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Tammy's Thai Massage Course Notes
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tammycmt
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September 6, 2013 - 9:31 pm
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Introduction and Notes for Videos 1 – 3

Hello everyone!  I am a massage therapist in the U.S. and here adding a new modality to my toolbox. I have been interested in learning Thai massage for some time. I am super excited and motivated to begin incorporating Thai into my client sessions.

A little of my background, as it relates to my journey to Thai massage

I have always been fascinated with the body and how it works, and am constantly seeking to understand how all the pieces fit together, both the structural and energetic aspects.  I learned a little of Japanese Shiatsu in massage school (just an introduction really), but found I was regularly including some of it in my massage sessions from the very beginning of my practice. I studied TCM enough to pass my national certification five years ago, and constantly pick up new information as it comes my way.  I have studied and practiced herbal healing since 2005 and have learned a lot from that about energetics in the body.  I have done quite a bit of self study in reflexology and acupressure, which I incorporate into my massage sessions regularly.  Most of my continuing education thus far has been in Western modalities, very clinical, such as Erik Dalton’s myoskeletal alignment courses and James Walaski’s orthopedic massage techniques.  I also have taken 42 hours so far in Craniosacral Therapy and have recently begun to incorporate that regularly into my practice — this has been one of the most fascinating and satisfying therapies I have studied so far.   I have also been deeply influenced by David Lauterstein’s Deep Massage, which is a good blend of techniques to address energetics and structure.  Oh, and my preferred form of exercise is Yoga!

I have developed a personal style of massage that uniquely blends a little of all these modalities, along with the basic Swedish and deep tissue I learned in massage school.  Although I have become quite skilled in Western clinical assessment and “fixing” problems, I do not enjoy practicing that way in isolation — I prefer an integrated, flowing style that focuses more on the client’s bliss and relaxation, but I also enjoy helping them to release long held patterns of tension.  If I have to do “fixing” I try to blend it into the session in the most unobtrusive way possible.  I am fascinated with Thai because I think it may be exactly the right the combination of structure and energy work I am looking for.   In fact, I think I have already “invented” some of my own moves that strongly resemble some of the Thai techniques I have seen so far!

Comments for Videos 1 -3

I am doing this course with another massage therapist (Amanda), who works with me.  We are both watching the videos and then meeting each Wednesday to discuss and practice what we have learned. I am also practicing on my husband in between my meetings with Amanda.  So far, we have learned the Chi Machine and the foot techniques. 

What most struck me about these first lessons was how similar they are to techniques I already use.  I expected that there would be a lot of stretching and joint mobilization and pressure point work, both of which I use a lot already from what I have picked up from a lot of different modalities.  But what was most surprising to me was how similar the technique of moving the entire leg, pushing it into the hip joint, turning and pulling, was to the orthopedic and myoskeletal alignment massage I have learned.  I was taught to do almost the exact same thing with the hip, albeit in a much more clinical style, by first assessing for joint capsule adhesions and then do strain/couter-strain and turning of the femur, and retesting for greater ROM. 

I LOVE it when techniques overlap like this!  As Shama said in one of his videos, the Thai have been doing this type of massage for thousands of years, but they can’t tell you what muscles, etc they are working on — they just know it feels good and is effective.  Western practitioners know exactly what anatomical structures they are manipulating and they are coming up with almost EXACTLY THE SAME TECHNIQUES!  This is endlessly fascinating to me.

Yesterday, I found myself spontaneously doing the Thai foot massage on my clients on the table!  I didn’t even know I was going to do it until I did it, it just felt so natural to do so.  I found this is very easy to incorporate into table massage.  I was already doing something similar with my foot work, but now I take the stretches and pressure points further, deeper and more thorough, more Thai-like :-)   My body mechanics are also much better as that is such a strong emphasis in the videos.  It feels so good to use my whole body, and I am sure it feels better to the client as well.

When Amanda and I practiced the techniques on the mat I did have a little of a challenge with the body mechanics.  I found that it was uncomfortable to sit on my legs so long, and had to frequently stretch and shake them to restore circulation!  I also found that it was a bit of a challenge to keep a straight back and feel easy in my body sometimes because of my particular body structure — I have a very long torso and comparatively shorter arms and legs.  I was often having to round my back to hold the feet and legs, and I had to adjust the placement of the client’s leg over my own so I could reach them enough.  I felt I was much more effective standing and working from the table.  Any suggestions to how to modify the techniques for body types such as mine?

 

 

 

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Shama
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September 7, 2013 - 12:40 am
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Welcome Tammy. That was a serious introduction! You have writing talent.

I am glad to have another yoga practitioner with us. I think the majority of people who take this course are into yoga as well. It’s just a great fit.

By the way, nobody taught me the leg pushing and pulling and turning technique. It just came to me like many of my techniques. It is not part of traditional Thai Massage at all, although it fits in with it perfectly. I sometimes go into this super creative state and great techniques just emerge from there, even if I have never seen them before. I believe in being creative in a flow state rather than following a mechanical system. Of course in the beginning you have to get the basics down, but once that has happened the sky is the limit.

It sounds like you have lots of knowledge of all kinds of modalities, so you are ahead of the game already. You will be flying through this course! Smile

Regarding modifying the techniques for your body type, I would give it a little time. You will see that throughout the course I give many suggestions for modifying techniques for different body types and sizes and weights. You will probably find your solution there.

