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Tabitha Sprigler - Complete Thai Massage Course Progress Notes
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Tabitha Sprigler
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June 29, 2017 - 6:40 am
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Module 1

Hello Shama,

Thank you for the great pace that you have already set for this course. Unlike in live courses, where so much is fit into the 4ish day window, I didn’t feel this frantic need to take notes and pictures. Instead, I could simply listen to and absorb the info.

I appreciate that techniques are not the only focus. As sometimes, if I get too bogged down with techniques, I begin to lose connection with the receiver and myself and my work is less satisfying for us both. However, once a technique becomes more natural to me and/or I stop analyzing and start listening to the body, I can exist in the moment with the receiver. The energy exchange is more relaxed and the impact of the work is greater.

This discussion around ergonomics is a lesson that I have learned the hard way… sadly, more than once. Currently, most of my clients schedule table massages (mostly Swedish and Deep Tissue). But I  keep a floor mat  in my studio to spark conversations. After a few clients mentioned that they would prefer a “higher, thicker, softer” mat, I went against my own best interest and placed a thick foam pad under my mat. Clients loved how soft it was during their sessions. But I hated it. The resistance was off (as they would sink deeper into the mat when compressed), my knees were out of alignment when kneeling, I frequently felt that I would fall off of the mat which limited my techniques, and I just felt unstable and, honestly, exhausted. So, after a handful of those sessions, I returned the pad and went back to my 2-3 inch mat. My body and mind already feel better.

I also liked that you focused on positioning for client and practitioner separate from techniques. I have been a bit lax in my self care lately, and can feel the changes in my body and mind. Now, I feel even more inclined to take the time for myself to spend time with my yoga practice. My preference has been daily, but over the past year, going out on my own as a massage therapist, I have been sporadic telling myself to focus on clients now and myself later. The differences in my mind and body are astounding, but I’ve been ignoring that. Your discussion affirmed that I cannot continue to care for my clients to my potential if I am not caring for myself. So, this is the time for me to make daily time for my personal yoga practice and Thai massage practice. For me, they belong together. 

When I become anxious or too analytical, in life, or otherwise, I have a tendency to hold my breath. This is something that I will continue to work on. I will say that when I am in touch with my breath everything is clearer. Instead of encouraging clients to “relax” or “breathe”, I have the habit of modeling this. So, if I note that someone is holding their breath, I start breathing slower, deeper, and when appropriate, more audibly. This typically results in the receiver doing the same. 

I’m looking forward to this journey. Thank you.

Also, I’m just noting here and not rushing you. I just thought that I should let you know that I sent you an email about test registration. I won’t be redundant and post the same details here. ? Thanks again.

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Shama
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June 29, 2017 - 1:08 pm
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Hi Tabitha, welcome to the Complete Thai Massage certification program and to our community. 

Although it seems that you have it all figured out, I always post a reference to our certification check list in the beginning of each thread to make sure it is all correctly organized…so here it goes:

Certification Check List

As you noted and will see more and more in this course, the techniques are just the first step on the ladder that makes up the entire Thai Massage system.

Regarding the floor mat, there is a video coming up in one of the supplemental modules which talks about the ideal floor mat set up. Definitely thick, soft, fluffy mats don’t work, as you noticed. Everything gets out of whack that way, especially if you try do to something with your feet in a standing position, and you would pitifully wobble around on the mat and never find your balance. Frown

I too have learned the hard way that we have to take care of ourselves first. It took me a couple of serious injuries to learn that lesson. The silver lining of the story is that I have become very good at working in the most therapist friendly way possible. 

And sorry about the snafu with the CE test registration. It’s all fixed now.

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Tabitha Sprigler
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July 2, 2017 - 9:41 am
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Module 2

I’ve discovered that I like to listen to the audio version of the module before watching the video. This allows me to focus on what you are saying before adding in a visual component. 

Carefully honing my body mechanics and ergonomics is very important to me. I had a thumb injury a few years ago that becomes inflamed and starts clicking if I overuse my thumbs or “muscle through” instead of using my body weight and leaning. 

