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Danielle Pukala's Complete Thai Massage course notes
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Danielle Pukala
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November 27, 2016 - 7:12 am
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Module 1-

I am so excited to start learning this! My mom is actually buying me a real nice Thai Massage mat for Christmas- I can’t wait! I’ve been working on a table for over 8 years now and will certainly need to get used to working on the floor. It’s also going to be a challenge to get used to working on the body as a whole because the school I went to is very clinical in nature and I’ve worked in the chiropractic setting since I graduated. I am looking forward to being able to approach my work in a more holistic way and treat the whole body.

I’ve had the privilege of receiving a Thai Massage from a male therapist about 5 years ago and it was truly an amazing experience. I want to be able to give that feeling to my clients. Thankfully, I use a lot of “tools” in my work anyway and I’m very good about using leverage and gravity to work safely, so I hope that it will give me a bit of an advantage in learning this modality. I get overwhelmed when I’m learning something new and I feel like I can’t do it. I really don’t want to feel like that while learning this so I will definitely be practicing the positions to get my body used to being in them. 

I love how you compare massage with music. When I was first starting out, I felt like I was really good at combining my energy and techniques and I would get so many compliments from my clients about how they felt that my work was different from others. Over the years, I have lost that a little (life does that sometimes)! I still get compliments but especially in the past 4 years, they just haven’t been the same. I want to get back to feeling so comfortable with what I am doing that it makes me feel great and my clients feel it as well. 

I will REALLY be having to work on some breathing techniques so it becomes very natural for me. I have had problems with anxiety all my life and I know that it effects me in so many ways. In massage school we had a Yoga class and my favorite parts were the breathing techniques that we learned. I’ve never felt so relaxed (until my first Thai Massage!) and am really looking forward to making that a part of my daily routine. I have felt the power of combining breath and technique and also felt the difference when they are not connected. It really does feel mechanical and it’s just not nice! 

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November 27, 2016 - 10:42 pm
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Hi Danielle, welcome to the Complete Thai Massage course and our forum. According to what you described in your post, this course should be perfect for you. My style of Thai Massage is far from a clinical experience, but rather focuses on therapist-friendly techniques, graceful and flowing movements, good ergonomics, and a holistic approach which will get you lots of appreciation from your clients! 🙂

Using your breath in Thai Massage will go a long way towards reducing anxiety along with some other elements which you will learn in the next few months. I will be very interested in hearing how this works for you.

Also please take a moment and familiarize yourself with our certification check list to make sure that we are on the same wave length: 🙂

Certification Check List

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Danielle Pukala
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November 28, 2016 - 9:46 am
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Module 2-  

I like how you really take the time to explain things in a way that is very easy to understand. I had always wondered about the difference between Thai Massage, Thai Yoga Massage, Swe-Thai etc., especially since I always see continuing education ads for them. I’m glad to know that they are all essentially the same thing. That will certainly save me from enrolling in a class only to find out that it may be something that I already know!

“Traditional means that you follow something that has been done forever, or a long time, without necessarily being improved.” Your words here were felt very deeply for me. I feel like this applies to every facet of life and it was one of those things that make you widen your perspective of the world. I love that! 

I followed along while you were talking about ergonomics and I noticed how strange it felt to being in that position and stretch my client’s (aka my boyfriend) leg. This is definitely going to take some getting used too! 

I noticed that while I was practicing the “Chi Machine”, it was easy to create the movement with the whole body of my client, although the continual coordination between my lower body and upper body was a bit of a challenge!

Question: is it more difficult for practitioners who are shorter? I am 5 feet 1.5 inches, 110 lbs and I’ve always had to find ways to make certain techniques work for me. I’ve also had to not use certain techniques because they were uncomfortable for me because of my small stature. That is probably one of my biggest concerns with learning this modality. 

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November 28, 2016 - 2:39 pm
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Danielle, you just described the size and weight of most of the tens of thousands of female massage therapists in Thailand. They can all do it, and so can you. As a matter of fact those small Thai women can make big men cry – not that I want you do do that! Smile

In this course you will learn lots of methods of how you can use your body weight to its best advantage. This is actually one of the strong points of Thai Massage! Plus throughout the course I teach many ways how to modify techniques for different types, weights and sizes of bodies.

