Breaking away from the long-held belief that massage is for the shoulders and back, Huntsville Health Movement is now offering Thai Yoga Massage.

Sarah Imhoff-Jones, owner, completed her Ayurveda Yoga Specialist certification from the Kripalu School in Lennox, Mass. recnelty. During this training, she learned the Thai Yoga technique and said it’s been a favorite with her clients ever since.

“The Thai massage is wonderful,” said Huntsville resident Molly Campbell after a recent pilates class. “My husband and I for our anniversary had a couples massage.

It was a learning and massage session,” Campbell explained. “She massaged each one of us as she was teaching us and we would try on each other. It was real neat.”

After her first Thai massage, Campbell said she turned to Jones and asked, “Where have you been all my life?”

“I’ve had the Swedish massage and the deep tissue and I really prefer this kind,” Campbell said. “It’s not all just hands on you and the deep tissue leave bruises on me and this doesn’t do that.

“This also has a feeling of physical therapy. It’s on the floor on a mat and you’re fully clothed,” she added. “It’s almost like you’ve had pilates when you’re done. Usually the masseuse is working with only the upper part of the body, but she uses her feet and she kneels. It could almost be a modern dance the way she moves you. It makes a really nice flow.”

Jones said this massage is for everyone, from young to old, thin or overweight, healthy or frail.

“I hear people say, ‘I’m not a massage person, but I like Thai Yoga Massage.’ One of the main differences is you’re fully clothed, so that’s a great relief for a lot of people,” she laughed. “It’s much easier for me as a therapist to manipulate you without having to worry about the draping.

“There’s a lot more options for the body, the positions you can get in for stretches, there’s a fuller range,” she added. “The Thai Yoga Massage also works the energy lines of the body. Whereas with a Swedish massage you have a knot and someone is trying to dig through that knot, in Thai massage, we’re not trying to get the knots out. What we’ll do is pressing on the energy lines of the body to release the energy and reenergize you.”

By not being forced to dig thorough muscle tissue, the massage is more low-impact on both the masseuse and the client.

“It’s just a real easy shift,” Jones said. “You’ll feel pressure, but it’s not like I’m trying to dig through muscle.

“For me, it’s like i’m doing a yoga workout,” she added. “I’m shifting my weight and for me, it feels good too because i’m getting a little bit of a workout.”

Jones said many people don’t know what the massage entails, but a few of her clients have actually had a Thai Yoga Massage in Thailand.

“They’ve had it here and it took them back and they rememebered what it felt like,” she said.

On Dec. 16, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Jones is offering a Thai Yoga Massage retreat at Huntsville State Park.

“What happens is people don’t know how to touch each other,” she said. “I want couples — and they don’t have to be partners — but I want people to know how to touch each other in a way that’s constructive and that doesn’t hurt.

“If you can be gentle enough with your touch,” she added, “it can be done on an older person who may be more brittle, or even a child.”

While Campbell said she would have a Thai massage every day if she could afford it, that’s not the only service she gets from Huntsville Health Movement. She’s also a member of Jones’ pilates class.

“When I first started, it was different from aerobics or other types of exercise,” she said. “I didn’t want to jump up and down anymore.

“We mostly do it on a mat and you’re working on your core muscles,” she added. “Anything that is uncomfortably physically, she has props to help reduce the strain.”

Between Jones and teacher Betty Nicolay and Lee Woodward, there are classes to suit any fitness level.

“I want people to understand their bodies better and know that any disabilities or inabilities they have, any weight, any age, anything they think keeps them from doing this — it doesn’t,” Jones explained. “They can do this massage, they can do pilates and they can work up. I have an 85-year-old man and I have a 12-year-old. Really, we have so many different sections of the popuation.

“I also do nutritional counseling because problems are not always physical,” she added. “There may be something you’re doing in your daily life causing an imbalance.”

With her shop, Huntsville Health Movement, Jones said she is available full-time for her clients.

“This is my life — my career — and I think when you go to a club, the person teaching a class may look at it as just a job. It’s just different. The reason I’m doing this is because I enjoy doing it.”

Growing up in Houston, Jones has never lived far from Huntsville, and even attended undergratuate school at Sam Houston State. In 1999, she came back to teach at Sam before opening her own studio.

“I moved to this location in August,” she said. “I have future plans to open a water therapy area, including a hot tub and sauna.

“Massage kind of goes hand-in-hand with pilates and yoga and dance,” she added. “When you finsih, you feel energized in a relaxed way. It’s not just because I was moving your musicles around, it’s releasing energy.”

As a culture, Jones said people are generally afraid of touch and may sometimes be reluctant to have a massage.

“It’s a whole spatial awarenesss you have to work with,” she said. “It’s for every person, but no one thinks it’s for them.”

For more information, contact Jones at (936) 436-1508.

Book she’s reading: “Zen and the Art of Making a Living”

Favorite time at SHSU: “Performing. I like to be on stage.”

Family: Husband, Gavin Jones and son, 3-year-old Grayson

Would like to see: More parent to child massage. “I just think it’d be great to teach parents how to interact with their chidlren so the children are healthier right from the start.”