I think I've finally got the forum posting protocol down (), and looking forward to writing about my experiences with the Thai Back Massage Course.
MODULE # 1
Shama ~ I appreciated this introduction module and its focus on paying attention to our clients, and the importance of good observation skills to determine each person's unique needs. The definitions and examples of kyphosis, lordosis, scoliosis and spinal rotation, and their visual and tactile cues, were presented clearly and practically, , and I've been practicing using them at the beginning of my sessions. At this point I especially find the supine evaluations helpful (checking for for lordosis/kyphosis by sliding the hand under the lumbar spine, checking the hips for tilt, etc. ) I've found in my own work that I will sometimes also palpate the rib cage when the client is in the supine position to get a sense if there's any torsion - sometimes I can see this torsion without palpation. It's great to be reminded of how important it is to work with our clients to support healthy posture and habits. I really believe self care goes hand in hand with receiving good massage, and is an important part of the whole picture of health. It's also very empowering for the client to have things they can do, outside of the session, to help themselves.
Module # 2
I really appreciated your discussion of knowing our limitations as we do our best to help our clients; I've had the experience of someone wanting me to "fix them right away" enough to know what you're referring to. With practice, I've gotten better at doing my best w/o having expectations.
The discussion of cell memory was intriguing...I love the analogy of a "cloud of darkness" to describe stuck energy.
The list of mental/emotional benefits of Thai Massage is great, and so important, I believe. The fact that massage can help us to feel happier, connected and hopeful is a huge thing, and sometimes overlooked her in the USA.
The demonstration of the use of props was very helpful. There's so many ways to use props and bolsters....I like the big pillow under the chest with the little pillow as 'face cradle".
So true that it's important to use other body parts instead of hands whenever you can! I forget that sometimes. Looking forward to developing some new healthy habits!
Sounds like you are building a good basis for the course. Once the foundation is in place, the practical part will make much more sense.
There are quite a few concepts in this course which are generally underrepresented in the western world, and yet they are what can make the difference between a mechanical massage and a true healing arts experience. That's where the eastern concepts shine - they introduce those energetic concepts which can add so much to a massage.
Yes, I agree that the energetic components add a depth and a greater potential for healing of the whole person.
So far I've viewed modules 1 -8, and in the past week have practiced some of the techniques by blending them into my table work with scheduled clients. Today I have a chance to "go to the mat" and I hope to practice the techniques covered so far. My husband will be receiving the work...he has spondylitis, a condition that cause fusing of the spine. He loves massage!... although I sometimes need to adjust techniques and positioning for his comfort and safety. So I really appreciate your emphasis on the necessity of adapting techniques to individuals in terms of their size and physical condition.
A lot of the techniques work quite well on the table, and i've gotten good feedback from clients. Very detailed coverage of the sacrum ~ great stuff.
The sacrum is another one of those neglected areas in massage therapy in general, yet everyone loves having it worked on. There is very little training about the sacrum out there, so I pulled out all the stops to fill this gap. In Thai Massage there is normally no training about the sacrum at all...
Shama ~ just checking in as I have been out of town for the past 9 days, visiting family and taking a course. I haven't had computer access ( or time ) so haven't posted lately - hoping to get back into the class now. I have been practicing techniques from modules 4 -8, however, and will post some comments re: that soon ( getting good feedback! ) I'd like to review these modules, and then move on to the next section....so it's looking like I will be on the 3 month plan for this course......looking forward to getting back to class!
I've been reviewing and practicing the content of modules 1-8. Some thoughts and comments:
Module 4 -
I've been using the posture you demonstrated ( sitting back on one heel with toes bent, with other knee bent ) to have better leverage, and it really works well. I'm a small person, so getting in correct position is so important for me. It's taken a bit of practice, is getting quite comfortable, and it enables me to really use my whole body when working. I also have found that your suggestions on breathing with the rocking motions are very helpful in the sense that it creates a fluid rhythm, and is relaxing for me, as well.
Module 5 -
Nice variations on the more traditional style of Thai work. When I first studied Thai Massage in the 90's, I questioned the wisdom of so much thumb work, particularly because I'm small and small boned.....and now I am 56 years old, so all the more important to take care of myself! I find that the thumbs are great for palpating and "listening", but when I need to go deeper, other techniques are best. The 1 -10 technique is a good tool for getting a more specific sense of what level of pressure is ideal for a person. I tend to not use a lot of percussion in my work, but I really like your mentioning the importance of slowing down percussion work gradually.
