ST. JOHN — A couple months ago, I did so-called "sleepy yoga" at a studio here, Now Yoga Club & Community Center.

Actually known as yoga nidra, the centuries-old practice is a guided meditation that aims to bring participants to a state between being awake and asleep.

I'm always on the lookout for new fitness trends to write about, so when I saw that Now Yoga was now offering something called Thai bodywork, I emailed owner Sarah Johnson to ask her what it was all about.

"you MUST come try!!" she wrote me. "You won’t regret it. It’s a different take on a full body massage. You’ll be fully clothed on a comfy mat. You’ll be stretched and pulled in all kinds of therapeutic ways. Some people refer to it as lazy yoga."

That's all she had to say.

A few days later, I laid on a mat at the studio — going from my back to my side to my stomach — as Thai bodyworker Kayla Kopf contorted my body like a pretzel.

Though I had never heard of it, Thai bodywork has also been around for thousands of years and is commonly practiced in Thailand. In Thai, it's known as "nuat phaen boran," which in English translates to "ancient-style massage."

The practice is essentially a mix of yoga, massage and stretching, with some energy work thrown in for good measure.

"The only thing a recipient has to do is breathe and be heavy," Kopf (pronounced "cough") said before we started the 75-minute session (which goes for $100).

That being-heavy part is harder than it sounds. Thai bodywork is essentially a yoga session but with someone else putting you in the poses. You want to pull back when the bodyworker pulls you, or try to hold yourself up, but it's most effective when you let yourself go.

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Kopf said it's also known as "passive yoga" or "lazy man's yoga." Just my style.

Thai bodywork, which Kopf was certified in through Blue Lotus Thai Healing Studies in Chicago, is meant to help with relaxation, flexibility, stress relief and mindfulness.

Letting Kopf shift me into the poses was awkward at first, but less difficult as the session wore on. Otherwise, the stretches were deep, and relieving. One of the most painful — in a good way — was one Kopf called "hip-hip hooray," where she bends your knee into your armpit while you're laying on your back, to open up your hips. It's like a half "happy baby," in yoga terminology.

"A lot of people are tight there," Kopf said. "I'm always like, 'Breathe, breathe through it.'"

She said lower back tightness is also common, as is shoulder hunching from so many people typing on computers all day.

One that I particularly liked because it stretched out my shoulders was where, while laying on my side, Kopf and I locked arms and she pulled me up, into a twist.

"You look at a person's body type and find out what's out of balance and how to put it in balance," she said. "There's a lot more to it than rubbing the person's muscles."

The session was definitely relaxing and got rid of some muscle tension. I'd do Thai bodywork — er, have it done to me — again.

And if any Northwest Indiana fitness studios want me to try out a workout, if it has "lazy" or "sleepy" in the title, know that I'm in.


Health Reporter

Giles is the health reporter for The Times, covering the business of health care as well as consumer and public health. He previously wrote about health for the Lawrence (Kansas) Journal-World. He is a graduate of Northern Illinois University.