Courtney Kirkby

My discovery of Thai Yoga massage has allowed me to fuse fractured parts of my life. I spent many years as an elite athlete, and loved the journey to know the possibilities and subtleties of the human body. There came a moment when this felt at odds, with a sense of responsibility to my community. The life dedicated to sport seemed selfish. My desire to engage socially manifested in intellectual activities: being part of local social justice movements, community radio and most recently working in mental health.

It was working as a teacher at Forward House, a community mental health center where I understood what my students lacked from their community. I connected the power of physical transformation, through teaching an exercise class as part of a varied curriculum aimed to inspire curiosity, creativity, and confidence. Of the dozen or so different subjects I had taught, I saw the most improvement in my students in this class. I witnessed people coming to inhabit their body more and more, as if returning home.


Stigma works to undermine people’s confidence and self-esteem. Medication often leads to gaining excess weight and makes it difficult to get the motivation to exercise. This can make recovery and build intimate relationships harder. Both in the literature and in my experiences, I was discovering that touch is largely missing from care plans. People are treated with medications, talk therapy, daily routines, and group programs, but generally, aren't encouraged to be in their body or engage in touch. I saw a small window of opportunity to include compassionate touch through adjustments in my class. I wanted to help my students to further relax, feel cared for, and to release the mind by way of the body. I discovered Lotus Palm through a friend. Initially, it was an opportunity to learn how to incorporate touch safely into my work; but the course gave me more than I had imagined. Beyond techniques of touch, I found an art form and a spiritual practice that emphasized the power of the receiver to heal themselves. Lotus Palm has inadvertently set me off on a new path trying to bring this type of healing to women in places like Forward House around Montreal.

For a year now; Amanda White and Isis Gumbs, both Lotus Palm alumni along with a growing team of healers, have been building the Tiger Lotus co-operative. Our co-operative is made up of and works exclusively with females, bringing together alternative healing modalities and education. The tiger is born blind, relying on its inner sight. It is a symbol of healing and meditation. Inspired by the tiger, we value a slow approach that listens and taps into the intuitive healing of our own bodies. We aim to make massage accessible, turning a luxury to an essential part of preventative care. By using a community funding model, we will subsidize massages for those who face economic and other social barriers.


 

Geneviève Bessette