takes you along the waterfront path by Lake Ontario
Ben told me the routes were designed to include interesting sights for visitors to the city, but to also minimize stops at traffic lights. He also said that he had to encourage the hotel to include one longer route than 5k, something which I personally appreciate being a marathon runner.
I, along with Sasha, Justine and a few Shangri-La team members, and Mike from Black Toe Running (a running shop in Toronto) joined Ben for the 3k run on the sunny morning.
The run brought us by Roy Thompson Hall and St. James Cathedral in addition to the other sights mentioned. My only concern about this route? Will people using this route make the stop into St. Lawrence Market? Too many delicious goods inside to just simply run by it! That’d be a shame.
Besides running, the Shangri-La in partnership with Lululemon now also offers some fantastic in-room yoga instruction featuring Lululemon yoga ambassador Amber Joliat.
The suites each include a yoga mat and you access the 25-minute yoga video on your suite’s television, so you can stretch out and improve your breath work in the privacy of your room. I took advantage of it after our quick morning run and it was a nice way to ease into the rest of my day (and I’m normally not into stretching, I’m usually just keen on getting on with my day in a hurry, but Amber’s calming instruction really resonates with me).
And, of course, there is also the top-notch Health Club you can take advantage of, including state of the art equipment and classes such as kettlebell, Spin and yoga (given my short staycation, I didn’t have time to check this out myself this time!).
Anyone who follows a healthy lifestyle, though, knows that fitness is only part of the equation. What you eat is such an important component, and this hasn’t been overlooked here. There are wellness options on the menu at Bosk restaurant and for in-room dining (they’re highlighted in the Healthy Lifestyle section). The focus is on locally sourced produce, free-range chicken and beef and sustainable seafood. (Full disclosure: I couldn’t resist the sea bass so I didn’t order off of the Healthy Lifestyle section)
And last but certainly not least, the package includes a visit to the Miraj Hammam Spa by Caudalie. I’ve told you before that this is my favourite spa in the city; I swear that I could be having the most stressful day or week but a visit here allows me to just let go of the tension and decompress (even if only for a couple of hours). The package includes the superb Hammam and Gommage treatment, which will have you detoxifying in the steamy hammam followed by a full-body exfoliation (this is the gommage) using a eucalyptus-infused black Moroccan soap. As I was pressed for time during my staycation, I returned a few days later to the spa and opted for a the Grand Caudalie Facial instead (my complexion was in desperate need of some TLC). The facial is customized to your needs, and I left with glowing, smoother skin, not to mention more relaxed than I’ve felt in months.
(Psst, when you go to the spa, you have access to wellness floor before or after your treatment — I made sure to arrive early so I could take advantage of the great jacuzzi and pool).
Wellness staycation complete, I felt a renewed love for the 6 and very reluctantly checked out of the Shangri-La and said so long to its luxurious bathroom and bed (but I didn’t leave without popping into Momofuku Milk Bar to pick up some cookies — not part of the wellness package, but who can resist that Compost cookie, not me!). Thank you to the Lululemon and Black Toe Running (they provided the gear and shoes for our run) and, of course, to the Shangri-La for the stay. The “Running is Shangri-La” package begins at $535 per night and you can get more information on it here.
May 11, 2015