October 30, 2012
I just rec'd and watched the first module of the Thai Foot Massage Course. When I attempted to practice I noted a lack of flexibility in my quads, adductors, and lower back; plus instability of my ankle and big toe from a prior injury made getting into the right squat position difficult. I had to elevate bolster and support the clients feet and legs off the floor several inches in order to comfortably and safely rock back and forth with body weight rather than muscle force. I'm hoping/assuming as I practice, that my flexibility will improve and squatting will become more comfortable. With a client in a reclining chair, this is not a problem. Just need to make sure I am sitting low enough and far away enough to use my body weight to push along the axis and not straight down onto the foot. Overall a good start. Looking forward to the next module
That's quite a common reaction to that first technique. The good news is that there are so many techniques available to you that you just do the ones that are easy on you and your physical capabilities. I present many different ways of doing things, but don't think that you have to perfect every technique in the entire course.
Some of us have limitations that we have to live with and work with, or we might have preferences, or we just like or dislike certain techniques. That's one really good thing about Thai Massage. There is such a variety of techniques available to us that we can always choose what works best for us. This is not a rigid system where you have to use every single technique even if it kills you:)
That's one angle to look at it. The second angle is that it is highly likely that over time you get more used to some positions like squatting or opening your legs wider. In the beginning those ways to use our body will naturally feel strange if we have never done it before. The first time is always the hardest, and then we find our groove gradually.
The third angle to see this is that initially when you learn a complex technique, you have to focus so much on how to do it right, (and of course it won't be quite right the first time around), that you don't feel comfortable in your body. I can assure you that once you know the techniques well enough that you don't have to think about how to execute them all the time, you can develop a much better feeling for ease and grace and comfort. After a while you will feel more in 'flow', and you will be amazed how much easier it will all feel then.
Actually, here is a trade secret of mine:) When I teach live classes, I always dread the first day, because that's the hardest for all the students. It all feels so difficult and new or even impossible. Towards the end of the course, nobody can even understand anymore what the big problem seemed to be on the first day.
October 30, 2012
I watched the second module and have been practicing. I'm still dealing with my limited flexibility, so the cross legged position was more comfortable for me, than the kneeling. I may be jumping ahead and I'm a Westerner, so rules and structure are important to me (see today's blog) so I was wondering on whether you have an order of which side to start with. In my previous Thai workshops, they felt it was important to start with Women's left side and for Men to start on the right; in order to honor the respective feminine and masculine energies. Any thoughts or preference from you on this matter.
Some other helpful things from past workshops, were to "frame" the area I was working or concentrating on centered between my knees as much as possible. By framing the area, this provides a perfect position to utilize your body weight. Additionally you can than visualize and practice the force of your pressure extending from your center/hara, not from your arms, hands, thumbs. The pressure coming from your body weight/center is also much more comfortable to the client.
One last thing, when using my forearm I have to consistently remind myself to relax my hand and not make a fist. With a relaxed hand, the pressure comes from the center not from muscular force.
October 30, 2012
I have now added the 3rd module into my practice routine. Still trying to smooth out the circular movement over just rocking back and forth. Again pressure from the core is much more comfortable and relaxing to the client, rather than strictly arm/hand pressure. The circular movement is far more relaxing over rocking. Getting back to my previous post, do you ever reverse the movement from left/right to right/left ? The variable pressure on the thumb pressure is nice. It keeps me from straining my hands and thumbs. Lastly I have found most people I work on tend to have tender spots/trigger points around the ankle. These techniques are great, but need to be careful with the pressure to make sure it is not too painful for client. Easing in with pressure and encouraging deep breathing helps to release these points.
October 30, 2012
I've watched module 4 twice, but haven't had a chance to practice yet. Hoping to tomorrow. However, from past experience, I'm really looking forward to the side lying work. In prone, I'm expecting with my limited flexibility I may have difficulty with squatting on my toes and using both knees simultaneously, but will give it a go. I've had foot on foot massage before and I found it incredible. Looking forward to working with my feet in both sidelying and prone. The fist on feet looks great, especially with the rolling of the fist outward. I was wondering if you have ever used with the circular movement, displayed in your opening supine movement and if it was as relaxing.
Looking forward to more practice, any feedback you have, and module 5.
Regarding starting on the left or right side, I have heard this also, and some schools may propose this. However others don't mention it at all. To me, quite honestly, it is a nice theory which in actual practice has no effect on the quality of a massage. If someone feels good about following this concept, fine. But if you don't, your massage will not be negatively affected, I can assure you. Personally I don't worry about it and I don't pay attention to it.
You can get into pretty complicated territory with those ideas. What about gay clients? Do they count as male or female?
Here in Thailand there are many 'ladyboys', men who change their sex to become women. Actually when I originally studied Thai Massage, in one of the best known schools here in Chiang Mai, Old Medicine Hospital, there were three assistant teachers who were 'ladyboys". How do you classify them?
