Thai Massage therapy is not just the application of certain techniques. It is an ever-evolving art which is being honed and improved by experienced therapists.
It is not a fixed goal that can be reached, or a set sequence that needs to be memorized and followed. Instead it is a path of continuing refinements. It is evolving, not stagnating.
That’s why not all therapists are equal. Some are further along the curve than others.
Thai Massage is also not just about strictly following a particular tradition. Good therapists naturally evolve, create, and improve their way of working and the techniques they are using.
Let’s focus on two areas where Thai Massage can be improved and show you how this benefits your clients and your work.
Thai Massage improvement #1: more upper body work
Most typical Thai Massages in Thailand are full body sessions with the bulk of the time spent on the legs. If you have special requests, let’s say shoulder work, the therapists will always agree.
But they will almost always still do a regular full body session with a heavy focus on the legs, and maybe spend a few minutes extra on the shoulders.
The emphasis on leg work in Thai Massage
No question about it – leg work is one area where Thai therapists shine. This is where they spend most of the session time, and this is where they have the most techniques.
Many people (generally non-Thais) have wondered why there is such a focus on the legs in Thai Massage.
I have often heard the theory that the reason is that the Thais have traditionally spent a lot of time in the fields and on their legs, and that is why they need the leg work.
Nobody actually knows if this theory is the real reason for the leg emphasis.
But even if this would be true, then this theory might have been valid in the past, but in this day and age it doesn’t apply anymore to the same degree.
Working on the legs is certainly very beneficial, and Thai Massage is excellent for that.
However the issue is that with our changing lifestyles there has been a shift that needs to be reflected in Thai Massage.
The shift from rural work to urban life styles
I have lived in Chiang Mai, which is the center of the Thai Massage universe with countless Thai Massage schools and massage shops all over town, for two decades.
Chiang Mai is a big city and nobody works in the fields. People sit in their cars, they have office jobs, and they spend lots of time sitting in front of the TV and their computers. The same applies to Bangkok and other Thai cities.
So the field worker leg theory is certainly not applicable here, but nonetheless the Thai Massage therapists still focus primarily on the legs.
Sitting on chairs all the time spells trouble for the upper body
Whatever the reason for the lower body emphasis might have been, today it is a tradition which could use adjustment by taking our changing life styles into account.
The fact is that today’s jobs are mostly in sitting positions, which means that the upper body is negatively affected.
Shoulders slump forward, the spine is out of alignment, the neck is stiff and the hips are tilted unnaturally.
These are all results of sitting in chairs all day long.
A balancing shift in our Thai Massage training style
At Thai Healing Massage Academy we have shifted towards more upper body work. A high percentage of the therapy requests of our clients have been issues with neck, shoulders, and back.
This doesn’t mean that leg work is less important or should be neglected.
What it means is that it makes sense to shift a higher percentage of Thai Massage work to the upper body to balance out issues which are created by our sedentary life styles.
If you are a practicing massage therapist or yoga teacher, ask yourself what the ratio of client requests for upper body work is compared to leg work.
Adding more upper body work
Certainly leg work is very important, and Thai Massage does a great job with this.
However in typical Thai Massage sessions as well as in Thai Massage training in Thailand, upper body work is less represented and is less sophisticated with fewer techniques than the leg work.
To substantiate this, let me share my personal experience based on living in Thailand for two decades.
Is has happened to me many times that I requested specific upper body work – let’s say on my shoulders, for example.
In a high percentage of cases the therapists either didn’t do it, or didn’t have a good repertoire of techniques for the shoulders, or they were so stuck in their routine that they simply could not break out of it and do something different from their fixed sequence.
The ones that did accommodate my request often just pressed harder on my shoulders. However stronger pressure is no substitute for more and better techniques.
This is something we have balanced out in our style of Thai Massage work in Thai Healing Massage Academy by providing a large amount of effective and sophisticated techniques and training for the upper body.
For example, we teach 80 unique shoulder techniques which is many times more than you can learn in any other Thai Massage school.
Thai Massage improvement #2
Specific therapeutic work in addition to full body sessions
Most Thai Massage therapists have learned a full body routine, and that’s what they do over and over again on every client.
It is certainly beneficial to work on the entire body. However there is something wrong with only doing full body routines simply because that’s the only thing the therapist knows how to do.
