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How To Learn A Good Lesson From A Bad Massage

Thai Massage cartoonI have received my share of sub-standard Thai Massage sessions over the years. They were neither fun, nor relaxing nor therapeutic, but they taught me some valuable lessons.

Those experiences have helped me in my Thai Massage teaching and in my writing about it

My usual fail-safe routine for getting good massages

Normally I only go to therapists whom I know and who are consistently good. I rarely ever just walk into any old massage shop to get a massage. Why not? Because I have been disappointed one too many times with mechanical one-size-fits-all massages that just don’t do it for me.

I have to admit that as a 16 year veteran of practicing and teaching Thai Massage I set my standards higher than many others.

What can happen when you throw caution to the wind

Where I live, in Chiang Mai, Thailand, there is a massage shop on almost every corner. So today I totally disregarded my rules of caution. I just walked into one shop and got a back, head, and arm massage. Cost: $5, so I could afford the risk.

What I received for my money was exactly why I normally don’t get massages from people I don’t know. It was a soul-less, mechanical, painful session. It did not relax me at all and I couldn’t wait for it to be over.

It was the kind of session that you sometimes read about on forums and blogs. Someone visited Thailand, got a massage and complained that it was sooo painful. The truth is that it is pretty easy to cause pain with Thai Massage if you don’t know what you are doing or if you are just not sensitive.

Bad experiences can teach you good lessons

So why was the experience useful? Because sometimes it is really valuable to experience what does not work, what you should not do, and what you should definitely avoid. I would never, ever want either my clients, or the clients of my Thai Massage students to experience such a session.

Recently someone posted in my forum that throughout my courses I keep repeating certain messages, and that it is like a “positive brainwashing”. I take this as a big compliment.

Some of the messages which I keep repeating in all my courses are:

  • Use your body weight and don’t muscle people
  • Be aware of and work with your breath
  • Think “softness” in your mind
  • Work with your entire body and not an isolated part of it
  • Move energy and not just body parts
  • Be a healing artist and not a massage mechanic

There are more, but these are some essential ones. What do they all have to do with massage?

  • They separate the”massage mechanics” from the healing artists
  • They are what makes the massage feel heavenly
  • They give the massage its soul, its magic touch
  • They are what can produce healing on many levels

The essence of good Thai Massage

Just pressing and rubbing and yanking and pulling is not a healing art. There is a lot more to it. In really good Thai Massage there are elements of beauty, of grace, of energetic connection, of profound well being.

Without those there is something missing in massage therapy. After a really good session you should feel like you are walking on clouds, your mind should be free and clear, and there should be a feeling of peace, joy and contentment in your mind.

This is what all my training program are about. I never wanted to produce just another mechanical Thai Massage course, but something that introduces people to the amazing and truly transformative effects of good Thai Massage.

A valuable lesson which I don’t care to repeat too often

Now you know why I didn’t mind having received a truly low-grade Thai Massage today. It provided a dramatic contrast and reminded me of the value of excellent Thai Massage.

It helped to reinforce my perspective and my appreciation of Thai Massage as an amazing healing art. And it reinforced my commitment to teach the highest standards, the best practices, and the best methods through my courses to my students all over the world.

Sometimes when you only get good massages, you take it for granted that it is all good. However the really good therapists are not so easy to find, and when you do find one, count your blessings.

For my part, I will go back to my favorite massage shop tomorrow and get the excellent massage which I am accustomed to.

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image of the authorThe author, Shama Kern, is the founder and director of Thai Healing Massage Academy and the creator of 20 Thai Massage online training courses. He has been practicing and teaching Thai Massage for 18 years

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Massage With An Inner Vision
What Exactly Is Thai Healing Massage

10 thoughts on “How To Learn A Good Lesson From A Bad Massage”

  1. Thank you Shama,

    Love this article. I have only done this a couple of years and I still find myself sometimes unintentionally causing pain. Of course its not on purpose. I always open communication lines ahead and ask client to let me know if something does not feel pleasant. So if something does not feel good it usually only a brief moment. I can than assess my pressure. This is the best I can do with some who are very sensitive. I have found some who that even with light pressure they make a grimace. I watch there face as some may not say anything. If I see them make even the lightest grimace I ask “is this to much”. (Pressure from 1-10 pain)
    Does one come to a point with this kind of client or partner where they do not have to ask? Once I have them a second or 3rd time all seems well.It doesn’t happen often. But it has happened. Of course I immediately feel bad as I never would want to hurt anyone.

    All is quickly forgiven after I ask. It still makes me feel a little unsuccessful.

    • Just asking the client and allowing clients to participate in the session with their input goes a long way. I have had so many sessions where it never occurred to the therapist to ask me if I liked it, if the pressure was ok, etc.

      Clients generally don’t mind if you inadvertently cause some pain as long as you encourage them to let you know and they feel that you respond to them by adjusting how you work. Clients should feel like participants in the session, not like victims of abuse, like in my case in this massage shop.

      It is always possible that you cause some pain with someone. Especially when working on a new client, you don’t know their level of sensitivity. But as long as the client feels empowered and encouraged to let you know and you respond immediately, the clients won’t hold it against you.

      The longer you do this, the more you will be able to intuitively feel how far you can go. However this is not an exact science, and that’s why good communication skills are absolutely essential in massage therapy. If clients trust you, like you, and know you respond to their requests, it is not a big deal if you cause a little pain every now and then. But without this communication and interaction, clients vote with their feet and simply never come back.

  2. am also a massage therapist and i do learn some of your techniques,it rely good for me if am offering massage treatment.thank you and i am from Ghana.

  3. Thanks shama,true for sure,its good to experience massages from therapists besides the ones you are used to,there is always you learn from them.


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