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Laura Sprague - Complete Thai Massage Course
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Shama Kern
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July 30, 2021 - 5:08 am
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"At one hour I always feel like we are stopping half-way through." I know this feeling. That's why I never did less than 2-hour sessions in my entire career.

"I personally feel uncomfortable (literally) with many traction moves because of overly-flexible joints!" In some situations, hypermobility can be a contraindication to traction moves. You don't want to yank someone's arm out the shoulder socket. Frown

"...so I don't have to think too much.  Thinking can tense my body up!"  Very true - your Thai Massage will begin to flow when you get past the thinking stage and it becomes part of your body and mind.

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Laura Sprague
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August 1, 2021 - 6:37 pm
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Module 12

I used as much as I could from this module in a short post-workout stretching session the other day and it worked really well as a stand-alone cool-down series.  Calves and low-back are notoriously tight in many of my clients, so giving them this at the end of an exercise session feels like giving them a much-needed treat.

The calf stretch where you sit beside the client facing away from their head, pulling down on the foot and leaning back, was much more effective in practice than I had imagined it would be.  The sandwich stretch is also nice, especially for the clients who are closer to my own height.

Here's a question:  On some of the low back stretches with the feet or knees coming toward the head I have observed a tipping back of the head because the whole back line is so tight, so should I cue the client to slightly engage their chin toward their neck (and even the navel toward the spine) as I would do in a training session upon such an observation to avoid injury?  Or should I just back off?

The sacral massage with elephant-walking on the kneecaps was a very interesting first-time experience, as I could feel down into the pelvis when I focused my attention, and then I could guide the sacral massage more.  The piriformis stretch was harder for me to do as I found myself just pushing with my arms instead of leaning with my body, so I have to work on how I can angle myself differently.  

The stretch where you wrap the client's legs around was originally introduced to me as "The Spider;" sometimes I find myself rocking into this positing to actually open the legs up, kind of like if I was trying to put on a tight pair of pants and I was rocking from leg to leg, that's the motion except the person's legs are the pants and it's a pulling-around motion rather than up.  I don't know if it makes sense to do go further if I have to do that, however once I get their legs all the way around it's usually okay.  

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Shama Kern
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August 1, 2021 - 7:05 pm
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Regarding your question, without knowing the extent of the tipping back of the head, it is hard to give a qualified answer. But I would say that if you observe a strong head tilt, it is probably a good idea to back off a bit as this indicates either a strong stretch or a very tight client.

In such a scenario, did you ever ask the client how the intensity of the stretch was on a scale from one to ten? That would be a good indicator to check if the neck tilting is correlated to a high number (8 to 10) on this scale. If so, then backing off is the right course of action.

Regarding the spider - rocking into any stretch, when possible, is almost always a good thing to do. I say 'almost', because there are those yogi types who can easily handle even extreme stretches, and for them, the rocking wouldn't serve any purpose.

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August 3, 2021 - 1:33 am
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Module 13

Okay I know Module 12 was there because I literally just read your response and now it's gone!  You responded to my last post on Module 12 about the person tipping their head back, but now I don't see it.

I appreciate the emphasis in this lesson on communication!  As a trainer I ask clients to tell me if they feel any pain at all when we exercise and we talk about the difference between discomfort and pain.  I appreciate that we want to open up this conversation more so when stretching, and with my clients maybe even more because they are used to trying to get strong in the face of the challenge rather than relax.  

I teach a Saturday stretch class for the last many years and this week we reviewed the hip pie as a concept!  It was cool because we had done a series of hip stretches which we often do, and then voila the hip pie pulled it all together in a way that could allow them to recreate it at home.

The 315 degree stretch/rocking comes so much in handy as every single person I train is tight there and they are always needing to roll it out with the foam roller.

I will back off from doing the hamstring stretches in favor of the prone massage on many people now.  Once you said that I realized it will apply to more than half my people.  

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August 3, 2021 - 6:42 am
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Module 12 is there - I see it. Not sure why you can't see it.

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Laura Sprague
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August 3, 2021 - 11:31 pm
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Module 14

(Thanks - I can see Module 12 again now)

Since watching the videos the first time around a few months ago I have been making it a clear point to stay touching my client at all times so their feeling is not interrupted, and if I do need to leave them to grab another pillow or something, I tell them softly that I'm going to do that.  

The hip rocking is so pleasant and easy to give and receive!  I appreciate your description of the natural flow you feel when letting the rhythm of the tissues guide the rocking.  The suggestions for pulling up on the outsides of the hips for men is helpful.  I do the double hip-rock quite often on my female clients.  Just started adding in the single hip-rock and getting used to it.  The half-backarch stretch/rocking is a client favorite for sure and feels easy for me to do.  The weight of the leg across their lower body plus the soft hands gently pulling the hip feels really good on the low back, I am told.  I have never experienced that stretch or anything like it, so I may get a massage therapist friend to try it out on me.  

