Robert Byrnes has been providing bodywork in a professional setting since 1994, and integrates several modalities for a unique treatment that is individualized to each client’s needs. He provides therapeutic treatments by appointment in his Mill Valley, California office. Call 415-360-4389.
ROBERT’S THAILAND BLOG
safe and sound in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Mon, 23 Jun 2008
Just a quick note to let you all know that I arrived this morning in Chiang Mai in great shape. It’s hot here but the weather was beautiful today. Bibianna picked me up at the airport and we went straight to the hotel where I took a much need shower after so much time in an airplane!
I managed to avoid jet lag so I have really gotten a lot out of my first day here. We rented scooters which is such a great way to get around the city. We ate some good food here and there, visited a few temples, and checked out the infamous street markets. The people here are really great and Gabriel speaks a little bit of Thai which is pretty cool!
Tomorrow begins the first day of Thai massage class – I’m really looking forward to it!
I had a great visit, too, with Matt in Venice Beach before departing for Thailand…
Wed, 25 Jun 2008
This city is truly amazing – there is so much to do and see! You just can’t appreciate the depth of culture and history until you spend time here – there is so much to do and see! And so many places to eat!!! 🙂
Today was the first day studying with Pichest. This man is a saint – I can hardly believe how gifted he is. I was lucky enough to be worked on by him – it seemed so arbitrary and spontaneous that he picked me for his teaching example – and his work absolutely blew me away! The work that he did on me in 30 minutes would take any other practitioner at least 5 or 6 sessions to get the same result – he is talented beyond measure. I won’t see him again until Monday as I have one more session at the other school on Friday – and tomorrow we’re taking off for adventure! 🙂
We have started every morning with Ashtanga yoga practice at 6:30am – at William’s ChiangMai Yogasala – but we will probably just practice in one of our rooms at the hotel before too long as William charges too much! Waking up before the city reveals some hidden magic – you see a lot more of the monks with their shaved heads and orange robes out and about at sunrise.
I have taken some photos and some video and as soon as I get a little more settled in and have some time, I will upload them to flickr or some where you can see them. As Gabriel has been here so many times, and there is so much to do and see, he keeps us very busy taking it all in – he’s really been amazing and his energy is just great!
upload some pictures finally
Fri, 27 Jun 2008
Okay, so I finally uploaded some photos to flickr.
Yesterday we rode our motor scooters to the top of Doi Suthep mountain and visited Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep and The Bhubing Palace. The ride was awesome because it allowed us to get out of the heat and into cooler, higher elevations – and the road up the mountain was twisting and winding – lots of fun like the old days of riding my Honda street bike. 🙂
Today I finished my second day of training at Loi Kroh Thai massage school. It was really awesome one-on-one training both days and it was the perfect refresher for my training with Pichest Boonthumme. My program starts on Monday and will last three weeks. Yes, I’ve decided to stay for the length of my visa – 30 days.
We are staying at the KHUMSIPHAYA GRAND HOTEL and it’s working out beautifully! This city is just incredible and so full of life and creativity. It’s so chaotic and pulsing with madness, yet everywhere there is order, everywhere is serenity. I find beauty in the floral arrangements, the exotic fruits, the cooking, the art work, the landscape, and in these talented, and gifted people. I am honored to be here, and I look forward to learning their approach to bodywork – straight from the master Pichest! 😉
Tomorrow I am taking off from practicing yoga – sleep in until 7am – yea! And we will spend the day visiting another accomplished practitioner of Thai bodywork outside of town. More on her later…
Baan Hom Samunphrai / Mysore practice
Sat, 28 Jun 2008
Yesterday was an incredible experience studying with Homprang at her amazing center, Baan Hom Samunphrai. It is such a beautiful center – and they prepared the best food we have eaten yet! I learned so much from the time there with Homprang – she was very generous with her teaching. They also set up a steam bath with special Thai healing herbs for us, and then we swam in the pool. We will definitely go back again for another visit – It was so cool! See pics on flickr…
The drive there was awesome as we rode along the river – and on the way back, the Thai’s were busy in the roadside markets, which they set up like we might expect to see a flea market – when it’s over, everything is taken down and then they set up again the next night.