I completed several hours of corporate chair massage yesterday followed by a new client that requested “very deep” pressure on her neck and shoulders and wanted to work on the table instead of the mat. She was absolutely thrilled with the work and even went online and left me a glowing review. But my right thumb and forearm is inflamed today. Luckily, my husband was willing to work on me a bit tonight, but ergonomics is something that I must continue to work on.

I practiced the Chi machine on my five year old son and then my husband. It was good because the mechanics were a bit different. By taking your information and focusing on the hips it came together pretty well. My son is tiny so I had to reduce my hip movement because my son said “mama, I’m moving too much.” At first, my husband reported a headache and said he felt too much blood rushing to his head. I added a pillow and he reported feeling much better. He said that he felt some warmth and tingling afterward. He said most notably in his back and arms. I will continue to work on relying on my hips as I seem to want to add in arm movement after a minute or so.

Thank you again. 

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Shama
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July 2, 2017 - 8:14 pm
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When I started out with Thai Massage 18 years ago, I was taught to use my thumbs for pretty much everything in Thai Massage. That didn’t work out too well, and I developed a serious thumb joint inflammation which took me over a year to heal. Overworking thumbs and hands is a real danger in most kinds of massage.

The silver lining of this story is that I decided to make lemonade out of lemons, and I developed a much more therapist friendly style of Thai Massage. You will see in this course that I always focus on not stressing your own body, not stressing your thumbs and working with least effort.

I even created courses which are highly therapist friendly like Thai Rocking Massage and Hands Free Massage. They are based on Thai Massage and go great with Thai Massage, but they are much more therapist friendly. That’s what we need if we want to have a long career in this field. These two courses would be excellent additions for you as follow up programs to this course, I believe.

Even in the Complete Thai Massage course you will learn a lot about reducing stress on your own body.

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Tabitha Sprigler
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July 5, 2017 - 6:21 am
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Module 3

I was able to practice this module with three different people. My husband and mother in law reported loving the foot work. They both found it relaxing. I also worked with a receiver that has fibromyalgia. I was very mindful of this and my movements were even slower and softer than with the other two receivers. During the session, the client reported no discomfort. Yet, two days later she reported “stabbing pains” in the heels of her feet. She expressed surprise that “such gentle work had such an impact.” I spoke with her about heat and ice and gently trying to continue movement. I also offered to provide some gentle work on her legs, etc. She said that she will return soon. I know that I was mindful throughout our time together and that this “flare up” may have occurred regardless. Yet, I am second guessing myself even though I know that I was gentle and listened to her physical and verbal feedback. 

Physically and mentally, I felt comfortable with this sequence. It feels meditative to me. 

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Shama
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July 5, 2017 - 6:21 pm
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That’s always a problem when you work with people with such little-defined issues like fibromyalgia. Nobody is really sure what exactly it is, there is no clear set of symptoms, and you will never know if her pain had anything to do with your massage. I seriously doubt that it does, but it is always easy for people to assume that the therapist caused it.

The same goes for working with pregnant women. If they miscarry, it is also easy to blame it on a massage session although chances are very high that it would have occurred anyway regardless of the massage.

I have worked on women with fibromyalgia and on pregnant women. It is important to establish some ground rules, namely that those conditions can result in flareups or miscarriages at any time, and that you cannot be held responsible if these things do happen. If you don’t know the client well enough, you can get a disclaimer signed. If the client doesn’t agree to this condition, then you might want to consider not working on such a client.

In Thailand this is not an issue since fibromyalgia is not a common issue like in the western world. Plus nobody sues therapists here. That wouldn’t work anyway since the vast majority of therapists in Thailand make just enough money to live, and nobody has insurance. So there is no point in suing therapists.

Anyway, my take on this situation is that gentle Thai Massage work is totally harmless. However with fibromyalgia you enter into unknown and unpredictable territory and you can’t know how the client will react, although it is highly unlikely that your work could have caused this pain.

For your client the only way to be sure that there won’t be any reactions from your work is to not get any massage. However that’s like throwing the baby out with the bath water. If your client is willing to continue with the treatments, there is a good chance that something good will come from it.

