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Angela`s Thai Massage Course notes
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Angela
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August 10, 2013 - 10:46 am
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Module 1 and 2

Hello, I’m Angela, I have just started with the first two modules of the Complete Thai Massage Course. As to my background I´ve taken a holistic massage course last year and I´m also practicing yoga.   When I saw Shama´s videos (the mini courses) with all those yoga streches, the body and energy work I felt that I had to learn thai massage although I´m not considering myself as a therapist, it is more like a hobby for me and I´m working, above all, with my kids and friends.

So, after having watched and practiced the first two modules I´m quite excited. First I have made the two exercises with pressure on hamstrings and upper leg with my partner, with and without the right breathing and at least in one of the two exercises he noted the difference and said that it felt so much better with the breathing out when leaning in …

Then we went on with the chi machine. My partner is quite a skeptical person,  so when I began to move my hips he was very serious, but suddenly his expression changed, he began to smile and said that this feels so good in the whole body, also in the back! How long should we do this movement? A couple of breaths, until we see a change in our partner´s face or can we feel it in the way the partner loosens his body or is there a time restriction? Actually for me, there was, I´m not accustomed to sit on my heels, so after some time I just had to stop because I wanted to change my position …

As to the ergonomics I had an experience just a few days ago, when I gave a foot massage to a friend of mine. Foot massage is one of my favorite massages, but until now I haven´t found the right position to do it. So this time I sat on the floor with my friend´s feet on my legs, but suddenly he asked me: Are you sure that you are comfortable? Well, I was sure of one thing: That I was not comfortable at all and that showed me how we can transmit our tensions to our partner and must try to find the right position for the  benefit of the two of us – just like you said in the video. (Which makes me look forward to the foot massage module and the position you suggest …). Well, that´s all for now.

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August 11, 2013 - 1:08 am
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I am glad you took up such a productive and beneficial “hobby”. I am quite sure that your friends and family will really appreciate the new skills which you are learning. 

Since you already practice yoga, you have chosen the perfect companion. Yoga and Thai Massage, or Thai Yoga Massage as it is often called, are members of the same family. Many of the students in this forum practice yoga or are yoga teachers, so you are in good company.

How long should you do the Chi Machine? I do it for maybe two or three minutes. There are no hard and fast rules, however if you do it for a very short time only, your partner will not experience this wonderful rush of energy and tingling all over the body when you stop it. You only get this effect if you do it for at least a couple of minutes.

You are right – if you are not comfortable, you cannot make your partner comfortable. That’s why I am really big on good ergonomics. The other factor is that without good ergonomics you won’t enjoy what you are doing and you will stress your body.

In the Complete Thai Massage course you will learn quite a few foot massage techniques which will keep you busy for a while. If you decide that you really like foot massage, you might consider looking at my Thai Foot Massage course at some time in the future which goes a lot further even. This would turn you into a real expert with it, and it is a wonderful skill to have. I get foot massage more often than any other kind of massage here in Thailand where I live.

Anyway, you started on a great journey. I have always been convinced that massage should not be a skill which is the exclusive domain of professionals, but that it should have a solid place in the family environment as well. Actually in Thailand this is very much the case.

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Angela
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August 13, 2013 - 6:16 am
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Module 3

I was enjoying very much the foot massage – and my partners, too. However, to be comfortable in the sitting on the heels position I place a flat pillow under my knees and feet (hope this is ok, at least at the beginning) – so, the sitting on the floor position was very nice to rest a bit! Now, when we came to this twist and bend and circle movement my partner´s right knee like twisted out. I thought I did something wrong and that´s why I did the same exercise with another person. She felt so good and had no problems with the knees – so what is that? My partner only said that it felt “weird”. As to the breathing: I suppose it is like you have said before, breathing out when leaning in and breathing in when leaning out, so what when the rhythm of our movements is faster, or do we coordinate the rhythm of movements with the rhythm of breathing?

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August 14, 2013 - 12:18 am
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You can certainly support your position with pillows to make it more comfortable for you.