Yoga practice was hard today. I think I’m eating too much and it is causing me to be inflexible. Not to mention, I was really tired this morning. Gabriel was great as he gave both Bibianna and I a Mysore practice with adjustments before beginning his practice. I feel great now, though – and we’re off to a special brunch somewhere…
many blessings from Thailand!:)
Sun, 29 Jun 2008
Well, the “vacation” is kind of over – next week I really dig in with Pichest and focus on not spending any money! Everything is so cheap but at the end of the day, all those little things can really add up! 😉
We had an amazing day with lunch at the Mandarin Oriental – which is a feast for the eyes and senses! – and an afternoon at Sankampaeng hot springs. They sell eggs and you cook them in the water! This water was very, very healthy and relaxing. The motorcycle ride out there was amazing too because we were really in out in the country away from the city. We rode past rice fields, and “towns” with no English letter signs anywhere! Everyone is used to seeing white people in the city, but out in the country at the hot springs, everyone was starring at us! At first it was kind of weird but then I realized that I do the same thing – so it was a good lesson. And we made some friends that day!
See photos from today on flickr…
from the land of smiles…
Baan Hom Samunphrai
Tue, 1 Jul 2008
I am a big fan of high quality green tea – it would be loose, never in a tea bag. I didn’t bring my tea because I figured in Thailand it would be everywhere. But NO! 🙁
The tea they drink is sweetened black iced tea with carnation instant milk. Don’t get me wrong – I love it, but it’s not my green tea. So I started drinking coffee and they really make it nice and strong – they grow it in the hills here and it’s very good. Problem is, I woke up this morning with the biggest coffee withdrawal headache – not good. So I’ve decided to suffer through today and no more coffee!
Today studying with Pichest was really good. I am finding that because there is so much more I need to know to really blossom with Pichest’s teaching, that I have decided to go back to Homprang’s center, Baan Hom Samunphrai to refocus on the basics. I will study with her for five days starting tomorrow and then begin again on Monday with Pichest’s new class. Gabriel, of course, is staying with Pichest. 😉
I am really blown away because the Baan Hom Samunphrai center is such a beautiful place, and Homprang is also very gifted. Of course, you may have already seen the photos from the other day when we were here… but you can expect more to come! I am here now, and tomorrow morning, we practice a different kind of yoga (not Ashtanga) so I am looking forward to seeing how they do this special yoga for Thai massage therapists. It’s called Rasidaton.
Another thing about Thailand that’s really cool is how Thai people greet one another – it is most awesome. I believe they call it “y-ing.” You place the hands together like in prayer, just under the nose. So every time I meet someone or see someone I know, we put the hands together like this and say “sawadeeka” to the woman and “sawadekop” to the man. This gives a very good feeling inside and everybody smiles.
Well, I’m off to have a steam bath! 🙂
miles of smiles…
update on the Thai greeting and Krong Thip
Wed, 2 Jul 2008
According to Gabriel:
the hands together is called ‘wai’ pronounced ‘wa-y’ 🙂 you put the hands together in front of the lips to greet anyone, friends, strangers:) because you make sure that what you say will be sweet 🙂
hands go together under the chin when greeting a monk, to show respect 🙂
Thais will also put the hands under the chin when greetings their parents, or greeting someone who is older 🙂
‘wai’ has a complex system of who and how you do it though, in Bangkok they don’t like foreigners to ‘wai’ 🙂 while they will ‘wai’ back at you, in the heart they really don’t like it (took me a while to learn that though, as I was so used to how things are up here).
it is an amazing way to feel humble, no? 🙂
The attached photos are from the Thai cigarette packages of Krong Thip. Apparently, the dangers of cigarette smoking are well understood here and unlike American tobacco pushers, Krong Thip wants you to be really clear about the truth. At first, I didn’t believe it was real… but go figure!
