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Sarah's Thai Massage course notes
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sarahkate
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January 8, 2014 - 9:51 am
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Thank you for your feedback.  Re: module 11 calf stretch, I was referring to all of them since they all essentially do the same stretch.  I often feel that I can get a better deeper stretch when I activate my toes upward while someone stretches the bottom of my foot to create a gastroc stretch.  I am very flexible so when someone tries to stretch me, I tend not to feel anything unless I help it along.  It's helpful to know that the whole session is meant for the client to be passive.  

I am surprised that a minimum session is 2 hours!  That's about twice as long as I anticipated.  Not that it's unwelcome but it is definitely a committment for the client.  When you lived in the US, did you practice Thai massage as well?  If so, were your rates the same or comparable to your rates for your "traditional" massage?

I look forward to moving forward to what's to come...

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Shama Kern
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January 9, 2014 - 9:50 am
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I often get that reaction that therapists are surprised that I only do two hour massages. However in my case it was very simple. I just told people that a Thai Massage session is two hours long, and nobody ever questioned that. I charged normal massage rates, in the US or anywhere. It is a matter of mind set. If the therapist's mindset is limited to one hour sessions, then the clients will challenge the two hours sessions. But in my case I never got that reaction because in my mind it was clear that I need two hours to do a good session, and I really do feel that this is best for the client.

I also did other sessions which were only one hour long, like my Heavenly Head Massage, or Abdominal Massage sessions. But even those I often combined into a two hour combo session.

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sarahkate
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January 14, 2014 - 10:51 pm
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Module 15:

This is a special skill to learn to work the belly.  That's the powerhouse of energy source of the whole body.  It works the organs, activates the hard, awakens and sets straight the center of gravity.  This is where all emotional angst and tension is held which leads to physical and emotional pain.  But it's also one of the easiest areas of the body to ignore in bodywork.  Whether that's because it's "sensitive", or because it's the most personal and potentially invasive space for the client.  I don't know why but I do know that it's deeply effective and productive in moving to the next level of healthy tissue and relaxation.  Your advice on how to work the belly like layers of an onion is a helpful vision.  

Working the belly is a great way to take note of the client's breathing habits and encourage them to take deeper breaths from the belly instead of the chest.  Staying in sync with their breath, like you mentioned, is a good reminder for how I should breath while doing the work as well.  THis is a definite energetic connection that is helpful in working carefully and thoughtfully in an intimate area of the body.

I like the idea of using my hands as a listening tool, not just an assessment tool.  It reminds me of the gentle but profoundly strong work in craniosacral.  I'll use this in my practice.

 

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Shama Kern
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January 14, 2014 - 11:06 pm
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What you are saying about the abdomen is very accurate. I got turned on to abdominal work originally when I studied Chi Nei Tsang, and I modified this to work well with Thai Massage, since here in Thailand the therapists hardly ever touch the abdomen, mostly because they don't know good techniques. With "good" I mean effective and pleasant. That's why I created an entire separate course just about abdominal work. Personally I love abdominal work. I find it very powerful and therapeutic, but it does take quite some sensitivity to do it well.

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sarahkate
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January 14, 2014 - 11:44 pm
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Module 16:

Im thinking of softness of hands when practicing now.  It's helpful in making a connection and finding importance in my movement.  This creates an environment of safety, relaxation, trust and gentle touch.  I think about how different a person's hug or a handshake can be from another.  A tight and heartfelt touch feels secure and comforting while loose and detached, forced touch feels untrustworthy and awkward.  This is the same as Thai Massage.  It has to come from the heart and the breath and I have to mean it.  I practiced this session with intention and then did it again without real connection and my partner noticed a huge difference in the quality of the work and how she felt.  Obviously, the work with thoughtfulness and meaning was more relaxing and enjoyable.  Like always, the balance between passivity and activity is in effect, especially in the move with the foot edge in the armpit stretch.  There seems to not be much black or white, but mostly gray area in Thai Massage.  As in, there are always two opposite actions or movements working together to counteract and balance the other.  

I like how you called it healing magical massage.  It really can be magical if you intend for it to be.