That being said, there is nothing wrong with skipping certain techniques, like if you work on a 220 pound man. The techniques in this course are options to choose from, not mandatory sequences. I am much taller and heavier than you, but still, when I work on a much heavier person, I also skip techniques which stress my body too much. That’s part of the art of Thai Massage.

This is not a one-size-fits-all system where you do the same thing to every client. It’s an artistic process where you adjust your sessions to fit the needs, size and weight of your clients.

So, the good news is, that you won’t have to worry about your size and weight. I am married to a native Thai Massage therapist who is about your height and not much heavier than you, and she has been doing Thai Massage since 17 years, and she is still doing it every day!

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Danielle Pukala
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November 29, 2016 - 9:09 pm
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Thank you Shama! It’s nice to know that this modality will still be fairly easy for me to do despite my size. I’m a bit of a perfectionist so when I am learning something new physically, I can get frustrated when I know I’m not doing it right. That for me will be one of my biggest challenges- just learning to relax and remembering that with enough practice, I’ll get it! This makes me feel like I’m back in massage school learning everything from scratch! (I’ll admit that I do like that feeling though lol!)

Module 3-    

I find it interesting how Thai Massage typically starts with the feet. Most western modalities start with the back or neck and the chiropractic office I work in, I rarely work on feet at all! (Due to the majority of people requesting work on their backs, necks and hips.) Just out of curiosity, do you request that people have clean feet before working on them? I have quite a few clients that have so not-so-nice feet so that will most likely be something that I have to address one way or another! 

I feel like when I was doing the first few techniques on my boyfriend, it was a little difficult to reach his feet comfortably while having his feet so close to my knees. Should I maybe move back a little farther so I can get more leverage? 

When doing the push-pull-rotate technique, I had to readjust a few time to get the proper alignment of my client and myself. My boyfriend has long legs and of course with my short ones, it was more of my ankle underneath his knee, not my lower leg as you do in the video. I’m assuming this is ok, so long as I perform the technique correctly? So something interesting that happened with this technique- there was a slight “pop” that my boyfriend heard and felt in his leg (we’re not sure from where) and the next day he mentioned to me that he didn’t have the pain that he usually does. (He has had low back and leg pain that comes and goes for years.) I joked and said that maybe we released some blocked energy in the area. Now I’m wondering if that may in fact be what happend? 

The last technique where you are gently shaking the foot and you say to use your whole body, are you using your hips to go up and down? I can’t quite tell from the video. I feel like a few of these techniques I can use when I’m working with my clients on the table too! This is so cool! LaughLaughLaugh

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November 30, 2016 - 2:22 am
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With Thai Massage you will be able to work on many areas which are often neglected in most massage modalities – feet, sacrum, abdomen, glutes, and chest for example. Thai Massage is much more complete in this regard. It doesn’t skip over parts of the body.

I have rarely had problems with people showing up with dirty or stinky feet, so for me this was never much of an issue. Of course this might be different in your situation. Except for maybe a couple of occasions I never had to ask people to clean their feet. But if someone does show up with really stinky feet, then it is better to ask them to clean them rather than feeling bad while working on them.

As you noticed, just because a position works well for me doesn’t mean that the exact same position will work equally well for you. Size differences play a big part in Thai Massage and require adjustments and modifications. Definitely try to adjust your position so that you get the best leverage with least effort.

If your ankle is under your partner’s knee, that’s fine and a necessary consequence of having shorter legs. No problem here.

In Thai Massage you will hear more popping and cracking noises for the simple reason that you move the body around a lot more than in table massage. Sometimes releases will happen in this way and apparently it did in your boyfriend’s case.

In the last technique there is a very slight up and down movement out of my hip, but it is very small. The main point is to make sure that you do not use your arms only for this move, but that you engage your entire body, even if only a tiny bit. This goes for pretty much all Thai Massage techniques.