Module 6 -
I'm still practicing the method you demonstrate for moving from side to side without disrupting the flow of the work. Very cool! I'm getting better but need more practice. A great improvement on just stopping the work and getting up and moving to the other side. I've been using the techniques with the heel of the hand ( rolling up from soft tissue to sacrum ) a lot, and people love it.
The smaller you are, the more important it becomes to use your body to its best advantage. Big and strong therapists can "cheat" by using their strength although this won't help them much in the long run since it simply doesn't feel good to the clients to be muscled. But small therapists don't even have that option. They just have to learn how to do it right in the first place which is the better way. Small therapists are forced to do it right or they won't last long with Thai Massage.
There is no wisdom in using your thumbs a lot as is commonly taught in Thai Massage schools. It is a plain dangerous practice and should be minimized as much as possible. Again therapists with big and strong hands can get away with it more, but the right way is to learn how to work effectively with other body parts.
I am older than you are, and I am very aware of making sure that my body lasts and is in good shape for Thai Massage. Any practice which does not serve this purpose should be minimized or eliminated. That has always been my philosophy, and that's the reason why I don't teach all this thumbing on the energy lines which is taught widely. Instead I focus on rocking techniques and maximizing the use of other body parts.
Good point about smaller therapists. So true.
I really appreciate your philosophy and the creativity of these methods. It brings a whole new level and depth to the possibilities of this work. I'm feeling a renewed enthusiasm for Thai Massage
A few more thoughts on Modules 7 & 8 -
Th sacral rocking techniques is one that I'm using quite frequently now. ( with table work as well as work on the floor. ) Very powerful - but with the right sensitivity and degree of pressure, it 's been helpful for everyone I've used it on. I've used all of the sacral techniques quite a bit with my husband, who has limited mobility in his spine, and he loves them.
The knee techniques are going to come in very handy for some of my larger clients. I haven't had a whole lot of opportunity to use some of them....but i know I'll be reviewing this section when my larger clients ( and clients who love deep work ) schedule.
Using the foot ( heel) as a rocking technique - a great idea, and feels surprisingly soothing to people with whom I've used it. Works really well on gluts.
Enjoyed the demonstration of "putting it all together" so far....getting a sense of the importance of intuition, flow, getting a clear sense of a person's needs/limits....and the "art" of the work.
A few more days of travel coming up for me....I'll then be ready to move on with the course!
Sacrum work is an all time favorite for pretty much all clients and is well worth learning well on the part of the therapist, especially since this is generally not taught much. In traditional Thai Massage not much attention is paid to the sacrum which is why I decided to change that.
It's true, heel rocking sounds dreadful and feels great. Who would have thought! Many new therapists are afraid of using feet, knees and elbows, but there is really no reason for that, provided it is done the way how I teach it. If it is done just as a mechanical pressure technique without sensitivity, then it feels just as dreadful as it sounds. But that applies to using hands just as well.
As you say, the intuition, the flow and the art of it is the secret sauce here!
Back from recent travels and settling in for the autumn...enjoying the course so far...very thorough and filled with ideas.
Module # 9 - I've been enjoying the freshness of your perspective re: Eastern & Westerns styles, and the clear language used in describing methods, as opposed to getting overly anatomical. It really isn't always necessary; learning anatomy Western style is certainly valuable, but I've found with some therapists it can fragment & mechanize their work. Learning to develop feeling & sensitivity, on the other hand , is absolutely crucial. All the work demonstrated "in the groove" ( a great example of a simple word that tells you what you need to know ) is great stuff. it's interesting that I already do a lot of these techniques ( minus the rocking ) and I'm not sure they were ever taught to me formally before....I developed them intuitively as I went along over the years. In the past 2 years or so, I started using my fingers more often as opposed to my thumbs in this area. Now I am adding rocking, thanks to this instruction, to bring in another dimension. Great point that more motion leads to more discovery in the areas in which we are working.
Module #10 - Wonderful image of the hand as the energy body and the glove as the anatomical body...I will use that one! Enjoying exploring the elbow work in the groove, which I've done before, but again not with the rocking. Very powerful....still in the practice mode with this, but I know of some folks who I expect will appreciate it.
Module #11 - Shama ~ I've been interested to observe how you have adapted the traditional methods into a system that is more flexible and intuitive. Good point about the leaning techniques and breathing restriction. I've done a bit of practice with the forearm leaning work...need to do more. I'm always trying to adapt these techniques to the work I do on the table as well. I've tried putting pillow under the person's shoulder joint and supporting their arm with my outside hand. A little trick, but it has possibility.