I was in class for eight hours today receiving one on one instruction and using an experienced practitioner of Thai massage as our model. This is a incredible learning opportunity as Homprang is very strict – in a kind way – and the environment here is so peaceful and relaxing.
They have these big, fat (about 7″ long) Geckos around here that make crazy sound – first they make a repetitive, constant noise like “bah-bah-bah-bah-bah-bah”, they pause, and then they go “uh-o, uh-o” – a sound just like a human would make when something unexpectedly bad (but not too bad) happens. Apparently, it’s good luck if you hear them say “uh-o” nine times in a row. I’ll let you know how that works out for me… 😉
The weather today wasn’t too hot, for a nice change… and apparently, I’ve just been informed that the evening steam bath is ready… chat at ya later…
Sat, 5 Jul 2008
I have have spent the last four days receiving one on one training with Homprang and her accomplished students. This has been an incredible opportunity for me and I feel very blessed. Tomorrow I will give a complete sequence to Christopher, Homprang’s husband (and a really really great guy) – this will be quite a challenge because he’s quite large and has very tight muscles – and I’m not sure if they’re going to allow me to look at my notes! 🙂
The people here have been wonderful and very gracious and this is just such a beautiful environment – not to mention the cooking! I will look forward to coming back here again soon! I have also enjoyed learning their style of Thai massage yoga – Rasidaton which is very gentle and meditative. But I have really enjoyed teaching Ashtanga yoga to Homprang who took to it like a fish to water! We have been waking at 5:30am to practice and then at 7am we practice Rasidaton which takes an hour. Then we eat at 8 and begin class at 9am. Lunch is from 12-1 and then class from 1-4pm. Dinner is served at 7pm and then I usually go to bed at 9! This has been the routine here every day – a lot of effort but kind of dreamlike. 🙂
On Monday I begin five days advanced training with Pichest.
I cannot upload photos from any of the computers here on the property but as soon as I get some time when I’m back in the city next week I will update flickr.
Hope you all are having an enjoyable 4th of July weekend! 🙂
A special limited distribution email…
Sat, 5 Jul 2008
I have hit the pot of Gold here at Baan Hom Samunphrai – I can hardly believe my good fortune. These are the most generous and incredibly wealthy (spiritually and materially) people that I have met here yet – and they have been sharing it all with me like I was family. Really incredible. They have even invited me back to stay no charge and continue to study with the Thai massage practitioners in their family. So this is probably where I will stay my last week here in Thailand – I will leave on the 22nd. 🙂
They have the coolest little Burmese cat here – you’ll see pictures later… he’s white and has the loudest meow for such a little guy. I have been feeding him so we’ve become fast friends. 😉 Like all the animals around Chiang Mai he has not been fixed and is most likely a stray. But he is very cool and loves affection.
I am sooooo looking forward to returning to the States with this work. This Thai massage is blowing my mind! Every move every point every press has been precisely worked out – the attention to detail is amazing. Not only must you consider the effect on the client but they have worked out the practitioner’s body mechanics so as to be 100% efficient – and at times almost effortless – while delivering incredible power through the technique. If my body mechanics are incorrect or I am not delivering the technique in the right spot or the right way – I will not get the desired result. The Myopractic work is very much like this – if you don’t execute correctly it doesn’t work.
This is greatly in contrast to the Esalen style of Swedish massage with oil which leaves plenty of room for daydreaming. This is because in the Esalen massage we’re mostly interested in the quality of the touch – and the fact that it might be therapeutic beyond the emotional domain is just a bonus (even though this fact has actually been the source of my livelihood!)
