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Dianne Shoenfelt's Complete Thai Massage course notes
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Dianne Shoenfelt
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December 19, 2018 - 10:04 pm
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Module 1:

I am so excited for several reasons to be working on the floor!  

First of all, this is how I started out as a massage hobbyist.  I didn't learn to use a massage table until I was 25 years old.  I do feel as if the table gets in my way, and can have a negative impact on my body mechanics.  For years I thought the only solution would be to invest in a motorized table, but I'd much rather work on the floor.

I have noticed with table massage how clients brace their arms/legs when doing any ROM where the limb is lifted and moved off the table with no support underneath.  Their bracing causes resistance in both their body and mine.  I really like that arms and legs can be slid across the mat, with support underneath, giving the client that "safe" feeling rather than feeling like they might fall off the table!

I also love that clients can ROLL over on the mat, rather than having to pick themselves up and FLIP over on a narrow table.  This is not easy for all clients and can really disrupt the flow of the session. 

I'm also thrilled to be learning more about energy flow and working in an intuitive way rather than a clinical/anatomical manner.  I have my A&P knowledge and I do use it often but the best massage, I have found, is based on the quality of touch rather than technical training.  I'm so pleased that this program is much more than just learning a sequence of moves.

The squatting and kneeling is something my body will need to get accustomed to, but I think it will be good for my body to start moving in new and different ways.

The side-lying techniques are something I'm really excited about learning.  I've experienced some really powerful side-lying techniques and I can't wait to offer this to my clients.

Thank you Shama for this course, I'm so happy to be here!

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December 20, 2018 - 12:02 am
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Hi Dianne, I think this course will fit you like hand-in-glove! You have all the right reasons for being excited about it. 

Table work is harder on your body than Thai Massage on the floor, for sure. It is much easier to have good body mechanics on a floor mat where the table cannot get in your way. It is also much easier for the client who doesn't have to worry about sliding body parts off the table or having to flip around in a cumbersome way.

And practicing Thai Massage is a much more holistic process compared to the way how western massage is typically taught, (with a heavy emphasis on science, anatomy and all kinds of rules, and without regards to energy flow). I think you will really enjoy your Thai Massage journey, and I will be there every step of the way to help you if needed! Smile

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Dianne Shoenfelt
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December 20, 2018 - 7:50 pm
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MODULE 2

I can see how much Thai massage improves ergonomics and posture.  I tried a few leg stretches with my husband who is double my weight and very solid and stiff, he feels like he's made of lead!  I'm probably going to use him as my model for the majority of this course because, he truly is one of the most difficult clients I have ever worked on.  He feels much heavier than he actually is.  I figure if I can execute these moves on him, I can work on anyone!  I found the kneeling postures very easy and I'm looking forward to learning more.

Sitting on my feet is going to take some getting used to.  I did the chi machine technique on my husband as well.  I've used a chi machine and I've done chi gong so I'm familiar with that "feel" of rocking/shaking back and forth to stimulate chi flow.  Definitely keeping the client's heels positioned slightly more inward makes it easier.  It took a little while to get my client's whole body rocking, but once I got the feel of it, it was easy!  I wasn't sure if I would be able to get someone that big and heavy to rock from foot to head, but it worked!

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December 21, 2018 - 12:05 am
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I hope that you will also get to practice on some lighter and more flexible partners, just so that you don't feel that Thai Massage is hard work! Smile

The other thing is that it's important to get a feeling for doing the techniques in a very gentle way as well as there are people who can't handle strong stuff. So a mix of practice partners is good for learning different styles of working. There will be some techniques that you won't be able and shouldn't do on your husband, in the interest of preserving your own health and working within comfortable limits.

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Dianne Shoenfelt
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December 21, 2018 - 6:06 pm
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MODULE 3 

I really like the foot techniques, and I love the rocking and circling.  I like to move my whole body when I work, massage is very much a type of "dance" for me.  I think I've lost some of that fluid motion over the years, so this is very refreshing!

I do have smaller, lighter clients to work on than my husband, and I tried these techniques on a client and it worked well. I was using the table so it wasn't quite the same.

I much preferred performing these techniques on the floor and my body is adapting to the new ways of moving in a very positive way!  I'm looking forward to learning more!

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December 21, 2018 - 11:29 pm
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I am glad to hear that you get to practice on a variety of people. And I am happy to hear that you like working on the floor as this gives you some significant advantages in Thai Massage over the table work.

