Health and Healing: Thai Yoga Massage with Shen Mantra

“The start of a Thai Yoga Massage is marked with the intention to channel loving kindness to the receiver.”

Thai Yoga Massage is an ancient healing modality that creatively draws from influences of massage and yoga postures.Combined with breathing and meditation, a single massage can bring the body into a deep state of relaxation. We got in touch with Francesca Canzano-Franklin, founder of Shen Mantra, to hear all about her personal journey and what you can expect on her upcoming trainings.



Thai Yoga Massage and Yoga found Francesca 20 years ago, while she was traveling through South East Asia and Australia. “It was love at first site and both disciplines have been part of my life ever since.” says Francesca, going on to explain that witnessing how the world uses more traditional methods was an eye opener to her. Her passion ignited in Thailand, where she lived for 10 years and became beautifully immersed in the culture, people, traditions as well as the eastern philosophy and traditional medicine. Francesca spent time training in every aspect of Thai body work, including the healing and the spiritual side. She also has a professional background in Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Having studied and worked worldwide she felt dedicated and committed to sharing and offering her experience and knowledge. Francesca returned to the UK where she founded Shen Mantra. Shen being the element representing the fiery spark of conscious awareness, and mantra; referring to a sound or word aiding in meditation. Shen Mantra has grown tremendously over the years and has its roots based in numerous countries all over the world.

Being Italian and married to a South African, Francesca spent a lot of time in Cape Town. ”South Africa holds a very special place in my heart!”, says Francesca saying that she hopes to make South Africa her home in the future. Shen Mantra is based in South Africa, where Francesca works directly with local trainers:

  • Aidan Walsh - Senior Shen Mantra Trainer based in Cape Town. Yoga Teacher and advanced bodyworker 

  • Karen Pillay - Shen Mantra Trainer based in Durban. Experienced trainer and advanced practitioner with an array of therapies under her belt.

  • Gabrielle Alberts - Shen Mantra Trainer; Yoga Teacher and wellness advocate based between Pretoria and Johannesburg 


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For those who have never experienced Thai Yoga Massage; it can be described as a therapeutic style of massage that combines soft tissue manipulation techniques, assisted yoga postures, breathing and meditation to bring the body into a state of deep relaxation. Its mechanics show a strong Indian Ayurvedic and yogic influence, but a very disciplined emphasis on energy channels betrays a link with Chinese Traditional Medicine.  

While other forms of massage rely mainly on the use of pressure, Thai massage is based on an energy model. Unlike other techniques, Thai Yoga Massage uses a combination of assisted stretching, rhythmic pressure, palming, and pressure points while assisting the receivers in the various poses. “Every technique melts into the next with a beautiful flow.” says Francesca.

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In a massage session, clients will lie on a mat on the floor, fully clothed except for shoes and socks. The practitioner uses thumbs, palms, forearms, elbows, feet knees and even shins to press and stretch your body. In eastern philosophy it is believed that good health and freedom from pain result from the unhindered flow of vital energies through the body’s tissues. The main ‘channels’ for distributing these energies are called ‘Sen Lines.

The pressing techniques of Thai massage prepare muscles for stretching by increasing their permeability to the flow of Sen energies. The manipulations are designed to stretch the muscles a little more than would be possible unaided. Even advanced yoga cannot compete with the stretching capabilities of Thai massage when applied by an expert.

Thai Yoga Massage has many benefits such as relieving tension, pain and stiffness as well as stimulating circulation and lymphatic drainage. The benefits are not only physical, but also extend to boost energy and improve emotional status.


“Don’t be fooled by the ‘Thai’ part of the Yoga Massage” says Francesca, highlighting that in actual fact, both disciplines of Yoga and Thai Massage are rooted in the Vedas; the ancient hymns composed and recited in Punjab in Northern India as early as 1500 B.C.  The basis of both Thai Yoga Massage and Yoga lies in pranayama, prayer, chanting, ritual, ceremony, mindfulness and meditation. As with Yoga, Thai Massage focuses on clearing energetic pathways to re-balance the individual. Whether practitioners talking about Sen, Meridians, Nadis, or Chakras, the foundation for both practices lies in the belief that there is a wider life force, or Prana, that circulates through these invisible channels of energy.

Just as yoga can be practiced as an exercise regimen or as a spiritual practice, so can Thai Massage be used as bodywork or as a true healing art. It depends on the intention, skill level and awareness of the practitioner.


Francesca has been offering courses for over a decade and Shen Mantra offers a number of trainings in South Africa every year. These courses are open to anyone and are particularly appropriate for yoga teachers, massage therapists or those who have a keen interest in anatomy, physiology or bodywork.

These internationally accredited courses are one of the very few training providers outside of Thailand to have been granted accreditation from The Lanna Thai Medical Federation. With individual attention and highly experienced professional training, these courses will take you on a journey of self-discovery. “Its all about community” says Francesca, going on to explain that all students of Shen Mantra are welcomed into a community of sharing and learning. With centres all over the world, Shen Mantra students are invited into a network of like-minded professionals.

Over and above regular trainings, Francesca looks forward to offering workshops and retreats in South Africa in 2019! Although not registered as a professional therapy yet, Francesca is also motivated to create awareness around this healing modality and get Thai Yoga Massage recognised in South Africa.

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The body can be effectively treated with an endless variety of techniques from constantly evolving modalities. What matters is the intent to heal, the ability to perceive and respond to what your receiver’s body tells you and the fundamental knowledge and skill necessary to transmit your intentions and responses to that very same receiver’s body.

Thai Yoga Massage techniques provide a way of interacting with a body; it is not about “fixing” clients, just about providing them some assistance in fixing themselves.

The fundamental task is to acquire the ability to feel…

Click here to find out about upcoming trainings

Connect with Francesca

Tarryn James