So it is with great effort that I am re-learning Thai massage. The good news is that Homprang and her students think I will be a very accomplished therapist. In fact it was my ability to pick up the work with such grace that Homprang even took me on as a student. She actually turned down the opportunity to train three other people while I am here because they did not have enough experience and she really didn’t want to have to put out that much effort – as she and Christopher are leaving for the States next week and they have a lot of things to get organized. So I am quite honored that Homprang accepted me as a student (and that she and her family are enjoying my presence so much!)
Well I’ve just been informed that my steam bath with special Thai therapeutic herbs is ready… again! 🙂
Man I love this place… 🙂
new Thailand photos to flickr
Tue, 8 Jul 2008
I uploaded some new photos to flickr…
Some photos from class with Pichest, the road side “cafe” where we eat when Pichest’s wife doesn’t cook (and sometimes even when she does – just to get Thai iced tea, aka: “cha-yen”) and a cool picture of David – a doctor who visited one day.
The other set of photos is from Baan Hom Samunphrai. You’ll notice the young monk – Homprang’s nephew – he’s only 11 years old and just recently became a monk when he finally convinced his father – who would not take his desire seriously – that he was sincere. This is a huge, huge change for the family but also a great honor. The big lizard is the gecko I talked about… didn’t hear nine calls though. ;(
I feel really solid about the five days of classes with Homprang – I learned all the material she set out to teach.
All this week is class with Pichest – it’s very challenging so I may continue with another five days next week, too. I’m going to wait and see how things feel by the weekend…
Personal work from Pichest
Sat, 10 Jul 2008
Pichest is absolutely incredible. He worked on me yesterday and then again today. He knows I can take strong, deep work, and the work he did on my legs went right into correcting my back and pushed so much energy through my body and into my abdomen that I had a huge emotional release – which was a little embarrassing so I just covered my eyes and let the energy run – my breath was breathing me and my whole body was surging with energy – it was absolutely incredible, not only that he could work in this way, but that he does it so effortlessly – but with SO MUCH POWER!
It was quick – he doesn’t take long to work his magic because he knows and reads the body SO WELL – so he just jumps in on the problem area and works progressively, deeper and deeper and he just laughs while he’s doing it! because he knows how effective it is, how powerful it is, and how easy it is for him to do it.
Later, when I had settled down, he walked up behind me sitting on the floor and squeezed at my back with his legs laughing in a way to say, hey – it’s okay. He keeps telling me to feel, feel, open up – and he motions to his heart, the chest area – feel, feel. So he knows he’s opening up my emotional blocks, and my physical blocks, which is going to allow me to work deeper, easier, and better.
He’s really a jokester at times – and what’s really funny is even with his broken English, he conveys the information and he does it with such humor, always laughing, always trying to get you to smile, to get you out of your head and confusion – “feel, how feel? Feel or no feel? You don’t know! ha ha!”
I love the guy! I’m going to see him again next week for another four days while I’m staying at Baan Hom and working with Homprang’s brother and sister in law. It’s becoming clear that I’m going to have to come back and study with him again soon after I get a chance to work a little bit more on my own at home – definitely within the year.
Sat, 12 Jul 2008
Gabriel and Bibianna left early yesterday, so I won’t see them again until we’re all back in Arizona. 🙁
Yesterday was my first day off in 12 days and even Pichest told me not to work this weekend. So I finally had a chance to discover that the TV in my room doesn’t work! 🙂 I did a lot of reading and not much else. It was good to finally relax.
Today I made my way to Baan Hom Samunphrai from Chiang Mai’s old city on my motor scooter with my luggage in tow. I guess it was kind of a sight, because I made a lot of the Thai people laugh as I slowly drove by. 🙂 I took a picture of the set up, but the computers here are too old to use my USB connection, so I can’t upload any images right now.