I am pretty sure that the 'fluid dance' will come back to you during this course! Smile

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Dianne Shoenfelt
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December 29, 2018 - 9:18 pm
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MODULE 4

I'm really loving the body mechanics.  I like using my whole body, however the transitions and positions that are really up-close-and-personal is something I'm going to have to get used to.  I'm so accustomed to working on a table and having that "boundary" between me and my client that having my leg underneath theirs and such feels very strange.  I like it, but it will take time until I feel comfortable.  When on the receiving end of Thai massage it all feels great, but it's so different from what I've been doing that it's just going to take a lot of time and practice until I feel confident.

I have been experimenting with different mat options and I discovered that 2 inches of memory foam is a no-no!  I did not have enough stability and the memory foam leaves an indentation where the leg had been lying prior to being moved, and my clients leg kept wanting to roll back into that groove!  Lesson learned.  No memory foam!

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December 29, 2018 - 11:50 pm
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True, memory foam is not useful for Thai Massage work, as you have found out. And 2 inches is too high anyway. There is a video in this course which goes over choosing the best mat.

It's a fact that there is more body contact in Thai Massage compared to western table massage. But that's what gives you the leverage and the advantage of using your body weight and reducing stress on your body.

Clients typically don't mind since after all they are fully dressed versus lying naked on a table. This is something you will get used to. I am pretty sure that this feels stranger to you than to your clients. Smile

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Dianne Shoenfelt
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January 2, 2019 - 7:07 pm
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MODULE 5

I'm really enjoying the techniques, but I'm having some difficulty working on the floor.  I may have to adapt some of the moves for the table for the time being and gradually transition to the floor.  My lower back is still too unstable and is going to require more time to heal before I can be moving efficiently around on the floor.

I have tried working on my table set at a significantly lower height than I normally work on, and this made it very easy for me to prop my knee on the table while keeping one foot on the floor.  That felt really good and comfortable.  I guess only time will tell if I can transition over to all floor work, or remain on the table, or both?  I'm exploring all options and I'm also considering a motorized table combined with Thai techniques might just be the best of both worlds that will help preserve my body long term?  

I find those wide, low, platform style Thai massage tables very interesting.  Is there any advantage to working on that type of a table, or is it just a fancy way of working on the floor?  

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January 2, 2019 - 7:32 pm
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Those low platform tables that are sometimes used in Thailand are just a 'fancy' way of doing it. They have no advantage over working on the floor, and are not really 'fancy' at all. You'd be much better off with a motorized table that you can adjust easily to the height which is most comfortable for you. In Thailand the typical massage shop could never afford such a table.

I think your approach is fine. You can do some work on the table, and see if you can transition to the floor gradually. If not, you can adapt the entire system to the table as much as possible. Many of our students are doing that.

The main issue with massage tables is that they are so narrow that you cannot move the client around as easily as on a floor mat.

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Dianne Shoenfelt
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January 4, 2019 - 12:15 am
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MODULE 6

I was able to work some of these techniques into a regular client's massage today.  I hadn't planned on incorporating any new techniques, but it just sort of happened!  

I was working on the table, and my client is a Reiki master and she really enjoys very subtle energy work and craniosacral techniques, so I worked very slow and gently.  She loved it!  I used some of the rocking/push-pull techniques as well as using forearms.  Even though I was working with oil directly on skin, I was able to use compression.  I also covered her with the sheet and worked on top of the sheet like working on a clothed person.  It worked really well and felt natural.  

I feel much more confident today.  I do want to practice more on the floor because I agree, you can't move the client's body around enough on a narrow table, nor is there enough room for the therapist to climb on the table safely.  Only time will tell if I can transition to floor work or if I'll end up with a motorized table.  This article from the AMTA made me feel a little better about my creaky knees and floor work!  https://www.amtamassage.org/articles/3/MTJ/detail/2943/thai-massage 

I still have so much to learn and I'm excited to see how this adventure unfolds!

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Shama
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January 5, 2019 - 4:03 pm
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Sounds like good progress to me. Yes, let it unfold, and one way or the other you will use it in the way that works best for you.

The AMTA article is really good. I will share that in the facebook group - thanks.

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Dianne Shoenfelt
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January 6, 2019 - 4:59 am
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MODULE 7

I had a friend come over today and I was able to practice on her, on the floor, in my massage room.  She's pretty small and very flexible, so we had a lot of fun.  I was able to try a lot of moves on her and it was all very easy.  My feet would start to get numb if I sat on them too long, but otherwise I was okay on the floor today.

