Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Starting a formal Thai Massage Practice in the United States, India or Internationally

The process to become a licensed Thai Massage Therapist in the United States can be a long and expensive process. Simply put there is nothing like a licensed or registered Thai Massage therapist in the United States. The only legal Thai Massage you can receive in the United States is from a licensed Massage Therapist, who has also taken a Thai Massage continuing education course.

This is unfortunate for the practitioners of Thai Massage as those who can do Thai Massage legally might not have as much training as a practitioner who has had many years of training in Thailand.  By a strange set of laws the student can practice but the teacher cannot!

It is important to understand that laws regarding the practice of Thai Massage vary across the US and each country. No global body certifies Thai therapists and some countries e.g. France do not even recognize it as therapy. It is also important to understand the difference between certification, accreditation and licensing. In general, almost anybody with the necessary qualifications (like a teacher training) can certify. A certificate has more credibility if the instructor/school has accreditation from a body like NCBTMB (US only) or the World Massage Federation. Licensing, on the other hand, is issued by a local government body based on a set of laws which may or may not give any credence to your certification or accreditation.

The path to becoming a licensed massage therapist varies across the United States.  It generally requires 500-750 hours of study in an accredited massage school (there are several exceptions to this norm). Since these schools are located in the United States, massage education can be quite expensive. Further, the training received in these schools are focused towards western massage modalities like Swedish or myofascial release. Some may offer electives in Asian healing modalities. Often the hours devoted to the study of Asian modalities are sufficient to acquire a brief over view.

On graduating from an accredited massage school in the United States, students then need to give an MBLex/ NCBTMB exam or apply to the local state massage board for a license. On getting the license, the therapist can now practice massage.

After this if the therapist does a Thai massage course with an approved provider then they can practice Thai Massage.

Yoga Instructors: There are few Yoga Instructors who do use Thai Massage. They cannot offer nor can they claim to provide a Thai Massage officially.  Since Thai Massage is a yogic healing art, they do sometimes use the techniques of Thai Massage to improve the flexibility and Range-of-Motion of their clients.

Practicing Thai Massage in India:

The practice of healing is largely unregulated. A practitioner of Thai Massage should have a legal work status in India. Further, he or she must have a Shops and Establishment Act License from their local council/corporation. Of course, the practitioner must comply legally by paying all applicable taxes.

Practicing Thai Massage Internationally

Each country in the world has it own set of rules regarding massage and healing.  There is no global body that regulates the practice of Thai Massage. Anyone planning to practice Massage must have a legal work status and comply with local laws. It is next to impossible to list the various rules regarding the practice of Thai Massage in this article. One can, however, say that most first world countries have more regulation on practicing massage and healing. Fortunately, because of the Internet, it should be easy to find country specific information.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Two Exercises to Perfect your Downward Facing Dog Pose

Try these self-administered Thai Massage compression techniques to get that perfect Downward Dog pose.

The Downward dog position is one of the more popular Hatha Yogic poses. It is part of the Surya Namaskara (Sun Salutation series) and, therefore, essential to a yogi’s daily practice. It boosts the immune system, improves circulation, and helps in relieving certain kinds of back and spinal conditions. It also stretches and builds strength in the wrists, arms, legs, ankles and the back.

Despite the simplicity of this pose, the full expression of Ardho Mukh Svanasana (Downward Dog Pose) can be tricky to perfect. A common misalignment with this pose is the problem of raised heels.  Poor heel contact arises from shortness in the myofascial chain running from the big toe up to the hip along the back of the legs. This shortness often originates in the Soleus and the Gastrocnemius muscles of the calf (see infographic). When these muscles are healthy, they lengthen easily so that the heel can touch the floor allowing the soles of the feet to be firmly grounded.

It is, therefore, important to keep these muscles flexible. Over exercising, underutilizing them or even wearing high heels can cause chronic shortness and tighten the calf muscles. Thai Massage offers an easy way to address the shortening of muscles. In Thai Massage, compression techniques are applied on yogic meridians (SEN) to achieve a supple muscle tone. While Thai therapists use these techniques on their clients, they can also be self-applied.

Thai massage concentrates on Ten major “Sen” or channels in the body that often run on or along muscles. Of them, Sen Sumana covers the Soleus and Gastrocnemius muscles. The following two simple exercises on the Sen offer a way to rejuvenate the calf muscles.

The exercises take only three minutes for each calf and can, therefore, be easily incorporated into a yogi’s daily practice. The first version of this exercise is easier and recommended for people who have stiff knees.

1.    Lie on the back with both knees bent.
2.    Raise the right leg and bring the right calf up to rest on to the left Patella (kneecap). Exhale as the weight of the right calf settles into the kneecap.
3.    Close eyes and breathe deeply to feel a mild sensation run down the back of the calf to the heels/ foot.
4.    Hold for 30 sec or until slight pulsing is felt where the knee cap makes contact with the right calf (whichever is less).
5.    Repeat on three spots on the right calf from middle to slightly superior to the ankle. Repeat on the other side and then execute a Downward Dog pose and feel the difference.

The second version is harder but more efficient
1.    Bring the body to all fours with knees slightly apart on a well-cushioned surface.
2.    Inhale and gently rotate the right thigh outward to bring the right foot in to wedge it between your left calf and thigh.
3.    While maintaining body weight on the arms, exhale and slowly bring the hips down to trap the right foot between the left calf and thigh. As the hips release down, the right foot will compress the left calf, and it will create an intense sensation along the back meridian of the calf sometimes running down all the way to the foot. It is critical that the hips should be brought down slowly and only to such level that the yogi can bear the intensity of the compression.
4.    On reaching the threshold of comfort hold the pose. Close eyes and feel the path taken by the meridian along the back of the calf to the heel or foot. Breathe normally and while exhaling attempt to pushing the breath into the activated Meridian. In about 30 seconds the initial sensitivity will subside. One may also feel a mild pulsing in the area that was compressed.
5.    Release by inhaling, raising the hip and shifting the weight back to the arms.
6.    Repeat this with the right foot being placed in two more equally spaced spot on the back of the calf from the middle to just above the ankle.
7.    Repeat on the other side.
8.    Now do your down dog and get surprised by the extra stretch your are now getting.

We call this Swantantra Yoga. Read more here