Thursday, October 30, 2008

Three Weeks in Beautiful Thailand

Sawatee ka!

I just returned from an amazing three-week journey to Thailand! I had the opportunity to go to Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Chiang Dao for sightseeing, adventure, and further study in Thai massage.

The sights and sounds (and delicious Thai food...yum!) were fascinating to experience. After arriving in Bangkok, I met 19 other students from all over the U.S. who took this trip organized by Culture Junkies' founder, Beth Brancato. (Beth's husband, Martin Misenhimer, owns Zen Thai, where I first learned Thai massage.) Beth has had many years of experience traveling to Thailand, including living there for several years, so it was a rare opportunity to experience Thailand with an insider's edge. I had the opportunity to explore the streets of Bangkok and Chiangmai, try many Thai massages and Thai foot massages, taste Thai "street food," see many gorgeous gold covered Buddhas and incredibly decorated Buddist temples. One of my favorite things was taking photos of all the amazing sights.

My main reason for making the trip, though, was to spend two weeks in intensive study of Thai massage with the renowned Thai master instructor Therdchai Chumphoopong (nicknamed "Mac") of The Fine Art of Thai Massage school in Chiangmai. Mac, along with his mom ("Mum") and his brother ("Mos) taught our group hundreds of Thai massage moves, which can be integrated into a 60 minute, 90 minute, or a two hour session. I am very excited to be able to include these new stretches and acupressure moves into my routines. Those of you who have already tried Thai massage already know how wonderful you feel after a Thai session. I look forward to seeing how you feel after you experience some of these advanced moves.

One of my favorite days in Thailand was the day we got to visit the Elephant Nature Preserve. This special place is a unique preserve where injured and abused elephants are nurtured back to health and a more natural way of life. We didn't ride the elephants, which often puts terrible stress on the elephants' backs. Instead, we fed these gentle giants and even helped bathe them in the river. What an extraordinary experience! I took many photos that day. Here are just a few. (More details on my trip to follow!)

Monday, October 1, 2007

Why Try Thai?

Thai massage is terrific! It’s very different from what most people think of as a massage (generally people are thinking of Swedish massage.) In a Thai massage, you wear comfortable clothing, such as a T-shirt and sweatpants or yoga pants. You lie on a comfortable mat on the floor, and your therapist uses slow, rhythmic compressions and gentle yet deep stretches to elongate your muscles and relieve tightness. Some people call this treatment “thai yoga massage” or “lazy man’s yoga” because many of the stretches resemble yoga postures, but with no effort on your part. You’ll notice better range of motion, less restriction in your joints, and you’ll feel terrific. Most clients say that after a Thai massage treatment they feel both relaxed and energized. No oil or lotion is used, so you can comfortably go back to the rest of your day afterwards.

Thai massage is great for people who would prefer to stay clothed during a massage, but still want a full body, effective massage. It’s great for athletes who are preparing for or recovering from a sporting event. It’s great for people who want to take a work break during the day, get a great massage and return to work feeling centered, relaxed, yet full of energy.

I just returned from a four-day workshop on Thai massage given by Martin Misenhimer from Zen Thai. ( I had taken a class with Martin before, and wanted to expand my knowledge and skill in this wonderful ancient healing art. I’m happy to report that I am now a Professional Level Thai Massage Practitioner, and I’m offering both a 60 minute Thai massage and now also an even more wonderful 90 minute treatment. I believe so much in Thai massage, and I want everyone to see how Thai massage can benefit you. As an incentive, I am going to offer a free upgrade for anyone trying Thai massage for the first time with Peaceful Harbor. For the price of a 60 minute treatment, upgrade FREE to a 90 minute treatment! Mention this offer when you schedule your appointment. Call 603-261-7141.

Thailand means “land of smiles.” Try Thai massage soon and discover one of the reasons why!


Elsa Strong, LMT
Peaceful Harbor Massage Therapy
Amherst, NH

Thursday, May 31, 2007

How did you sleep last night?

For far too many people, the answer is “not too well”…or “not enough”…or…”sleep? What sleep?”

Although we all know that getting a good night’s sleep makes the next morning a whole lot more bearable, adequate rest is actually a critical factor in how healthy we are. Lack of sleep affects one’s energy level, mood, learning capability, driving ability, concentration, and more.

So how do we make our sleep better? Here are some ideas.