I really like this hip evaluation, very helpful information before starting the massage.  My client today had very good movement in her hips and she was very relaxed, it was easy to move her legs and stretch her.  I'm curious as to how to handle the type of client that braces or resists when trying to move the limbs?  I've had clients that often want to "help" whenever I try to lift and/or move a limb, they try to do the movement for me.  Some of them just can't seem to fully relax even when I remind them to.

I'm working on synchronizing my breathing and movement while working on table and floor.  I'm getting the hang of the more ergonomically friendly moves and I'm incorporating them on the table too.  I'm really working on using my whole body and getting into a "dance" type of movement, and I love that!  It feels good!  

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Shama
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January 7, 2019 - 10:23 am
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Oh, the "helpers" - they can be tough nuts to crack. Smile Actually the very best way to deal with people who are resisting is to use rocking movements which are almost impossible to resist. Since you never stay in one place with them, the client's body doesn't know what to resist. It 'confuses' the resisters which is a good thing in this case. You will see a lot more about this coming up in the course.

Also many times I verbally make people aware of their resisting and I talk them through a relaxation process or I get them to breathe into the body part in question. I get them to help me instead of resisting me.

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Dianne Shoenfelt
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January 10, 2019 - 9:53 pm
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MODULE 8

Okay, this is probably going to sound more like a journal entry, but I've recently had an epiphany, an "ah-ha" moment and I feel like I "get it" on a much deeper level now.

I've been immersing myself in all things Thai massage.  I'm watching all of the videos online that I can find, I've been re-watching some DVD's that I bought ten years ago, reading articles, books etc.  Now I really understand that this is an art form, not a technical, mechanical, clinical modality, but a folk art with infinite possibility for creativity.  I love the term "metta massage", loving kindness...

I explained to a client yesterday (who just can't seem to comprehend how working on the floor fully clothed with no oil or lotion, moving the body etc... could possibly feel better than a table massage) that working on the table is like painting in watercolor with a few brushes and colors.  Thai massage is like working in mixed-media with a whole studio full of art supplies to create with!  She seemed to understand.  However, I've made the decision that I am not going to put any pressure on myself to incorporate Thai massage into my professional practice at this time.  Aside from a few techniques that I can adapt to the table, I'm just going to pursue Thai massage for personal enrichment right now, not as a "career move".  I want to remove the expectations, the attachment to outcome, and the pressure to perform when money is being exchanged for massage.  I want to get back to the heart of the work and do this work in it's purest form right now, untainted by the "business" end of things.

I need to do this for me.  I need to break out of my old habits and comfort zone.  I need to learn to work and move my body in a new way, and I need to learn to connect with people in a new and different way.  I want to get back to doing massage for the pure joy of it, not because it's my "job".   When I went to massage school 20 years ago, it was first and foremost for personal enrichment, while I hoped that it would turn into a career (and it did) I wasn't fixated on making it a career.  I'm taking that approach with Thai massage.  Making this decision has given me a lot of peace about the future of my career too.  I'm just going to wait and see how it all unfolds.  This is a spiritual journey for me, not just a training in a new modality.  

I am really starting to fall in love with all things Thai massage!  I never thought I'd feel this way about any one single modality, but here we are!  I also like the vibe I get from the Thai massage community.  It's all so loving and supportive, and not competitive, the way western massage can be.  

So, I'm going to be practicing, practicing, practicing for the pure joy of it... and I'll just wait and see where Thai massage takes me!

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January 10, 2019 - 11:18 pm
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I like your epiphany! Anything that helps us to be inspired is a great thing. It kind of reminds me of the time when I started with Thai Massage 20 years ago. I did it for the fun of it, because I loved it, because it inspired me, and I was in a position where I didn't need to make money with it. After a while it naturally turned into a career.

My prediction is that whenever the time is right, you will be so good at Thai Massage and so inspired by it that some clients will become attracted to it and fall in love with it. 

My situation was a little different though. I never had to convince anyone to switch from table massage to Thai Massage on a floor mat since Thai Massage is all I ever did. So 100 percent of the clients who came to me wanted Thai Massage. Many or most of them tried it out of curiosity and many became steady clients. Back in those days Thai Massage was still a real novelty in the western world.

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Dianne Shoenfelt
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January 13, 2019 - 6:55 pm
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MODULE 9

I've been practicing on the floor a lot more lately and I really do like the freedom that it permits.  I'm moving very slowly and paying close attention to my body mechanics.  I'm really trying to focus on using my whole body, but I still have to really think about it or else I'll fall back into using too much arm strength.