I will be staying at Baan Hom for the duration of my visit in BAAN JUNG KAEW, “The Rice Barn House” – the same accommodations I had when I stayed here two weeks ago. Lucky me! 🙂 Free room and board, compliments of Homprang and Christopher, who are actually in the States for three weeks. Very gracious of them, indeed! 🙂
Tomorrow, I begin another five days of study with Pichest. Class is from 9am to 4pm with an hour break for lunch. After class, if I have any energy, I will also have the opportunity to practice with Bang and Vichien here at Baan Hom – but I will definitely practice with them next weekend before I finally leave here on the 22nd to come home.
I look forward to practicing yoga this afternoon. I haven’t practiced since last Monday. I was simply pushing myself too hard in the Ashtanga sequence and caused a lot of inflammation in my body. As it turns out, I need to scale back my approach and focus on the basics: breath and bandas (locks) and only go as far in the sequence as my body will allow without pushing past my edge.
Hope you all are having a nice weekend! 🙂
RE: minor update
Sun, 13 Jul 2008
Thai massage isn’t just for foreigners to have fun with – it’s folk medicine around here and has a tradition that goes back to the time of the Buddha and his attending physician, Shivago (Jivaka), the Father Doctor of Traditional Buddhist Medicine. So, for thousands of years this art of medicine has been perfected again and again, making this the most powerful form of bodywork on the planet! I am truly honored to be learning this style – especially from someone as talented and gifted as Pichest. This man can read someone’s body the way you read an open book in daylight. Because his assessment of your “body” condition is so accurate, the sequence of his protocol (what he works on, where he works, and how he delivers the treatment) is not only powerful in the results delivered, but because he is so proficient with the techniques, he does it all effortlessly. It’s absolutely incredible to watch him work with such effortless power, let alone receive a treatment from him. He’s worked on my legs and lower back three times now and it’s been transformational.
I’m hoping that in next week’s class, we’ll have some students that have studied with Pichest already – this always gets Pichest a little more energized around teaching. In last week’s class, we had a lot of older students and Pichest was so on all week. In fact, one day, when we broke for lunch, he followed us outside and kept on teaching (talking) even while we were eating! It was great – I have a lot of affection for the guy.
RE: minor update
Mon, 14 Jul 2008
Class today went by fast and I got to work with a guy who’s been studying with Pichest regularly for the last two years – he’s actually going to help teach tomorrow. I am working so hard to get this work the way it needs to be done – the way Pichest does it, the way I want to do it – I guess I’ll get as far with it as I do and then I just practice at home. I suppose I won’t be able to terminate all other massage work and only offer Thai massage, but I will certainly promote it the most, and see what happens. Hopefully, I can feel comfortable doing this work and get some good clients who help me hone my technique – then as soon as I can, I’m coming back here! 🙂
btw – I love Thailand! After class, I went to one of the many markets that just pop up from nowhere – crowded with people like at our flea markets but instead it’s people buying and selling everything and anything you CAN”T even imagine. Live food, dead food, raw food, cooked food, sweets, treats, animals from the sea, the lakes, the land, fried food, boiled food, grilled food, eggs, vegetables and fruits you didn’t even know existed – and they just grow around here naturally – toys, accessories, EVERYTHING you could want! It’s quite an experience – by sundown, everything and everyone is gone without a trace!
There isn’t much of a corporate culture here and the Thai people have a very long history and a very strong cultural identity. So everyone is their own entrepreneur – like every business is a family business – literally with all the family and the kids around. It’s like the people are more grounded, connected to each other and to the Earth – more natural, without the effect of corporate marketing frying their brains!
I’m home sick…
Fri, 18 Jul 2008
I’m home sick – really ready to come home. After four weeks, I’m actually a little burned out on Thai massage – although I am still immensely enjoying the people here. It’s kind of fun with the language barrier because you have to rely on other cues – it goes more by feeling – and it can be a lot of fun when you make the connection and words just don’t mean anything. So there’s no blah, blah, bullshit – just the interaction feels good or it doesn’t.
