Thursday, 30 October 2014

Are Thai Massage sequences a bad idea?


If you go to a Thai Massage Therapist here in Kansas City or in the lazy lanes of Chiang Mai in Thailand the chances are that you are most probably receiving a standard sequence of techniques. In all probability the therapist does the same sequence of moves for every session day in day out.

If one studied in some of the "certified" Thai Massage School factories in Chiang Mai or  here in the US one may have been taught a standard sequence that one must perform over an hour and half or two.  So irrespective of the condition of the client and their needs a therapist will follow the sequence they have been taught.

One can argue that this cannot be such a bad thing after all. If you pay $60 everyone should get an apple and not an orange. The only problem with that logic is that one man’s food is another man’s poison.

For example a forward bending asana might not be good for someone suffering  a herniated disc or for someone with an excessively lordotic lower back the classic cobra position is not helpful at all. These are just a few examples of the many downsides of delivering a standard sequence.

My experience was quite similar. After having done a three week course from a very famous Thai Massage course factory in Chiang Mai I came home and egotistically pronounced myself a Therapist and did the same old routine I was taught. The only problem  was that I didn’t feel I helped my clients and somewhere in my conscience I felt something was wrong.

So I went back to Chiang Mai and over several years explored Thai Massage not with Massage School Factories but with small individual teachers who provided no certificates and couldn’t be bothered if you wanted one.

Of all of them one stood out.  His class rarely started on time, he had no workbooks, no certificates, he had no awards from the King, he spent half the day talking about the degradation of Thai society and simplicity of Buddhist thought. Several of the students with me found his classes a waste of time and money.

On any given day his actual massage instruction rarely exceeded an hour but I found his transmission in that one hour was way more than several weeks of teaching at a typical massage school factory.

The learning was clear. Change your healing to fit the patient and recognize the uniqueness of every individual. Today while I still teach sequences and techniques I keep reminding my students that there is nothing sacrosanct about them and the sooner they can master the sequence and technique sooner they can free themselves of it. It may seem quite counter intuitive:-

If techniques and sequences are not important then why do I pester my students to memorize them to perfection?

The answer lies in the fact that massage is like learning music. When you start you need play some standard note sequences to master

1.     How to play each note
2.     How to transition from one to another
3.    Get a feel of how each note merges with another and the feeling it generates in the listener.

Once you have mastered it then you can make your own tunes and they will speak your soul and sound good too. The difference is that students need to be encouraged to feel and sense the blockages on the clients instead of only practicing sequences and techniques mindlessly.

In a good Thai Massage courses even for those for beginners, one should learn not only techniques and sequences but also the why and when of each of the moves. Students may or may not be able to absorb all the information but they will understand the principle and as they practice they will come to their own realization about healing, about their clients and themselves.

My recommendation to anyone intending to study Thai Massage seriously - please go for a small independent teacher and avoid the massage school factories. Even if you don’t join my courses feel free to write to me at [email protected] and I can recommend for you a learning path that will consider your needs with Thai Massage that is also based on all my experiences both good, bad and ugly.

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