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Julianne Smith - Complete Thai Massage course notes
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Julianne Smith
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April 2, 2021 - 8:24 pm
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Module 1

 

I am not completely unaware of the concept of energy lines, but I'm intrigued to learn more and I like the idea that I'm going to be working on opening up energy in the whole body rather than just thinking about the one area I'm touching at the moment. I also like the stress of quality of touch. While I do want to learn more actual techniques I have been aware that my own quality of touch is what is most important, not just learning new massage moves. Luckily I'm in relatively good shape and will be able to get into the body positions that are going to be required. I'm sure it will take some getting used to though. With all the client positions I can see how there can be so many variations of massage moves to be achieved and combined for a lot of client issues. The best part of all of this to me is the use of body weight rather than my own muscles to do the work. This is the problem I have with regular table massage, it's KILLING me with all the muscles I use. In massage school we learned about connecting the breath, but not to the same extent that Thai massage does. This will be good for me to stay connected to the client rather than how I sometimes let my mind wander in a table massage. This is inspiring me to get up and do yoga today, which I haven't done in a couple of weeks. 

One question I do have is what kind of mat to use. I see in the video your mat is covered with a pretty tapestry. What is under it?

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Shama Kern
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April 3, 2021 - 3:45 pm
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Welcome back, Julianne! Smile

Regarding the mat, there is a video in the course all about mats. It's part of module 3, so you will see it very soon.

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April 7, 2021 - 9:10 pm
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Module 2

The Chi Machine turned out to be easier than I had expected, at least on my small female client. When I first picked up her legs she told me that her back felt much better the moment I rested her feet on my legs. I guess this is similar to a bolster in table massage just because pressure is taken off the low back. I noticed that I had to hold more tightly than I feel I ought to her feet to keep them from moving around too much and I think they need to be held pretty steady in order for the movement to transmit all the way to her hips.

But what I did NOT expect was the pain in my own ankles from rocking back and forth. I'm not sure if this is something I will just get used to or if I am doing something wrong. I also wonder how this will work on a much larger client and am curious to find someone to practice on. My client didn't notice any special tingling or anything but she did like the rocking and I think it's a good way to settle in to the mat, calm the nerves and prep for more work.

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Shama Kern
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April 8, 2021 - 1:24 am
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The pain in your ankles during the Chi Machine is quite normal when you are not used to it. But if you do it for a while, you will get used to it and it will disappear. It also matters that you are on a reasonably soft surface when doing this.

I saw your post below the spam post, asking why this was there. That happens frequently. People do that to get links to their website to improve their google rankings. As soon as I see those kinds of posts, I delete them and ban the person who posted it. But it keeps happening. It's just part of running the forum.

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April 12, 2021 - 7:18 pm
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Module 3

 

I had more trouble with this module than I expected to. I was a bit overwhelmed at the variety of twists and moves for just the foot. I watched it a few times before I even attempted this on my daughter but I just practiced and here is what we both felt:

1) My first question is about how some people's feet tend to rotate either outward or inward. My client's feet rotate outward while the model in the video has her feet straight. When this happens is it more important to set the feet straight before the movement or just let the foot roll to its own natural tendency? I tried both ways on my client and she preferred the feeling when I allowed her feet to drop naturally to the side.

2) The intro move was easy enough and I had no problem with the circular motion of the 2nd movement. However, the twists were another matter, mainly because my client's feet are already rolled outward. I didn't feel that she got much of a twist one direction, and maybe too much the other. I don't want to constantly be checking in about every movement so I need to know what "end feel" I'm going for so I know when enough is enough.

3) I tried to be delicate at first with the thumb compression but my client liked it better when I firmed my grip. She said my right hand was more powerful than my left hand but I was unconscious of any difference as my output felt equal from my perspective.

4) I had no problem with the Push-Pull rotation move but my client said it felt weird. She didn't like it. Not sure if it is my skill or maybe she just didn't like it.

5) One thing I noticed with my body mechanics was that I had to lean my torso forward for the movements and I felt that I was straining my back. If I kept my back straight, then I couldn't make the movement. Not sure how to fix this issue.

My main personal issue was my knee discomfort sitting in the position. I know this just takes practice.

Goodness! so much to learn!

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April 13, 2021 - 2:26 am
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A lot of this overwhelm will get cleared up in module 4! Smile

1. Yes, people's feet will rotate in or out differently. This has more to do with the hip joint than with the foot itself. It is an indicator of the condition of the hip joint. Don't try to force the foot into an unnatural position, but you can gently increase the range of motion.

2. This is fairly typical that you feel that the twist works better in one direction than in the other. This asymmetric behavior can be found in other areas of the body as well. Don't worry too much about it and just work with what there is, increasing the ROM in whatever way you can. In most cases you will not be able to achieve symmetry with this technique. That's not a problem. It's just a peculiarity which you find in Thai Massage when you do all these body manipulations. After a while, when you observe them with many clients, they will tell you a story about the client's body and will serve as indicators to where the client might need more work.

3. The unequal pressure between your two hands is something that you need to become conscious of since it can feel quite irritating for a client. This comes into play with many techniques.

