Module One - Introduction
I have some training in Shaolin Kung Fu in which I learned quite a bit of Qi Gong routines. But until last summer, I had never experienced Thai massage. My immediate impression was that many of the stretches and positions felt very akin to my experience with Kung Fu and Qi Qong. And though I have always enjoyed deep tissues massages in conjunction with my sports training, my first Thai massage left me feeling much more energized then the Western massages. Which is why I have taken an interest in learning this practice.
I appreciate that you are not solely focussing on the mechanics of massage, but teaching us how to develop a quality of touch and sense what is wrong. And teaching us proper body positioning and breathing. Again, by analogy, the point of Qi Gong is not to just learn the movements, but to learn how to use the movements in conjunction with breathing to become aware of how your body is moving through space. So being in the correct position to best utilize natural body moments and using breathing during the various moments makes sense. That is what I identified with immediately in my first experience of this form of massage.
I think the most surprising thing about my first experience with Thai massage was how many body positions and body parts the therapist used during the course of the massage. Again, I have always enjoyed deep tissue massages, and when I have a complaint, it is usually that the therapist cannot apply enough pressure with her/his thumb. So it makes a lot of sense that by being on the floor, by using feet and elbows and by having access to full body weight, a therapist is able to to apply much more pressure with less risk to damage to thumbs. I am curious how this will be regulated, as the danger might be that too much pressure or weight is applied to a client.
I look forward to watching the next video.
Like you, I have a background in martial arts and Qigong. This has inspired my style of Thai Massage in some respects.
I love all the options that Thai Massage has to offer with all the body parts and positions. I have never seen any massage style with so much variety and so many possibilities.
Regarding the pressure and how not to overdo it, I have a very useful tool that works great for this. It's called the one-to-ten method, and you will learn it in this course.
To make sure that you have a reference how the certification program works, I always post our certification check list at the beginning of all threads:
Module Two - Chi Machine
It was interesting trying to replicate this first technique. The technique appears so effortless in the video, but actually getting it to work took quite a bit of experimenting. At first I think I was trying to use too many different body parts to create the rocking motion, and so the movement became tiring rather quickly. But after a bit of trial and error, I think I found the correct motion. I think my error was that I was trying to create the motion by using my leg muscles. Which in turn meant that I was moving my partners legs, but not creating a rocking motion.
At first it seemed a bit counter-intuitive to stop using my legs, but as soon as I relaxed and got my hips working properly, my partner's body started rocking rather than moving back and forth.
I tried it on three different persons. The motion was easiest with the two lightest persons, and they both said that they felt a rush of energy, and they said that felt like the motion was massaging their back. I was not able to create as much rocking on the heavier test client, and this person did not feel much different, and did not feel her back being moved much. I was rocking my hips as much as I could without becoming exaggerated and/or using my arms. Do I need to augment the motion with additional muscle power for these heavier bodies, or is it just a matter of better positioning the legs so that my hip muscles have a better transfer of motion to the client's body?
The only body part that should be moving is your hips. Imagine they are filled with water, and it is sloshing up against the sides of the hip on the inside. That's the effect you want to generate.
Even on heavier persons there is no need to muscle this. You will need a little more sideways movement in your hip, but no extra muscle power. Anything that is done with muscle power in Thai Massage is counter productive and will not feel good to you or the client. It's all about flow.
Granted, in the very beginning this flow won't happen so easily, but once you get so good with the techniques that you don't have to think about them anymore, this flow will spontaneously happen. That's the goal.
Module Three - Foot Massage 1
Admittedly I was a bit confused after watching this video as I was unclear whether this was the first half of a massage that would continue in Foot Massage 2, or whether I was to just apply the same techniques on the second leg. And so I waited to respond until I watched the second video. But then I went on holidays, and only returned a couple days ago with a lot of catchup.
Anyway, the second video answered my question, and going forward I will assume that whatever you show us applies equally to the opposite side.
It is interesting listening to the responses of my massage partners. Even very simple things like stretching the feet forwards and backwards gets a great response.
Without a doubt the circular rocking stretch is tricky. I spent a lot of time positioning and re-positioning my body trying to find the best angle to utilize my body weight while leaving enough room for the feet to rotate without hitting my legs. Too far back and then my body weight misses the mark and I have to rely too much on arms, and too far forward and my body gets in the way of the circular motion.