I love the quad/hip flexor rocking and this is one I do in the majority of my sessions unless someone has a knee problem.

Thank you for all the tips on shifting positions with grace and ease.  One of the things I like best about Thai massage is that my body also benefits!

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Laura Sprague
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August 3, 2021 - 11:33 pm
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Module 15

Breathing with client in the beginning feels loving and seems to introduce the trust needed for being touched in that area.  It feels almost like reverence, as it is such a precious area as you mentioned with all those lovely organs (I get a similar feeling with the head.) The “Rotating plate” on abdomen clockwise for warmup is very nice as I can feel the client’s breath slowing down and deepening as I go around and sometimes I can feel and hear the guts working.  

Many years ago when I worked with a Thai massage therapist regularly, we did the double-palm push pull on each other and I really loved it.   I’ve never felt anything like it before or since, very nurturing and powerful.  This is definitely one of my favorite moves, and yet I think because of the mutual lack of exposure to the technique I don’t offer it as much as would be beneficial (I’ll change that today.). I especially love this because it is not offered in most regular massage sessions either and yet we all need it, especially because of what you mentioned re: emotional storage.  

I think it would be hard for me to relax with a man rubbing my sternum, just because of my own trauma in life.  I know it would probably be beneficial, though, so I’m going to make sure to ask each person if that is okay, that I touch their sternum gently.  Under the collarbone feels safer to me so I tend to do that more often and many of my clients have tight chest, so the fingertip circles are the part of this chest series I do more.  

Elephant-walking the shoulders looks very different on your video from how it feels when I had been doing it, so I’m glad I watched this for the second time.  I was not sinking in slowly, I was pushing more with my arms more tentatively and it was awkward.  Like all the other stretches, once I relax, breathe, slow down and use my whole body weight it is an entirely different experience for both of us.

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August 4, 2021 - 4:40 am
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It seems that we have another rocking fan joining the club! Smile

The truth is that the double palm push-pull doesn't exist in traditional Thai Massage. The traditional abdominal techniques in Thailand are quite horrible, so I just threw them out and came up with my own system which was inspired by my study of Chi Nei Tsang - and here also it was not the original version taught by Mantak Chia, the inventor of Chi Nei Tsang, but a gentler, softer version.

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Laura Sprague
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August 6, 2021 - 12:44 am
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Module 16

side note: that is interesting about the push-pull not being part of traditional Thai massage.  My friend did their training in or around Chicago, USA, and the technique looks so similar to that - I wonder if the teacher had a similar inspiration to improve on the painful version.

Yes I love rocking!  I'll be taking the course for certain after I finish this one and then the Foot series.

Shoulders

I have to say this is the video I may have to watch the most; this is my third time.  

Elephant walking has been well-received and it is so easy.  I do this from standing because I am so short and it's easier to get the perpendicular angle that way.  

I think I get the double-shoulder push-pull pretty well with the rocking back and leaning in, and clients seems to like that (I move into a squat and then back to a hip-hinged position).  When we get to one shoulder is when I start to have a bit of hesitation, as it feels like there are awkward angles that need to be adjusted.  I'm getting the shoulder blade to move and also getting a massage in there around the edge of the blade, it's just that the angle of the neck to shoulder feels off so I shift my seated position until it looks and feels more relaxed.  

The position where you stretch the client's arm out and work on the shoulder, I find it easy enough to do, and I added support under the elbow for my hypermobile clients whose arm will quickly hyperextend.  

The rowboat exercise has taken me much practice to do in a relaxed way, and I think I got it today because I could really feel the shoulder joint with my foot and  therefore create better traction.  

I had been doing the tricep press for the past few months however I missed the part about stepping on the hand and it made a big difference.  I had been holding her hand down with my hand and then only having one hand free, so today was the first day I got to try the one hand on the thigh/hip and the other on the tricep - my client seemed to really enjoy that one and I could feel the tension between my two hands to the point where it could be gently, quickly rocked.  Tiny rocks.  Let me know if i'm getting carried away with this rocking.  🙂

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August 6, 2021 - 1:02 am
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Module 17

Arms and hands

This module becomes more and more relevant as the digital world continues to warp our bodies and especially our upper limbs.  Today my client came in with her neck and shoulders hurting however after working with her for over a year I thought maybe it never loosened up because it's starting in her hands which are on the keyboard all day, every day.  She stretches a lot and does her physiotherapy exercises from years ago for her neck so today we focused on shoulders and hands and she loved it!  

The initial walking down the arm, circling the body with one hand on the shoulder, I could get the elephant-walking idea down however I'll have to work on circling my body with it as this is not quite to the flowing stage.  