If your partner felt his knee twisting out, then you can do the same movement but with less twisting. Just don’t bend the foot down as much. Also you should be careful not to push the foot forward towards the hip since this can bend the knee out which you want to avoid.

Try adjusting the angle of your arms so that you come closer to a 90 degree angle. This will help with the knee bending issue but it will also increase the power of the twisting of the foot. So if you make the angle of your arms steeper, you need to reduce the amount of twisting in this technique.

Overall I would say just try to do the move with less intensity and more flow. Start with very little twisting or bending the feet out, then ask your partner how it feels. Then increase the intensity of the twist gradually until he says that it feels “weird”. Sometimes you have to play detective and figure out someone’s body. 

So there are two possibilities:

1. You need to adjust how you do the move as described above
2. If you are sure that you did the move right (not highly likely in the beginning since this comes only with experience), your partner’s reaction might give you a clue that he has an issue with his knee. In such a situation I would then work on his knee for a while, and then do the foot technique again to check if he still has the “weird” feeling or if it went away.

Sometimes our client’s reactions give us clues to where the issues are in their bodies and if we follow these clues, we might find out exactly what we need to work on.

Regarding breathing: Coordinated breathing works best with slower, sustained moves, or rhythmic moves, and not so well with fast moves like this particular technique. Just try to be aware of your breathing and then coordinate it with your techniques whenever they lend themselves to it.

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Angela
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August 16, 2013 - 8:04 am
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Module 4

Hi again! Thank you so much for your advise. I have now practiced the whole foot massage and what I commented about my partner´s knee was getting better with less intensity and a steeper angle of my arms. I also recognized that when he´s walking, his right foot moves slightly inwards, so maybe this has to do with this knee twisting out problem, too. Anyway, you also mentioned that I should work on his knee for a while, so I hope that the knee will be part of the next module! Working on top and bottom of the foot felt very good, especially the bottom and the part of the heels although the kneading movement needs quite some practice! Are the relaxing movements (module 3) supposed to be carried out at the end of the whole foot massage?  

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August 16, 2013 - 7:27 pm
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I thought that my suggestions would improve your partner’s experience. And I also concluded just from his initial reaction that there must be an issue with his knee. Your observation of the turned in foot makes this even more likely.

Knee work is a highly specialized subject which is generally not even part of standard Thai Massage. I do show a little knee work in this course, however for those who want to really do serious knee therapy I have created a 2 1/2 hour long Knee therapy course.

It is good to do the relaxing moves at the end of the foot work, however you can also build them in at any time you want. They are always a good fit.

 

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Angela
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August 22, 2013 - 1:47 am
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Module 5 and 6

Yes, thank you, Shama, I will consider the knee therapy course after this one!

As to module 5 I found a bit difficult the pull and push move one the thigh (with the heel of one hand we push, then with the other hand we pull). First, because I didn´t find the right rhythm and second because my (pushing) hand was like sliding away and I thought that won´t feel good. However, my partner liked the move which I don´t understand … The next time I felt better, I found a rhythm but was still sliding away. So then we practiced module 6 and that was a very good experience for both of us – I very much like this forearm technique and my partner also prefers it to the thumb and hand heel technique, so I might focus more on the second warm up technique. However, what made it a little bit complicated for me was that almost every move has to be done in a different position and although I watched the videos several times, I spent some time moving myself around in order to be in the right place. Fortunately, my partner is very patient and when I finally got it, he enjoyed it a lot.  So I hope that with more practice I won´t have to think so much about the positions any more … 

And one more thing: I don´t have to use the pillows under my knees any more!!! I found these kind of play mats (or fomi mats?) which look like big puzzle pieces and you can put so many together as you like or according to the space you have. They are thicker than the yoga mats, but still very firm and I feel them just perfect (moving around the pillows all the time was a bit uncomfortable).

