Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Right Touch: Massage therapy taps into popularity of yoga to make itself more available for masses

The following is an interesting article I received through my "Google Alerts". I thought it was worth sharing in its entirety. It provides some fodder for business ideas. Enjoy

Sunday, December 2, 2007
By M. Paul Jackson

Thomas Wong knows that you get what you pay for.

Wong, the managing partner for Intuitive Touch Massage and Yoga in Winston-Salem, said he realized that more customers were likely to receive massage and yoga treatments if they became a member of his yoga studio, which opened Nov. 7. Wong was a massage therapist at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center and would often see his patients skip out on their therapy classes, he said. “Massage therapy is just like any other therapy,” he said. “With the membership concept people will return more frequently.”

Yoga-therapy businesses such as Wong’s are becoming all the rage in Winston-Salem. More baby boomers are turning toward alternative treatments such as massage and yoga, and companies that offer those services are poised to grow.

Massage customers say they enjoy the therapeutic benefits of the treatment. Luanne Adams, a Winston-Salem resident, said she receives massage treatment from Intuitive Touch for lower-back pain.

The deep-tissue treatment works better than pain medication or chiropractic treatment, she said.

“When it flares up, I can get in here,” Adams said. “It’s the only thing that works.”

Intuitive Touch is at Miller Street Market. The business offers Swedish-massage therapy, deep-tissue massage therapy, Pilates, yoga and stretching classes.

Massage and yoga therapies are forms of alternative medicine, a form of health treatments that aren’t considered conventional medicine. Other forms of alternative medicine are acupuncture, herbal medications and meditation.

Baby boomers and fitness enthusiasts are adopting yoga for physical exercise and even as a medical treatment. Yoga is form of physical fitness that emphasizes strengthening and toning the body, for example. It also teaches breathing techniques and meditation, designed to promote better mental well-being. The numbers of people interested in meditation, yoga and massage are growing. About 16.5 million Americans practice yoga, up substantially from previous years, according to Yoga Journal magazine, a trade publication. Americans spend nearly $3 billion annually on yoga classes and products.

Adopting an alternative-medicine practice can help people reduce stress, treat back pain and depression. More local companies are attempting to benefit from people who want healthier bodies and minds.

Judi Maloy, the owner of the Yoga Gallery in Winston-Salem, opened her yoga studio about seven years ago, to help teach yoga to more people, for example. She said she teaches about 19 yoga classes a week, and plans to hire three instructors next year.

The business has “been steadily getting better,” she said.

Yoga can also help people deal with everyday problems, Maloy said. “It bleeds into everything that you do in life,” she said. “I think that’s one of the reasons that people are turning toward it, because it works.”

There are other massage and yoga therapy studios in Winston-Salem, including Sunrise Yoga, Arts of Yoga, Branches Holistic Health and Wellness Center and Sixth Sense Wellness Group. Branches and Sixth Sense offer massage therapy classes.

Trudy Swenk and her husband, Bruce, opened Bikram Yoga about five years ago, to teach customers the benefit of “hot yoga,” where practitioners perform yoga in a very hot room. The company has three other yoga teachers and opened an additional studio in Greensboro last year.

Intuitive Touch offers a $55 monthly membership. Members pay additional fees to receive extra treatments. Nonmembers can also receive treatments, but they typically have to pay more.

The membership plan insures that customers will get the most out of their money, Wong said. Customers who receive sporadic massage treatments often don’t get the full physical benefit of the treatment, he said.

“We can make massage a little more accessible,” he said.

Wong has a long history in massage therapy. He worked for WFUBMC and was a massage therapist at the Central YMCA in Winston-Salem.

He started Intuitive Touch with Kim Myers, a business partner, and a third partner whom he declined to name. The business has nine massage rooms and 14 employees. Wong and Myers also plan to open a studio near the North Carolina coast, but the plans are preliminary, Wong said.

As the country’s baby boomers age, more people will turn toward massage and yoga therapies, Myers said. In addition, more people are becoming aware of the need for a healthier lifestyle.

“I think they’re actually starting to realize that there are alternatives, and if they change their lifestyle, they’ll be a little better off,” she said.

■ M. Paul Jackson can be reached at 727-7473.

Article Source:
Winston-Salem Journal

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