Is the shoulder stretch safe for someone with a rotator cuff injury?  Is there a modification for someone who has had an injury or just has general tightness in the shoulder, wrist or side body?  Or would I just skip this work and do something else?  I know that it can be really painful to create movement in a compromised muscle area, but it's also important to work on increasing range of motion while gently working the area.

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Shama Kern
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January 14, 2014 - 11:56 pm
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I like your handshake analogy. I have done those 'with intention'/'without intention' tests with my students, and everyone can feel the difference very clearly.

Regarding the shoulder stretches, if someone has an actual injury I use mostly motion type movements like rocking, circling, or swinging type techniques. I would not use stronger stretches until I am sure that it will work for the client and be beneficial. There is a lot more shoulder work coming up when you get to the side position modules. You will have many options to choose from.

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sarahkate
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January 18, 2014 - 12:50 am
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Module 17:

This session seems pretty straight forward in practice.  It took a little thought but was pretty intuitive after a short while.  I do have a few questions however.  Does the first move in the handwork have to be done in order of the 4 steps or can I just jump straight into the squeeze, pull, slide action?  

You mentioned that the sliding out of the hand after working the arm is different for everyone, especially if they have dry hands.  Is it appropriate to use a little lubricant if my or the clients' hands are dry?

Do you have any suggestions for joint pain and inflammation in my hands, fingers and wrists?  I ice them every morning and every evening but being a MT and now working even more practicing TM, I've got sore and stiff hands from overuse.

thanks!

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Shama Kern
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January 18, 2014 - 11:52 am
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Personally I would not bother using lubricant for just one technique if you just do some hand work as part of a general Thai Massage session. There are so many techniques that can be done on hands (I created a whole course about just arms and hands) that you might just as well skip one technique if it doesn't work well on a particular client.

However if you really want to focus on hand work and do a whole mini session around it, you might want to use lubricant to make it feel better for your client. Then it also becomes easier for your hands since there is less skin resistance.

Regarding your next question, I actually have lots to say about that. When I originally started out with Thai Massage 15 years ago, I did what is typically taught in Thai Massage schools: use your thumbs for almost everything. This is the best way to kill your hands and cut your massage career short. After a couple of years of doing all this thumb work, I developed a nasty thumb joint inflammation which took me over two years to get rid off.

The silver lining of the story is that it forced me to focus on and develop many techniques which don't require hands or which use them in a less stressful way. In my opinion no massage therapist should have to ice hands twice a day just to survive this career. I have never iced my hands even once. The reason is that I do Thai Massage almost exclusively and I have become very good at using my hands in ways that don't stress them and I am a real expert in working without using your hands, by using other body parts. I was forced to learn this because of the thumb joint inflammation.

How can you find out more about working in a more hands-friendly way? You will receive a bonus module at the end of this course called "Body Mastery For Massage" which will show you many ways of using your hands aside from the typical way of using them, and it will show you how to use other body parts.

Then I would also recommend that you invest in my course "Hands Free Massage". This is the most complete training about doing massage work without hands which you can find anywhere. For people like you who are developing hand problems this can be a real career saver.

I can tell you that this hands-free-techniques knowledge definitely saved my Thai Massage career. There are many hands free techniques in the Complete Thai Massage course, but the Hands Free Massage course goes a lot further.

 

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sarahkate
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January 21, 2014 - 11:26 pm
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Module 18:

Thank you a thousand times over for the info re: hands free massage.  I am not at the point that I can invest in that course or that I can stop using my hands entirely on my table, but I will be looking forward to the time in a few months, hopefully!

One thing about TM that continually resonates with me is that in order to do it well for the client's benefit, you have to be self-aware.  It's sort of a tricky way into keeping in touch with your own body, breathing, energy, etc but under the pretense that you are there solely for the comfort and healing of the client.  Done well and thoughtfully, this is a mutually beneficial practice.  What a sweet trick!

I love the way you put "elegant movement" like it's an art performance.  Lovely.

Is TM safe for pregnant women?  If so, at what stage?  I ask this because of the spinal twists you showed seem like a move you would NOT do on a pregnant woman and that got me to thinking if there are other moves that are also not safe?

