After only a brief overview of what I will be learning in Thai Massage, I know I made the right decision. The choreography between my artistic expression and engaging my intuition is a strong and effective combination. Another partnership that makes sense is being able to pair my long time study of Yoga and my profession as a Massage Therapist. The language makes sense to me as well as the flow and movement of the body. It definitely makes walking into this less intimidating. I am very excited to learn a new skill where I am able to use my whole body without compromising individual muscles. Less muscle strain and pain, the longer my ability to practice. Good stuff.
What caught my attention in this lesson was the freedom to create and veer from tradition. This is a sign of progress and evolution. We can Thank the tradition of the past without being a replica. It is important to use independent influence on our practice. Sure, the moves may have been done in the past, but as long as it comes from the heart and we channel good energy, it’s unique and effective. There is no such thing as Routine in bodywork.
I am nervous about working with my partner. He is very tall, muscular and doesnt have much respect for bodywork and free movement which makes it hard to work with his physiology. I will take on the challenge because that’s what will make this an even better journey, but I need to remember ergonomics and posture even more so in order to avoid injuring myself!
I LOVE the Chi Machine! Even a couple minutes was relaxing and energetic at the same time. I did it to my children to see if it had a calming effect on them (they couldnt sit still long enough). I loved the focus on the hip movement and how all body movement derived from that center, just like dancing. It made a difference in understanding how to create the flow of energy. The Chi Machine is like the gift of energy to my partner.
Hi Sarah, welcome to the forum and the Complete Thai Massage course. I am glad to hear that the style of the course resonates with you. Most of my students have a yoga background which helps both with the practice and the understanding of the material, so you are in good company!
In regards to practice, if possible try to not only work on one partner, but try to find people with different body types, sizes and weights if possible. What works great on one person, does not work well on somebody else, and vice versa.
That’s great that you love the Chi Machine. Apparently you figured out how to do it right. That’s a good start!
I have come across the importance of making a first impression several times in the last week in different articles. Maybe I need to finesse my impression skills! This is good advice. Just as important as showing kindness and having good manners, leaving people with the idea that you are trustworthy and have good intentions is a great way to get them coming back for more (of whatever you have to offer). Im not known to have the softest touch, or at least verbally. I’d like to make up for that in my touch. My goal is to have a gentle yet confident start.
Listening to my body – my own ergonomics and also what I sense is happening with my client – is just as important as my client’s feedback. I like this idea. Great way to encourage communication through other senses beyond speaking.
I like the rotating traction and contraction. I’ve never done this before but Im happy to learn it as a new skill. My one concern is how realistic these moves are for me as a smaller person if I am working on a larger person. A “dead” leg can be very cumbersome and hard to manipulate. As a side note, I think in the future it would be very helpful to have a view from behind you, or looking at the client from your perspective to see the positioning of your fingers. Im sure I’ll figure it out with practice, but initially I want to have more visual cues.
I like how you encourage getting a feeling for movement so it becomes natural instead of mechanical moves. As a learner, sometimes I get lost in the mechanical details but it’s nice to be pushed to trust my instincts over my hand-eye coordination. This is a healthy approach. I also think it’s very important to remember to incorporate my whole body in the action. It’s not about singling out one muscle group and making it work the hardest. It’s the whole body approach that encourages energy flow evenly throughout. Isolated movements go against nature and often gravity.
Knowing that there is not a set sequence that needs to be performed to fulfill a Thai massage session is a relief. There is creative freedom and natural evolution depending on the body’s needs (or the therapists memory, haha). My goal is to develop a good FEELING by understanding conceptually what Im doing, not memorizing a routine. This is a little hard to hear in the beginning when I feel like I need a routine to get me started but I trust this will happen with time and dedication.
Key Points for this module is definitely most important never to stretch a muscles that hasnt been warmed up. So often people think that stretching is a warm up. I always tell my massage clients that it’s so important that they stretch after their work out for the most effective change in muscle tone and flexibility. Glad that is important here too.
