Yoga is an active way to renew yourself from the inside out. Massage is a passive way to relax from the outside in. Combined, the two are the perfect marriage of wellness in body, mind and spirit.
That’s the concept behind Soluna Yoga + Spa, which opened in December on Herschel Street in Jacksonville’s Avondale area.
Owners Dori and Christian Thomsen weren’t interested in building just another yoga studio.
“I wanted it to be a full wellness center,” a warm, friendly, environment that offers many forms of holistic healing, says Dori. It’s intended to help people reverse the pattern of self-neglect so they can feel good about themselves.
We run from task to task and place to place, barely keeping up with the demands of work and family, she says. We compulsively check cell phones, texts, social media and news sources to keep up with the urgent and critical. “There’s a huge disconnect these days because everyone has an app.”
We seek peace, but engage in mindless eating, drinking and spending, she says. We’ve shut down our self-awareness and we’re looking for renewal in all the wrong places.
That really hit Dori when she and her husband and baby returned to the U.S. after living a few years at a slower pace in Costa Rica. She wants people to experience peace and wellness, even if it’s only for 60 minutes once a week.
Yoga and massage are the key. While yoga builds flexibility and strengthens muscles to support the joints, massage is better at targeting specific knots and stress points.
Complimentary in nature, yoga prepares you mentally and physically to get more out of the massage, says Katie Helow, one of Soluna’s licensed massage therapists. Meantime, massage, particularly Thai massage, is a passive way to learn about yoga.
“Both bring awareness to the body and the inner voice,” Helow says. “When you do yoga you take care of yourself. When you get massage you let someone take care of you.”
Tai massage is the link between the two. With a gentle, fluid motion, the therapist uses her hands, arms, elbows and feet to move your limbs into yoga-like positions. When you truly relax and let go you experience a surprising sensation of weightlessness, almost like floating in water.
Thai massage helps improve flexibility and range of motion. It’s especially helpful for athletes, because muscles that are stretched and supple are less likely to get injured.
Soluna isn’t a traditional spa with hot tubs and saunas, but they do have spa services like holistic facials available.
“They know it’s a place where people come to take good care of themselves,” says Helow. “It’s a place that’s nurturing and mindful.”
Classes are geared for all stages of life. They range from pre-natal yoga and children’s yoga to restorative yoga, vigorous vinyasa-style yoga and chair yoga. Soluna also offers workshops on topics such as nutrition and meditation, and has a popular program that combines acupuncture and restorative yoga.
Judy James, a Soluna regular in her 60s, does yoga two or three times a week and massage twice a month.
“It’s really incredible how the two work so closely together,” James says. “These two combined really keep my body flexible. I feel a lot more calm and patient.”
When that happens our happiness can be contagious, Dori says. “When we make time to heal ourselves we can heal the planet.”