by: Yuri Elkaim

Hope you enjoyed yesterday’s post and that you’ve realized just how important regular stretching truly is.

We’re back today with another great contribution from our friend Kris Fondran and the Shapeshifter crew.

Take it away Kris…


Nothing compares to the wonderful feeling of lying on a massage table while someone rubs, kneads and caresses your body with warm oil…

I abandon all sense of responsibility as strong hands dig into my muscles and release the stress and tension I accumulate each day. My body relaxes and my cares and worries drift away. For a moment that feels like an hour, I am truly relaxed and disconnected from whatever got me on that table in the first place.

I really enjoy getting a massage — and who the heck doesn’t?

But that’s first problem with it. The word “getting.” I’m not actively participating in the process.

Massage can be an effective treatment for acute muscular injuries or for immediate reduction of bodily stress. But it also lulls you into a state of passive relaxation. Because you’re not actively engaged in the process, you don’t develop awareness of the connection between the tightness or pain in your body and what caused that discomfort in the first place.

Yes, patterns of tightness may melt away during a session. And many people report feelings of temporary relief. But that tightness doesn’t stay away. The best you can do — with week after week of expensive treatments — is hope to keep it at a distance and keep it from getting worse.

Who goes into treatment seeking temporary improvements?

If you want to make long-term changes to your life — ie. to get in shape, become a better athlete, or rehabilitate an injury — then awareness of your present state and active participation are essential.

I found these things through the practice of yoga.

Yoga has been called “the science of right living.” That’s because the techniques of yoga work on all facets of a person: physical, mental and emotional. And the best thing is that this life-transforming practice can be tailored to YOUR current state of health, your desired goals, and your level of dedication.

When most people think of the benefits of yoga they think only of flexibility. But there’s so much more to it than that.

Incorporate yoga into your life and you may lower your blood pressure and pulse rate, improve your circulation, improve the function of your internal organs, reduce and relieve chronic pain, detoxify your body and slow the aging process, increase your energy, strength and stamina, sleep better, experience less stress, anxiety, and depression, elevate your mood, and more.

You don’t need a masseuse to do this for you. And you don’t have to drive across town or show up for an appointment.

With yoga you can take charge of your own health — no hourly fee required!

That brings up another problem with passive techniques like massage: the cost. Unless you’ve got great health insurance, it’s impossible for most people to schedule a massage on a regular basis. It’s a wonderful treat, but an impractical long term solution for the issues that are causing you daily pain and stiffness.

Sure, I’ll get a massage whenever it’s offered! But I’ve learned to rely on myself and the tools of yoga to promote long lasting change.

I believe that any successful transformation requires a direct connection between the goal and the desired outcome. It’s vital to take ownership of where you are right now, how you got there, and where you want to be.

Unfortunately, so many people today are disconnected from their bodies.

Just walk down the street and watch people and you’ll see what I mean. Poor eating habits, inactivity and stress have laid the groundwork for this disconnect between body, mind and spirit. But it CAN be restored with time-tested, proven methods.

Yoga brings you back into balance by facilitating the body-mind connection.

Positive new behaviors are introduced and nurtured by reinforcing your awareness of your movement patterns in the physical postures and by connecting these movements with your breath. It’s simple, but incredibly profound.

When your body hurts, your overall mood and demeanor is affected. Even if you’ve got a high pain threshold, there comes a point where chronic ailments really start to get you down, and you seek relief through a pill, injection, or surgery to “feel normal again.”

That’s the beginning of a long downward spiral. And you’re losing more and more control of the outcome every step of the way.

If you’re the type who wants to avoid medical interventions, then massage can be a great starting point. Passive natural techniques should be part of your plan, but they shouldn’t be the entire plan.

If you want to banish chronic pain, muscle imbalances and other issues for good, then you must be actively involved in the healing process.

You have nothing to lose but your pain.

=> Yoga vs. massage – what do you think?

