A career as a Condé Nast Traveler photographer — hauling 100 pounds of gear all over the world — wrecked Matthew Wakem’s body.
The left side of his body felt frozen. He had a partially herniated vertebrae in his lower back. His hands and wrists were strained too.
Seeking relief, he realized that Western medicine deals with chronic pain through drugs: muscle relaxants, steroids, pain-killing injections.
Then he discovered Deep Tissue Thai. Long compression, rather than traditional stretching “helps restore harmony to your physical, energetic and emotional bodies,” he says. Like many Eastern forms of healing, this bodywork is based on the belief that a person’s energy, or life force, flows along channels within the body.
After several 3-hour sessions, much of the stiffness and pain plagued him for years was gone. He regained flexibility and freedom of movement he had not felt since high school.
He learned more about Deep Tissue Thai — how, for example, blockages in energy flow can make someone feel achy, sluggish or sick.
Stress exacerbates the situation. During difficult times people neglect their bodies, causing unprocessed emotions, toxins and tension to block them even more.
In the 2010s Matthew opened and ran a Deep Tissue Thai studio in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he lived with his wife and children.
A combination of factors — COVID, worsening wildfires, and the desire for their children to live closer to grandparents — brought the family east.
The woods and neighborhoods of this area were particularly attractive. When he asked people where to relocate his business, everyone said: “Westport!”
Last June he opened Deep Tissue Thai Bodywork on the Post Road, opposite Design Within Reach. His second floor studio — above Field Trip Jerky, and just down the hall from Rebel & Rose tattoos — is “perfect,” Matthew says.
His landlord offered to rebuild the space however he wanted. He recently signed a lease for 4 more years.
Full sessions are 3 hours long. Targeted treatments are 2 hours.
Matthew uses his hands, elbows, knees, feet and sit bones to release stagnant energy. He leads breathing techniques throughout the session too.
Many of his clients work in finance, or as C-suite executives. “They sit at their desks for 8 to 12, even 16 hours a day,” Matthew says.
Some have done it for 30 years. As they near retirement, they look forward to “living a little.” Whether it’s walking, golf or anything else, they want to do it without pain.
Younger clients realize they don’t have to surrender their bodies to the jobs.
Matthew works with high school athletes too. They’re looking to increase their range of motion.
Clients come from throughout Fairfield County, New York, and as far as Boston.
But Matthew warns them: “This is not massage, which is pleasure. This is body work — work. It can be intense. I’m getting into different layers of muscle.”
He notes that clients are in full control. He communicates constantly, telling them what he’s doing, how and why.
Sick of pain, the people he works with are willing to put in the time and energy it takes.
Still, Matthew adds, there is pain in Deep Tissue Thai work.
“But it’s good pain. I’m not causing it. I’m showing you where the pain lives. When I release the compression, the pain ends.”
(For more information on Matthew Wakem’s Deep Tissue Thai Bodywork, click here. Click below for an explanatory video from Matthew’s mentor, Chris Ray.)
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