You will be able to use many of the Thai Massage techniques for your table work as well! Smile

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Danielle Pukala
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January 1, 2017 - 1:55 am
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Hello again! It has been a few weeks! Unfortunately I was really sick at the beginning of the month so I was unable to post. Then of course everything with these holidays- I swear, I’m surprised I even know my own name! I don’t think I’ve ever been this busy at this time of year! (Not sure if you celebrate in your neck of the woods, but either way- happy holidays to you and your lovely wife!) 

Anywho, I have definitely had to play around with my body position to work on my boyfriend. He’s so dang big lol! I have a small group of my current massage clients who have graciously volunteered their bodies for me to practice on, so soon I will be getting the feel of working on different body sizes and types. I’m really looking forward to it but at the same time I’m so nervous. It’s been so long since I’ve done something that I wasn’t very confident about so this will take some getting used too! 

Module 4-

I only drive stick shift and my first time was exactly as you described! It was quite comical and even though I’ve been driving stick for years now, when I drive a different car I still have to adjust to how that particular car functions. Similar to knowing how to give a massage but learning and applying new techniques. I like this analogy very much!  

When I started out as an MT, I really did have that connection with people and their bodies as you mentioned. Over the years, I’ve found it challenging sometimes to maintain that, mainly because my personal life has been a bit of an emotional roller coaster. I’m an extremely empathetic person and feel my emotions very strongly and deeply, (sometimes to a fault); so when things outside the massage room get intense, it’s very difficult to keep that connection. One of the reasons I wanted to learn Thai Massage was so that I could hopefully re-learn how to develop and keep that connection. Do you have any tips on how to help that process along? I’m thinking that some meditation would be helpful. I’ve tried a little in the past, but it’s been a challenge to actually get my mind to relax. 

Working on the feet in all 8 ways has proven to be a bit difficult on my boyfriend unfortunately, due to the fact that he doesn’t particularly like having his feet touched. When I’m able to work on other bodies, I’m sure it will be a lot better. When kneading the soles of the foot, are you applying a decent amount of pressure? I feel like I wasn’t accomplishing much but that may be because my boyfriend couldn’t relax with me working on his feet.  

My attempts at the transition from one foot to the other were certainly not as pretty as yours lol but I’m sure will get better!  

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Danielle Pukala
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January 1, 2017 - 2:38 am
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Module 5- 

I like how many of the techniques can be used on other areas of the body as you mentioned. Especially in the beginning stages, I’m glad that I can refer back to those if I happen to forget something else. 

So when you are working on your male clients, do you ask them to “adjust” themselves when working on the upper things? I know with other modalities its necessary to get real up close and personal and it usually requires the male client to move their family jewels out of the way. I personally haven’t done this much because I don’t typically work in those areas, but I do foresee having to do so with this modality. How exactly do you yourself word that? I also have to ask if you have ever accidentally kneed someone in the crotchal region? I feel like because I am a beginner to working on the floor and in this manner that I may in fact do that unintentionally! lolEmbarassedLaugh

When doing the push-pull technique on the thigh, you use your left heal of the hand to push and the right hand to pull but I noticed that for me I kept using both hands to push and pull. Is that ok? Or is that essentially a different technique? It may be that I just need to get used to doing those opposite movements with each hand. 

I like how you pointed out that it’s alright to pick a few of the techniques that we are comfortable with and work on getting really good at those. That is essentially what I have done over the years with all my continuing ed classes. I’ve rarely been able to use every single thing that I’ve learned. And as you stated in an earlier module, it’s better to be very good at just a few techniques than not so good at many.

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January 1, 2017 - 11:45 pm
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Welcome back! Smile 

Christmas is not much celebrated in Thailand since it is a Buddhist country. So there is no shopping mania going on – fortunately.

Practicing on someone who is very big is definitely more challenging, so it will be good for you to get to work on some different size people.

If your boyfriend doesn’t like to have his feet touched, then it will be difficult to get it to feel right for either you or him. Also it will be hard on your hands if he has large feet. In such cases it might work out a lot better if you use forearm or elbow techniques, but that’s jumping the gun a little at this point in the course. Smile

In this course you will definitely learn how to develop and keep this connection. There are lots of tips about this throughout the course, and there is even an entire bonus module about this exact topic, the Magic Touch Secrets course, which you will get after you have gone through the main course modules.