 

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September 27, 2013 - 7:25 pm
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Wow, my massage practice has been unusually busy the last few weeks, and we fell behind a little in our Thai studies.  We are almost caught up now, and should be fully caught up by next week.

Videos 4 – 9

It’s been challenging to study the individual parts separately, just trying to get the body mechanics down.  When I watch the entire video it all makes sense, and I think I will remember it when we start to practice, but then I find I can’t remember exactly how to position my body and the client’s.  So then I play the video again.  It is a bit exasperating to sit through the teaching again when what I really want is just to play the demonstration of a particular move, so I fast forward and miss it, and rewind and miss it again, and finally find the part I need.  It’s slow and frustrating.  We are looking forward to getting through this initial learning stage and putting a full lower body sequence together where we refine our grace and skill in performing the massage without having to look back each time.  Amanda and I have challenged each other to practice as much as we need to on our spouses this week in order to develop our own grace and flow to perform a full lower body sequence next week on each other.

As we practiced the leg stretches last week, I learned the importance of the warm up!  We went directly into the stretches since we only had a short amount of time to work, and boy did I feel that in my lateral hip rotators and glute medius, which are habitually VERY tight.  It hurt a lot at first to have my leg bent out at the angle while Amanda worked on me, but gradually she loosed what needed to be loosened and I ended up feeling really good.  I do know that I will never forget to do a warm-up on client!!

I had one aha moment regarding the assessment of the foot position with client supine.  I was always taught that the proper alignment of the leg and foot should be straight, as that is neutral.  However, you taught that the feet should be rolled out when the hips are fully open.  As I think about it, your teaching makes a lot of sense.  I was always taught that if the feet were rolled out, that meant the lateral rotators were tight and pulling the hip into the wrong position.  However, when Amanda assessed my own foot position my left leg WAS positioned straight but my hip on that side was extremely tight and painful.  So that told me that what I had been taught before was not true.  In my regular massage clients I always pay attention to the foot position, and tend to roll and stretch the fascia of the leg and hip medially when I see it positioned out.  I now think that may be a totally wrong approach.  Do you have any further insights about this?

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Shama
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September 27, 2013 - 8:08 pm
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Here is one suggestion regarding the videos: If you use VLC media player (a free program), then you can change the playback speed to 1.5 times, 2 times or even 3 times as fast. This is quite convenient and I use this feature all the time myself. On the other hand if you want to follow along you can also slow down the speed.

In the early stages of the training it can all feel slow and cumbersome. Once you get the basic principles down it will all become second nature. That will happen once you get maybe halfway through the course.

The good thing is that at least you can always go back to the videos and re-watch whatever you like. In live courses, once it is over, there is no way to go back or ‘rewind’. That’s why the forgetfulness factor is much higher in live courses than in this kind of video training.

 I have seen lots of Thai Massage students who took a live course here in Chiang Mai in some school. Then they went about their holidays, traveled around Asia for a while. When they finally arrived back in their home country a few weeks later, they had already forgotten half of what they had learned and there was no way to get it back. Often even their scribbled notes did not even make sense to them anymore. You wouldn’t believe how many times I have heard that story!

So you are ahead of the game in that respect. It might take you a while to find exactly what you were looking for, but at least you will always have the information available. You could also make some notes about something that is important to you or that you think you might need to remember and write down on which video and at what position you saw it.

Here is my own story about warming up muscles. I was once exchanging massage sessions with a Shiatsu practitioner. She pulled me into a massive stretch to “warm me up” by spreading my legs out in the sitting position, placing her feet against mine and pulling me forward which resulted in a huge thigh adductor stretch. However since the ‘warm up’ was not a warm up at all, but a massive stretch on cold muscles, some of the tendon fibers tore. This resulted in a very painful condition, and for several years I could never abduct this leg very far without having a searing pain in that spot. Lesson: Always warm muscles before stretching them.

Regarding the foot position: It is perfectly normal that the feet are pointing out if the hip is relaxed. Indeed this is how it should be. However in the case of a relaxed hip you should also be able to roll the feet in medially. If you encounter a lot of resistance to the medial movement, then it is quite correct to work on the medial issue. But if you don’t encounter much resistance when rolling the leg or the feet in medially, then there is no point in working this issue since then there is no problem. You can’t fix something if it ain’t broken! Laugh

 

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tammycmt
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September 27, 2013 - 9:43 pm
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Ahhh, I see.  That is very helpful (about the foot position). 

I also just now connected the dots about why starting with the foot work is a good place to begin (at least in my own mind).  Starting with feet was foreign to me before this course – I have never started a session with the feet, lol.  But now I see that since the feet are the grounding and hips are the center of balance for the whole rest of the body, it is important start there.  Not only do you get to immediately make the client feel really good and relaxed with the foot work, but you can also readily feel through the foot movements and stretches where resistance lies before beginning the leg work and can thus focus the therapeutic leg work.  Double duty — relaxation and assessment! 

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September 27, 2013 - 9:57 pm
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And yes, I do really like the fact that we have the videos to refer back to.  I know this is just a beginning learning stage that can be a little frustrating, but I also know it will get better!!  :-)

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Shama
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September 30, 2013 - 12:08 am
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Most Thai Massage schools teach to start with the feet. Of course, like always in the world, there are exceptions. There is one school here in Chiang Mai where they start with the head, and there is one school in Montreal where they start with the sitting position. Personally I definitely prefer to start with the feet. It makes most sense to me just like you mentioned in your post.

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