Combining Yoga, Massage, and Mindfulness

By Lisa Bakewell

With an ever-growing list of modalities and specialties for bodyworkers and massage therapists to choose from, it can be difficult to make a decision regarding what’s best for you and your business, or what skills you want to add to your toolbox. Yomassage is one new option that combines stretching and mindfulness with touch, and can open the door to new clientele.

Approachable for Everyone

Yomassage is unique in its accessibility. No previous yoga experience is necessary or required to participate in a class, and Yomassage is particularly inviting to anyone uncomfortable with traditional one-on-one massage, those who are new to receiving therapeutic touch, or anyone wanting to remain clothed. As long as clients are able to get up and down from the floor (at the beginning and end of class), they can participate in Yomassage.

Yomassage also offers enticing business advantages over traditional massage and bodywork modalities. Yomassage allows bodyworkers to serve, on average, eight clients in a single 90-minute session, and it’s easier on the practitioner’s body too.

A Merger Begins 

Yomassage creators Katherine Parker and Tiffany Ryan first crossed paths when Ryan approached Parker about teaching at My Yoga Room, her yoga studio in Portland, Oregon. Ryan had recently moved to Oregon after completing her massage and yoga training in Costa Rica, and she was looking for a job.

Although Parker didn’t have any open positions, the women shared similar backgrounds. Ryan also shared her experiences in yoga and massage, and the two began discussing the importance of massage and touch.

Previous to their meeting, Parker (like many others in the US) viewed massage as a luxury—just something you do in spas for special occasions. Even as a member of the wellness community, she was completely unaware of the scientific evidence behind touch therapy.

With this new information, a new idea—merging yoga with the healing science of touch—prompted her to ask Ryan to create a class. To develop the dual modality, Ryan began practicing different poses and techniques on her husband—as well as Parker, her friends, and members of the studio—until they came up with a class they called Restorative Yoga and Massage.

“We wanted to make this class as accessible as possible,” Ryan says, “so practicing the poses with my husband was great because he’s pretty inflexible and has very little yoga experience.”

Restorative yoga is a yoga practice that aims to restore or heal the body by cultivating stillness, expanding meditation, and deepening muscle stretch without putting strain on the body. Each restorative yoga session includes five or six poses that are held for five minutes or more, and participants are supported by props (blankets, bolsters, and blocks) that allow complete relaxation and rest. Restorative poses can include light twists, seated forward folds, and gentle backbends.

By adding touch through massage to these restorative poses, Ryan and Parker discovered that their class participants were able to rest and enter the relaxation mode much more easily. Thus, the Restorative Yoga and Massage classes became a popular addition to the My Yoga Room studio.

As the popularity of their yoga-massage mash-up grew, it became apparent to the women that they were on to something, prompting them to create Yomassage. “Have you ever been in a yoga class,” Parker asks, “and during the final pose, your yoga teacher comes around and gives you a temple rub or a head massage? It makes your whole body tingle—and makes you feel totally and completely relaxed. Like nothing else in the world matters but being still and melting into your yoga mat. I wanted this class to make you feel like that for an entire 90 minutes.”

Yomassage was originally intended to be an accessible way to receive massage on a regular basis, since it was less expensive than a one-on-one massage therapy session, but it turned into something more. Yomassage began appealing to all kinds of clientele, including those who had never been to a yoga class or experienced traditional massage.

What Happens in Class?

A typical Yomassage class is held in a warm, dark, candlelit room. With essential oils diffusing, spa music playing—where mats and props are laid out and ready for participants—the class begins with a focus on the breath, bringing clients into the present moment. The Yomassage therapist then leads clients into their first pose, making sure they are completely comfortable before beginning the massage.

Once massage begins, the therapist gives each client 60–90 seconds of massage in each pose. Massage balls are then offered for guided self-massage for about 5–10 minutes of each class. Class ends with a hot towel on the feet after a foot massage, or may end with a warm flax pillow behind the neck after a head and neck massage. Either way, by the end of class, clients experience a head-to-toe massage.

Career Longevity

As a practitioner, you know that massage and bodywork can be taxing on your own body. Performing one-on-one bodywork sessions can cause repetitive stress injuries in your hands, arms, shoulders, neck, and back. Many massage therapists have relatively short careers due to these injuries.

Since Yomassage is not a deep-tissue modality, it is gentler on the practitioner’s body. The goal of Yomassage is not to address issues in the muscles, but to use the power of touch to find ease in the mind and body. “Yomassage is not about getting a deep-tissue massage,” Ryan says. “It is about getting into a state of deep relaxation that can be accessed through mindfulness, an unbelievably relaxing environment, and safe touch. Studies have shown that moderate pressure is better for relaxation,” she adds. “Any deeper, and pain receptors are activated, making it difficult to truly get into rest and relaxation mode.”

Because the physicality of the work is less taxing, bodyworkers can work less hours and make more money per session.

Profit Potential

Yomassage began as a weekly class with five clients for $35 per person. Once demand grew, and the class was refined, the rate changed to $45 per person (therapists can set their own class costs, based on their region and demographics). For a 90-minute class with eight clients, $360 was generated for the Yomassage therapist. When My Yoga Room moved to a bigger space, classes were expanded to allow eight clients and an assistant was added to the class for more hands-on time.

“We see Yomassage as a win-win in terms of money for the client and the therapist,” Parker says. “The client is able to receive hands-on massage at an accessible rate, and the therapist is able to make double or triple what they would in a one-on-one massage.”

After several months of teaching Yomassage classes and refining the modality, Parker and Ryan decided to share this modality with other bodyworkers in September 2018. They started training across the Pacific Northwest and are now traveling to Texas, California, New Jersey, Arizona, and Nevada—with plans to have Yomassage therapists in every state by the end of 2020. Yomassage therapist training is open to massage therapists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, chiropractors, reiki practitioners, and craniosacral therapists.

Yomassage Founders

Katherine Parker (left) graduated from the University of Texas with a degree in Arabic and Middle Eastern Studies, and then moved to Portland, Oregon, with plans to attend law school. At the age of 22, though, Parker decided to fulfill her dreams of being an entrepreneur and opened up a yoga studio instead of pursuing law. A year later, she acquired a larger yoga studio and now owns Studio PDX. She is passionate about yoga, mindfulness, bodywork, and business—and is excited to be combining them all in the practice of Yomassage.

Tiffany Ryan, PhD, (right) is the assistant professor of social work at Our Lady of the Lake University, a bodyworker at the Integrative Trauma Treatment Center, and board president for the nonprofit Integrative Trauma Treatment International. She has written numerous publications related to childhood and early adult trauma, and is currently working to address trauma in Rwanda after the genocide. She is a fierce advocate for using integrative approaches, such as bodywork, breath, and mindfulness, to improve overall well-being.

Yomassage Fast Facts

• Classes typically serve 1–10 clients per session.

• Classes run between 60–120 minutes.

• Classes can be held in yoga studios, wellness centers, or spas.

• Therapists can also rent their own space, hold classes at their homes, or travel to parties or events.

• Therapists connect with clientele they might not otherwise meet, so opportunities to grow traditional bodywork practices are possible.

Lisa Bakewell is a full-time freelance writer/editor in the Chicagoland area. Her areas of writing expertise include health and fitness, travel, parenting, company/personal profiles, business, money-saving, and “how-to” articles. She can be reached at lbakewell@att.net.