For normal Thai Massage work I generally don’t ask male clients to move their genitals out of the way. However there are cases when I sometimes do ask them to do that:

1. When I do extensive abdominal work
2. When I ask male clients to turn over into the prone position so that they don’t lie on their genital which would feel uncomfortable, especially when you apply pressure on the glutes or sacrum.

Fore me it has never been a big issue to ask them that. I just casually mention that it would be a good idea to tuck their genital down so that they feel more comfortable.

In the same way I always ask women to take their bras off for a session and I tell them that their bra straps get in the way. And especially if they wear those wire cage bras which restrict lymph flow and blood circulation and are are even thought to be part of the problem with breast cancer.

It is a fact that Thai Massage on males can result in some involuntary movement or expansion of their genitalia since you move legs around, and sometimes their pants get stretched and put pressure on the genital. Here in Thailand every female therapist knows that and just disregards any such noticeable symptoms – unless of course it is accompanied by inappropriate behavior or remarks, which would be an entirely different story.

Regarding the push-pull technique, it’s fine to lift with both hands, but on the pushing it helps to have some counter-pull with the other hand so that the push is more controlled and the leg doesn’t feel like it is getting away from you too quickly.

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Danielle Pukala
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January 6, 2017 - 3:38 am
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That is certainly a good thing that there isn’t all the craziness with the holidays over there! I often feel like in the American culture we forget the importance of slowing down and spending time with our loved ones, instead of buying their affections. (Probably one of the reasons why Massage Therapists are usually very busy at this time of year lol! 

I’m definitely excited to continue to learn everything in this main course as well as the bonus courses. I’m someone who gets really excited about things that I like and will eventually take all of your courses! Smile

That’s very interesting about bras with wire in them. I’m definitely going to look into that one since I am one of those women. 

I will continue to work on the push-pull technique. Hopefully with continued practice I’ll get the flow of that right. 

Module 6-

I really liked the warm-ups with the forearms. I use a lot of forearms in my regular sessions so this is very natural transition for me. I work a lot on clients who are very stiff so this will be something that I utilize often. I’ve been finding that the transitions between moves are pretty challenging for me- mainly because I’m still getting used to working on the floor. It still feels so awkward! 

I had a bit of a tough time balancing while gently holding down my partner’s leg with my knee. I have ankles that are a bit weak but I am working on strengthening them, so I hope that it will get better. My boyfriend said he liked the push-pull technique here and that it felt like it flowed nicely. I was a bit unsure of that, but we are our toughest critic, so I guess I’ll have to wait to see what my other clients think! lolLaugh 

After working on both the inner and outer thigh, my boyfriend noticed that his legs were feeling a bit more relaxed and slightly looser, so we both are looking forward to more intense leg work! (Now only if I could teach him to do this on me! LaughWink)

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Danielle Pukala
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January 6, 2017 - 4:51 am
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Module 7-

I noticed that my boyfriend’s right hip was higher than the right, indicating some rotation in the low back and that is exactly where he has a lot of his pain, so this makes a lot of sense to me. I am a bit curious about when the feet are bent out and that meaning the hips are open and relaxed. (When I was in school we were taught that that means the external rotators in the hip were tight, but that was also 8 years ago so it may not be accurate.) His right leg resisted being bent out and his left leg resisted being bent in.

The “elephant walking” was still a bit too much for my boyfriend to handle, even with a pillow supporting his leg and with very little pressure. I then did the alternate technique, gently rocking with my right hand on his hip and my left on his knee, but he actually felt that that made it worse. We decided to try a bigger pillow under his leg while I did the “elephant walking” and that seemed to be the most comfortable for him. 

We both really enjoyed the stretch where his leg is bent at 90 degrees and I use my feet. It was a fairly easy technique for me to do, although his feet are a bit large for my hands, so I did find that after a little while it was challenging to keep a good grip on his foot. I’m looking forward to learning the alternate technique. 

The last technique felt really good for my boyfriend and was quite easy for me to do. I did notice that it was a bit uncomfortable for us both when I held his ankle in place with my own so I had to adjust and make sure his foot was rather close to his body to reduce the pressure. It seemed to make a difference for us both. 