4. Try it with another couple of people. If you still get a negative reaction, then you know that it has something to do with your skill level/implementation. This technique has to flow, otherwise it feels weird.

5. If your body mechanics cause you pain, then they are not correct. Play with repositioning yourself until the discomfort goes away. This is something which will probably happen automatically the more you practice all the course material. In the early stages the positioning feels challenging, but after a while your body will lean towards the most comfortable position automatically. This will become easier all by itself. The most important thing is to experiment with it. Move a little back, a little forward, watch for strain in your arms and your back, etc. There are several summary videos in the course where you will be able to see me doing the entire sequence like in an actual session. This will give you a better idea how it is supposed to look like and how it flows.

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April 19, 2021 - 8:02 pm
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Module 4

 

I was glad to see that this module had both a summary of the previous one as well as the list of 8 ways to move the foot. That way, even if I forget the actual move I can just think of a way to move the foot either up/down, in/out, top/bottom, twist left, right and I'll be able to come up with at least SOMETHING, even if not the official technique. The added material today was EASY for me, so it was a nice break from feeling overwhelmed in module 3. The circular thumb work on the outer edge of the foot was similar to what I already do, so I was happy. 🙂 I like the surface motion for the top foot after having done all those pushes, pulls and twists. It was a nice ending to the foot work. My client liked me to work the circles with a more firm pressure rather than just sliding across the very surface of her foot. That was too ticklish.

I've previewed the next module before writing this post and am worried about getting started on it do to the complexity of the angles and therapist body positioning. Here it goes........

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April 20, 2021 - 12:19 am
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I am glad that this module cleared up the confusion with the previous one.

Once you get into all the leg stretching techniques, there will be a bit more initial confusion, but just like with the foot work, it will all resolve itself in upcoming modules and with more practice. Smile

And there will be more helpful summaries...

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April 23, 2021 - 6:40 pm
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Module 5

 

The first time I watched this one I was overwhelmed with the moves and angles of the leg and how you pin the foot and leg to keep it still. I let a few days pass before I watched it again and the next time it seemed so much simpler. I like the ease of the rolling warmups for the parts of the leg and it is interesting that we warm up even the hamstring in a supine position. My partner liked the warmups and I experimented with different levels of pressure while leaning in with my bodyweight. I find that she can handle more pressue when I keep my hands even rather than focusing pressure on the heals of my hands. I'm not sure though if that is the right way or it I need more focus on the heels of my hand to focus the warmup in a small section of the muscle on each roll. 

I think that I would rather stay on one leg - both sides before I transition to the opposite leg so it keeps my back-and-forth to a minimum. I still keep wobbly during transitions.

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April 24, 2021 - 1:38 am
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Yes, you should stay as much as possible on one side, and then transition to the other side to avoid unnecessary movement. But the transitions will become easier and more fun. It actually feels great when you are able to transition gracefully. There is more to come about transitions in this course.

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April 26, 2021 - 5:54 pm
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Module 6

 

Ugh, again I feel stressed out with the positions. It's not the client's leg position I find hard to keep up with, but the way the therapist needs to moves her legs around and pin down the client's leg and keep the right 45 degrees. I know it will get easier but for now I must express my frustration.

While you mentioned that these forearm techniques are a good way to work with a larger leg when I have small hands, in my case I had the opposite problem. My partner here is even more small framed than your video model and I found that in order to lean into her leg with my whole body put me at a very low angle. Coming back up was hard on my back using my own back muscles to straighten myself. I can imagine with a very large leg that wouldn't be an issue, but I see now that some techniques aren't suited for tiny clients. I need to find a larger person to practice with for this module. 

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April 26, 2021 - 11:22 pm
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Actually, if you look at the video, you will see that my model is much smaller than I am, and I have no problem doing these techniques on her. They are not ONLY meant for larger legs - they work on any legs, but IF you have someone with larger legs, you can work on them without stressing your hands. That being said, you are correct in saying that these techniques are not ideal or suitable for a tiny person. 

Actually, this is a general principle in Thai Massage. You will learn tons of techniques over time, but you are not supposed to do them all on everyone. The techniques are options to choose from, not mandatory sequences. The art of it is to learn with experience what works on whom.

I can guarantee you that your frustration is temporary. Smile  None of these techniques are supposed to be hard on you. Over time your body mechanics will improve, and what seemed hard today, will feel very easy in a few weeks. And...don't be hard on yourself. Try to look at it more as a playful interaction, as an exploration, not as a difficult task that needs to be perfected. Smile

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April 27, 2021 - 6:42 pm
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Module 7

 

I LOVE how the nature of the foot drop is explained and related to the condition of the hip. We never learned this in massage school! This is helpful in so many ways, even in my other massage. It seems so simple now and I'm shocked that nobody mentioned all this in massage school.