Move the TV out of the bedroom. I did this myself recently, even though I once thought I couldn’t possibly go to sleep without it. I put it in a place that forces me to shut it off when I’m done watching, instead of leaving it on for hours and falling asleep to the drone of one program after another. I actually used to wake up sometimes and realize that the TV commercials were being woven into my dreams. Yikes! I’d rather dream about what’s already in my head, not get a “live feed” into my dreams from some advertiser! Since I banned the TV I found that I have gotten much more restful sleep.

Try to go to bed around the same time each night. Much easier said than done, in my opinion, but the experts say that having a regular bed time helps your body clock regulate itself much better. I’m still working on this one.

Get some exercise during the day. Another obvious idea, but this really makes a huge difference. On the days I take my dog for a long walk, he’s better behaved, more relaxed, and he sleeps longer. (Haven’t asked him if his sleep quality is better, but…) The same thing goes for human beings. Getting exercise, especially among the fresh air, will help you have a much better night’s sleep.

Make the room dark. Use room-darkening curtains, and turn off the computer, TV, or anything else that emits light when you go to bed. If necessary, use an eye mask. Light enters your eyes even through your closed lids, and the more light you let in, the more your body tells you to wake up. This is a tip I came to very gradually, being a “have to have a nightlight” kind of kid when I was little. Now that I have weaned myself off the excess nighttime light, I sleep much more soundly.

Use a wonderfully comfortable pillow, and, if you can afford it, get a great mattress. If you’ve ever spent the night on a too firm (or too soft, for that matter) mattress, you know how it can affect your ability to fall, and stay, asleep. I love my mattress, but I might try one of those “sleep number” ones the next time I’m in the market for a new bed. I think it would be great to be able to adjust the sleep surface whenever I’d like to. For years I slept with a buckwheat pillow, and it worked very well for me. But now I’m addicted to my memory foam pillow. Just sinking into it at night makes me happy, and I don’t wake up with a stiff neck. What type you choose depends on what position you sleep, but find the right pillow, and it will help keep you snoozing.

Keep the room the right temperature. Again, easier said than done when it’s the middle of summer or winter, but a room that’s cool without being frigid promotes more restful sleep for most people. Feet freezing? Try wearing a pair of socks.

Try natural sleep aids. Although sleep medications have their place, many cases of mild insomnia can be helped by more natural remedies. Many people, including me, swear by Rescue Remedy Sleep by Bach’s Flower Essences. It’s a flower essence which acts on the body energetically, without drug side effects. Many health food stores carry it. There are also many herbal teas that can naturally encourage relaxation and sleep, which contain herbs such as valerian, passionflower, and chamomile. Aromatherapy can be helpful, also. Try sprinkling a few drops of lavender essential oil on a piece of fabric and place it near your pillow.

Try guided imagery or "sleep music." There are some wonderful CDs of guided imagery that will gradually “talk” you to sleep, allowing your body to relax part by part, or bringing you to a “happy place” in your head that allows you to drift off into rest. Many of these CDs include relaxing music or nature sounds. Some music CDs actually encourage alpha waves in your brain that help ready you for sleep.

Get a massage. (Now, you knew I was going to mention this one, didn’t you?) Massage stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which produces a relaxation response. Most of my clients report that they sleep unbelievably well the night following their massage. Studies show that it’s true: massage is one of the best, and healthiest, ways to relax your body and mind so you can have deep, restful sleep. Here at Peaceful Harbor, I like to say that massage helps you “find the peaceful harbor within.” Spending an hour or more in that state helps your body “remember” how to really relax. That feeling can follow through the next night and several more. Just imagine how a regularly scheduled massage could benefit your sleep. Call your massage therapist for an appointment and see for yourself. If you are in or near Amherst, NH, I hope you’ll give me a call here at Peaceful Harbor. 603-261-7141.

Feel free to share your sleep suggestions here.

Wishing you a good night’s sleep tonight!

Elsa from Peaceful Harbor

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Welcome to Peaceful Harbor's news and updates!

Hello, and welcome to Peaceful Harbor Massage Therapy in Amherst, New Hampshire. I hope that this blog will be a place for you to learn how you can "find the peaceful harbor within." Although life can be a hectic and stressful, more and more studies show us the importance...the necessity, really...of taking care of ourselves, and finding constructive ways to deal with stress.

One of the best ways to relax and unwind get regular massage! There are many types of massage, each offering its own advantages and unique features. Here at Peaceful Harbor we offer our Signature massage (Swedish massage), Thai massage, WullStone Far-infrared stone therapy, hot stone massage, and Ashiatsu Floor technique. Check back soon for more articles on each of these modalities, and other ideas for finding a little peace in your day!

Elsa from Peaceful Harbor