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Merri Lou Dobler's Complete Thai Massage Course Notes
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Merri Lou
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November 15, 2021 - 9:54 am
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Module 1   Wow, lots to integrate already with this first module. Got right down on the floor to "imitate" the practitioner's ergonomics for working with a client. Stopped the video a few times so I could take notes in a new notebook and to come into all the poses.  It was a good recommendation to start these ASAP, and I have always liked to sit on the floor or the meditation cushion anyway. My toes are not particularly pleased but I breathed through the minor discomfort and will  keep at it. The half kneel positions are not too bad and I see I favor one side over the other, probably since I'm right handed and would just go to the other side of the client if it got too uncomfortable. If you uncurl your toes it's not the same. 

So many body parts to use for this!  I took a course once on not using my hands/thumbs, so my forearm is pretty comfortable for working with people. I'm not a deep tissue person but I can get where I need to with someone's issue. Now I am happy to see it is all body weight and not using specific muscles. I am, after all, 65 years old and with some osteopenia/osteoarthritis to work around, and to appreciate as my challengel I do have a Chinese reflexology wood stick that I sit and play with for my hands, and sometimes my feet. I have both hypertonic and hypotonic hip/pelvis issues, so I cannot sit for long in a seated pose, even elevated on cushions for the hips to be higher than the knees, and I can actually get to the foot better by laying supine or up against a wall to get to the foot for pressure points. Off topic, but not really since alignment is so important. I followed the video, breathing along, enjoying all aspects of the information. Lean in, breathe out. Yes, I do that right. 

My daughter with Down syndrome says I can work on her and that is to be determined. She is quite ticklish but likes percussion.  I do have a neighbor, in her 70's, who would probably enjoy the session. Back to the floor tonight to review the kneel and half-kneel and sit.

I know I'm wordy!  Thanks!                                                                                            

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Shama Kern
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November 16, 2021 - 7:06 am
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Welcome to the Complete Thai Massage certification program, Merri Lou!

Please take a moment to familiarize yourself with our certification checklist to make sure that it is all correctly organized:

Certification Checklist

Don't worry about being 'wordy'. Words are the best way to express yourself here. Laugh

Many of our students who had physical challenges reported to us that with ongoing practice their bodies adjusted and their conditions improved. Let's hope that this will happen to you as well. Don't try to push yourself beyond what you can reasonably do. 

By the way, we have had many students in their 60s and even some in their 70s.

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Merri Lou
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November 17, 2021 - 4:04 am
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Module 2.    Yes, thanks Shama, I have checked the Checklist and seem to be right where I need to be. Doing the certification questions too.

My daughter has been helpful in letting me jump right in with doing Chi Machine with her. My first round was okay, just not quite as smooth, and not as much hip movement from her. She is very compact and strong so I felt that the limited hip motions would be the way her body responds. However, that evening we did it again. I settled in, placed her legs on my thighs, took her ankles. Took a deep breath.This time I found the rhythm and  I knew immediately  that my motions and connection with my own body made the difference. I was more relaxed, I did not feel stress. She started to laugh.Hips were good.  The shoulders were not moving and I had her put her hands by her side instead of spread out. There was barely any upper body motion and her head was still. I asked her to move her head just to see how it moves. Just not a lot going on.

She had enough of lying on the floor now,  so I thought more time with Chi Machine might have loosened her up. It was her choice and I want her enthused to do it again! Then I put the video on again, muted it, full screen, and forwarded it to where Chi Machine is demonstrated. She watched it with me and saw what it looks like. Tist might be helpful, with each new pose to help her see what is coming by showing her how easy it is.

At my Chair Yoga class this morning I demonstrated to students how I am adapting my body to new poses of Thai Massage, especially for the balance aspect, and that we are all beginners, wherever we are in life.  Later I got feedback from another woman, that even 2 minutes was just getting her into the feeling and she wished it had been longer, good information for me to communicate with anyone who is willing to try something new.

Thanks!

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November 17, 2021 - 5:29 am
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Considering that you are just starting out with the course, and considering that the Chi Machine is not exactly the easiest technique to learn, it seems to me that you are doing fine. I have no doubt that you will be effective with the Chi Machine since you described that you 'felt it'. That's what it is all about. It is not about mechanically using techniques, but about truly feeling them in your own body and getting them to flow. That typically tends to take a while to develop, but it is the goal.