I had to go find several different pillows with various thickness levels to accommodate my partner's flexibility. I see how important it is to have a variety of bolsters or props for this angled leg move. The elephant walking was easy compared to the forearm work. The stretching with foot compression on the hamstring was more difficult and I think it's mainly due to my own posture. I'm tight in places that make it a challenge. I need to find a place to receive these things myself. I was again a bit confused with the final stretch because there are those angles and holding the clients foot with my own foot. I think I get turned around with these because I'm watching in from your front and then trying to mimic it while facing the screen. 

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April 28, 2021 - 7:34 pm
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Module 8

 

This module was a welcome relief since the previous one was so intense. I like the explanation of the Hip Pie but I wish it came before the last session so I wasn't so overwhelmed. I'm also glad to hear that the hardest part is the beginning so I'm hoping it is so much simpler going forward.

The calves warming up and knee warmups were nice and simple and we tried to modified stretching ideas for the 180 degree hip stretch. There wasn't much new to work on today but the hints were helpful so we just reviewed everything up to this point. I'm looking forward to the Summary Session in the final module so I can just sit down and put it all together in a single video session. 

One question I have is, "How important is the 'counter clockwise' direction of the circles you make with the 90 degree bent knee. What if you do it the other direction?

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May 1, 2021 - 11:56 pm
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Regarding the foot drop: I have heard this from many of our students, that they had never heard of such a simple and seemingly obvious diagnostic tool, and apparently most massage schools don't teach it or don't know it. I am glad you appreciated this information! Smile

Regarding the direction of the circles: I have tried it both ways, and for me it seems to flow better the way I do it. However this is not a written-in-stone rule, and you can try it the other way and see what feedback you are getting.

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Julianne Smith
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March 14, 2022 - 5:24 am
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Module 9

 

I like the concept of "power with softness" discussed in this module. I have been trying to become something of a limp noodle when practicing these stretches. It's similar to the way that I try to keep my forearm loose rather than very straight when doing the compression moves on the legs.

These stretches are mostly easily converted to table Thai, except for the inner thigh stretch which I can only perform on the floor mat. I noticed that when I tried the bouncing motions to help the inner thigh relax, my client's leg did begin to lower a bit. I have been trying to find that right balance between relaxing my own body while also using my own weight to help the stretch go deeper and also to find that place where the stretch has reached it's limit. I don't think there is a best way to find that spot other than communication with the client. 

The hamstring stretch was easy enough and less involved that the adductor one and I like the little Picture-in-picture screen to show the opposite side of the body. But my favorite stretch is the spinal twist and I know I will be able to easily adapt this one table massage and have seen a few clients with hips issues that will love this one. I do this stretch for myself a lot in yoga so I know how effective it can be for the hips.

It's so much to think about when first learning that it's difficult to really relax and think about using my breath but it's getting easier to use my intuition.

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March 14, 2022 - 5:58 am
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"I don't think there is a best way to find that spot other than communication with the client."  -  Somewhere in this course there is an explanation of the 'one-to-ten' method which is the best way to communicate with the client in order find the right intensity. I refer to it several times in the course, and there is an in-depth explanation of client communication in module 35.

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March 15, 2022 - 4:27 am
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MODULE 10

 

Learning to relax while doing these techniques is probably the most challenging thing right now for me. Being focused on what to do next keeps me a bit tense, especially if I'm not doing a memorized routine. For starters I won't be too worried about it but I do know it is an issue for me.Keeping that 'soft hand' is easier though and I think my quality of touch is pretty good.

Picking up from my favorite spinal twist move that we did the last module, I practiced this combination of pressing the client's shoulder. My client isn't too tall so I didn't have a problem and I like the added twist this gives. The 270 degree stretch was REALLY confusing! It looks like a complicated position for the therapist and client and I don't feel like I did this one right at all, but will keep trying. From this point I tried the lateral tugging on the client's leg but since I'm not sure about my position I don't really know about this one. My client didn't really feel a stretch, but she is also pretty flexible.

The inner thigh stretch is probably one I will skip in my own sessions unless it is requested. While I'm not a big fan of the stretches, my client really like the "blood stopping" compression when the blood rushed back into her leg. I like compression and they are my main reason for taking this course. Glad this is the last section from lower body supine and I'm ready to do the summary session! 🙂

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March 15, 2022 - 9:48 am
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"I like compression and they are my main reason for taking this course."  -  One thing about Thai Massage is that you can do it in several modes:

  • You can do a mostly stretch yogi-style session
  • You can do a mostly non-stretch session with compression moves
  • You can do a session with mostly rocking moves
  • Or you can of course all of the above

There are plenty of techniques for all these scenarios.

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March 21, 2022 - 4:48 am
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Module 11

I like this review segment to wrap it all together without having to go back to every video. I would like if the Sciatica course also had this type of review session.

I'm glad we don't have to use every technique and that we don't even have to worry about keeping a routine. Since this is only working 1/2 of the lower body and still took almost half an hour, I can see how a Thai massage session can get very long. With keeping only my favorite techniques I think I can manage to get my own session down a bit.

For now, I'll focus on going slow as you mentioned and keeping a good quality of touch. I also need to work on touch sensitivity to know when I am coming across tight spots that need extra work. Going on top of the clients clothing is different from table massage so it's something to get used to when feeling for knots and such.

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