The stretch that all three of my massage partners commented on the most was pulling and pushing the leg and hip while twisting. They felt that it was re-aligning things in their body, and encouraged me to repeat this a few times.
One question I have is that in some of the stretches where their feet are on the ground and my hands are rolling the feet outward, do I allow their feet to roll over my fingers, or do I bend my fingers and try to keep the persons feet always touching the ground. Your fingers never seem to be in the way.
Module Four - Foot Massage 2
I was waiting to watch this video before reporting on the previous module, so I may as well respond to both at the same time.
Two thumbs up for your explanation of remembering sequences by considering the ways a foot can move. When I was practicing the techniques in the first video on my holiday, I had a bit of trouble remembering what came next. But now I think about how the foot moves, and the technique naturally follows. I will try to learn all the new things in this way, and hopefully you will make reference to this as we proceed with other body parts.
I continue to work on correct body positioning in relation to the client. One of my three test candidates is a similar height as the other two, but is much thinner. And it always takes a bit of experimentation when I apply the techniques to her. I can only imagine how different it will be if I ever work on a very large or very small person, or very tall or very short.
For the most part I had no real issues with these new techniques. Again, I refer to the question I had in the previous module regarding the clients foot rolling over my fingers. Especially in the first technique where I use my thumbs to knead the soles. When I press in, the foot flexes out and either the client's foot rolls over my fingers, or I have to do a modified hold with flexed fingers, which, in turn, makes it harder to lean in with my body weight as my hand is flexing backwards while my body is moving forwards. Make sense?
Regarding rolling the feet outward - the feet do not exactly roll over your fingers. The movement comes out of your wrist which is rising and falling in order to adjust your hand position. The foot should ideally remain on the mat, provided the person has the flexibility to do so. If the foot is very flexible, I can see where it might look like it is rolling over the fingers. If the foot is quite stiff, then it won't look that way at all.
You will find another one of those "conceptual sequences" when you get to the hip stretches. This will also help you to easily remember what comes next.
Working on different sizes and weights of clients is something that requires modifications and adjustments in Thai Massage. You will hear a lot about that throughout this course.
Module 5 - Leg Warmup
Thank you for the clarification regarding the wrist movement. That made all the difference, and by lifting the wrist during the movement, I no longer have issues with my fingers rolling under the feet.
It is surprising how much pressure can be applied by leaning in with body weight. Do you develop a sense of how much pressure is too much, or do you rely on the feedback from your clients? I could feel parts of the thigh that were excessively tight during the first technique, but one of the clients was hyper-sensitive to too much weight being applied, whereas another kept asking for more. I guess this also has to do with how much tolerance a person has to pain.
I am glad that you gave me the tip regarding the wrist movement in the rolling technique, as I applied the same tip the the rolling technique on the legs. There was no issue of my fingers ever rolling under the leg, but the movement feels better for my clients. When I wasn't lifting my wrist, I had occasional complaints that I was pinching skin when I was rolling forward. But when I add a slight upwards movement, I no longer seemed to have the same issues.
And by to by, I missed your live presentation of your last topic, but I watched it later and really appreciated your comments regarding "sensitive" areas. I had been wondering about perceptions of clients as this type of massage is so different from being on a table.
It's amazing how a tiny little change can make a significant difference in how a technique feels to you and to the client - like the rising and falling of the wrist!
Over time you will definitely develop a much better sense for determining the amount of pressure you can use. But still you will sometimes need to rely on client feedback about the intensity of your work. This applies especially to new clients whose body you don't know yet.
This is different from Swedish massage. Thai Massage contains so many potentially strong and even painful stretches (if you overdo them), that you should give the client a mechanism to to gauge the intensity and give you feedback on it. The good thing is that later in this course I will show very specific ways on how to go about that.
Module 6 - Leg Warmup w/ Forearms
This module was very different from anything I have done before; so much so that I fell behind trying to get this section right before proceeding. But now with both children off to private high school and university, I will have time in the evenings to both practice and record.
