In Focus : Massage & Movement…

This season we sat in the garden with our very experienced and sought after massage therapist and talented Qigong teacher, Tim Aklin. We chat about what inspires his practice, and what winter rituals he’s enjoying at the moment.

So Tim, you’ve been with Gaia Retreat & Spa since the very early days. You’ve seen the retreat shift from six to twenty-two rooms, you’ve witnessed the grounds flourish, and us over double the number of activities and therapies offered. Can you tell us how you discovered bodywork and what inspires your practice?

I have had the pleasure of being involved with Gaia for over twelve years. As Gaia has grown, I began to offer bodywork treatments and was then given the opportunity to begin teaching Qigong and grow my practice. I have been learning and practising bodywork for over 25 years and in that time I have developed a range of styles and techniques that incorporate a variety of influences. My initial training was in Hawaiian style bodywork…Ka Huna massage remains my favourite treatment for its focus on movement, flow and energy.

My bodywork is influenced by Thai, Maori, Indigenous Australian, and Chinese Qigong healing practices, as well as a range of remedial and fascia release techniques. My Qigong training has become a key part of my personal health management, and has a strong influence on the way I approach bodywork.

You have seen Gaia Retreat & Spa evolve greatly over the years and we hope the future of the massage industry is doing so also. You are one of the most requested therapists for return guests, yet in a female-dominated industry there is often a preference for female-only therapists. Could you comment on this?

It is true that in a Western massage context female therapists dominate the industry in numbers, but this is only very new. For hundreds of thousands of years, widely around the globe, both male and female therapists were sought after. We see this in Hawaiian Ka Huna, Ayurvedic Massage, Indigenous Australian & Maori healing, Balinese Massage, Chinese Acupressure, Turkish Hammam, Creole Bamboo Massage…the list goes on.

At Gaia Retreat & Spa we encourage all guests to call and speak with our friendly Day Spa Team to hear more about what experience you would like from your therapy, so they can pair you with the perfect therapist for your needs. Our therapists are all highly-skilled and incredibly unique – with different experiences, personality traits and practices that they’re passionate about. It’s about finding the right therapist for your needs, so that you can receive the optimal benefits.

We also offer biographies on each of our therapists through our Gaia Retreat & Spa Therapist Directory, so that you have a sense of the therapist and their qualities before booking.

Personally, I’m passionate about offering ancient Ka Huna massage as an accessible, positive experience that can open one’s mind to the benefits of experiencing both male and female therapists. I encourage everyone to experience a highly-trained male therapist alongside a highly-trained female therapist, so that they can appreciate their similarities and differences.

Can you share a little more of the history of Ka Huna massage, and why it remains your favourite practice?

The philosophy of ‘Huna’ is the basis for the Hawaiian Healing Arts. The philosophy says that everything seeks to exist in harmony and love, or Aloha. Practices such as Lomi Lomi and Hawaiian Temple Massage, Hoʻoponopono, Hula and Ka’a Lele ‘au are ancient practices that are taught to create harmony and Aloha.

Where there is a lack of harmony, energy becomes blocked, resulting in either physical, emotional, mental or spiritual pain. Huna practices help free the flow of energy using techniques such as massage, breath, prayer, chanting, and dance-like movement practices.

These Hawaiian practices are traditionally taught orally and through embodied experience, passed from teacher to student through generations, with some lineages evidenced over 50 generations.

And it’s this element that makes me so passionate about offering Ka Huna therapy. The effect on the body, mind and spirit is very different from other styles. I’ve witnessed tender transformations and empowered individuals – whatever support that person needed at that time.

Can you tell us a little more about Qigong and the benefits of the practice?

I began my Qigong practice about twelve years ago, and was invited to begin teaching about six years ago at Gaia. I started learning after being encouraged by my healthcare professional to take up a regular mind, body and spirit practice that would keep me strong and in good health…and I fell in love with it.

For the last ten years I have had the honour of training in internal martial arts with Master Liu Deming. Qigong and Internal Chinese Martial Arts were developed several thousands of years ago in China as part of Traditional Chinese Medicine. They use different exercises to optimise energy within the body, mind and spirit with the goal of improving and maintaining health and wellbeing. Qigong promotes improved circulation of the blood, lymphatic fluids and respiratory systems, as well as helping to regulate the body’s nervous system and can help relieve chronic pain.

Are there benefits for practising these during the cooler seasons?

In winter, my personal practice is to conserve energy, stay warm and eat warming foods – as well as plenty of vitamin C through citrus and juices, as well as warming herbs such as ginger and turmeric. I like to do a morning Qigong practice to warm my system, and we focus on strengthening our Kidney Qi (chi) in winter. Our practice is slow and deliberate to penetrate ‘deeply’ – we want to keep our feet, lower back, neck and ears warm. 

In winter, Qigong practices help boost the immune system, fertility, our will power, and creativity so we can raise our spirits and face our fears. Better still, when conditions suit and we can practise outdoors with total immersion to the elements, this assists with shifting any stagnant or heavy energy.

Get in touch with our Day Spa, 02 6687 1670, to organise your next appointment with Tim, or contact our Reception, 02 6687 1216, to enjoy Qigong on your next retreat.

For those guests we’ve farewelled or those about to return, wishing you a season of movement and nourishment,