Kate Olson is one of the few certified Thai yoga instructors in the region

A local yoga instructor is one of the few certified in Thai yoga in the region

  • By Heather Holtschlag
April 5, 2017
Instructor Kate Olson performs Thai yoga on Denise Tacka. - Celeste Van Kirk

Bethel Park resident Denise Tacka took an interest in yoga and Pilates after her physician recommended the exercise modalities to help alleviate her back pain when other forms of treatment were not working well. To make matters worse, she was diagnosed with bilateral hip bursitis and IT Band tendinitis, issues that only exacerbated her back pain and caused her difficulty when she had to sit or stand for more than a few minutes. She could not get down on the floor or back up without help or by holding onto a table or chair.

That’s when she looked to Kate Olson, owner of Lakeview Yoga in McMurray, with whom Tacka was already familiar, as she was a student in Olson’s restorative yoga classes. Tacka knew that Olson also was a Thai yoga practitioner and sought her help to find some relief.

“A few months ago, I had to see a physical therapist for hip issues and then began integrating Thai yoga and specific yoga poses with Kate that would correlate with the exercises that the physical therapist had me doing,” Tacka says. “Since then, my strength has greatly increased, and I even do yoga poses daily that help me maintain my mobility.”

According to Tecka through her personal experience, Thai yoga is different from other types of yoga in that the practitioner is active and the person receiving the massage relaxes and allows the practitioner to manipulate them into different yoga poses, while they also are massaging, rubbing and stretching the muscles.

Thai yoga, also called Thai yoga massage or Thai yoga bodywork, is an ancient healing art that includes elements of yoga, Buddhism and Ayurvedic medicine, according to Olson, who has been practicing Thai yoga for about a year. Treatments are performed on a thick mat on the floor.

“The client remains fully clothed, which is a question I’m often asked, and remains totally passive as the practitioner moves and stretches them into positions similar to yoga poses,” Olson notes. “It is deeply relaxing and wonderful for reducing stress and tension. The stretching elements can help clients improve range of motion and flexibility.”

But what Olson finds most beneficial about Thai yoga, however, doesn’t have to do with the stretching or massaging involved, but rather the transfer of energy between the practitioner and the client. “As a practitioner, I am always mindful when working with someone. I watch for subtle cues in their body and breath to determine what they need to find balance. And I always touch with an intention, so my positive, encouraging and loving thoughts toward my client are conveyed through my touch. It can be very supportive and healing.”

Although Olson does not know of anyone else practicing this type of yoga in the Washington County area, she says that there are only a few practitioners who are located in the region.

“One of the best Thai yoga teachers in the country is originally from Pittsburgh, and she would occasionally come into town and teach weekend workshops at a yoga studio downtown,” Olson says. “There are a bunch of yoga teachers in the area who have taken classes or traveled with her, but I don’t know if any of them are practicing Thai yoga regularly. I studied with her for a few years, and did my certification in Asheville, N.C.”

Olson suggests that frequency of Thai yoga sessions depend largely on the client and the reason they are coming.

“Everyone should relax more than they do currently,” she says. “I like to receive bodywork at least monthly, but it depends on the person.”

Thai yoga has no restrictions and is appropriate for anyone who wants to reduce stress, safely stretch and enjoy receiving bodywork.

“While the Thai massage doesn’t solve all problems immediately, the benefits are exceptional,” Tacka explains. “You must allow the practitioner to move your body while allowing yourself to relax. You also must keep your mind clear to fully appreciate the process.”

For more information, visit lakeviewyogastudio.com or call 724.260.8738.

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