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Tabitha Sprigler
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July 22, 2017 - 8:37 pm
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Module 4

Hello again. Thank you for your patience during my absence. A powerful virus made its way through every member of our household. Each time one of us felt better, another would have a relapse. It was a very hearty one without a doubt. Everyone is on the mend now though there is some residual fatigue.

I watched the 4th module when I received it but was unable to practice before the cycle of illness. I am happy to say that I rewatched it and finally practiced it.

Overall, the techniques felt comfortable and natural to my body. My husband particularly enjoyed flexion and extension of the foot. I continue to work on my transitions, but your demonstration at the end of the module made it much clearer/smoother to me. In previous workshops, teachers have tended to show a sequence on one side of the body to save time (which is understandable) and not a transition between sides. I believe something so simple will make a great difference in the sessions. Thank you.

As far as “catching up” on modules, I don’t want to rush as I like learning incrementally for retention. My plan is to work through a module every day or two and I know that I will be back “on schedule” soon.

I’m happy to be back. 

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Shama
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July 22, 2017 - 10:09 pm
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I am glad you are back as well and that you got through the virus cycle in your family.

Don’t stress over catching up. If it takes you a bit longer to get through the course, that’s no problem. You can work conveniently at your own pace.

I don’t always show all techniques on both sides either in the interest of not taking up too much time, but I do have several summary modules in the course where I show the entire flow. Those are very helpful to get the “bigger picture”.

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Tabitha Sprigler
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July 24, 2017 - 9:43 am
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Module 5

I enjoyed this module. The butterfly presses and all of the rolling/rocking of the thigh felt very instinctual and meditative to me. And focusing on using body weight and leaning with my thumb as a tool instead of “muscling” with just my thumb is much more comfortable.  I struggle with bracing the receivers’ leg with my foot but I believe it will become more “natural” for me with practice. Currently, I feel comfortable bracing with my knee.

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Tabitha Sprigler
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July 28, 2017 - 10:45 pm
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Module 6

These module was wonderful. I love the power of softness and tend to use it with my clients (though, I like your name for it better). I found that warming up the legs by working with my forearm allowed me to provide more “profound”/deep work to the receiver in a way that felt more relaxed in my own body. The “elephant walking” is also a great visual to me: slow, sinking, but deep. No rush or frantic movement. I like that greatly. The receiver reported that they especially enjoyed portions of the session that included rocking elements. I even incorporated forearm work (and one fist holding the other) during my corporate chair massage gig yesterday. People loved it and I didn’t exhaust my thumbs! 

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Shama
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July 29, 2017 - 1:08 am
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Sounds like we are on the same wave length! Smile You are already applying it successfully, and there is so much more to come!

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Tabitha Sprigler
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August 1, 2017 - 8:18 am
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Module 7

I am really enjoying these modules. I love that you/we are looking beyond “what” we are doing and beyond into “why”. And taking the time to pause and consider differences in alignment and flexibility also gave me time to sink into the process and really allow the work to be customized to the session and receiver. I felt very comfortable with these movements. My practice partners reported liking both pulling and rocking motions. Though, they shared that rocking was extremely helpful and soothing.

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Shama
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August 1, 2017 - 10:16 am
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I am happy to hear that you appreciate the concept of “customizing” sessions instead of just executing a fixed one-size-fits-all sequence. That’s what my style is all about. Smile

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Tabitha Sprigler
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August 2, 2017 - 9:26 am
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Module 8

I must say that I find your descriptions stick with me and really help me to mentally visualize the movements (especially in the joints). The hip pie concept is incredibly helpful in terms of thinking about what we all ideally want our hips to do and then assisting the receiver by gently working on the ROM. I am not as fluid as I would like to be during transitions but the descriptions are great and will allow me to practice and improve. In my experience, yoga works similarly for me in terms of postures and transitions between them. And working with my breath. In yoga and Thai massage, I catch myself holding my breath when I am unsure or struggling. I’ll keep working at it. Otherwise, I felt good with this module.

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Shama
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August 2, 2017 - 7:55 pm
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Conceptual thinking beats rote memorization by a long shot. I just read another post from a course student who made up funny names to remember techniques. Creating such mental associations can also be an effective way to help us remember what to do.