I can already tell that the modules are cumulative and building upon the previous ones. Things will start to flow and become cohesive Im sure. I think this will ensure learning the techniques faster because it’s review at the same time as introducing new movement and how they connect. I like that I get to pick and choose which moves I do on each client. I dont have to do each move on everyone, only the ones that apply to them most.
I need the reminder to keep my back straight!
Again, I have concerns that my body weight alone is not enough pressure for someone with dense muscles and heavy limbs. Otherwise for somewhat equal sizes, I like the idea.
I understand not wanting to confuse people who are not familiar with anatomy, but sometimes I wish I knew the muscle you are working on more specifically. For example, am I focusing on the lateral rotators or the hamstrings in the “inner and lower inner thigh”? Maybe some anatomy is helpful?
Re: Module 3
Small therapists and large client legs are always a challenging combination in Thai Massage. You will see that many times throughout this course I mention that the techniques are options to choose from, not mandatory sequences. There are techniques that do not work on everyone, so the art of it is to learn which techniques to use on whom. You will be surprised how much you can do even with heavy legs once you figure out how to use your body weight effectively. However you will encounter techniques which are simply too difficult to do on heavy clients, and in this case you simply skip them. There are hundreds of techniques in Thai Massage, so there is plenty to choose from to find the right combination.
Re: module 4
The routine is a crutch which you need in the beginning to learn the techniques. The more you progress the more the routine will be replaced by intuition and inspiration and the requirements of a particular session. However this does not happen in the beginning. First you need to know the techniques, and then later you get to a point where you won’t have to think about them anymore. At that point you will feel that you are in flow and not in a routine anymore.
Re: Module 5
The average weight of a Thai Massage therapist here in Thailand is about 50 kg or about 110 pounds, and sometimes quite a bit less. They often work on western clients who weigh almost twice as much as they do and they can make them wince. The secret here is to learn how to use your body weight effectively and work with other body parts besides your hands, like elbows and knees. You will learn a lot more about that later on in the course.
Regarding the anatomy, you might find this article interesting.
I need all the suggestions and tips I can get on how to work less with the small joints (thumb and wrists) as I can get. This is a great way to create a practice with longevity of my career and health in mind. Not only is it great for me as the practitioner, but it’s also much more effective on clients with large and tense muscles.
The leg Lift and Rock move is similar to the Chi Machine. It creates a similar sensation throughout the body without involving the whole system. I like it.
I appreciate the summary at the end of the leg work incorporating the anatomical names of the leg. Although Im learning to appreciate a non-anatomically specific way of learning, it’s nice to have that as a reinforcement that Im in the right place on the leg.
I’ve noticed the more I practice Thai, the more the techniques creep into my regular massage practice. I want to jump up on the table and open the hip joint using pressure of my body not just traditional Swedish or stretching techniques.
I love the visual of Elephant Walking. It’s very helpful for me to have an image to keep in mind when working. It takes me as a normal person out of the picture and allows for me to be a sort of “performer” instead.
Im concerned about potential wrist injury and strain with the body weight leaning down on the client, especially at an angle to gain traction. Is there a way to avoid or protect the wrist?
I love the idea of telling a story of the body’s needs by paying attention to the tightness (or flexibility) of muscles and joints. It’s one more way to have non-verbal communication with the client. It’s very important because this is a way to work on issues in the body before the pain signals begin, essentially catching the concern before it becomes an injury. I also need to keep in mind working with each body’s resistance. Using bolsters to help the restricted area become less compromised is very helpful. I will take this to my practice on the table as well. A body cannot reach a point of comfort until we put them there. Some bodies require more help.
Thank you for the reminder to continue syncing breath with movement. Calming and good practice.
Im loving how much of Thai Massage is comprised of traction and compression. THere such comforting techniques, gentle and effective. Similar to a therapeutic hug!
