Is learning Thai Massage fun or work?
In my function as a Thai Massage teacher, I often hear serious questions and comments along the lines of:
- “How pure is a particular healing art, Thai Massage, or yoga system?”
- “How close is it to its origins?”
- “How much does it adhere to its tradition?”
- “Is it scientifically proven?”
- What lineage is it in?
Okay, there is a time for serious discussions. But for now, let’s switch gears and use a different approach – just to have some fun. This is a light-hearted, irreverent, and humorous look at Thai Massage and other healing arts.
But the conclusion is profound, as you will see if you read til the end.
So, if you are ready to have some fun, read on.
Maybe some serious types will feel offended. Not everyone appreciates parody and humor. But for others, it will take a weight off their shoulders – you will see.
Thai Massage and Human Nature along with its quirks
Let’s apply a broader perspective to those serious questions from above. It’s called human nature, and it’s full of variety and differences, and there is no one right way enshrined in it.
We all have our opinions about what’s right and what’s wrong, what should be, and what’s the correct way of doing something.
But before we get into a discussion about what is right or wrong with Thai Massage, let’s step back and look at all this from a more neutral perspective.
Definitely politically incorrect
Let’s take religion as an example. Some people become saints, some become fanatics, some just pay lip service to it, and some exploit it for personal power and gain.
What about martial arts? Some people become the ‘saints’ of martial arts like the Chinese Shaolin monks who practice their Kung Fu as a spiritual discipline.
And then, some people become show wrestlers, some learn martial arts so that they can beat up others, and others practice it just to get some exercise.
What about yoga and Thai Massage? Some people become the ‘saints’ of healing arts. They defend traditions, purity, teacher lineage, and sacred holistic principles.
Some teachers become ‘gurus’, and accumulate adoring followers. In the eyes of these followers, their guru can do no wrong, and his or her style is the only and superior one.
Others practice yoga to lose weight, they learn massage because you can make 80 or 100 dollars an hour or because Thai Massage is an easy job to get, like here in Thailand where I live.
Sainthood and self-righteousness in the healing arts
There is a fine line between being the ‘saint’ of a particular system and self-righteousness or judgmental attitudes towards those who are below such sainthood status.
One of the most difficult tasks of being a ‘saint’ is to keep one’s ego in check.
Once you get good at something, be it yoga, Thai Massage, philosophy, or martial arts, one of the hardest things is to not equate your skills with moral superiority or a ‘better than them’ attitude.
What’s wrong with the following? (if anything)
Yoga – while it may not be the highest purpose of yoga, there is really nothing wrong about practicing it just to lose some weight. The practice of yoga is not restricted to those who want to attain self-realization and get on the fast track to nirvana.
Massage business – while it may not be the highest expression of selfless healing, there is nothing essentially wrong with opening a chain of massage stores.
Prayer – Praying for a raise in your job might not be on the highest spiritual level, but it sure beats robbing a bank by a long shot.
Sainthood – not everyone is cut out to be a saint. We all have to start somewhere, and few of us start at the sainthood level. Some of us will never reach the sainthood level… and don’t want to either.
Those who think that traditions in religions, yoga, healing arts, Thai Massage, or martial arts always need to be maintained at their highest level, will inevitably conflict with human nature. (Or they need to move to another planet.)
Human nature allows for expression on a scale from 1 to infinity. Somehow all those expressions are there for a reason. They are what makes life interesting and challenging and full of variety.
There is a saying: “If we would all be the same, it would only take one of us”. Moral: Don’t expect people to be and think like you.
The Thai Massage judgment yardstick
So next time you see someone who is practicing yoga or Thai Massage for a less traditional, pure, or holistic reason, remember human nature.
If you see a glossy photo on a magazine cover with an impossibly perfect yogini twisted into an exotic pretzel position of yoga or Thai Massage, don’t worry. You will get there in one of your next incarnations.
Which Thai Massage teacher is better or the best?
I have lived in Chiang Mai, Thailand, for 20 years. This city is kind of the center of the universe for Thai Massage. The city is always buzzing with lively conversations and arguments about which teacher and which style is better.
Some people are heavily opinionated about those things. I removed myself from those discussions a long time ago. I have learned that right and wrong are mostly just opinions. They are all relative.
The ideal Thai Massage teacher for you might not be the right choice for me. The massage style that I love might not be suited to your needs.
Isn’t human nature great? There is room for saints and sinners, yoga gurus and people who just want to lose belly fat, massage-types who are convinced of their greatness and simple, humble practitioners, your opinion and my opinion, the ‘right’ way, and the ‘wrong’ way, and everything in between. I have seen all these types over the years.