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Merri Lou
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November 20, 2021 - 9:23 am
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Module 3.   Completion of some notes from Module 2 first. After several days of practice of Chi Machine, my daughter is much more relaxed and moves easily. Today she put a pillow under her head, a tubular one with micro-beads, and her body moved well but not her head. I adjusted my arms and hands several times since my biceps fatigued quickly with the heavy legs. Elbows in, sit up tall, work with core. Two minutes. It'll get better as I build strength. I also went to a neighbor's house and she was interested in the Chi Machine, since she had used an actual before. She liked the Chi Machine technique, and then we spent time helping her get back up from the floor. She didn't realize she was so weak and couldn't stand very well. We took our time, pausing several times, talking about it, until she could stand up on her walker and sit down. I gave her water and made sure she was okay. It was a big lesson for me.

For Module 3, which was a leap in learning, I took my time watching the video a number of times and then putting it together with the printout, and practicing as I was able. I used my granddaughter's baby doll, with rubber feet, as my model first, and that was helpful. My daughter let me practice on her once. Tomorrow I will visit a different neighbor who is very mobile, for the experience.

The warm-up is very nice, going right and then left. I used my notes for this and did the 1-2-3-2-1. Sometimes I forgot about it with some of the techniques, but that will be okay. The circular technique is laid out well in the video and although I am slow I found that after some practice that the counterclockwise motion is very useful in the hands following the movement. It will be a while before this is in my brain but my body already likes the motion. The second technique took some adjusting to get the fingers pointing in but my "lean in" tip helped me to have straight arms. Three times practice went quickly.

I liked combining the third and fourth technique, hands move easily from top to bottom, bend and press down forward, then push up the toes. It is similar to a massage move for the feet that I already do, although I am not practicing massage with clients at this time.

Sliding the right shin under the knee for the next technique was not very smooth nor comfortable, but when I remembered to breathe I let go of that and decided I could enjoy the twist out, lean forward, twist, pull back. It felt good to have the motion support the effort. Motion helps everything.  And the straight wrist technique definitely helped with the twist. Wrists are not sore tonight.

Sliding out was clumsy and I know it will improve. My core is definitely getting a workout and I feel my toes loosening up with practice. The video showing how to work on flexibility is a bonus and I've worked along with it several times.

Then there is the last technique of sliding out, grabbing the foot, spending time on top to squeeze down a few times and shake, bobbing.

I am enthused, looking forward to seeing my neighbor tomorrow, motivated to improve as I am able. Your comments are always helpful, Shama, Thank you!

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Shama Kern
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November 21, 2021 - 8:55 am
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"My biceps fatigued quickly with the heavy legs" - your biceps should not come into play once the heels rest on your thighs since you don't have to lift the legs at this point. You can just let them rest on your thighs and make sure that they don't slide off. I only show the lifting of the legs to learn the motion via an exaggerated movement. Also, in the beginning don't try to force yourself to do the Chi Machine for 2 minutes. 1 minute is also enough to get the desired effect usually.

It is obvious that you are taking the training material very seriously and put all your energy into practicing it. Don't feel discouraged if in the beginning it doesn't feel very smooth or your body is not quite in sync with it all - all this will naturally improve with time and practice. In three months you won't even believe that you had difficulties with certain techniques initially.  Smile

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Merri Lou
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November 23, 2021 - 10:38 pm
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Module 4.  I am so much more enthused this week with Module 4 on foot massage. It was a module that brought pieces together and helped me relax into enjoying the process. And yes, Shama you are right, just practice and allow for mistakes.

I am working on moving the hands from 1-2-3-2-1, which I tend to forget the first "rounds". It'll come with time. The logical part about how a foot moves made great sense; the whole concept settled in whole person-whole foot big picture and that concept will probably carry through many lessons in Thai Massage.