My new favorite move (2nd only to the original Chi Machine!) is the Figure 8 shoulder roll.  So intense and effective.  It really effects the whole body to do such a deep movement in the shoulder.

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Shama Kern
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January 22, 2014 - 12:10 am
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Thai Massage is definitely very good for self awareness. Unfortunately it is often taught in the Thai Massage schools as a mechanical sequence of techniques without much awareness at all. That way they are missing the essence of it and it won't feel very good either.

Thai Massage can easily be done on pregnant women. I have written an article about it which you can read here. Of course there are some techniques that you should not do on pregnant women. Those are generally common sense, like stretches or pressure moves around her mid section. However you can work on her feet, legs, hips, arms, hands, neck, head, shoulders, none of which would affect her mid section in any negative way. Personally I have worked on women who were 8 months pregnant. Sure you have to modify some things, especially the position you put her in, but it can definitely be done, just like there are yoga classes for pregnant women.

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sarahkate
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January 24, 2014 - 1:31 am
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Module 19:

Now that I've been practicing and getting into a flow in my practice I feel like this is really taking off.  Until I get to the review sessions! Confused The idea that I have to one day, really soon, convince a client to pay for a session with me = I know what Im doing and they will feel better after our work!  I know Im still inthe very beginning stages of learning TM and it wasnt that long ago that I felt this overwhelmed with Swedish and now it seems like second nature.  Its the impatient part of me demanding to know as much as I can as fast as I can so I can be a practicing professional already.  Im not quite working on changing this, but I am aware of it so Im not getting too worked up.  THe more I work with clients on my table as an MT, the more desperate I am to start practicing TM.  I need to offer a unique skill (there are way less TM therapists than traditional MTs) and most importantly I dont want to stress my body anymore than it already is!  Im much better at protecting my body and maintaining good body mechanics when Im employing my whole body, not just my hands.  

Watching and attempting to practice the full routine makes this goal seem closer yet more frustrating because I know I still have a ways to go and a decent amount of practice before I am a confident practitioner.  Patience is a virtue that I am still working on diligently!Wink

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Shama Kern
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January 24, 2014 - 1:52 am
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The time will come when your clients will be happy to pay you for your Thai Massage skills. When I started out originally I gave lots of free sessions. Then I started to accept donations, and then quite a few people told me that I should definitely charge real money for it. It happened quite organically.

Thai Massage does take a little longer to learn well than Swedish Massage since there are so many different techniques. If your stroke in a Swedish Massage session is not spot on, it's not a big problem. But if you do one of those complex stretch techniques in Thai Massage wrong or too strong, it can feel pretty bad.

So it will pay off to be patient and learn it well, refine it, become more intuitive about it, and feel the flow of it. Once you get good at it, the money will follow easily. Excellent Thai Massage is something which is not easy to find, even here in Thailand. If you can offer that, your customers will be lining up for sessions.

Also, if done right, Thai Massage is definitely less stressful on your body than Swedish Massage which involves more muscling due to its very nature.

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sarahkate
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January 27, 2014 - 11:49 pm
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Module 20:

Im happy to see some of my favorite moves have returned in the prone position!  The traction/contraction rotation of the hip is lovely.  My partner really feels relaxed and freedom in the hip area after working with this move.  The rocking is the cherry on top - full body relaxation.  

I have to work on pulling together some appropriate props.  Im familiar with using towels and pillows in massage but I have to practice more with them to figure out how to work them into my TM practice.  Would it be ok to use a face cradle pillow if someone was too stiff to comfortably turn the head and lay on a pillow?  Or would that elevate the neck too much?

P.S. My sister is in Thailand right now and she had a Thai Massage - said it was amazing, relaxing and comforting.  She was stunned at how strong her therapist's hands were.  I am excited to practice on her when she gets home to have a comparison!  

