By Ed Staskus
Chavutti-Thai might sound like Pacific Rim culinary fare, but as served up by Jennifer Beam at Holistic Massotherapy and Apothecary, it is a blend of two separate bodywork modalities that may provide one of the deepest and yet most relaxing massages to be found anywhere.
“I would say most of the work I do is Chavutti-Thai,” said Mrs. Beam, a Massage Therapist licensed by the State Medical Board of Ohio, which was the first state to license the practice of massage. The first applicant was licensed in 1916.
Hippocrates, the father of medicine, said, “The physician must be experienced in many things, but most assuredly in rubbing.” Although an ancient practice, massage was banned in Europe by the Church from the 500s to the 1700s. Dr. Cornelius De Puy introduced it to the United States in the early nineteenth century.
Chavutti massage, pronounced ‘shah-voo-tee’, is a technique that has been practiced in southern India for centuries, in which therapists, while standing above their clients lying on a mat, use a rope for balance while they massage with their feet. Chavutti literally translates as ‘massage by foot pressure’.
“It is an anatomical treatment as well as energy work,” said Mrs. Beam. “It focuses on the deep tissue and energy lines of the body. The broad surface of the foot delivers pressure more evenly.”
Practitioners use their feet in order to cover the entire body with a continuous gliding stroke and press deeper into muscles. The long strokes increase blood circulation and iron out tensions in the muscles and connective tissue.
“Chavutti is the ultimate deep tissue massage, the best I have ever had,” says Anna Magee, author of The De-Stress Diet.
Thai massage, sometimes called ‘Lazy Man’s Yoga’, is a form of bodywork based on yoga and Ayurveda. It is one of the world’s oldest healing modalities, originating in India more than 2500 years ago.
The massage recipient wears loose clothes and lies on a mat on the floor. The receiver is then put into a series of yoga-like positions during the course of the massage, involving rhythmic motion, palming, and thumbing along energy lines in the body. The result of the practice is greater flexibility, an increase in range of motion, and decreased strain on the joints.
At Holistic Massotherapy Jennifer Beam has synthesized Chavutti and Thai massage to make a new form of bodywork greater than the sum of it parts.
“Chavutti helps to stretch out, to warm up, and loosen up the muscles and fascia,“ said Mrs. Beam. “Then the Thai massage brings it together by further stretching, folding in the compression aspects, and the energy work that is part of the process.”
A graduate of the Ohio College of Massotherapy in Akron, Mrs. Beam honed her craft at Lakewood Massotherapy, specializing in therapeutic deep tissue work. In 2002 she traveled to Thailand where she studied Thai massage.
Thailand is the home of Thai massage, which has been strongly influenced by the traditional medicine systems of India and China, as well as yoga.
“I felt like I had hit a ceiling,” she said. “I knew there had to be more to massage than just the traditional western style that most of us knew.”
After returning to Thailand in 2004 for advanced training she studied with Pichest Boonthumme, an acknowledged master of the practice. Mrs. Beam opened Holistic Massotherapy in Fairview Park shortly afterwards.
Finding the way is the first step to better health.
“I started out with one room and put dividers up. It was my humble beginning.”
Patiently building her practice, she offered traditional table work while at the same time emphasizing the benefits of Thai massage.
In 2007 Mrs. Beam and her husband, planning a family, moved from Lakewood to Bay Village, a bedroom community on Cleveland’s western North Shore. They bought a ranch-style home and proceeded to renovate it.
“The yard was a veritable forest. We basically tore everything out and started from scratch,” said Mrs. Beam. “We gutted and renovated everything short of replacing the furnace, and ripped wallpaper out of every room in the house. I don’t think I will ever buy a house with wallpaper again.”
The following year she relocated Holistic Massotherapy to Bay Village in the Dover Commons Plaza, expanding its space and offerings, as well as bringing it closer to home, where the first of her two sons was now crawling around.
Jennifer Beam’s impetus for her career sprang from an interest in physical therapy and the desire to make a difference in people’s lives on a one-to-one basis
“That is why I started massage school in the first place,” she said.
A kind heart is often the beginning of knowledge.
Massage therapy has been found to be better than medication or exercise for easing lower back pain, according to a 2011 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
“Many people look to massage for pain relief, sports injuries, chronic pain due to poor posture, or just bad habits. Musculoskeletal problems are really where skilled massage therapists can help,” said Mrs. Beam.
Massage is sometimes more than that for some.
“When I start thinking about death, I order a massage and it goes away,” Hedy Lamarr, the Hollywood actress many critics regard as the most beautiful to ever appear in the movies, famously said.
For the treatment of pain, Americans rate massage as highly as medications, according to recent surveys by the American Massage Therapy Association. 9 of 10 Americans agree that massage is a practical remedy for pain relief.
“We have found massage to be effective for chronic pain syndromes,” confirmed Tiffany Field, director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine.
“Chavutti-Thai helps to break up the adhesions in the muscles and connective tissues,” said Mrs. Beam. “Many people say they have gotten longer-lasting results from the treatment, more profound results, and more range of motion in their hips and shoulder girdles.”
As much as addressing muscle and skeletal pain is a primary focus of massage therapy, Jennifer Beam also brings the awareness to her practice that stress may just as likely be the reason for physical distress.
“Chronic pain might not only be caused by physical injury, but also by stress and emotional issues,” writes Susanne Babbel, Ph.D., in Psychology Today.
“Many people hold tension in their bodies, not knowing what the cause of it is,” said Mrs. Beam. “They don’t know how to let go of that.”
It isn’t stress itself that hurts us, but our reaction to it.
“It has been clinically proven that the thoughts we have don’t just stay in the brain,” she added, “but travel in the form of neuropeptides throughout the body. That’s why stress-reducing therapies like massage are so important.”
Whether the goal is to reduce muscular tension, or pain management, or simply to lower stress levels, the new practice of Chavutti-Thai may just be the gateway to them all.
“I strive to be the best at what I do for those people who desire to live a healthy, holistic lifestyle,” she said
Treating the whole person, both spirit and body, is Jennifer Beam’s mantra as well as business of compassion at Holistic Massotherapy.
Ed Staskus posts a feature story monthly on Red Island http://www.redislandpei.com, Paperback Yoga http://www.paperbackyoga.com, Lithuanian Journal http://www.lithuanianjournal.com, and State Route Two http://www.stateroutetwo.com.