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20 comments on “Why Yoga Can Be More POWERFUL Than Passive Techniques

  • While I agree with what you say about yoga and active participation in healing, what you are saying about massage therapy isn’t accurate. In the first place, research shows that even a brief series of massage sessions conducted by a therapist skilled in treating injuries and chronic pain has measurable, long-term benefits. For more information about the research, check out the research link on the American Massage Therapy Association website at If it weren’t true that massage therapy provided measurable, long-term benefits, no medical insurance, auto liability insurance, or worker’s compensation program in the world would pay for massage therapy. Those kinds of insurance programs only spend money to cover medical interventions when they are assured of the value.

    In the second place, it isn’t true that massage is a passive process. Many massage techniques — in fact most in an orthopedic/medical massage practice — involve the active participation of the client, whether in the form of conscious relaxation of muscles that are in spasm, active breathing along with massage techniques, or resisted stretching techniques.

    In addition, there are many times in which injured muscles cannot be relaxed when other, surrounding muscles are being recruited. Trigger points, for example, almost never release on their own, no matter how much movement, resistance, or stretching a person does, but must be treated manually, whether through massage therapy, injection, or electrical stimulation. Muscle injuries, by the way, are not just specific things that happen traumatically because of a sports mishap or car accident, but are also caused by postural problems, repetitive motion, chronic conditions and illnesses, or even by just sitting still too long (as anyone who uses a computer for long periods can attest). All of these kinds of muscle injuries can be helped by massage — not just acute injuries.

    In addition, the fact of hands-on body work involved an open electrical circuit, which facilitates healing regardless of how passive or active the client is in the process. It’s easy to understand this by massaging your own forearm and noting what that feels like — it’s a closed electrical loop. Then have someone else massage your forearm — it’s a completely different kind of touch circuit, and it’s easy to feel the difference, more so if the person touching you is a skilled massage practitioner. And please note that I’m not referring to energy work here, but a scientifically measurable (with a microvolt meter), observable physical effect.

    To top it off, there are some types of injuries and conditions for which even gentle yoga stretches are contraindicated and would create a higher risk for aggravating an injury that might be very appropriate for massage therapy.

    Nevertheless, in most cases, appropriate yoga practice is an excellent adjunct to massage therapy — and vice versa. An active yoga practice can enhance the benefits of massage, and massage can enhance a person’s ability to benefit from a yoga practice. However, neither is a replacement for the other.

    Thanks for listening and carefully considering the facts before maligning the practice of highly trained, knowledgeable, professional medical practitioners such as massage therapists.

    Liz Green-Taylor, Washington State Licensed Massage Practitioner, Certified by the National Certification Board for Massage and Bodywork, Member American Massage Therapy Association

    • Thank you Liz! I have had many clients that are YOGA TEACHERS and swear by massage.
      There are attachments that are OVERSTRETCHED and only benefit by the skillful hands of a massage therapist to release… this is an adjuct to many other bodywork therapies.
      We should be holistic in our practices and thoughts of healing. Having one therapy pitted against another is Western thinking. Massage and Yoga have their benefits and especially when used together, most people will see long lasting and quick results in their healing.
      Interesting how we are all in this field together as preventative health care specialists, and people still want to position us against each other… this is one of the reasons why nothing works within the masses in the western world of medicine… to busy fighting each other and not addressing why we cant recieve notoriaty for our efforts within the western world of health care…

  • Wow! Funnily enough I was just about to book 8 massages over four weeks to get rid of my knots!

    I’ve done so before to get rid of chronic pain throughout my entire body – I’m like a big knot but nobody can give me insight on how to prevent my body knotting up in the first place! After several massages the knots get worn down but they come back again so quickly – seems a waste of 400 euros!

    Yoga, well, it’s certainly worth a try!

    • Wow, you are apparently not going to the right place if it takes 8 massages to work out all your knots and get rid of pain and your therapist isn’t instructing you about body mechanics, posture, etc.! Depending on the health of your tissue based on your diet and level of fitness and what repetitive stress is placed on your body, you should have all the knots worked out in just 2 or 3 sessions!