I love this place – I love the people… and Pichest – the guy really is a guru. I’m going to his class again on Monday – and this will be my last day – then I COME HOME ON TUES! 🙂 But just to hang out with Pichest – I’m not interested in giving a treatment or in receiving one – except from Pichest – because I’m a little burned out – a little scrambled with all this newness and all this information. But Pichest teaches a very important spiritual message – and he teaches not from his head or from books, but from his heart – and it’s an important message because he sees really deep into people – or he feels really deep into people. I said to one of the girls in class, that Pichest can really read a body. And she said he does more than that – he looks into your Soul. Maybe she’s right.
There are these Thai markets that just pop up out of nowhere – kind of like a flea market in the States – and Thai people are selling everything – I mean everything – like you’ve never seen before – animal parts just laying out on a table – and it’s fine because it’s fresh and the people buy it to cook that night. Exotic fruits that you don’t even know exist – and they just grow wild over here in people’s yards – so they pick this fruit and bring it to the market. It’s really cool to see all the stuff for sale. The other day, I bought these quail eggs that are cooked right in front of you in these little trays, twenty at a time. For 10 bhat (about 30 cents) I bought a little baggie – (everything comes in a little plastic bag – terrible!) – of about 10 of them and she put fish sauce on it. I’ll tell you all about fish sauce when I get home – make sure to remind me because you won’t believe how it’s made and what it’s made from. Anyway, these little eggs were tasty!
Sorry if I’m rambling a bit – it’s been a lot of work over here for me and since I have just ended another five days of class – again – I’m sitting here drinking a beer and feeling the effects on an empty stomach!
Sat, 19 Jul 2008
We had a light rain all throughout last night. It was so peaceful as it fell lightly on the thin clay roof top, not far from my head. And the air had cooled quite nicely by this morning. I enjoyed my quiet breakfast, as usual, on the porch overlooking the pond. Lately, Bang has been preparing a hot breakfast for me of rice porridge with an egg, onions, mushrooms, and spices mixed together. Always a nice added touch to the hot green tea and fresh fruit. 🙂
This week was the end of another five days of study with Pichest. For those of you keeping track, I have spent two days at Loi Kroh, six days at Baan Hom, and thirteen days with Pichest. I will attend one more class with Pichest on Monday before I start to head home on Tues.
Pichest is quite a character; a mix between a peaceful and humorous Buddhist monk who preaches ‘not to worry’, and an eccentric Thai massage teacher that has so mastered his craft, that we students feel lucky just to be in his presence, in the hopes that we might even begin to scratch the surface of what Pichest is capable of doing with another human body.
Pichest’s classes always begin with a lecture, usually informed by Buddhist philosophy, sometimes about life, sometimes about Thai massage, but always delivered with a big smile and humor. Then we chant Buddhist scripture in the Pali language, the most important of which is a prayer to Dr. Shivago, who introduced this form of bodywork to the ‘Thai people’ during the introduction of Buddhism over 2500 years ago. This bodywork was taught to monks in the temples and it spread throughout the land, along with the teachings of Buddha, from there. 98% of the Thai people today are Buddhists.
After our morning prayers, we usually have a little more discussion regarding Thai massage principles. Then Pichest launches into performing a demonstration of the day’s work on one of the students, until it’s time for lunch. After lunch, the students pair up and either attempt to practice what they saw in the morning, or fall back on practicing more familiar techniques.
After fours weeks of classes, and receiving some pretty awkward work from students, my legs are shot! I don’t think I can take another Thai treatment. This morning, I found the perfect remedy. The German Baker, York, from whom I bought my breakfast bread, highly recommended that I pay a visit to Khun Wanida, an incredibly talented Thai massage practitioner. (As soon as I can get to a good computer, I’ll upload some great photos to flickr.)
Khun Wanida, or Pim, also runs a school and has many employees so York emphasized that I must specifically ask for Pim. When I arrived for my treatment this morning, instead of doing the traditional Thai massage with stretching, compression, and acupressure, (which I just can’t take anymore!,) we made use of another treatment offered here called Sabai, or Thai hot herbal compress. (See attached photo.)