But, in the long run all those techniques will become second nature and part of you. At some point you can do them all without having to think about them. Then it all starts to flow easily. Smile

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Tabitha Sprigler
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August 14, 2017 - 11:06 pm
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Hi Shama, I apologize that I am behind on posting. I’m actually almost “back on schedule” with the modules and practice sessions. Yet, I keep neglecting to type my notes and post them.  I plan to post a few summaries a day until I am back on track. I am enjoying this course immensely and will be more active regularly in the forum.

 

Module 9

I have found myself using these rocking techniques to help clients relax their muscles during Thai massage sessions and even during basic Swedish sessions. I’m working on relaxing more into the 180* stretch as I’m so preoccupied with not “sinking too far” that I tend to want to just use my upper body. But I am trying to remain mindful of this tendency. I’m still too nervous to step on the foot to brace the receiver. So, I currently just brace their foot by placing my foot up against their foot. I always ask clients to let me know if something is too strong, but now I love using the scale. It seems to open a door for clients that say “no pain no gain” to better communicate with me so that I can back off a bit. It also offers me a chance to discuss my belief that we don’t need to cause pain to make progress and that I actually believe the opposite to be true.

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Tabitha Sprigler
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August 14, 2017 - 11:07 pm
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Module 10

I love this reminder to focus n the hara for both the wellbeing of clients and myself. I practiced on a very tall yoga teacher (6ft 6in) and was able to try the spinal twist variation. It worked so well. I am fairly tall myself but the variation felt better to my body. We were also able to use the power version of the 270 degree stretch. The client loved it. I was thinking that I need to teach my husband this stretch for me. ?The adductor stretch using my foot and walking with the toes is great. I’m retraining myself because I learned a similar stretch using my arms, but your version feels more comfortable for me. Though, I still feel more clunky than graceful. I’ll get there. I have not had great experiences being a receiver of a blood stop (very aggressive therapist that went deep quickly and held a bit too long) I ended up bruised and panicky. I am very cognizant not to pass this fear/experience /energy on to clients. I currently have to flush those thoughts from my mind each time I use this technique. Hopefully, I will eventually trust someone to use this technique on me again as I used to enjoy it.

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Tabitha Sprigler
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August 14, 2017 - 11:08 pm
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Module 11

This module was so very helpful to me. I struggle more with transitions than techniques (though, I have plenty of room for improvement in both areas ?). Watching and practicing this module really improved my grace and flow throughout sessions. I still get a little clunky, but it’s starting to feel more like a dance. I could easily spend an hour just working this sequence. In fact, I mostly did with one client and she was very happy with it. Thank you.

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Shama
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August 15, 2017 - 2:17 am
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Regarding the communication with clients and the gauging of the intensity of your work, later there is an entire module (#35) exclusively about this…just to let you know. I hold the same belief that we don’t need to cause pain to make progress and that actually the opposite is true.

Unfortunately there are quite a few Thai Massage therapists who are working aggressively, without much sensitivity and way too fast. I have received quite a few of such sessions myself. That’s why I spend so much time in this course to teach a more refined, more sensitive and more intuitive way to do this. I hope you will get over your trauma so that you can practice the blood stop in a slow, gentle way which feels wonderful to your clients. I always say that I have learned a lot from those “massage mechanics” about what NOT to do in Thai Massage! 

I am glad to hear that it starts to feel more like a dance to you! Smile

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Tabitha Sprigler
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August 17, 2017 - 8:16 am
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Module 12

I find myself applying the compression/traction pattern in many of the leg stretches so it felt validating to see it here. But I hadn’t done it in this way from a kneeling position. This felt more support for the client and myself. And this transition to bent knees was so much smoother than ways that I have tried in the past.  I also appreciated the alternate position of placing the clients feet on my thighs. I’ve only practiced the power version of the double knee to chest stretch on one person.  The person was a yogi and loved it, but I haven’t had anyone else that it seemed appropriate for yet. But it’s nice to have the technique for the times that it is needed. I still hesitate a bit with the power hamstring stretch as I tend to need to adjust my foot position after I step through, but I’m getting there.

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