Starting from the elbows I could feel so much congestion in her forearms so massaged those extra with thumbs and fingers.  She especially liked the small circle work on the wrist, both sides, speaking out "that feels really good..."  She also spoke out with appreciation for the swinging circles.  The more arm work we did, the more relaxed her face and body became. This is a former multisport college athlete whose corporate job demands she work an obscene amount of hours plus she has two school-age children and she just does not relax!  So this was like finding a secret doorway into her relaxation garden, through her arms and hands.

I'm going to review the transcript before I do it again so I get really get all the little pieces.  Again I felt like I could work on her forearms and hands for a long time and hello, our session was over.  

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August 6, 2021 - 5:48 am
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I think I got 'carried away' with the rocking many times, and that's how I came up with so many rocking techniques and an entire course about it! Smile

Regarding the Chicago teacher who might have had a 'similar inspiration' - you have to remember that my courses have been around for over a decade and have been bought by thousands of students. There is a high likelihood that my original inspiration has been picked up by lots of Thai Massage teachers and therapists in the last 10 years.

"Finding a secret doorway into her relaxation garden, through her arms and hands" - I like this metaphor! I will have to plagiarize that from you. Laugh

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Laura Sprague
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August 12, 2021 - 1:59 pm
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Module 18

Spinal twists and transitions

I've practiced this many times now and i'm getting the rhythm of the rocking twists, however it is physically one of the more challenging modules for me so not sure if I'm doing it well.  Single-side hip is pretty easy on a smaller person, and I can walk one hand up the spine; grabbing down the back and around the shoulder makes a very big reach for me.  I like putting my leg over their thighs to hold them in place as it seems very grounding and I can get a lot closer so I'm not leaning so far!  

The hardest one on this series for me is the figure 8 - I have to do it from half-standing/squatting, which is okay just does not seem as relaxing as some.

Side note about my journey: I actually studied with my friend who learned in Chicago over a decade ago, so he would have learned it a few years before that.  I have been practicing this for 11 years myself, as an adjunct to my personal training.  I just have not formalized my training and my friend moved away at least 8 years ago so I have no one to practice with.  I want to come to Thailand and receive all day, every day.  :). I have not received in many, many years.  Hopefully I can teach someone or convince them to take your course.  

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Laura Sprague
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August 12, 2021 - 2:10 pm
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Module 19

I put it all together - yay!  This is flowing nicely because I'm reviewing videos regularly and doing Thai Massage long sessions (long for me, 90 min) 3 or 4 times each week.  I'm still running super long though, so now it's more like my personal training where I have a thousand exercises in my head and the expertise lies in selecting the best and most efficient techniques for the time we have.  At the end of the sessions I feel very tired and always like I need to do more.  I can't wait to get to the seated part because that's where I can work on shoulders best, I think.  

I was able to include most of the spine twists and the new arm work this week on a client who I had worked on last week mostly legs.  I went through the hip pie more quickly and made sure there was time for more upper body.  I really love the belly work and incorporated into a larger session it seems like the perfect change of pace, almost, or shift in energy perhaps. 

When I start to get tired I remember that should not be happening so I stop working so hard.  :). And when clients remark at the end about how that must be a lot of work for me, I point out that it ideally is only pleasant and beneficial for both of us...and that I am working on relaxing more and using leverage not strength.  Getting smoother in my transitions.  Still forgetting special favorite stretches I wanted to try and then I remember later because I go down a rabbit hole.  I think I need to review the shoulder video again, or feel it or something, although I have gotten positive feedback.  Regarding practicing, do you know of or have you created perhaps a hub where people in similar regions can meet?  

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August 13, 2021 - 7:31 am
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You are right - it is not supposed to tire you out a lot. Are you sure that you try to work with bodyweight as much as possible and avoid muscling people? Do you focus on your center (hara) and move with your whole body instead of just your arms? Do you try to breathe with the movements whenever possible or practical?

I have not created a hub where people can meet regionally. Actually we have never collected specific information on where people live. The main reason is that most of our students are spread out all over the globe. The only place where I know for sure that we have a large concentration of students is in Texas.

But this would be a worthwhile project and I will put it on my to-do list for future projects.

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Laura Sprague
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August 17, 2021 - 6:19 pm
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Module 20

Prone feet and legs

I like presenting this to clients because I know they are always wishing for more foot work 🙂

I don't totally have the hang of the push-pull yet, although fast seems easier to me than slow because I can feel the natural tension more than trying to manipulate the pulling and pushing.

The elbow method works well for me in this position, foot across the thigh, and have been told it feels good to the clients.  The calf-leaning makes people groan in a good way almost always, so I consider that a winner for everyone's tight calves.  

The counsel on warming up is appreciated.  I'm sorry you learned that the hard way!  I know another massage therapist to whom this happened in the abdomen during a myofascial-release technique, and like you it informed his practice with experiential wisdom.  Many times when he worked on me he mentioned the need for attention and care because of the tear he received in his gut by someone who was too rough.   