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Shama Kern
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January 28, 2014 - 12:29 am
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You can watch this short video. It demonstrates how I use pillows to simulate the face cradle effect:

Thai Massage Tips And Tricks Part 1

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sarahkate
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February 4, 2014 - 9:38 am
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Module 21:

** My last post on this module didn't save on the forum Confused so I'll recap what I more elaborately reflected on.  

I found the tip of clasping my hands when working with the weight of the leg to be helpful.  It was good for me and my body mechanics and it made it easier for me to control the movement of the leg.  It was also good for me to remember not to power through or force the muscle, but let it stretch in it's natural ability.

Using the forearm and a little bit of the elbow feels comfortable and natural.  I've been practicing alternative body parts, trying to give deep pressure without compromising my small muscles and joints.  This was great practice and Im even able to do some of the techniques (i.e. hamstrings) on my clients on the table.  This is where the future of my bodywork is going.  The more tools I have like these, the longer I am healthy and strong to practice.

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sarahkate
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February 4, 2014 - 10:18 am
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Module 22:

Im starting to appreciate all the different options more than before.  At first it felt too overwhelming to have so many choices but now it makes more sense how to incorporate them or leave them out whenever necessary.  I've practiced on several different people now and each of their needs are different.  Also, my energy, intention and strength are different for each session.  I also have been using it to give my more flexible partners a more thorough session.  They get the full range from mild to deep stretch.  Customizable sessions are better than routines. Variety is helpful, not quite the burden it was in the beginning.

Im getting good feedback about these leg stretches.  They are stretching multiple muscles at a time, like the hamstrings and the calf muscles (knees into the gluts and the 1-2-3 to the tibialis anterior).  I've been doing the stretch in 7:10 for a while without compressing the inner thigh and this way is much more comfortable for the client.  It's a deeper stretch but still cares for the knee and adductors.

The stretch in 12:10 has been a favorite bc it's a great quad stretch but for those of us who need it, it gradually yet deeply works the psoas too.  The last technique you showed with the knee into the glutes is similar to what I do on the table with my elbow but less pointy and jolting.  Im starting to want to trade in some of my table moves for just TM.  Sometimes I have a client on the table and Im frustrated because I know I can get a better angle or stretch if they were on the floor in a Thai session instead!

 

 

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Shama Kern
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February 4, 2014 - 11:34 pm
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Your first paragraph on module 22 contains some excellent points. Certainly all those techniques will feel overwhelming initially. But once you get used to them, you have one of the most amazing repertoires of massage techniques at your fingertips. Variations and creative adaptations will be your greatest friend. That's where it becomes an art instead of a mechanical routine.

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sarahkate
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February 11, 2014 - 1:21 am
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Module 23:

This work is so incredible.  It's simple but unique and very necessary.  People often don't know why their low back hurts until they receive relief in gluteus and SI joint.  Im grateful for these additional tools.

I found a bit of resistance when practicing the rocking with my hands on the glutes.  My partner has very muscular and heavy legs and my rocking rhythm and his body's natural rhythm were not in sync.  I think I need to slow down and wait for the muscles to come back to me before I begin my next rock inwards.  

This is intense and deep work for clients who are new to Massage or have very tight glutes.  Can be uncomfortable and "painful" if they aren't used to having pressure on the area.  I just backed off a little bit with still keeping most pressure and body weight into the muscle belly.

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Shama Kern
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February 11, 2014 - 1:00 pm
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The 'secret' is to start very lightly and gently and primarily work on developing a feeling for the motion in your own body. Adding more pressure later on is easy. Actually working gently requires more skill than working strongly and is much better for learning it.

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sarahkate
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February 13, 2014 - 12:04 am
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Module 24:

The prone back work reminds me of when I first learned to partner dance in Latin America.  My whole life I was used to being in control of my own movement and now I had to give that up and just let someone else be in control.  Be thoughtful in letting go.  It was hard.  Luckily this is less of a challenge but still requires some thought and control in the release.  It is about finding the natural rhythm in my client's body and working with that as the primary movement, not my own.  I tried to join my rhythm with the client's and then add my pressure and a little control on my end afterwards. This was challenging at first but with some practice, especially with my eyes closed, it was successful.  This is definitely a technique that cannot be forced.  It makes you first get in tune with the client and then also with your own flow.

Thanks for teaching techniques that help preserve our joints?  My wrists and thumbs are thanking you in advance!

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