After the video finished, my boyfriend said “Hey wait!!! You have to do the other leg and even me out!!!” to which I laughed and said of course! Laugh Now I did this from memory and did each of the techniques covered in this video in order except for the last one. (Pretty impressive for me since my brain was a bit fried from the busy day we had! lol) I forgot about that for a few minuets while I did some other work but remembered and finished with it!  

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January 6, 2017 - 3:40 pm
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Your boyfriend had some good sense there asking you to do the other leg! Laugh

Regarding the angle of the feet: If the hips are balanced and not restricted, the feet will fall out to about a 45 degree angle in resting position and they will easily be bent inwards as well. So that’s the base line. Everything that differs from this scenario is an indication of a restriction somewhere in the thigh/hip area.

Try to do the elephant walking in a very gentle way. Do it slowly, softly, and in a very sensitive way. Work only with your body weight and let your hands sink in. If you press or muscle this in any way, it will feel bad. However if you work like I described you could do it on a baby without causing any discomfort.

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Danielle Pukala
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February 2, 2017 - 1:51 am
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Module 8- 

I really enjoy the hip pie analogy- definitely a great way to think about how to work the hip in each direction. (Also great for those instances where I may forget what to do next and just have top think “How many slices of pie do I have left?” Laugh 

The techniques to work on the calf muscles are rather easy for me as they as very similar to other techniques I have learned and used. The only thing that I seemed to have difficulty with was accessing the top of the calf muscles- I needed to extend my boyfriends knee a bit before I could do so. I feel this is just a matter of getting good at moving myself and positioning my client. The transitioning for the next technique went much better for me while following along with the video, but was something I struggled with when I did it from memory on the other side. 

My boyfriend definitely had some restriction in the hip crease on both legs, but more-so on the right side. I had to be very gentle with these stretches but he did feel a whole lot better afterwards! I was very relieved to use the version for small therapists while working on the hamstrings- much easier for me while working on larger clients. 

 

Module 9-

Regarding the hand placement of the left hand in the first technique of this module- I felt like turning my hand in above the knee (to stabilize the client’s leg) was a bit difficult for me because of the short length of my arms compared to my boyfriends leg. (I felt in order to have my hand in the exact place, my back was bent too far forward, making it uncomfortable.) Instead I placed my hand on his medial knee and while I felt it was more comfortable for my body, he said that it was not “supposed” to be like that. I explained to him that it’s not an exact science and that I need to work in a way that allows me to keep my body safe and feeling good while I work. Is that the right way to go about it? (He kept insisting that it needs to be precisely as in the videos.)

It was rather funny when you were talking about calling attention to the area where a client is not relaxing because as soon as my boyfriend heard you say that, he realized that he in fact was holding and was surprised that with conscious intention on his part, it began to fall out to the side more! (This is something that I do in my regular sessions so I am very comfortable with it!)

For the most part, I felt that doing the stretches was not too difficult for me to execute. The last technique however felt a bit difficult because of the distance between my boyfriend’s shoulder and knee- I felt like my wingspan was not large enough to comfortably apply and maintain pressure for this technique and I felt enough discomfort in my low back to have to stop. I’m guessing that I didn’t have my body in the correct position, so I will have to work on that and let you know if I experience the same feelings. I will also mention that I noticed while doing several of the hip stretches I felt like my low back was a bit uncomfortable. Again, this could certainly be from not having my body in the right place, but I did exercise earlier in the day and I think I may have been really tight because of it. Hopefully when I practice next time my back won’t be tight and I’ll be able to discern if it was because of that or improper body mechanics. 

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February 2, 2017 - 8:56 pm
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The size and weight difference between client and therapist can indeed determine how to do a technique, or how to modify it. In the scenario which you described, I would side with you. The first priority is that you feel comfortable in your body and have good ergonomics.

Sometimes it is difficult for us taller folks to appreciate the unique challenges of having a much smaller body. Smile On the positive side, such situations will encourage you and teach you how to adjust and modify techniques, ergonomics and execution so that it works best for you. That’s an important skill to develop in Thai Massage.

