After a little hiatus from beginning the course, I have watched and enjoyed module 1. (I was finishing up a live acupressure class that took a little more energy and time than I anticipated.)
So, I am expecting that a lot of the information in the Thai course will be familiar to me as I have studied Thai massage and currently practice it for a living. I am looking for new material, refinement, and different styles/approaches that experienced practitioners take.
I can tell already that Shama is going to offer a lot of that. I really appreciated the concise outline of the first module - technique, tools, positions of therapist and client, and anatomy of a move as principles of Thai massage. My response to this video, since there is nothing to practice yet, is to get excited about the next one.
I am most looking forward to improving my body mechanics/ergonomics, learning to save energy by using my feet and different techniques more, and learning how to adapt technique to the side lying position. I perhaps most appreciated what Shama said in regards to a practitioner knowing 20 techniques and having a 'heavenly touch' versus someone who knows 200 techniques yet it feels mechanical and soulless. I don't have a lot of technique but a very natural ability and a lot of body awareness and sensitivity and I have clients who come to see me every week. I am, however, paying for it in my body. So, I'm looking for techniques to supplement my strenuous style to preserve the life of my career and my body.
Hi Kristin, welcome to the Complete Thai Massage course and to our forum. Please take a moment and familiarize yourself with our certification check list here:
I am sure that a good amount of the material in this course will be familiar to you. I am equally sure that there will be lots of material which will be an addition to your existing skills. I am not just referring to techniques, but to refinements and especially ergonomics. This will make your professional life a lot easier once your body is totally in sync with the movements.
Throughout the course and especially in the later modules and the bonus courses you will find plenty of advanced material which is hardly ever taught in Thai Massage schools. From what you wrote in your post, this course should be a great match and an upgrade to your Thai Massage practice.
I am really looking forward to read how you relate to it and how you integrate it into your practice.
I really enjoyed the continuation of theory and background leading up to learning technique. As I already mentioned, I am hoping to find a lot of reinforcing body mechanic/ergonomics tips throughout the course and was glad to hear it emphasized in this module. The way you describe using body weight reminds me of how often my clients tell me I have strong hands. They think I work much harder than I do! I also thought of this concept as using 'natural pressure' instead of 'forced pressure' which as you've stated simply feels better to the client as well as myself.
I was also delighted at your description of non-traditional style. It's refreshing to hear you say that even old traditions require improvements and modifications over time. I come from a very traditional yoga background and discuss this topic a lot. As far as massage, I rely on my yoga awareness and intuition for feel my way around the body and respond to how my client is responding to me, so I can really relate to this less traditional approach. From that standpoint as well, I'm looking forward to learning more about working therapeutically on certain parts of the body or conditions.
The 'chi machine' is something I'm familiar with through TuiNa massage although I did not incorporate it much until I watched this video. I picked it up quite quickly but the subtlety of it is more challenging than you make it look. Watching the hips is a very helpful tip and I also noticed that when I allowed my own body movement to ripple all the way to my head, my clients body did too.
Here in Thailand many schools advertise their "traditional" style as if it were the best and only way. I have never seen it that way. I do what works best for me regardless of tradition. That's how I came up with many additions and improvements of Thai Massage, like my Thai Rocking Massage system and several others.
One of my primary objectives is to preserve the health and longevity of the therapist. This is done by proper body mechanics, learning how to use many body parts effectively, and making good use of one's energy and breath. You will see that I reference all those topics frequently throughout the course.
Module 3 - Foot Massage
I am slacking, I am aware! Though I certainly have been practicing the material.
In module three, there was some review for me as well as a few new techniques. I was reminded of the 1-2-3-2-1 rhythm that makes Thai massage unique and puts clients in a trance like state. I have realized through paying closer attention while doing this course that when clients are talking during the beginning of a session, I am not as tuned into my own rhythm and it takes longer to achieve that trance state. I wonder if I should try to keep a more silent space or suggest more deep breathing to keep the client focused. Do you have any suggestions on this??