What is the actual yin/yang balance in people? Bottom line is, you don't have to worry about it. I am sure there are some people who don't agree with me and turn this issue into a kind of a massage religion. And that's everyone's right too...
Regarding your question about the circular movement: In actual practice I don't follow any set routine or protocol. I just flow with the session, and I combine and mix and match and innovate and create. Now admittedly you cannot do that when you just start out learning a massage system. But when the techniques have become second nature and you don't have to think about them anymore, you will be able to do all kinds of things that are "not in the book".
I have been doing massage work for a long time, and I still come up with new ways of doing things, new techniques, even more effective modifications etc. There is really no limit as to what you can do. The basic technique, the basic structure is just the beginning. Then at some point it all becomes part of you and you are in a 'flow' state.
Then intuition and creativity can unfold when you don't have to think about the techniques anymore. This is also the point where massage can be like a meditation, an exchange of energy or a moving of energy. This may sound a bit esoteric, but it has always been the way how my massage has evolved.
October 30, 2012
I've now watched modules 5, 6, 7. The therapeutic work for the ankles looks great and looking forward to trying out, since a lot of people have had past sprains/strains in this area, with adhesions and limited ROM. Unfortunately I am on an extended business trip away from home and have temporarily lost my practice models. Once back home I will post more about my actual practical experiences.
On the last video you did not discuss the type of oil used. Do you have any preferences or recommendations. I found the demonstration of knuckle work very helpful, as I have experienced fatigue/strain in my thumbs in the past. I noted no percussion or herbal compress work demonstrated. Do you avoid these techniques on the feet or just omitted due to time constraints of the course. Finally, are there any contraindications we should be aware of ?
Re: which oil do I recommend? I did not discuss this since therapists from many different countries purchase this course and I don't know what oils or lotions are available in their locations. Personally I only use oil on three body parts: neck, hands and feet. For neck and hands I use Jojoba oil. I like it because it does not smell, it does not leave a greasy residue and it gets absorbed very quickly.
For the feet Jojoba oil does not work well since it gets absorbed too quickly, so you need a heavier oil or lotion that stays on the skin longer. Here in Thailand coconut oil is commonly used for massage. It works very well for the feet and it is what I used in the actual video demonstration.
What works even better is a cream or lotion which can be easily scooped up with the fingertips repeatedly during the session. Pouring oil can be a bit messy whereas cream or lotion does not spill as easily as oil.
Here in Thailand many foot massage therapists use creams like Nivea. I don't use it since I prefer all natural chemical free products which are harder to find in Thailand. However in the US or Europe they should be easy to find.
Re: herbal compress work. This is used for Thai Massage but not for foot massage. It could theoretically be done for foot massage, but this is not within the scope of this course. Preparing herbal compresses depends on local availability of herbs, it is time consuming and requires the heating up of the compresses. This is not practical for your typical foot massage session. Personally I have never seen it done here in Thailand. It would be an unusual specialty that is maybe offered in a fancy resort where people don't mind paying a lot more for a session.
Re: percussion. I know one reflexology place in Chiang Mai where they use a rubber mallet to do percussion on the feet. In most other places the therapists just hit the soles of the feet a few times with their fists. Personally I don't find this to be very effective, and it is a bit awkward to do. I use a lot of percussion work in my Thai Massage where it is easy to do, but foot massage does not lend itself to good percussion work in my opinion. That's why I don't include it in the course.
Aside from that, there are two mechanical means that do work on the feet. One is the rubber mallet as mentioned above, and the other one is an electric massage hammer which I use quite a bit in my sessions. For an example of the massage hammer you can watch the video in this post:
Actually I use the massage hammer on my own feet quite a bit.
Re: contraindications. There are some common sense ones like skin lesions or skin diseases. The only area where you need to be careful is if someone has a very weak ankle and you hear a lot of cracking noise when you rotate the foot in the ankle joint. Then you need to ask the client if there is any pain or discomfort and you need to adjust the intensity of your work accordingly.
Good questions, Peter. I might include some of this post in an updated version of the course manual.
October 30, 2012
Shama, thank you for your response. I have also used a hammer type massager on my own feet, along rolling the soles of my foot with a wooden roller and/or hard lacrosse ball. However, nothing beats another human's contact. It's like trying to tickle yourself, its just not the same. I am still on my extended business trip, so I'm stuck with no models to practice on for a while. Though I will be looking for some coconut oil, to try out, once I get home. I have received and looking forward to going through the Arm & Hand videos. Thank you so much.
I also responded to your email on feedback and as mentioned above, you are free to use any of my comments or suggestions in any way you wish.
I agree with you, the human touch is the best. I use the massage hammer in two cases:
1. If I cannot get the human touch but reallly need some work on my self
2. If have a really big and stiff client, and it is just too stressful for my hands to work out knots in big muscles. Actually a couple of my clients request the massage hammer because of the infrared heat effect (not for the entire session of course).
Coconut oil works well, but I am sure there are many other good massage oils and lotions available in western countries.
Thanks so much for your detailed email response. You made some very valid and useful suggestions.