I suggest that you do the technique on your boyfriend both ways – the exact way how I show it in the video, and your modified version. If the result is the same, then this is your proof that your modification is the right thing to do. If however a modification results in a less effective, or wobbly or unstable technique, then you have to re-think how to do it.

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Danielle Pukala
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April 27, 2017 - 3:50 am
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Shama! 

I had to take some time away from training for health reasons. (I had an ovarian cyst that ruptured and caused my appendix to rupture as well. NOT fun! I was really sick for a long time but am better now.) I will be starting back up with training this week but I had a question regarding the CEU cert. I know that part of the requirements is to be consistently posting in the forum so I was wondering if my long absence will affect that? So long as I keep up with it from here on out, will that be ok?  

I hope you are well and enjoying your traveling! 

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April 27, 2017 - 11:02 am
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Hi Danielle, sorry to hear about your health trouble. Regarding the certification, I have established certain rules to keep things organized, however I am not a stickler for rules. If someone has a good reason for not being able to post regularly, then of course I accept that and modify or extend my rules. So don’t worry about that and pick up from where you left off.

The only thing that can happen is that if you had already enrolled in the test questions for the CEUs (which is run by a third party company, examprofessor), then this expires after 6 months. However the worst thing in this case is that you had to pay another $10 to re-start the process, which is no big deal.

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Danielle Pukala
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May 3, 2017 - 8:53 am
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Thank you so much Shama! I really appreciate it! I have until the end of the month to complete the test questions, so I’m sure I’ll be ok there. 

Module 10

The beginning move in this video I really like doing- I feel like it gives the client a really good stretch throughout the hip and back. I did have to use the version for a smaller therapist which worked just fine. My boyfriend really enjoyed how this one felt!

The “hip pie” 270 degree stretch went fairly well although I do have a question- how close is your leg that you have on the floor to your client’s body? When I was doing this stretch, I had to be a good distance away in order to have my boyfriend’s ankle in my groin (He has rather long legs). Is that still right? Is that a technique that will have to be adjusted with each client depending on leg length? I really like that there are 3 variations of this stretch.

The spinal twist technique didn’t seem to do much for my boyfriend while I was blocking his straight leg with my knee. (Again, his legs are long.) He asked me to move a bit farther away (no blocking his straight leg) and do the same technique and for him that seemed to give him the feel of the stretch. Could I have been doing it wrong the first time? Or is this again a technique where I’ll have to adjust based on client size? 

I did the “blood stop” on both of his legs and he said that it was not comfortable for him. (I was only able to hold each side for about 10 seconds.) Is this the case with some people? Could it just be that he isn’t used to it? I feel like I did do the technique right- I felt the pulse, felt it get warm and then increase in pressure. (I actually did this to myself one day unintentionally lol- I was using a foam roller on my inner thighs and when I lifted my left leg I felt a nice big increase of blood flow, warm and fuzzy feelings. It was nice!)

The last technique was actually pretty easy for me to do. My boyfriend said this one really helped stretch his calf muscles. It was really easy on my body. IM SO HAPPY TO BE DOING THIS AGAIN!Cool

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May 4, 2017 - 8:15 am
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Regarding the hip pie 270 degree stretch – this one is definitely one of those where you have to adjust the position to fit your client. The fact is that this stretch cannot be handled by every client. It is quite a powerful technique and requires caution. There is no ONE rule where I put my leg. It really depends on the flexibility and size of the client. So feel free to experiment with different leg positions.

Regarding the spinal twist – if done right, this should be a potentially very powerful technique for all but the most flexible yogis. The more you increase the angle of the bent leg of the client, the stronger the stretch will be. In other words if the client’s foot is way below the knee, there will be less effect, but if the foot is right next to the knee, there should be a strong effect.

So I suspect that your position was not quite right. Play with the client’s foot position and leg angle. Then, if you get the knee to touch the ground while the opposite shoulder is still on the floor, this WILL be a very strong stretch for anyone unless you are working on spider man.

Regarding the blood stop – the trick here is that you find the exact right spot, and then lean in very slowly and with softness with the heel of your hand. If you are a little bit off in the location, or if you lean in too quickly, this can feel very disconcerting. This movement seems so simple, but it is a piece of art all by itself.

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