The elephant walking on the back of the legs is easy for me and it feels like I could do this for each client before each personal training session to get them ready for all the work we do on the posterior chain!

I'm developing a good collection of pillows to make sure the neck and breasts and everything is comfy during session.  

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August 17, 2021 - 9:05 pm
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"...like you, it informed his practice with experiential wisdom" - I like how you put that. Smile

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Laura Sprague
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August 26, 2021 - 2:01 am
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Module 21 

Prone legs 1

Side note: These techniques feel so up-close-and-personal that I think if I did not know my clients well I might feel a little uncomfortable, however because I do know most of my clientele very well it just feels nice and nurturing like a leg hug.  

I'm glad for the helpful hints on how to lift up a heavy leg if you are a small person! I don't want to skip these techniques just because the leg is heavy, because we sit on this area all day and everyone needs it extra.  So far I've managed to lift up all the thighs I've tried.  Sometimes I feel like the knee is hyperextending in this position and then I adjust - it's usually a matter of me adjusting my own seated stance rather than their leg position, like I need to turn my legs differently.  Once I get there, these arm rolls seem very effective by the exhales I hear, especially in the position with the leg bent (lateral line #2 ?). I do like to take that opportunity to massage the lateral calf too, as I don't feel I get it adequately when the client is supine.  The tip about watching my own hand when rolling on that forearm (to see if I'm tense) is a really good one.  I picture how you do it in the video and it looks like you are melting in through your arm to your shoulder and body, and I try to melt also.

Today for the first time I really experienced working from the Hara.  For me, it was a complete postural shift, and I felt like my hands/forearms/feet were in line with and guided in a straight vector from my Hara.  Consequently, my shoulders immediately relaxed!

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August 26, 2021 - 9:52 am
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That's great that you experience working from the hara! It will only get better from here.

'Melting in' is a good way to put it. I call it 'sinking in softly' which is the same thing.

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Laura Sprague
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August 30, 2021 - 8:28 pm
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Module 22 

Prone Legs 3

I have learned through this course that the majority of my personal training clients, who comprise my Thai stretching recipient pool, are more often needed the adaptations offered for more flexible bodies.  The initial quad stretch featured was good for my clients with the thigh block and leaning on the hamstring.  For the double heel-to-buttocks stretch I ask them if it feels okay on their knees.  I have not yet tried the one with my knees inside their legs, however I imagine I would really enjoy receiving that one.  

The butt-sitting lean-back hip flexor stretch is great, because I love rocking back using my whole body.  All those moves to me as the giver feel the best.  

I use the single-leg thigh lift usually with the person's foot on top of my shoulder because I'm so short. I am able to press down on the glute to stabilize it there and people usually report feeling a nice stretch through the top of the thigh and hip.

The stretch where you kneel on one glute is taking some getting used-to, also I think I need to experience it.  One great thing that has been helpful in my practice recently is that my grown daughter came to visit and I gave her a Thai stretch.  Since she's been receiving these over the last decade or so, she has plenty of feedback for me so my skill can refine.  :), meaning she is open to saying, "Ow, Mom, you're pinching my skin" or "Ow, Mom, your elbow is so boney" or "you forgot that calf stretch I love."  I think perhaps clients don't always speak out about these things, so my sensitive child can teach me the softness that I might be missing unknowingly.  

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August 30, 2021 - 10:34 pm
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Module 23

Sacrum and glutes

First off I really love the palpatory discovery that's happening here and how you describe the grooves we will feel lateral to the spinous processes of the sacrum.  When you mentioned that everyone's sacrum is a little different shape and how we want to get to know the shape of our client's sacrum first, I've tried before to do that and found it elusive - I'm never quite sure that I truly feel it.  Your tips helped me actually feel it now so even the palpation seems to feel good and firm and intentional.  I like to do the thumb wiggling up and down along the middle and edges, and it was easier for me to do little tiny circles so hopefully that is equally effective.  NOTE:  all the moves where you lean in and out with the body while applying finger/hand pressure are hard for me unless there is music playing, which seems to coordinate my body's movements more naturally.   Now that I'm aware of this maybe I'll try imagining music when I do these certain moves.  

I have not yet felt bumbs, strings, or knots in the sacral grooves, so perhaps I am not allowing my fingers to go deep enough.   

The loose fist tapping is very nice and I like it best with two hands.  The glute technique at one side with circles is one I need to watch again on your video with someone right in front of me and try it as I watch, because when I try to recall it I'm just not comfortable yet. 

Rocking from knee-to-knee on the glutes is something that has developed naturally in my practice over the years as I move up the body to work on the back.  I have done it out of convenience and ergonomics for myself though, not as a glute technique!  So that's a new focus.

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