With the percussion, I'm practicing to see just how rhythmic and gentle I can make it...I've tended to shy away from using it in my work because it always seemed so stimulating....but your point about it going deep into the person make me want to integrate it in. I like using your technique as well as the traditional Thai "prayer hands" posture, because I like using the sides of the hands. I think the key is keep it light and "bouncy". I have very flexible wrists, so both techniques seem to work for me.
Adding rocking to the traditional linear Thai Massage movements has made all the difference in my work. It opens up a whole new range of possibilities, and it just flows better than strictly linear work. It also reduces the chances of causing pain for clients.
Just like you I have created many techniques which nobody ever taught me. They just grew out of creativity and spontaneity. I think it is the sign of a good therapist to come up with new things which come from a flow state and not from a text book.
I keep the anatomical language to a minimum since I feel that although anatomy is a useful knowledge to have, using it a lot in my training tends to conflict with the intuitive and feeling approach to massage which is more prevalent in Asian bodywork and which I definitely prefer. Also I have students from all over the world, and I doubt that all of them are experts in anatomy.
It is possible to be an excellent therapist with limited anatomical knowledge, but it is not possible to be an excellent therapist just based on one's anatomical knowledge. Feeling, quality of touch and the ability to sense with one's hands are the most important skills of a therapist. That's what I emphasize in all my courses.
Yes, I can see how including rocking reduces any chance of causing pain to a person.....great value in that alone!
Still enjoying experimenting with rocking in all aspects of my work. It is also energizing for the therapist.
Module #12 - Wonderful power techniques with the knee....have practiced this on the mat on floor, and even with table work. Continuing to practice, and getting a little more smooth, with transitioning from one side to another. Your description of different ways to angle the elbow when doing elbow/forearm work is really valuable.
Module #13 - Good recommendations on bolstering, and very true that people will sometimes "flatten out" - or roll forward - in the side-lying position. I have sometimes given my client a long pillow or bolster to cradle in their arms in this position for additional support. It doesn't completely prevent their rolling forward, of course, but can add an element of stability.
Using the bent knee/leg to support the working arm is a very valuable body mechanic tip.
I can still use some more practice on the knee techniques.!...I do have some experience from previous studies of traditional Thai work.....they're not something I use a lot in my practice at this point...when I have, it's usually on the gluts and hamstrings, and usually , of course , on larger people......so doing the back work is less familiar to me... looking forward to including these techniques more as time goes by and I get more practice.
It's one of those things...my (and yours and every therapist's) body is getting older, the clients are not getting any lighter, and if we work a lot, we have to make sure we don't wear our bodies out. Thai Massage is ideal for that since we CAN use so many body parts. With many other massage styles you don't have these options like using knees or feet. I see the increased use of other body parts as a kind of "insurance policy" for the career of therapists.
Hi, Shama ~ back to posting after a bit of a hiatus again! just a very busy month...also, now that I'm in the realm of the stretching portion of the course, i've wanted to have the opportunity to practice some of the stretches before posting. I have some practice sessions with a few particularly flexible folks lined up for the next week, so I hope to practice some of the techniques from Modules 14 -20 that I haven't had the opportunity to try because of size difference between myself and my partner, partner flexibility, my flexibility, etc. Meanwhile I've reviewed those modules a few times to become familiar with the work.
( i did make a post about 2 weeks ago on Modules 14/15 that never showed up here..... I've been so busy, and sometimes in a hurry....so perhaps I hit the wrong button! )
Module 14 ~ the shoulder blade side lying techniques are very practical and adaptable to most people, whether on the mat or the table. backbend #1 is a technique i have had a chance to try....great way of working quads while the person is in the backbend.
Module 15 ~ Backbend # 2 is a very cool & creative stretch.....I have not tried it, though!. I like how you include the rocking in Backbend #3....I can see how it has made such a difference in your work.....I love the way it allows the person to gradually ease into a deeper level of stretching and opening. Backbend #4 is nice, and fairly easy for me to execute, as long as the person is not too heavy! I like how shifting the knee postion to the gluts in Backbend #5 creates a great quad stretch. So far I'm sticking to the gentler Cobra stretch.....good to have all these options.
Module #16 ~ I've practiced BB # 10 ( with this one I need to work on my balance...it will be good for developing strength and balance in my feet ) and 12 ( #11 is another one of those cool but intense stretches that I'm not quite ready for !). I really like the idea of combining Forward bend # 1 with the back bend.