*I find myself wanting a recap of the session without the instruction. Like after we run through the step by step learning, I’d like to see what it looks like all put together at the end of each module. Just something to think about.
Taking into account what kind of body I am working on versus what kind of body I have is key. THe one size fits all rarely applies to people and movement, but especially good to keep in mind that different techniques are best for certain types of bodies.
At first the Hip Pie was a little confusing (Im a MT for a reason!). But as I played with it and worked with it more in mind it became more helpful. Geometry plays such a large part in movement and proper body alignment (avoiding injury).
I am starting to appreciate Thai Massage as a gentle suggestion or encouragement to the muscle releasing. Nothing is forced or strong armed, it’s up to the body to tell me when or if it’s ready to get into a stretch/release.
What do I do if the opposite hip pops up when doing the 180 stretch? Can I use another hand to hold it down?
There’s such a deep level of trust between client and therapist in THai Massage. Even though they’re clothed, it’s very intimate and there needs to be trust that the therapist has the client’s safety in mind. Even more helpful to have alternative techniques to use for different body types in order to avoid over stretching someone into an injury or discomfort.
I really want this session done to me!!!
Regarding protecting yourself from wrist injuries: You can replace most linear leaning techniques with either rocking techniques which are easier on your wrists or you can use elbows or knees to lean on the thigh. You will learn more about this later in the course.
Regarding the opposite hip popping up: You could theoretically hold it down but the fact that it is popping up indicates limited range of motion in the first place. So holding the opposite hip down will increase the intensity of the stretch and is therefore not advised unless the client really loves to be stretched and can handle it. Otherwise just let the hip come up a bit.
I like the bouncing of the leg to reach a deeper adductor stretch. It’s like tricking the sympathetic nervous system into doing what you want it to do without using force or battling against the muscle.
I like using the Elephant walking technique. I find it’s soothing and relaxing for the client while effectively moving us into a deeper stretch. I just took an Ashiatsu class and it reminds me of the movement of walking on the posterior legs. I pictured myself walking gently like an elephant.
My partner for this sequence is so tight that much of this work couldnt be done on him in the full expression. Yet a little bit really does go a long way. On the opposite side of the coin, it’s great to have the extension or the Power Stretch for people who need a little more. I often find when I am stretched on the table, I dont feel anything. THis is helpful.
THank you for the modification for a large client and smaller therapist. THis was much less effort on my body. THe motivation of Power of the move combined with softness of my hands is also helpful. It’s a good way to stay focused and connect my body with my intention.
Communicating with my client is essential to be effective. I always encourage verbal communication but it’s good to have a 10 point scale to relate to. Knowing that an 8 is too far, I’ll use this now. My new goal now is to remember that I dont HAVE to do a big stretch in Thai Massage. Often we are looking for the biggest and deepest, almost breaking point. Good to find a practice that encourages easy does it and small movements = big results.
Thank you for giving me a Mantra to work with. It was very helpful to stay connected and to be able to express my intention with my action. I am starting to put it all together like an artistic piece of dance and flowing movement. Sometimes when working with a client in stretches on the table, I find that Im forcing a movement to the point of extreme. This is better for both of us – I use my body weight, breath, posture and Hara to create results. I have been working with the idea of Hara energy for over 10 years in Yoga (Uddiyana bandha). But I visualized this energy source while I was practicing and somehow it was different. I love the reservoir analogy. It was so warming and strong, really helped me pull from the core.
It was a challenge for me to do the spinal twist on my tall client. The knee on client’s knee was better than just using my arms, but I still felt stretched a little beyond my comfort. Maybe this is just one of those stretches that I leave for people closer to my height.
When doing the spinal stretch across the body with the client foot in your groin, does the knee remain bent or is there the intention to straighten it with the stretch of the hamstrings? In the move after that one, is the stretch intended for the hamstrings or the IT Band and TFL like in Reverse Supta Padangusthasana in Yoga? Again is the full expression with straight knee or keep the natural bend?