    • I can give you some insight from personal experience and from my studying. NEITHER massage OR yoga are going to give you long lasting relief. Yoga will ‘manage’ tension, but unless the tension is addressed at the level of the Central Nervous System of the body, which is a combination of mental, physical, chemical and emotional responses, it is not “holistic” and will only alleviate temporarily, the “issues” will remain “in the tissues”. (both yoga and massage DO generate some change in the CNS, but the tension returns. Read a bit more!)

      Yes, There ARE longstanding benefits from massage, AND from yoga, but they are only part of the equation. In order to reorganize the body sufficiently enough to affect lasting changes, we need to find the congruent place where our stories about the world intersect within the confines of our bodies.

      There are a number of somatic therapies out there that are address this. My modality of choice is called Somato Respiratory Integration (SRI). The myofascial unwinding techniques and cranio sacral techniques, when done by a practiced therapist can also assist one in accessing some of the “gunk” that gets bound up in the soft tissues within us. Acknowledgement of the incongruence is the first step in creating acceptance and a profound drop in tension from the tissues.

      As a massage therapist myself, I find that by having someone place their hands on the place there is tension and acknowledging that pain that they have (understandably) been avoiding, profound, lasting changes can occur, not only in the tissues of the body, but in the lives of those who are affected by that individual who was brave enough to “go there”.

      This can be done during a massage with an understanding therapist, or in yoga with equal merit for your journey towards wholeness and greater health. I hope I did not over-inform here and that some of this was useful to you! May you find the peace and relaxation you seek!

  • I think you said it in the first sentence. “Nothing compares to the wonderful feeling of lying on a massage table while someone rubs, kneads and caresses your body with warm oil…”

    There are times when you need to switch your mind off and not be actively engaged in the process. A good massage can stimulate the blood and lymph circulation, dislodging and eliminating toxins that get trapped in tight muscales.

    Both have their place but I will take a good therapeutic massage any day.

  • Although I agree with much of what was said in this article, I, as a massage therapist, know that not all massages are “passive”. I include guided visualizations, EFT, energy work, essential oils, crystals, and sacred geometry. All of which are healing. I educate my clients of many ways to healing themselves. Whether it’s teaching them vizualusations, stretches, yoga, meditation, healthy foods, Epsom salt baths, breathing, etc. They leave with more knowledge than they had before they came into see me. Healing is about intentions & beliefs. I also teach my clients what types of thinking and emotional upset started the aches, pains, & dis-ease in the first place. I’m sometimes guided intuitively to pick up something that happened in their past that is stuck in a particular part of their bodies. Your not going to get that in a yoga class, or while watching a yoga DVD. Yes, I believe yoga is an amazing healing modality. But so can a massage session be, with the right therapist.

    • YES. It’s not either/or, but without the increased emotional/ somatic awareness, neither will go home with one for long.

      I love that you wrote this!

  • Massage requires active participation because you feel the release of energy and then relax your muscles. You can only feel good from a massage if you trust the masseus and the process. Healing touch from another person is a beautiful gift from the masseus and from yourself. Some times I need a little help releasing stuck energy before starting yoga. I see massage and yoga as complimentary, and not competing activities.

  • Massage Therapy can be a long term solution if a good treatment plan is in place. It also can be actively engaging with many specific advanced techniques.

    Massage Therapy does affect Chronic pain , muscle imbalances and various other conditions. So please go to our College website at before posting what Massage Therapy does or does not do.

    Yoga, along with various excerise programs, would COMPLIMENT many types of therapies such as Massage Therapy, Physiotherapy, Chiropractic adjustments. The only problem with avoiding Therapy and going right to yoga first is that the Yoga instructor is not a Registered Therapist and cannot do specfic assaessments or testing to see exactly what is causing the person discomfort.

    Yoga or any other kind of exercise should never replace Massage Therapy or any other kind of Reg. Therapy.