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Shama
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August 22, 2013 - 10:27 pm
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Overall this is good news. I am not surprised that you are not 100% comfortable with the techniques initially. These are not exactly the easiest techniques and they will definitely require regular practice. Trust me, I didn’t learn them in a couple of days initially either! However soon they will become second nature. And if you cannot get it right after a few more practice sessions, I will help you fine tune them.

Try repositioning the pushing hand a little further back so that you can roll over the muscles without sliding down.

I am glad that you sorted out your knee issue. A little resourcefulness can go a long way. Yoga mats are clearly too thin to kneel on. If I would use yoga mats, my knees would hurt too! I make sure to have a mat which is comfortable enough for all my movements. This is essential.

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Angela
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August 28, 2013 - 12:13 am
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Thanks for the advice – it worked!

Module 7 and 8

I am really surprised and pleased that there are so many different ways to work on the legs – and we haven´t even finished yet! One time I made the whole sequence and it took me almost an hour. That shows me how much we can vary our sessions- thank you!!! 

In module 7 you mentioned that we should have a look at the leg/foot position of the recipient and some days ago I told you about the knee problem of my partner. So, after having seen the video and the foot position of your partner I must say that it looks almost exactly the same – so is it more a hip than a knee issue? 

As to conceptional learning I also have to thank you because I have become aware of the fact that now, with the concept in mind (8 ways to move) I (almost) automatically remember the right position in which I have to work. It makes everything easier and more fluent.

Now I have a question concerning the knee move in module 8: Do we move the skin with our hands or do we move with our hands and the skin what is below the skin? And one more thing: My partner is really a rather stiff person, I hardly lean in (for example stretch in module 8) when he says oh, yes this feels fine, I mean, I wanted to lean in a little bit more because I felt that I haven´t done anything, but he already felt himself just close to his limits. So, would it be better no to stretch at all and do only warming up for some time?

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August 28, 2013 - 9:38 pm
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I think now you can see why I have never given a shorter Thai Massage session than 2 hours. It is difficult to squeeze a good session into one hour.

You are correct: If the hip is restricted and does not have its normal range of motion, it can affect the knees and the feet as well.

Regarding the knee technique: Your hands stay on the same spot on the skin, i.e. you are not sliding over the skin. You move the skin and what is under it (not much in this case). This creates a warming effect, promotes better circulation and energy flow in the knee area.

Many times I only do warming techniques without any stretching, especially on very stiff people. There is no point in doing stretching moves if someone cannot handle it and it is only uncomfortable with them. In such a case it is much better to work on the muscles to loosen things up first. If I have very stiff clients, I use mostly warming and rocking techniques. You can always add the stretches at a later point, but there is nothing wrong with skipping them entirely. Thai Massage is not a system of mandatory stretching sequences, but an art which means you work in whichever way works best for a particular client. There are no hard and fast rules here. 

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Angela
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September 2, 2013 - 10:44 pm
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Modules 9 and 10

Thank you so much for your advices! I proposed to forget about the stretches for a while, but my partner didn´t agree – he wants to be stretched (if only a little bit) and likes it, and your technique (asking about his well-being from 1 to 10) has been very helpful! It´s a kind of neutral way to comment on the strength of stretch, because I think it would sound and feel really bad for both, recipient and therapist if he said “that hurts”, so I´m very comfortable with that, especially in case of the stretches in module 10 (with the leg straight to one side) which can be pretty strong. 

Now, I told you about my partner´s restriction in the right leg, so I automatically was very careful on both sides. But then I realized (with the 1 to 10 method), that on his left side he is quite flexible. So, is it good to stretch one side more (I mean much more, according to his flexibility) than the other (don´t want him to get crooked!!!)?

I´m glad you mentioned that this was the hardest part and that it´s going to be easier. I´m still struggling with the different positions but the cake concept helps a lot. However, when I´m really concentrated in the energy flow, the breathing, working with my body weight and feeling quite good – I forget what comes next … Laugh  

 

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September 3, 2013 - 2:56 am
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The one to ten method is so useful, I always wonder why so few therapists use this concept. Like you noticed, it can even be used to find out differences between the two sides of the body.