I especially liked the circular foot bending/ankle rotation move toward the beginning of the module. I have found this very natural to incorporate at the very beginning of my massage. I think it helps to ground people as well as put them at ease that I have strong pressure but I am sensitive to the way their body moves. The foot twisting and shaking techniques at the end were also new for me. My only wish is that I had someone around to do them to me as well!!
I am still refining the Qi machine from the last module and have been getting good feedback on it. I really enjoy watching the body relax over the course of a minute or so while I do it. I find with some people it's helpful to lift their ankles and lean my body back to get more movement. Others seem to prefer a much smaller movement that comes from my hips - this subtlety is something I think I could work on forever!
Yes I do have suggestions about the talking and the silent space. Actually I wrote a very detailed article about this subject which you might find quite interesting. You can read it here:
This video's technique portion was mostly review for me. I am reminded, however, of working the top of the foot as well as the bottom, which isn't often practiced in massage. I actually received a Thai massage from a fellow therapist today and she did circling up the top of the foot from the pressure point in the depression at the crease of the ankle down to each toe and it felt great!
The first part of the video I thought was very very important. The kinesiology of movement is not something that is often discussed in massage courses and you addressed it in a way that didn't require a background in anatomy. I feel as though I got this movement awareness from my yoga practice and not from my massage training, which is too bad, because it is absolutely essential in practicing in a way that is healthy for my body and feels fluid to my client.
The idea of the 'concept' is another great point. What is it that I am trying to achieve? How do I want this to feel for my client? And feeling into the quality of my touch versus assuming how it's supposed to feel, because it is truly different for everyone. I always tell my first time clients that 'I respond to them based on how they respond to me.' This is the sensitivity that I bring to my practice and it's how I know that what I'm doing is actually feeling good. There are little things to be aware of - muscle reactions, breath, tension, watching the clients eyebrows, as well as a sensitivity to the elasticity of muscles while they're being lengthened. This is something that's very hard to teach and can only be learned with practice. Still, I sometimes wish I could experience what my client is experiencing. Although, sometimes I feel I come pretty close.
Besides the foot massage which is part of Thai Massage, there is also a separate system of Thai Foot Massage which is a mixture of foot massage and reflexology. In that system you work the top of the foot quite a lot. This is done with lotion, though. (I have a separate course about that)
I intentionally don't stress anatomy in this course so much because my main objective is to get students to feel more and think less during the sessions. It sounds like you have a lot of awareness of the subtle aspects of massage.
This video brought us from the feet up to the legs. I hear over and over from clients how great it is that Thai massage involves so much leg (and hip) work. I know when I receive I really love it. I think of the palm pressing, thumb pressing, and sen line work the 'roots' of Thai massage. I believe working the energy lines in the distal to proximal rhythm is what makes this work so powerful and energizing.
In comparison to other ways I've learned, your style uses more kneading versus pressing straight along the lines. This really reinforced the importance of a massage simply feeling good. And it still accesses all the energy lines - just like other types of massage without necessarily realizing it.
I've enjoyed using your version of these techniques on my clients the past few days. I've been using the leg open to work the inner thigh and medial hamstring all the way down to the foot. I especially love the 'twisting' technique where one hand pulls and the other pushes on the top of the thigh. This feels great! I take notes as I watch each video and other great reminders I wrote down are:
Always warm up the muscles and then stretch. Pick and choose which techniques to use. Some I will like better, will feel more natural, and will be easier for me to transition to. Remain flexible rather than having a plan - learn to flow, or dance!
I absolutely loved these variations on the leg sen warm up. All of this time I have been using my thumbs and palms and this is such a physical relief. I also recognize that many people don't prefer the thumb pressure and find it pokey. It's so nice to get more general pressure and use my body weight!
So, right after I watched the video my fiance got to benefit 🙂 He absolutely loved it and commented specifically on the rocking of the hip joint after positioning myself beneath his leg. He mentioned that the pressure on the inner thigh was 'intense' but felt really good. I felt comfortable with it right away so I've used it on about 5 clients over the last couple of days. One regular client made a comment as I was working his outer thigh with the technique that he loved how it got at his IT band.