The herbal compresses are kept hot in rotation, and are rhythmically and systematically compressed all along, and across the body. Sabai was exactly what the doctor ordered for my worn out, achy muscles! This treatment was especially comforting in the cool morning air. Pim’s treatment lasted two hours and 45 minutes and she only asked for 300 bhat, which works out to about $9. I gave her 400 bhat.
After a tour of the grounds and her garden, we got to talking about the massage work I do in Arizona. (Pim speaks fairly good English.) So I offered to work on the problem areas in her upper back, neck, and shoulders in the style of the West using one of her tables. I did my usual routine (with Myopractics thrown in on the neck at the end) and she had three of her students watch this style with oil so that they might also learn something new. They were all very interested – it was fun and it felt kind of cutting edge – East meets West. 🙂
After I left, I stopped at a nice roadside “cafe” and had a delicious rice noodle soup with ‘moo’, aka beef, and a chai-yen for 25 bhat, (about 75 cents.) As much as I love Thailand, I’m really looking forward to coming home… and practicing Thai massage on all of you! 🙂
See you all soon!
RE: Home soon…
Mon, 21 Jul 2008
…it’s really nice to have time to be able to feel like a person once again, instead of racing around trying to keep up with an insane life. Things are going to be different when I get back to Phoenix – I’m looking forward to settling into a more connected life – in tune with with this inner peace, no more ego grasping… in the words of Pichest, “I want, I want – no ego!, mai?”
A long day of travel…
Mon, 21 Jul 2008
I fly out of Chiang Mai today at 2:40pm, and then my flight leaves Bangkok at 7:20pm.
Interestingly enough, I will arrive in LA two hours later at 9:25pm.
However, this leg of the flight will take 16 to 17 hours.
I’ll check in again when I arrive at Matt’s in LA…
Wed, 23 Jul 2008
Arrived home today safe and sound – and happy to be back! A BIG THANKS to Maria and Monica for taking turns taking care of my cats and my house while I was away… and only one plant died!
Hope to see you all on the Thai mat…
much love and many blessings!
Chiang Mai, Thailand
I would like to take space here. To acknowledge the ancient teachers, my parents and Kruba Sri Wichai – patron saint of Chiang Mai, who have made a significant contribution to my development as a bodyworker, healer and teachers.
First, I would like to thank you my parents for their contribution in my belief that there is more to life than meets the eye at first glance, my father give me the inspiration to study Thai massage, I already massage more than 25 years, I keep many experience until now I can help many people. I am thankful for Kruba Sri Wichai who help me to have consciousness and make meditation.
My massage is more than just a form, I teach that to meditate, pray and listen deeply, I teach students to free yourself from guidance by mind and with proper techniques, follow your intuitive guidance, transmitted from all healers who have come before you.
I also wish to thank all of the students I have had the honor to teach for the wisdom they have shared and the commitment they have made toward helping themselves and other along THE PATH.
- PREPARATION & PRAYER
- PRAYER TO SHIVAGO
- MINDFULNESS & MEDITATION
- ROOTS & REMEMBRANCES
- MASSAGE EAST & WEST
- HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF THAI MASSAGE
- PHILOSOPHY & THEORY OF THAI MASSAGE
- SEN SIB
- BENEFITS TO BODY, MIND & SPIRIT
- CONTRAINDICATIONS IN THAI MASSAGE
- METHODS & BODY MECHANICS USED IN THAI MASSAGE
- IMPORTANT AREAS
PREPARATION & PRAYER
There are many different ways you can prepare yourself for performing this “sacred medicine,” Traditional Thai Massage. One suggestion is to take enough time before each session to quiet the mind. You might do this by relaxing on the Earth, sitting or walking meditation, mindful movement and stretches or chanting. Always wash your hands and arms before and after each session. You might light a candle and/or have a fresh bowl of salt water in the treatment room. The flame and salt transform unwanted energies. Remember to pour the salt water onto the Earth at the end of the day to keep the energies moving.