Sure, you can stretch one side more, nothing wrong with that. It won’t make him crooked Smile. It will just make one side more flexible. Better to have one flexible side than two stiff ones. Of course it would be ideal to help improve both sides if possible.

Don’t worry about forgetting what comes next. If you practice it often enough, you will ultimately remember it all, it will become second nature. And the only way to get good at it is to practice a lot.

I’d much rather have a session from a therapist who knows only ten techniques, but executes them with a beautiful energy than a therapist who knows 100 techniques but they all feel mechanical.

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Angela
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September 6, 2013 - 12:03 am
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Module 11

Ok, I´m glad about what you say about working the two sides of the body in a different way! 

The summary video is great. It is so good to see it all put together and how one position flows into the next one – it helps a lot to remember the whole sequence (of course, I know that it is not so important to remember it all, but it gives me some kind of confidence). I practiced it with my partner (he came pretty tired with heavy legs after an exhausting day) and he was very grateful after the session feeling his body much more lighter than before.

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September 6, 2013 - 12:24 am
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I’t funny, when I originally made the summary videos, I was hesitant because I thought that my students might feel that I waste their time by showing them for a second time what they had already learned.

But I have had so many students comment that they really like the summary sessions that I have started to add them into some other courses where I had not done them. For example I just made an extra module for the Hands Free Massage course which is just a summary module. 

I noticed that another German woman just started this course. Her dream is to live in Spain. She just made her first post and her name is Frank Jung. You might want to drop by and say hi to her. Actually there are quite a few Germans who took this course. Maybe we will have to form a separate German club here in the forum – just kidding. 

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Angela
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September 6, 2013 - 1:13 am
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No, of course it´s not a waste of time at all! When I saw the video I wrote down the sequence just in a few words every move and with a little illustration of the positions, so I can recapitulate it whenever I want to. (For example in the subway – here in Mexico City we have sometimes have quite a long distance to overcome …).

The summary module for the Hand Free Massage must be quite interesting! I didn´t realize that there were other Germans in the forum – will have a look!

 

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Angela
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September 11, 2013 - 10:58 pm
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Modules 12 and 13

I thought that I´ve always understood you when you were talking about the movements as a “dance”, but now it became really clear to me! Since there were not so many new moves to learn as in other modules (or rather I could not do all of them) I´ve repeated a lot of what I have seen until now in the last sessions, played with the moves, the  positions, and yesterday for the first time I had the feeling that I was dancing (maybe this is also due to the good music we had when practicing … but it was a good experience). My partner´s quote: “I liked the session a lot because everything was fluent”. Well, it´s not always like this, but it shows me the way.

The sequence in module 12 is beautiful, especially the transition from sitting with my partner´s feet against the

belly to the kneeing position – I wanted to repeat that over and over, first, because I felt a true connection with my partner through that move and second, because of the  transition – it only works if you´re one with your partner. I found a bit more difficult the next position, after stepping through, with my partner´s legs on both sides because I almost lost the balance (my partner is heavier than I am). What surprised me was the we also could do the following move, folding his legs around my legs; maybe, after all this practicing for a couple of weeks now, he got a little bit more flexible? 

And I´m really grateful for the last lesson where you show us what to do in some cases where the recipients feel pain in some specific area. Normally I just would have stopped and gone on with another move, but knowing exactly what to do looks very different!  

In an email you sent to me about the difference between Thai massage and Swedish massage you mentioned the energy lines. Are these the same lines on which acupuncture is based? Is it the same like Sen lines? Are the five lines we are working on the upper leg energy lines? Do you explain the concept in a further module?   

Nice to hear that you´re from Baden Baden – I was living in Karlsruhe for a couple of years and, of course, visited the Caracalla Thermes where I got the first massage in my life – I still remember the session!

