BY ELISABETH ANDREWS
Massage is more than an indulgence or even a therapeutic treatment, says Joseph Boike, cofounder of Touchstone Wellness Massage & Yoga. “It’s an educational tool,” he says. “When you receive a massage, it brings you new information and awareness that you can use to help yourself relax.”
Boike explains that, contrary to popular belief, it’s not actually the massage therapist who causes your tense muscles to unwind. “I can’t make your muscles relax. They’re not my muscles,” he says. “Muscles are the most voluntary tissues in your body, and they come readily under your control. As a therapist I can help you realize where you are holding tension and learn to release it at will.”
This recognition of the importance of teaching people to relax led Boike and his wife, Touchstone cofounder Sharrel, to prioritize yoga classes as a central feature of their wellness studio, now located at 2864 E. Buick Cadillac Blvd.
“Massage and yoga naturally complement one another,” says Sharrel, who, like Joseph, has been a massage therapist for more than 30 years. “They are both powerful tools for taking control of your well-being.”
While massage leverages hands-on attention from licensed providers, yoga gives students tools for self-care. Yoga classes at Touchstone focus on self-awareness as well as physical wellness, with gentle movement offering insight into the body and its present state.
“We’re more inwardly focused,” Sharrel says, contrasting Touchstone’s classes with more athletic forms of yoga. “Our teachers concentrate on bringing attention and breath to the stretch.” This type of practice, she says, can lead to the awareness that “your thoughts are powerful in your body,” which is a crucial step in improving one’s health.
When yoga and massage are combined as an approach to wellness, Joseph says, they can bring about profound tension release and a reduction in both stress and pain. “Painful muscles are almost always tense muscles,” he says. “Relaxation is the gateway to healing.”
Touchstone’s yoga students tend to come from Bloomington’s professional and retired population rather than its college-age residents, Joseph says. With class titles like “Gentle Flow” and “Compassionate Yoga,” the studio welcomes participants without previous experience or a high level of fitness.