My way or the highway
My official disclaimer: Just to make things clear, naturally my way is the right way, and my opinion is the only right one. So don’t you argue with me and leave some opinionated comments below. (Just kidding!)
How serious should we be with our Thai Massage?
I know there are problems in the world, and there are serious issues to be dealt with.
People can get hurt in yoga or Thai Massage; there are bad teachers and ego-driven types out there. You could get robbed or have a run-in with climate change.
The world will come to an end in 2028 (or whatever prophecy you subscribe to). And if that doesn’t happen, the aliens might invade our planet.
You can focus on all that, but sometimes it feels a lot better to look at the light side of life and not take everything so seriously.
Did you ever hear this saying? “Why do angels fly? Because they take themselves lightly!”
How about some massage humor or yoga jokes? Some good laughter might be just as healing as a yoga or massage session. Yes, really!
The Thai Massage purists
There are those types who insist that Thai Massage always has to be practiced at the highest level. And of course, they define what that is.
They expect you to know every single energy line by their impossible-to-pronounce Pali (similar to Sanskrit) names, and what exactly their esoteric functions are.
Then you are supposed to know the entire traditional medical system of Thailand with boatloads of theory and lofty concepts.
And of course, you have to belong to a bunch of ‘authorized’ associations, have studied in the right ‘lineage’, be an outright saint, and dutifully polish your halo every day.
Holier-than-though Thai Massage therapists
From such a lofty and glorious position of ‘purity’, there can be a temptation to look down on the vast majority of therapists who don’t have all those accomplishments.
In Thailand, your typical Thai Massage therapist is a simple person who has little to no theoretical education. They have learned from experience and many can do a great job. They are also often really nice people, even if they are nowhere close to perfect.
They are not tangled up in mental obstacle courses like many of their western counterparts.
What exactly are you pressing on in Thai Massage?
You don’t know your anatomy? Let’s change that right now!
God forbid you don’t know what the ‘intercondylar eminence on the tibial plateau’ is. Your entire massage is near worthless!
What – you are saying that you rely on feeling things when giving a session and you have good intuition about where to place your hands? You must be one of those new-age types and are obviously totally unscientific! How do you know if your intuition is right, anyway? Maybe this is just disinformation!
Talking about scientific verification
You mean you don’t know the exact percentage of the increase of serotonin and dopamine during and after your sessions? And the relationship between the two? Certainly, your Thai Massage could not be any good!
And of course, you need to get in the habit of letting those white-coated scientists who have never done a massage in their entire life decide what exactly massage is good for.
Do your clients ‘claim’ to be relaxed after your massage?
Be careful here! Recent scientific double-blind test tube studies have determined that relaxation is a medical condition that only real physicians can induce via certain pharmaceutical prescription medications.
So if your clients ‘claim’ to be relaxed, you can politely nod, but you should not agree. Otherwise, you could get sued for wrongfully practicing medicine.
The dead serious types and laughter medicine
Some therapists think that massage is a very serious subject matter. To joke about it or poke fun at it is heresy!
Let me tell you, my wife and I are both veteran Thai Massage practitioners and teachers, and we have been doing this for way over two decades.
Sometimes we laugh heartily when we are playing around with Thai Massage that we cannot help but feel fantastic! (We don’t do that with clients, mind you!)
One of my all-time favorite physicians is Dr. Bernie Siegel who is one of the funniest guys I have ever met. He gets his patients to laugh and cry and feel – and they get better. For some great reading, check out his books.
Then there is Norman Cousins who cured himself of cancer with laughter. He documented it in his book Anatomy Of An Illness.
Some yogi-type also figured that out and created a system called ‘laughter yoga’. What a concept!
Scientific conclusion about the benefits of Thai Massage
If you take yourself lightly and laugh about yourself, you might just be healthier, live longer, be happier, and you might be a lot more fun to hang out with.
You will also have more fun learning Thai Massage and not demand instant perfection from yourself (which is a guaranteed fun-killer). You also won’t get frustrated if something in the training is a bit challenging.
Seriousness is not necessarily profound or spiritual, and light-heartedness and fun are not necessarily mundane and superficial. Yes, this applies to Thai Massage training as well.
I verified this conclusion via some special test tube scientific double-dotted clinical placebo experiments. No really, it’s just my opinion. But I do believe it and I have seen it in over two decades of teaching Thai Massage.
What really matters in Thai Massage
Chiang Mai, Thailand, is something like the Grand Central Station of healers, massage therapists, energy workers, yoga teachers, and assorted types of holistic and spiritual teachers. Some come here to learn, others to teach.