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September 12, 2013 - 12:03 am
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I liked the session a lot because everything was fluent“. That’s the kind of quote I love to hear. Clearly you are on the right track. And yes, I would think that your partner is getting more flexible with regular Thai Massage. That should be a natural result.

Regarding the energy lines: They are not all the same. Sen lines are not identical with acupuncture points. There are definitely similarities, but the concepts and the applications are a little different.

In India they call them Nadis, in China Meridians, in Thailand Sen lines, and the various systems have slightly different interpretations and locations of them. Even here in Thailand not all schools are in agreement where exactly the Sen lines run. 

The reason for this is that they are not physical lines that can be pinned down to an exact anatomical location. One of my Thai Massage teachers who is an expert at Sen line work always told us that they can shift. Bottom line is that working with Sen lines is not an exact science, it is more an art of intuitive feeling. 

I have seen different teachers with different approaches to Sen line work. Most general therapists here in Thailand don’t really have a deep understanding of them. Personally I have developed my own style in regard to working with energy which differs somewhat from the traditional Thai Massage style. I wrote an article about it which you can read here.

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Angela
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September 18, 2013 - 4:49 am
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Modules 14 and 15, hip rocking, abdomen and chest

Thanks for your explanation regarding the Sen lines and your most instructive article. Now I have one doubt less! And I´m glad that you have developed this much more gentle way of Thai massage. I got “thumbed” two or three times and yes, in one occasion after a certain time I didn´t feel pain any more (although it came back), but it wasn´t pleasant at all,  in the other occasion it was just painful and didn´t give any results. And the argument was: if you don´t feel any pain it doesn´t work … a matter of taste I guess.

So, the hip rocking was very pleasant. The only problem I had was the moving around from one side to the other you are showing in this module. I practiced it without my partner and since I´m quite flexible I thought that would do, but no, it turned out not to be that easy. Or at least, it doesn´t work without him being aware of it (you mentioned that, too), I feel slightly clumsy, and so it interrupted the flow of the movements, but I´ll work on that. 

Abdomen and chest work were even more pleasant, especially the “wave”! I did it for quite a long time and my partner asked me to go deeper and deeper. At the beginning I felt a little bit strange with that because there´s no muscle, no bones, just a soft area, but with my partner´s guidance I enjoyed it as well. Elephant walking is one of my favorite moves, so the shoulder work was also very welcome.

Do the rocking movements also require warming up?

 

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September 18, 2013 - 4:17 pm
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You will find this quite a few times – a move looks quite easy, but when you do it, it is not so easy. I have felt that so many times when I was teaching live classes. I am wondering in my mind “Why do they all pay me to learn all this, it is so easy to do, there is nothing to it”.

However when my students are trying to do it, I know that it is only so easy for me, because I have been doing it forever, but it can be quite challenging for my students. The good news is that sooner or later you will get to the point where it also becomes so easy for you that you will wonder how you could ever find it difficult. It just takes time to get to that point.

The no-pain-no-gain-philosophy is a matter of taste, yes, but it is not my taste. Smile

The rocking techniques never require any warm up. They fulfill that function perfectly already.

It sounds like you are doing a great job with the abdomen!

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Angela
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September 24, 2013 - 4:55 am
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Modules 16 and 17 – shoulders, arms and hands

Well, the shoulder moves were quite challenging, at least the ones you only do on one side. They felt fine for my partner but not so for me.  Almost every time I moved my hand between his spine and shoulder blade it got tangled up with his shirt. I was thinking that this move maybe would be better without clothes … And as to the next move (circling with one hand on the other) I understood that our hands also should stay between the spine and the shoulder blades, but my partner prefers the move   on   the shoulder blade (?).

The arms and hands sequence is beautiful and seems to be very relaxing: I practiced it twice and both times my partner fell asleep … So, I´m happy for him, that he could relax himself, but in the following moves there was no more feed back for me and actually no more motivation to go on with the massage! Should I wake him up? Or should the moves be stronger? Maybe I should intercalate some leg stretching (I´m kidding …)!

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