    Remember, you want muscles, tendons and ligaments at their healthiest when exercising and that is what your Massage Therapist can do for you. And if you find your Massage too relaxing you can ask for a Deep Tissue Massage or a Sports Massage.

  • Yuri,

    I think you need to educate yourself on Massage Therapy abit more before posting.

    A Massage Therapist ( not a masseause) can and does treat chronic muscluar conditions and very affectively! A therpist along with the client can develope an ideal treatment plan to address the clients specfic goals. Using the appropriate Massage Techniques chronic pain and muscle imbalances and along with so many other problems can be treated successfully!

    Yoga is a form of exercise and should not be used as therapy but in addition to therapy.

    To exercise affectively you want healthy muscles, tendons and ligaments and a Massage Therapy helps you with that.

    A yoga instructor is not a Therapist. A Massage Therapist can do assessments and specfic testing and come up with a treatment Plan to best suit the clients needs.

    You cannot compare the benefits (which you have NOT done accurately) of Massage Therapy to Yoga.

    Please visit the College of Massage Therapists of Ontario to read more about Massage Therapy at or contact a local Registered Massage Therapist.

  • Why have an either or situation? Everyone should have both!! Whilst I agree with a lot of the blog, taking responsibility for our health etc,.. The power of nurturing healing touch can be immense affecting energetically both the physical and emotional bodies. Depending on the massage style you go for, the experience can be both powerful and profound. I am a yoga teacher myself and a Thai Massage/Deep Tissue/Sports Massage Practitioner and Teacher – so as well as loving the benefits of yoga, I am convinced that everyone should have regular massage. There are some things that can not be experienced as a sole yoga practitioner. The connection of energy whether through partner yoga, assisted yoga stretches or indeed when having something such as thai massage is one of the most wonderful experiences that we can have/share. Yes, sometimes massage can be passive but it can also be a dynamic, active, playful exchange between two people. Massage can be expensive, but then so is eating organic regularly! As humans, we all need touch,..we all need connection – a hand held, a hug or indeed a massage. Seek out the best massage practitioner and have it as regularly as you can afford – your body, mind and spirit will thank you for it!! Siva Rajah – based in London, UK.


    Please don’t take this blog post personally. I too believe massage is great and I just wanted to open peoples’ eyes to the fact that being a more “active” participant in your body’s well being is important as well.

    • I don’t take your blog personally. I am a massage therapist and I too like to educate my clients on different modalities they can use to help heal themselves. That includes yoga and pilates which I do myself as well. Your blog just needs to be more rounded in its
      content. What works for one may not work for another. My pilates instructor said that she actually hurt herself doing yoga. Since doing pilates she has no back pain. I do not advocate one over the other I just think it is an individual choice and each body is different in how it responds. There is no one size fits all answer.

    • I didn’t think you were posing an argument against. I think this is a great intro for a dialogue about the important subject of AWARENESS. When we simply ‘check out’ during a massage, it may have a lasting “effect”, but if awareness isn’t a part of the equation, simply ‘feeling better’ may not be enough.

      (I’m actually of the opinion that a shorter massage with an emphasis on increasing awareness in a relaxed body is probably a good way to go for most folks, especially if they don’t get them frequently. The “frontal lobe check out” is usually a stress response/ shut down)

  • Same here with those who say in the best of both worlds, the combination of regular massage with a regular yoga practice brings about optimum healing. Especially for athletes, injuries and pain associated with repetitive strain activities associated with many professions. Even massage therapists and yoga instructors would do best with a combination of both. I have referred many of my clients to seek a good yoga instructor…so perhaps that’s the ticket….having the right practitioner be it massage or yoga one seeks! Your article was doing just that…advocating yoga over massage…heheh :-) You evoked some great responses!

  • sorry Yuri when you use the term VS… its an all out battle. Understand that we promote yoga, as I am a massage therapist and a yoga instructor… it goes hand in hand

  • As new year resolution I started practicing yoga and boy even after a couple of sessions I am starting feeling better and I am more aware of my movements.

    Yuri just stumbled upon your blog and it is truly a gold mine packed with information.