I have seen serious, and sometimes confrontational exchanges about Thai Massage both in person and online. Opinions were flying around like arrows about topics like the following:
All this might be interesting, but it is mostly theory, and it doesn’t really matter that much. After all, what difference does it make when exactly Thai Massage came to Thailand, and who exactly brought it there?
Here is what really matters:
How to learn Thai Massage and enjoy the process
Massage is one of the most enjoyable sensations I can imagine – receiving it, that is. But what about giving it?
Here at Thai Healing Massage Academy, we sometimes have students who agonize over not getting a technique perfectly right in the beginning.
Here is a secret. Just skip this move for the time being and focus on what comes to you easily. In this way, you enjoy the process of learning Thai Massage instead of struggling with it.
Don’t be a perfectionist and don’t be hard on yourself. Anyway, the truth is that perfection will never happen in Thai Massage.
You can always get better, learn more, refine things, become more intuitive and creative, and develop your sixth sense of what is going on with a particular client.
There is never a plateau that you reach in Thai Massage where you know it all. At least I hope you will never stop at such a plateau. It will kill your progress and your fun.
Learning Thai Massage is an ongoing evolution, a never-ending process of improvement and learning and refining. But you should enjoy it as much as your clients do. Otherwise, why are you doing it?
It’s not supposed to be a struggle, a competition, a race, or a serious, holier-than-though effort with perfection and sainthood in your sights.
Practicing and learning Thai Massage is supposed to be a passion, a purpose, a healing journey, a holistic path, and something that you love to do.
Would you like to learn Thai Massage? Thai Healing Massage Academy can help you with an in-depth online training program that will turn you into a well-rounded, holistic, and highly competent practitioner.
The author, Shama Kern, has been practicing and teaching Thai Massage for over two decades. He is the founder of Thai Healing Massage Academy and the creator of 20 online Thai Massage training courses.
11 thoughts on “How To Learn Thai Massage While Enjoying The Process”
i totally agree, you know I am also teaching martial arts shaolin by the way and you can’t imagine what I have seen….one info you may be aware that some of the main indian associations and comissions to preserve cultural arts will post some mention in the us gvt for stopping the use of name yoga for all these new styles and so…
I was still disturbed when I found in this thai arts us association (no name ) i wanted to be member for …infos ..promotion whatever, to find that massage was thai yoga and was told that thai yoga (ruesi dat ton ) was hatha yoga SIC!!!!!
but you right take some distance from that and focus onthe practice and helping other no judgement ,(well hard sometimes no?)
I quite agree with you, if one takes something too serious, he might take himself, who practices it, too serious and start looking down at people. That happens to many yoga teachers. There is a good recommendation from wise guru that from time to time a yoga lesson should be attended by some other respected yoga teacher who would afterwards share a meal with his colleague and laugh at his mistakes made during the lesson.
Yes, it is healthy to be able to laugh about ourselves. To take oneself and one’s opinions too seriously encourages our egos to take over.
Shama, I agree with you to laugh about oneself and to maintain humoristic capacity all the time when we practice Yoga & Tai Masage.Take a good time!Funny to do Easy to do!Philippe
Thanks for your input Philippe. Glad we are on the same wave length:)
“Angels can fly, because they take themselves lightly…”
as G.K. Chesterton used to say 🙂
Thanks Shama, for yet another enjoyable article!
Glad you liked it, Deon! 🙂
Great article! Wow! I laughed several times reading it! I enjoy your sense of humor! I love the realistic attitudes!
It reminds of a comment a “friend” made when I told her that I often ride my bicycle on the sidewalks of Burbank & Los Angeles. Her reply was: “I know someone who was walking on the sidewalk & got hit by a cyclist. The cyclist did not even stop to see if she was o.k. Bicycles should not be allowed on sidewalks! It should be illegal!”
I am happy to hear that you like my sense of humor! 🙂
Wow, that article is a masterpiece… so right on. I have seen many scenarios in which there was infighting and too much judgment. There was a need to withdraw into my own way for me too, letting others having their ways away from me.
One thing is for sure, it is nicer to work with people who are mentally level headed and in balance.
Your approach here is based on common sense, on practicality and what is presented is what I can and love to flow with. Truth is, even in the most strict styles, every signature is different. This is why the term „traditional“ has is very misleading. We can ultimately only be in the flow we are in. Having common sense and a little love goes long ways.
It would be nice to have these blog posts printed in book format.
Hi Karin, great to hear from you, and thanks for your thoughtful response. I am glad to hear that we are on the same wavelength.