I worked on my husband again and he's really heavy and stiff, but I was able to do a lot of these hip stretches.  He's not as stiff as he is guarding and tensing.  The rocking and circular movements really helped him relax and I was able to get much deeper hip stretches than I thought possible for him.  I played around with moving fluidly around the body.  We went very slow and kept it all relaxed and meditative.  I was surprised that I was able to do most of the hip pie stretches on my husband, and relatively effortlessly.  I'm feeling more comfortable on the floor now too.  My knees still make a whole lot of noise, which I find distracting, but hopefully that's temporary!

I'm currently doing somatic movement exercises (Feldenkrais, Alexander technique, Hannah somatics etc) for my own musculoskeletal issues and I think that learning and performing Thai massage, especially very slow focused movement, is going to help facilitate my own healing.  I was watching Shai Plonski's interview with Dr. Blake Martin PhD regarding Thai massage and Parkinsons disease.  I'm thrilled to find that the passive ROM in Thai massage DOES help send new signals to the brain and facilitates in the growth of new neural pathways!  I've been reading, researching, and practicing neural retraining methods for over a year, to help treat my own chronic pain and illness, and this work has been profoundly healing on all levels.  It's great to see how it connects to Thai massage.  I love it when things all "come together" for me like that!

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January 13, 2019 - 10:51 pm
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I have not seen Shai's interview, but I can speak from personal experience. I had a client with Parkinsons, and I worked on him for two years several hours a week. During that time I saw him steadily get better and lead a close to normal life. He was convinced that Thai Massage saved him where the doctors could not. He also saw other therapists, so it was a combined effort, but his entire treatment protocol was Thai Massage, foot massage, and abdominal massage.

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Dianne Shoenfelt
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January 31, 2019 - 11:08 pm
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MODULE 10 

I'm actually up to module 17 in the videos, but haven't had many opportunities to practice lately so I'm playing catch-up with my course notes.  My body hasn't been cooperating so working on the floor has been uncomfortable again.  Especially any time I try to sit on my butt instead of knees.  Sitting on the floor, especially with a leg extended causes pain in my lower back right now.  I think I'm going to have to work on getting my own body in better physical condition before I can really practice effectively.  

I tried working on my husband the other day, which is difficult because he is so big and heavy and stiff, and I got very discouraged and gave up.  I really need to find lighter more flexible people to practice on for the time being and maybe only attempt to do a few of the easier stretches right now.  

I have been incorporating some techniques on the table and they are working well.  My clients have noticed a difference and I feel different after a session too.  I'm not doing too many stretches or anything like that with my table clients, but I've been doing what I call the "Thai vibe".  I just give the whole session that same rhythm and flow of Thai massage.  I try to pay attention to the Sen lines.  I do a lot more rocking, shaking, bouncing and stimulating Chi flow.  I've added in some gentle ROM, but I wouldn't call it a stretch.  I also use less oil now.  I do fewer gliding strokes and have replaced them with more pressing, kneading and compression.  I realized that those long gliding strokes that I do with oil tend to cause me to extend my hands beyond a healthy reach, and that stresses my back.  I'm working on keeping my body up and over my hands and that is helping me use my body weight and move from my whole body rather than just arms.

I had a client yesterday morning who has been coming to see me regularly for over a year now.  She always has hip and knee pain (replacement hip on the left).  I have done my best to alleviate her pain, but only since incorporating this "Thia vibe" has she begun to report a significant decrease in her hip and knee pain!  She is thrilled!  I had the best session with her yesterday (despite the fact that I started the day feeling rather defeated by this nagging pain in my own back).  A really great song came on Pandora, with a nice slow steady relaxing rhythm, so I danced to that beat and it was so much fun!  I really got my whole body into it and I could feel my own energy rising.  I felt fantastic after that session and had a great day yesterday!  My client was very happy too, she said whatever I've been doing, "it's working"!

I may have to stick to the table for now and gradually transition to the floor.  I really want to do floor work, I'm determined.  It just may take more time than I had anticipated.

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February 1, 2019 - 11:23 am
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I agree that it is not a good idea to practice a lot on your husband. It is better to practice on easier people. That's more fun and more rewarding for you than struggling with a heavy and stiff body all the time.

What you are accomplishing with your 'Thai vibe' sounds great. Just do what is easy for you and what you enjoy doing the most. You can get into more floor work over time. No need to push anything. 

I am happy to hear about the good results you have been getting with your client! If it's working, keep doing it. You must be on to something! Smile

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