There are not many Thai Massage therapists who have the skills to do detailed therapeutic work on specific problem areas.
The average Thai Massage session is often, or in most cases, a one-size-fits-all affair. Everyone gets pretty much the same treatment, the same routine.
Of course there are therapists who are able to do excellent and specific therapeutic work, but they are a small minority compared to the ‘one-size-fits-all’ therapists and their cookie-cutter sessions.
The reality of Thai Massage therapy work
There are Thai Massage therapists who insist that the entire body has to be treated in every session in order to get good results.
This sounds good in theory, but in actual practice this is often not realistic.
Doing a full body Thai Massage session and spending lots of time on a particular area is often not possible within the limited time of a one hour session.
This goes especially for the western world where, unlike in Thailand, two or three hour sessions are not very common or just not affordable for clients.
Good therapy work cannot be rushed, and can be difficult or impossible to do in a rigid setting with 50 minute sessions in hotel/spa/corporate environments.
It is easier when you work for yourself where you are not restrained by rules and policies, where you can arrange your own schedule and can spend more time with clients, if necessary.
A therapy-focused approach
At Thai Healing Massage Academy we have developed specific therapeutic treatment approaches.
They to deal with individual problem areas in great depth, like shoulders, neck, knees, hips, feet, arms, or even conditions like sciatica.
Many times problems in the body can be worked out by just spending enough time on them. Our students are trained and able to work for an entire hour only on the shoulders, or the knees, or the hip, or the neck, and have seen very positive results from this approach.
This therapeutic approach goes beyond routine full body sequences and opens up a whole new world of creative, intuitive, sensitive and energy-focused therapy work which can be highly effective for dealing with many conditions.
Letting the clients have their say
What do the clients think about that? Personally, if I find out that someone has a specific problem, I ask such clients if they prefer a full body session or detail work on their specific problem area, and I let them decide.
In almost all cases they choose to have the specific localized work done with the resulting therapeutic benefits.
“I have a persistent shoulder problem which has been causing me a lot of discomfort. I have tried many therapies and it was not until I had a session with Shama that I started to get relief.
His techniques are very different from other massages I had. He has the ability to get straight to the source of the problem.
I also found it refreshing that he actually listens to what I have to say and works on the areas where I feel I need the attention.
After several sessions with him I can honestly say that this is the first time in a long time that I feel a steady improvement.”
When I get a massage, I want to have an input in what work I am getting. I find it quite unsatisfactory if I want a specific kind of work done with focus on one area, and the therapist doesn’t do it or is not able to do it.
That’s why I make sure to listen to my clients in my sessions and to ask for their input. They appreciate this, they feel heard and understood and value my work more.
Make your clients feel that you are working with them, not just on them.
More advanced Thai Massage training requirements
To use this approach, you need to be creative and adaptable, and you need to have a higher skill level to work on specific problems.
You have to know how to do such specific and detailed therapy work. This is rarely taught in your average Thai Massage school. However it IS taught by Thai Healing Massage Academy.
Therapeutic work is our specialty. This is how I have have built my personal therapy career, and this is how we have built our academy.
Our therapy-based approach goes way beyond routine sequences of techniques.
Thai Massage therapy online training courses
Over the last 20 years we have created a wide range of online courses that teach you in detail how to work on specific areas of the body.
These are therapeutic applications that I have used successfully for many years in my own practice and that have shown excellent results consistently.
These courses cover in-depth training for shoulders, knees, hips, neck, feet, arms and hands, back, and even specific conditions like sciatica.
The solution to your training and skill requirements
Thai Healing Massage Academy offers a convenient and cost effective solution to acquire such specialized skills and take your career to a higher level.
If you want to stand out from the sequence-following therapists, if you want to have the skills to help your clients with their particular problems, if you want to become successful with Thai Massage, then this will go a long way in helping you to get there.
Take a look at our library of 20 Thai Massage online courses. You might find that this is exactly what you need to build up Thai Massage skills which will totally transform your career.
To learn Thai Massage or to improve your existing Thai Massage skills, check out Thai Healing Massage Academy’s extensive online training library:
The author, Shama Kern, is the founder and director of Thai Healing Massage Academy and the creator of 20 online Thai Massage training courses. He has been practicing and teaching Thai Massage for two decades.