Photos by Andrew Kleidon-Linstrom.
Though this winter has been fairly tame, it’s still the time of year when bones get stiff and limbs haven’t truly been stretched in months (if you’re like me, that is).
That’s why, when I heard about “yomassage,” I had to try it – and figure out what it was. So I gathered two of my coworkers, and off we went for a session at Saguaro Day Spa & Wellness Center in Sturgeon Bay. Along with offerings including pedicures, massages, fassages and cupping, the spa started offering yomassages – a combination of yoga and gentle massage – in November.
Yomassage is a group-based session during which participants, each on their own mat, enter easy, seated or lying yoga poses assisted by blocks, blankets and pillows. After entering a pose, the instructor goes around to each person to gently massage target areas of the body. Stretching into yoga poses before the massage is meant to open up the body and make those target areas more accessible.
Melissa Milewicz, who led our session, is the person who introduced the idea to the spa. She’s originally from New York, but she’s made her home in Sturgeon Bay for the past four years. She also specializes in other services such as Thai massage, cupping, stones and aromatherapy.
Milewicz felt that a group-based yoga-and-massage experience was a way to make either activity feel more accessible to those who are new to the practices or more comfortable and confident in group settings. Right now the session can accommodate up to five people, but the spa is looking to expand that to a group of eight to 10.
Milewicz was also noticing that her kids spend lots of time on their phones or tablets, even when they’re in the same room together. She figured that an activity such as yomassage would encourage more of a team-building spirit and a chance to escape from the pull of electronic devices.
The same idea applies to businesses that are placing more emphasis on employee wellness, and yomassage is a great workplace team-building experience, especially for anyone who must hunch over a lot or be seated at a desk constantly.
“Every individual is going to take something different away from that experience,” Milewicz said, “but the fact that you’re experiencing that together gives you that common, shared bond, and hopefully [it] reinforces that ability throughout the day for you guys to look at each other and say, ‘Maybe it’s time to do a little bit of a stretch for our shoulders’ or something like that.”
That was very fitting for my little coworker group: We were excited to wear our comfy clothes to work and relax away from our desks during the hour-long session.
We joined Milewicz in the lower lounge of the spa, where we sat on our mats in front of a warm fireplace, surrounded by large windows with views of the property. Relaxing music filled the room.
With a soft voice, Milewicz explained and demonstrated how to get into each position. I felt a little clumsy trying to arrange the pillows and blankets during each position change, but once I’d gotten into each position, it was easy to relax.
We practiced our breathing, and I almost lulled myself to sleep throughout most of the session. When it was my turn to receive a massage, I secretly willed Milewicz to forget about the other two and focus just on me – it felt that great.
But of course she gave us all equal massage time, using hand sanitizer in between people. We changed positions about four times and ended with a meditation. Before we knew it, the session was over, and it was time to return to real life.
I felt rejuvenated afterward, and Milewicz said that’s one of her favorite parts of working in the spa industry: She gets to meet so many people who are happy to be there for services and gets to help them feel great when they leave.