As we walked out of our first-ever experience with Thai Massage I looked at my husband and said, "I think I need to go see her." His response? "I think EVERYONE needs to go see her!"
He's usually not enthusiastic about massage.
The "her" is Jill Duncan with Wellness by Jill - St. Louis. I first met Jill a few weeks ago through my work. I stumbled upon her Facebook page and wanted to connect with her about her experience offering retreats at a nearby camp as I'm thinking of doing the same.
I found Jill to be so darned likable. She snagged chips from my plate on our first meeting. I love that in people. I call these types of people "pantry friends"...the people who feel comfortable enough at your house to rummage your pantry if they're hungry and would expect the same of you. It's even better when people just instantly make themselves pantry friends with no encouragement from me or having to go through that extra polite period. I knew if there was something Jill did or didn't want, she'd let me know. That chip snagging told me we weren't going to be unnecessarily polite...we were just going to jump straight to the being ourselves part. Shew!
She then invited me to her Partner Thai Massage Workshop at Blue Bird Yoga.
Sign me up! Anything to teach my slightly massage-inept husband (he admits this) some massage moves, right? I had no idea what made Thai Massage different than regular old massage except for what I gathered from this picture above I found on her Facebook page.
I didn't know much, I just knew I wanted someone to do THAT to me. My back NEEDED that move.
Here's the absolute truth, though. I had some pretty thick relationship armor on walking into this massage workshop. Yes, even couple's therapists and relationship coaches wear relationship armor sometimes.
Relationship armor is how I describe what it feels like when you start to lose, or have lost, connection with your loved one. It doesn't feel like you're on the same team or the other person is physically, emotionally or spiritually distant. You start to feel like you need some protection. A shield wouldn't do.
I can't see my armor, but it's there. I can feel mine.
Maybe you haven't been making time for connection, maybe you or your partner is ridiculously busy, maybe the circumstances are temporary, maybe they aren't, maybe you have young kids and aren't carving out enough time for yourselves, maybe your relationship communication is or has always been off-track, maybe you've had a disagreement and haven't fully resolved it, or maybe you just thought your connection would remain strong without a whole lot of conscious attention. You're in a funk. It happens to everyone.
That other person (if it's a significant and romantic partner) tries to give you a hug, a kiss, or crawls in bed at night and tries to make a move and you can FEEL it....the armor. It's between you....encouraging even more disconnection. You hope the armor will go away on its own.
What makes the armor go away? Connection. Deep, meaningful connection. Feeling like your partner wants to and can see who and how you are. It doesn't happen while tag-teaming the tasks of raising a family, maintaining a home, and building careers. It rarely happens spontaneously once children are in the picture. In long-term relationships it requires consistent, conscious effort. It's a practice.
We'd been off-track for a few weeks. I believed it was temporary and I attributed it to a seasonal shift in the stress level and busyness of my husband's job. I also realized later that I was doing the ONE THING I encourage people most not to do...I was sweeping things under our relationship rug. Conversations or behaviors bothered me, but I wasn't addressing them in the moment because I thought, "Eh, this is temporary and when this season is over it will be better."
I stopped honoring me and how I felt in every moment...and your world treats you the way you treat you. I started feeling like my husband wasn't honoring me either. Armor please!
I told myself there was little time for conversation and connection. Our relationship tension began to build. My relationship armor grew.
Thai Massage is done fully clothed on a mat on the floor. There were 9-10 couples in our class; some romantic and some not. There were married couples, partners, friends, a mother/daughter, and even a couple on their very first date. Jill demonstrated and talked us through different Thai Massage moves at the front of the class with her partner: her mom....LUCKY MOM! We can only pray one of our children becomes a Thai Massage Therapist. In fact, I think you should take a break from reading this and start praying for one of your children if you have them.
We focused on our intent. Jill encouraged us to close our eyes before we began and focus on the gratitude we have for our partner. This came right up against my relationship armor and I felt it. Reluctantly I began to think of all the things I'm grateful for in our relationship and in my husband while my hands rested on his ankles...my invisible metal helmet came off.
Massage just doesn't feel like a big enough word to describe this experience. We used our whole bodies (feet, arms, knees, hands, etc.) to treat our partner's whole body. We applied deep pressure to muscles like massages I've experienced in the past, but we also strategically stretched, pulled, and twisted our partners in ways that couldn't be done alone.
I just couldn't help but think, as coupled people, how we strategically stretch, pull and twist our partners in other ways. The people we love the most can be the source of our greatest frustration and pain. They can also be our greatest teachers...if we let them. If we can open ourselves up and lean into the tough experiences, instead of avoiding and resisting them, our closest relationships can force us to stretch and grow and can teach us things about ourselves that we just can't learn alone. Deep thoughts, by Mika Ross.
All of this massage pressure, twisting, stretching and pulling felt SO good inside and out. Jill taught us some basic moves and we took turns giving and receiving. But don't let the words "basic moves" fool you into thinking this wasn't a fabulous massage. It was. And it really just had me wondering, if these "basic moves" feel this good what do the more advanced moves feel like??? I'm scheduling a private session with Jill to find out. Don't you worry.
And, our partner Thai Massage dissolved my relationship armor. Something our dinner dates hadn't been doing. What a great tool for deep, meaningful connection.
After the massage we both felt relaxed and couldn't stop talking about how great and unique the experience was. That night I fell asleep snuggling with Eric while watching a show and slept for 11 HOURS!! Maybe this is a Thai Massage bonus? The next day I felt simultaneously relaxed and energized.
My husband isn't a huge fan of massages but said he liked this because it was me giving him the massage and not a stranger. He also liked knowing he was doing things that he knew felt good for me. This, I think, is a great bonus as opposed to a traditional couples massage (two people simultaneously receiving massages from separate massage therapists)....you get to learn some moves and take them home with you! It's the date that keeps on giving.
The experience was 2.5 hours long and felt well worth the $40 per person. Don't quote me on that price though...I have a feeling Jill will be raising her prices soon. If you know of a place or space that might want to host such a gathering don't hesitate to connect with Jill. Heck, get enough friends together and host your own partner massage workshop!
Jill Duncan is a Licensed Massage Therapist and also teaches yoga and is a personal wellness chef. Check out her series in Sauce Magazine called Wheatless Wednesdays. For up-to-date info on all Jill has to offer like her Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/WellnessByJillSTL
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