I take a deep breath before starting and if I am not sure what the next technique is, I stop again. It is okay get settled back in. Bending out is a simpler start that sets the pace for the other techniques. I enjoy the circular rotation technique. I needed to get up on my toes when it became evident I was using arm muscles instead of moving the body weight for the bending in. It's so important to have a relaxed back. I am usually pretty careful because of some rotator cuff muscles and the whole shoulder girdle rhythms.

Changing the motion for #3 and #4 feels good but it will take practice to not clutch the toes on a bigger person. I felt like I had to move my hands lower on the feet but then it messed up body mechanics. No crunching either of the toes. In reviewing these steps, I saw how valuable it is to bend way down, forward.

Sliding into position to move the ankle left and right is probably the most challenging right now, with some awkwardness. Retraction is always a move that can loosen people up and feel good. The relaxation move on the top of the foot, and then the shaking is a good transition to working on the sole and sides of the feet. Circles are a nice change for the spots on the feet. I will be working on these last techniques by themselves today for practice. With repetition it will be easier. Then it will come together much more easily! Thank you.

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Shama Kern
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November 24, 2021 - 6:24 am
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You are right - you will see more such logical concepts later in the course which makes it easier to remember the flow of the techniques. Anyway, in the early stages, it looks like a jumble of a ton of techniques, but after a while, it all turns into a natural flow.

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Merri Lou
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November 24, 2021 - 7:25 am
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Thanks, Shama,   and what I am appreciating as a fun part of this course is seeing Thailand in your videos, the music and people, the culture. People relate to each other very differently than here in the U.S.-pre-Covid of course- and there is so much emphasis on a holistic aspect to health. I also like the second section of the course, importantly to me is the section  on toes, feet, ankles, because it also gets core work going and mobility and maybe agility. So much to see that is pointed out in this section as a reminder of what is available for our learning.

I've started reading many of the other entries by people taking the course and am impressed with how people came to be right here from wherever they are. And it speaks to your openness and welcoming attitude to everyone. So thank you.

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November 24, 2021 - 9:28 am
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I am so glad to hear that you appreciate the other sections in the course besides the main training modules. I will be adding more content to them in the near future.

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Merri Lou
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November 26, 2021 - 10:53 am
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Modules 1-4, review.  My beginner status was very apparent to me today. After yoga class I offered  Thai Massage for a student's feet and then I couldn't remember where to start for Chi Machine! Chi Machine, for 1 minute,  was not a difficult technique for me initially  and I had practiced it with my daughter and a friend, but I was clueless today what to do: a new person and a new location. Next, I kept shifting around with moving my knees out or my knees in for the techniques  that I could remember, since body posture immediately told me I was not comfortable.  I persevered to just keep trying and to enjoy what I was able to do. I was able to feel a good connection with the top and sides of the student's feet, from the last module, and the foot sequences I settled in to doing right away felt right.  It was eye-opening and a good experience.

Since I was very close to remembering the techniques, I took today to review past videos and the transcripts before I delved a third time into Module 5. Of course I remembered most of those foot techniques and sequencing as soon as I watched it. I will take one more day to go through the foot massage techniques before I fully do Module 5. No rush. Thanks!

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Shama Kern
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November 26, 2021 - 8:51 pm
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Exactly - no rush! I still remember when I first started out with Thai Massage in 1999, my first course in Thailand felt very confusing. It was a 14-day course, and the first thing I did after it ended was to take another 14 -day course in another school that basically covered the same material. Laugh 

Of course, I did not have the benefit of being able to re-watch videos or re-read transcripts. After the course was over, whatever I could remember was there, and whatever I had forgotten, was gone. Not only that, but the Thai teachers did not speak much English, so it was hard to communicate. So I immediately took another class, and after that, I hired a private tutor to finetune things. 

This was all before the days of online training that can be accessed at any time for as long as you want. Anyway, that's a trip back on memory lane. 

I have seen and spoken to countless students who took a live class, and soon after they had forgotten a lot of it and had no way to bring it back. This is one of the main reasons that inspired me to establish an online school. Smile

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Merri Lou
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November 28, 2021 - 6:51 am
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Module 5. Good section on leg warm-up. I worked with my daughter today and am seeing a neighbor tomorrow for foot massage and leg warm-up.  My daughter is ticklish. I started and finished with Chi Machine, very relaxing for her.  I was able to do the sequence on her left leg with no issue. For her right leg, it was okay with the Butterfly move but she got ticklish with the squeeze and roll up on the thigh with the thumbs. Her calf didn't bother her, hooray, and the sequence went as planned. I referred to my notes as needed.