My difficulty with this section is twofold. First, as a tall person, I had difficulty trying to position myself for each of the movements. If I am too close to the leg, I have to hunch over, and thus felt like I am using more muscle strength than body weight. And if I move too far back, my client has to spread their legs quite wide, which seems a bit awkward for my client. This is most noticeable on the technique where I apply pressure to the outside of the client's leg by reaching over the client with my one arm, and using the other arm to help apply pressure. If the clients leg is right against my stomach, I really have to hunch over and thus use only my arm strength to apply pressure. Is this correct?
More important, my longer arms (and therefore forearms) make the technique where I have my forearms parallel to my clients thigh in the groove difficult. Since my forearm is the length of the the clients thigh to begin with, the only way that I can apply pressure in multiple points is to not have my forearm flat against the thigh. Instead, I have to consciously lift by elbow and apply pressure with my lower forearm, when closer to the groin area, or lift my wrist and apply pressure with my upper forearm, when closer to the knee. Is this correct?
Other than that, the one thing that needs more work is making graceful transitions between body positions. My flexibility and balance are already noticeably improving. I love how the role of the therapist is so active.
For this technique there is no reason to use muscle power, regardless how tall you are. Yes, you might have to "hunch over", but this is more of an easy leaning with your body weight, and a sinking in instead of pressing in.
Don't move back, since, as you mentioned, this feels awkward to the client and to you.
When you work on the outside of the leg (outside sen line #2), the power does not just come from pulling your arm back. Instead you pull it a bit against the leg, and at the same time fix the position by leaning with your forearm on your own leg. Then you move your torso forward against your arm. The effect is like you are squeezing the client's leg between your upper arm and your torso. Your arm moves back and your torso moves forward. Yes, you use a little muscle power for this, but not a lot. It is mostly done by these two opposing body movements.
You will be kind of 'hunched forward" during this move, but this doesn't matter. It doesn't mean that you need to use more muscle power.
When you work in the groove near the groin, you don't lift your elbow, but you work with the elbow and the section of forearm close to it. Yes, your entire forearm is not totally flat in the groove, and yes, when you get closer to the knee, you have to raise your wrist a little.
Look at this as as an intuitive move, as a dance, and not so much as a precise technical operation. It's a matter of feeling where and how your forearm fits. Just play with it and try to make it fit and feel comfortable to you. If it feels awkward to you, it won't feel good to your client.
Whatever you do, minimize the use of muscle power and gently sink into the muscle as much as possible. The exception is the outside of the leg where you cannot sink in, but if you do it as I described above, this can also be done with minimal effort.
Thanks for the tips. Regarding the arm-torso squeeze, I was not leaning with my body and was relying too much on my arms. Leaning on my leg and then moving my torso forward worked nicely. And regarding positioning my forearm in the groove, I will practice using the portion of my forearm closest to my elbow to do the entire section. I think it is probably just a matter of getting used to how it feels.
Module 7 - Leg Stretches 1
After having so much difficulty with the previous section, this module worked much better. I especially like the first part of the module where you teach us how to analyze the body for clues to postural misalignment. My wife has visited various other practitioners in the past, and they have told her that her hips are misaligned. Using your tips and observing how her feet were in the relaxed position, I was able to make the same assessment. Very helpful, especially when seeing a person for the first time.
The stretches were quite straightforward. When I was doing the stretch where I hold the knee and foot, place my foot on the hamstrings and extend my leg, my test subject complained about discomfort with how I was holding her foot. But after some experimentation, I found a grip that was strong enough to hold her leg, and was still comfortable for my subject. I was holding the foot too high up initially and was squeezing the top part of her foot. Moving down closer to the toes eradicated the discomfort.
Without a doubt, I had the best response to the last stretch where I pull the leg towards my inside shoulder. Comments were that they really felt the hip opening during the stretch. I had to experiment a bit on how best to block the feet without pressing on the bone of the foot, but I managed to find a position where my shin was not digging into the clients foot.
I am glad to hear that my previous comments helped you improve on the techniques.
No doubt some sections of this course will feel more difficult in the beginning, but as long as you keep going back and practice from the beginning, it will feel easier. Also many students report that when they re-watch the videos, they pick up things that they had missed the first time around.