THe ankle to ankle adductor stretch is so lovely for the client and so easy for me. It was subtle yet deep and effective.
My partner LOVED the blood stop. It was such a strong rush of energy and warmth. It reminds me of hydrotherapy techniques (contrast baths) or some manual lymph drainage techniques. Encourages temporary blockage of flow to create a stronger rush and ultimately more fluidity. Very cool.
You got that one right – we are NOT looking for the biggest stretch until you get close to the “breaking point”. That’s exactly where the body starts resisting and where you induce memories of pain. We are trying to induce the body to let go and establish a cell memory of feeling good. That can often be accomplished better with some more gentle rocking movements than with a big linear stretch.
The art of Thai Massage is not to just know tons of techniques, but to know which ones to apply on what kind of person, i.e. to customize the sessions and use what works for the client and for you. And that means that you will need to skip some techniques on big clients.
Regarding the spinal stretch across the body of the video (min 10 of video), the intention is not to straighten the client’s leg. It’s a matter to see what they can handle. Just let the leg do what it can handle. If it stays bent, that’s ok.
Regarding the second stretch (I assume you mean the one that starts around minute 12 of the video) the intention is a spinal twist. The natural knee bend is fine. With flexible persons the knee will straighten, but this is not our goal.
Since this is kind of a fairly extreme position in the first place, naturally several muscles in the leg and in the hip will get stretched in the process. However we are not after stretching ONE particular muscle or muscle group. We are after increasing the mobility and range of motion of the hip joint through all the hip pie movements, and we want to reestablish the energy flow in the hip joint.
You have to look at it more from the vantage point of the bigger picture, not as stretches for particular muscles. Remember that Thai Massage is not a strictly anatomy based system. It was always designed to free up energy flow along the various energy lines in the body. This is a shift of focus from western massage which looks at the parts to get to the whole whereas Thai Massage sees the body as one interconnected system of energy flow, not as a collection of muscles and bones.
I think I often think that I have to be hands on and in action during a massage session with a client. I drape as quickly as possible and rarely stop to take a sip of water or alter the volume on the music. Im starting to rethink this approach. At least with my Thai Massage practice. Slow movement does not equal a waste of the client’s time. It’s time for me to be methodical and thoughtful in my movement. THanks for the reminder.
I found that practicing the whole leg routine I got a little jumbled in the transitions and properly aligning myself in finding the right body positioning. It’ll come with time but it felt funny to be disjointed and choppy.
I like the option of doing rotations or rocking into a stretch (for clients with tighter muscles). THis is a nice fall back and it buys me a little time to plan my next move while in transition while it also let’s the client ease into the stretch without us going at it blindly.
How long does a typical session take?
Can a client engage in the calf stretch? Sometimes i’ve noticed that it’s not a deep enough stretch without the client taking action simultaneously.
I noticed that your client has a pillow under her neck. Should I position a pillow for my client too or just if they ask for/need one. Should it be firm, cotton or down?
In the stretch where the legs are pushed up towards the head (13:35) should the client actively lower the buttocks towards the floor or is it ok for them to just release and lift the sacrum off the floor with the stretch?
Im definitely understanding the confusion/combination of Yoga in Thai Massage. This module has been very familiar from many yoga asana I practice. I can see why the name yoga has been adopted to describe the practice. BTW the article you wrote about the origin and name of Thai Massage was interesting and helpful in understanding what Im practicing. Thanks.
The move where I shake and swing the client’s legs was great. It was relaxing and comforting to my partner and a nice way to encourage the hips to release and settle into the deeper stretch we just finished.