A couple things it made me think - I have a hard time navigating around a bolster when I have clients with low back or hip pain. It is much more comfortable for them to have their knees bent over a pillow or bolster but I have a hard time with some techniques when it's there. This was one of them. I couldn't position myself beneath their leg without moving the bolster and that would have been a lot of shuffling. One client who was smaller, I went ahead and did it anyways and just rested my leg over the bolster and squished it. It worked fine, but that thing always trips me up.
Another thing this technique brought to mind is the body contact that it involves. I personally really enjoy it for a number of reasons including the comfort of it, the feeling of being held, and the ability it affords me to lean my body weight into my client to provide natural pressure that doesn't stress me. In the west, this much contact can seem intrusive or uncomfortable to some people. I have not had an issue with it but I have noticed that sometimes I avoid certain techniques if I think my client will be surprised by it. I have also had a client mention that 'if they weren't comfortable with me, that would have been very alarming.' I just thought it was worth mentioning.
The more I practice, the more I appreciate these types of techniques that support the clients body with mine and allow me to lean into them instead of using my hands or fingers.
There is an entire video in this course that deals with body contact issues. It's part of the "Art Of Thai Massage" bonus course. In general it is often an issue of the mind. If the therapist considers it to be an issue, then that will get transferred to the client.
Here in Thailand nobody considers body contact in Thai Massage to be an issue. That's just how it's done. Neither therapists nor clients think that this is strange in any way.
For me it is strange that many western therapists have an issue with body contact in Thai Massage with both parties being fully dressed, but nobody finds it strange if the therapist is working on a naked body with Swedish-style massage.
So my suggestion is to not allow the mind to make this an issue. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with touching a massage client physically as long as you are doing it professionally and your intentions are clear and clean. My personal experience in my many years of doing Thai Massage is that if the body contact is not an issue for me, it is not for the client either.
I have never even once asked a client if they felt comfortable with the body contact or not. That would simply sow mental cobwebs in their minds. I just assumed that this was okay and normal, and I never had a client mention that they felt uncomfortable.
In your post you mentioned several good reasons why this body contact is good and even advantageous. As long as you maintain that attitude and not allow the western issues of overthinking some things to creep in, you will be fine and your clients will appreciate it and enjoy your work.
Yay, leg stretches! These techniques are all very familiar to me though you have a little different way of interpreting them. I appreciate your attention to detail on positioning and offering alternatives for more sensitive clients. I have since begun to integrate more rocking for relaxation and opening.
Working the inner thigh and incorporating stretching the hip open with palm pressure is something that is very unique to thai massage, and I love it! I love that when we're stretching, no matter how big or small - there's the point of contact as well as everything else being moved. It's like we're always working the entire body with our entire body.
The one move that was new to me was the last when the single leg was in the bent knee pointing upward position and you circled the hip by grasping and rotating the knee. I could tell this feels really good and I have never been shown this. I have since tried it on a couple of clients and it worked very smoothly. I noticed them able to let go with the repetitive movement and feel a sense of being rocked while working the hip before doing bigger stretches.
Yes, this is one of the big things which distinguishes Thai Massage from most other systems, that you work at a point of contact, but affect much more. This will even become more evident when you get to the hip rocking section later on where you literally work the entire body from head to toe from one point of contact.
In this module we went on to learn a deeper, more dynamic leg stretch along with modifications and variations to accommodate different bodies. But first, you painted a picture of the different possible movements of the hip joint.
This 'hip pie' concept is simple yet so important. It's helpful to understand the natural movements of the body to prevent it from moving in unnatural ways during the massage and maximize the potential for opening that provides the powerful completeness that people feel when they've received thai massage.
The lunge stretch you showed in this module is one I use very often and people love. The alternatives taught opened me up to more options for people who are not used to big stretches or have come in with hip pain or limited mobility. Tonight, in fact, I had a client experiencing pain in the left hip both in the SI joint and the front at the leg crease. The rocking was a welcome addition to our otherwise deeper sessions. I watched her visibly relax even in her shoulders as I rocked her knee back and forth gently.
I look forward to learning more about the rest of the hip pie 🙂