Deanna Villa, founder of Thai Massage Toronto School & Massage Centre, was a strong and athletic person. In her 20’s, she started a landscaping business, but after 7 years of no stretching, bad posture, dismal body mechanics, combined with hard labour, Deanna’s body began to feel the effects. Eventually, Deanna had to give up the hard manual labour of her landscaping business.

57Deanna’s friend Barb, a Nurse Practitioner suggested Deanna create a lifestyle change. She should become a therapist, take up yoga, and become a vegetarian. Deanna wasn’t so convinced, and was hesitant to become “one of those ‘yoga-doing’ ‘tofu eating’ types.”

Within a few months Deanna reconsidered Barb’s suggestions and visited her clinic to begin pursuing this new path, receiving different styles of massage and bodywork. Deanna fell in love with the holistic treatments at the clinic including Aromatherapy, Reflexology, Rolfing and healing, cleansing therapies. Auspiciously, a woman from Thailand came to Toronto and offered some “Thailand Massage” no one had heard of.

Deanna went and received her first 90-minute massage she’s yet to forget. She says she had an epiphany while receiving it.

“I had this film strip vision. In the first shot I was studying. In the second I was a practitioner, In the next, I was a teacher, then I was opening my own studio. I knew this was my path.”

Shortly after, Deanna Googled “Thai Massage in Toronto.” There were only 8 results world wide, and none of them were actually from Canada. Three weeks later, she was on a plane to study Thai Massage in New Jersey.

Deanna decided to start building one of the first Thai Massage practices in Canada. She worked as a receptionist at Barb’s clinic where she had been receiving treatments and now learning the industry from the front desk to treatment room. By the end of her first year, Deanna was practicing Thai massage 4 days per week.

“Initially when I started my practice, the clients were more what I could relate to. Athletic types and many who had a lot of tension in her bodies. The universe was sending me what I was familiar with.”

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Deanna worked steadily, in her second year she had surpassed 1000 hours of massage practice.  Her client base diversified to include clients of all ages, fitness levels and body types. She became a teacher and her practice flourished.  After 5 years, Deanna opened her very own studio in Toronto and had a one-year waiting list for treatments.

Thai Massage Toronto actually had a booth at the first Toronto Yoga Conference. Deanna fondly remembers the humble beginnings, all the questions at her booth back then “What is Thai Massage? “.  But now, there’s are several different Thai Massage providers at the show – and few yogis are unfamiliar with the practice.

Though Thai Massage is a 3000 year old practice, it’s adoption by the yoga community has only happened within the last 15 years or so. As Deanna has grown her Thai Massage practice, she has found more yogis want to learn from her.

“It’s that loving compassionate nature of our work linked with strong compression and the mobility techniques that draws people in. Some of them don’t even know why. They saw a flyer or photo and just knew they had to come do this.”

Deanna says yogis want to learn Thai Massage techniques because they are easily incorporated into yoga classes. Many yoga teachers want to incorporate this hands-on element of compassionate touch into their class – some are uncomfortable with hands on because they have not learned the techniques yet.

“When you’re a yoga instructor, we instruct and demonstrate. But when you get trained, certified and insured in Thai Massage, you get the licence to touch people. For yoga teachers who want to be hands-on, they should get good training and become certified to do so….Before I became a yoga teacher, I wouldn’t teach a yoga class without taking the appropriate training. So for the hands on stuff, you should learn how to do things safely, efficiently and mindfully in a way that doesn’t cause any harm.”

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The techniques and touch of Thai Massage is bringing a whole new level of cueing and relaxation to yoga classes. If there’s one sensation we don’t often appreciate in our yoga classes or lives: it’s compassionate touch.

“We’re all pretty deprived of good, healthy, nurturing contact. We need to know how to apply loving-kindness to one another. It’s good for everybody.”

If you’ve been looking for a new element to incorporate into your yoga classes, or you just feel the pull of Thai Massage, the yoga show is a great place to learn more. Come see Deanna and Thai Massage Toronto on the Conference Show Floor, or learn some techniques from Deanna at one of her 4 workshops.