Using the heel of my hand on her adductors and hams also produced laughter and tickles, too much to continue. I tried to watch where the adductors were in case it was sensitive. The ability of my daughter to lie still was also not possible for the outer thigh; she was done!  I went back to Chi Machine.

My hands are doing fine with the thumb rolls, tendons a little tight but they loosen up in warm water. I am needing to go back and see the whole sequence once more before I see my neighbor tomorrow. I am looking at body positioning, since I tried to move from the thigh back to the calf without moving the rest of my body and it was awkward. I had focused on my technique without fully noticing my body position or mechanics of moving. I know it is repeated many times in the videos to pay attention to your own body!  It would be beneficial to do this, to not have tunnel vision, to not be super focused on the person on the mat, but on how it is feeling to me.

Foot massage was smoother this time and the added sequence is very soothing.

Also, I appreciated your story, Shama, on your early experiences. I liked the section 3 again for this module of Thailand and have already looked at Module 6 video. I love the cultural aspects and the food preparations.  Thank you.

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November 28, 2021 - 7:07 am
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"It would be beneficial to do this, to not have tunnel vision, to not be super focused on the person on the mat, but on how it is feeling to me." - This is all good and true, but let's be honest, in the beginning of learning the techniques, your focus will naturally be more on the mechanical aspects of doing it all and memorizing it.

Once you get to the point where you don't have to think so much anymore about the execution of the moves, then you will be able to focus more on how it feels. That's a natural progression, so don't be hard on yourself and expect too much right away. Smile

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Merri Lou
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November 30, 2021 - 10:14 am
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Module 6. My neighbor was kind to let me practice transitioning from one side of the body to the other because it was a slow, slightly awkward process. I started with the Thai foot massage with her, moved to the leg warm up and then to the forearm use for the warmup. With the transition, as soon as I remembered to place the one arm down on the floor then I was able to lift up, reposition the correct leg for underneath hers, and start again. It will come with time. One leg is stronger than the other, just as one arm works more smoothly than the other, and going slowly with the less-dominant leg worked better to move, lift, settle in, start again. I wasn't very graceful but I got the feel for it a little bit and felt I had made progress by repeating it. And I'm motivated to work at it as an important part of this process.

I was working on the balance exercises this week too, and watching the videos, current and past modules, to understand how it builds stability with time. To come up and down with hips, knees, ankles and feet is a coordinated effort. Regular practice does carry over to the sequence work, as I am discovering.

I like the feel of using the forearm. I could sink down into the thigh and get a distinct feel of the quad muscle, or if I started to slide a bit, I was going slow enough that I could get back on pretty easily. I was comfortable moving up closer to the top of the quad because of my past massage experience. My lower back immediately tells me if I'm needing to adjust.

I'm not sure why the video was harder this time for setting up to match the moves, but the actual practice seemed to make more sense, if you understand that. Having a real person makes a difference. It took a few times of trying a rhythm on the leg to get it to feel more natural; lots more practice for this needed. I asked for feedback from my friend as I adjusted this way and that way. I didn't feel I had it yet on the left side while it was easier on the right. The groove was not difficult to find. Getting to a whole body movement was definitely key to settling in to a sequence.

I will get better with the Elephant Walking, which is a cool move, and my friend loved the calf work. I could grab it and work it on both sides, and I realized that when I have a massage I am resisting the therapist on one side due to the tightness, while the other calf is fine. So my caution for my friend was not needed; she really enjoyed it.

I picked up some of this lesson and am glad for this choice for leg warm up for different bodies and for sparing the fingers/thumbs/hands. Forearm work can be very valuable. Thank you for an interesting lesson!

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Shama Kern
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December 1, 2021 - 5:55 am
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You seem to be picking up on all the pertinent points to improve your Thai Massage performance. In other words, you are not just doing a mechanical job, but are working on a holistic approach. I am happy to hear that, and if you keep doing that, it will get better and easier! Smile

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