Im happy you addressed the issue of whether the client should feel pain in a session. I just told a friend that I was taking this course and she said, “I dont know much about Thai Massage other than I’ve heard it’s very painful.” This was a real surprise to me as it looks the opposite when Im watching the videos. It looks gentle and comforting stretches. There must be a misconception of mispractice that makes people think this. Im relieved to know and use the 1-10 method as a guide so I can become a therapist who does not make someone think that TM is painful!
I also appreciated the distinction between pain and discomfort. This is something I often use with my clients in traditional massage. Im ok with discomfort but I never intend for a session to be painful which is how I explain to them to communicate with me.
I love the scooping, wiggling, circling and rocking of the hip. This is such great work for the psoas (an area where so many people hold tension and suffer from tightness). I’ll be incorporating this into my daily practice as well as my Thai practice.
I will keep in mind that a session for someone with less flexibility may consist mostly of “warm up” and eventually lead into stretches. Not everyone’s ready for a deep stretch and it’s up to me as the professional to give the body the option to take things slowly.
*Thanks for the reminder in your last comment that I dont need to hold on so tightly to my knowledge of anatomy. My approach can be equally effective if I detach myself from the Western way of thinking of the body and use more intuition and a more traditional Thai approach. I’ll do my best (although I still like the anatomy crutch to get me through the beginning of Thai Massage haha).
Maintaining contact with the client is something I have been thinking about recently. There are some people who say that if the hands are not working with intention and thoughtfulness, they should not be touching the client’s body. In this case, I see the value of assuring the client in your whereabouts and subtly letting them know your next move. Also, it seems to help keep a fluidity to the session where the client can stay relaxed and uninterrupted in the “zone”.
It feels like the hip rocking is giving the same effect as the Chi machine. Yes? Is this move done after hip stretches or in place of them on clients with tight hips? In this same move, when going from one side of the body to the other while evenly rocking the hips, is this a one time transition just to switch to work the other hip or do you go back and forth several times?
Module 11: In general slow movements feel better than fast movements in Thai Massage with the exception of rocking moves.
In my entire Thai Massage career I have never done sessions less than two hours. That has been my standard. A good and complete Thai Massage session takes more than one hour.
Regarding calf stretches – which one exactly are you referring to? There are a number of calf stretch variations towards the end of the video. The client should never have to take any action. Everything is only done by the therapist. What kind of action are you thinking about?
Module 12: I generally ask my clients if they prefer a pillow under their head. If they have a nice straight back, they probably don’t necessarily need one, however if they have a rounded upper back as in kyphosis, then they would be very uncomfortable without a pillow.
The pillow should be small and firm. Big pillows get in the way when you work on the upper body, and very soft pillows make it difficult for you to reach under the shoulders or the neck with the client in the supine position.
During the stretch at min 13:35 the client should not do anything. Clients should be totally passive and the therapist’s job is to gauge how far to go with a particular stretch. If in doubt, use the one-to-ten questioning method. The bodies of clients will move in different ways depending on their degree of flexibility. However these are not yoga positions where the practitioner is supposed to be aware of how his or her various body parts are positioned or how they are moving. Thai Massage is a totally passive experience for the client.
Module 13: The “Thai Massage is very painful” myth is simply the result of insensitive, not well trained or even brutal practitioners. Unfortunately there are quite a few of them out there. As you noticed, Thai Massage can be done in a very gentle and intuitive way, and that’s really the only way how it should be done.
You had some very good observations in your comments on this module which show me that you have the right attitude for doing good Thai Massage.
Module 14: Yes, the hip rocking has some similarity to the Chi Machine. If you are really good at transitioning, then it doesn’t matter how often you switch sides since it will just be part of your flow. But for all practical purposes there is no need to transition more than absolutely necessary, which in most cases means that you work on one side and then repeat it on the other side.
The hip rocking can be done as the only hip technique, or as a warm up for stiff clients leading up to some stretches, or it can be used as a relaxing way to end a series of more intense stretches. It can also be used as a transitioning technique between a number of techniques, like leading up to abdominal rocking or torso rocking moves.
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