Create nice lighting in the room, put clean sheets on the mat and pillow, and have soothing music ready if the client prefers music to silence. You may offer to wash the feet of the client, if they have not had time to do so themselves prior to arrival. You may also offer the client loose pants and shirt if they arrive in work clothes that are not appropriate (i.e.,tight or constrictive.)
Make sure that as the practitioner you are feeling enough energy to perform the massage. It is not good to work on somebody if your physical or emotional condition is less vibrant than theirs. If you do so, it is possible to deplete the client of vitality, which is counteractive to our intention. It is considered ethical to call off a session in such a case. It is also important to clear any unresolved issue you may have with a client before working with them. This may be as simple as: “you forgot to pay me last session,” or as complex as “I’m feeling attraction to or from you.” It is important to clear anything that may get in the way of helping the client.
You are now ready to kneel at the foot of the client and center yourself. First deepen and slow your breath, tuning into your own breath as well as the client’s. Ask for the lineage of healers to be present and assist in allowing the highest form of healing, relaxation and transformation to take place. You may pray in whatever way you please. Another way of looking at prayer is as setting an intention for the session. You may cater this intention to the client’s specific needs. In the Temples, Hospitals, and Schools where Traditional Massage is still performed, they begin and end each day with a ceremony know as “Wai Khru.” In this Ceremony, flowers, incense, and other gifts are offered as an honoring to the Buddha, the Father Doctor – Jivaka Kumar Bhaccha, commonly known as Dr. Shivago – and various symbolic deities that represent unconditional love and healing to the present day practitioners. During this ceremony, the prayer that has been passed down from the ancient Pali and Sanskrit texts is recited by everyone present. Begin and end each day with this prayer:
PRAYER TO SHIVAGO
“I pray to you, Dr. Shivago, who established the rules and precepts. I pray that kindness, wealth, medicine – everything comes to you. I pray to you who brings light to everyone just like the sun and moon do, who has perfect wisdom and who knows everything. We all love you who are without defilement, who are near to enlightenment – having entered the stream three times. We all come to pray to you. I pray to the Buddha. I pray, I pray that with your help all sickness and disease will be released from whom I touch.”
The prayer is chanted as follows:
Om Namoh Shivago Silasa A-hang Karuniko
Sapasatanang O-satha Tippamantang
Gomalapato Paka-Sesi Wantami Bantito
Sumethaso A-lokha Sumana Homi
Piyo-tewa Manussanang Piyo-proma Namuttamo
Pininsiyang Nama-Mihang Namo-Puttaya Navon-Navien Nasatit-Nasatien
Ehi-Mama Navien-Nawe Napai-Tang-Vien
Navien-Mahaaku Ehi-Mama Piyong-Mama Namo-Puttaya
Na-a Na-Wa Lokha Payati Vina-Santi
We invite the spirit of our founder, the Father-Doctor Shivago, who comes to us through his saintly life. Please bring to us the knowledge of all Nature, that this prayer will show us the true Medicine of the Universe. In the name of this mantra, we respect your help and pray that through our bodies You will bring wholeness and health to the body of our client.
The Goddess of Healing dwells in the Heavens high, while humankind dwells in the World below. In the name of the Founder, may the Heavens be reflected in the World below so this Healing Medicine may encircle the world.
We pray for the ones we touch, that they will be happy and illness will be released from them.
MINDFULNESS & MEDITATION
The Buddha taught the importance of Meditation. He would give tools for concentration (samadhi) in his teachings, but ultimately he would teach that each individual needs to sit with their own mind and body; with all the thoughts, emotions and sensations that arise and fall away. According to the Buddha, each being needs to work with their own attachments and aversions to these arisings and fallings. With practice we begin to understand the nature of suffering and thus develop loving kindness (metta) and compassion (karuna) toward ourselves and then toward others. These practices also develop insight known as “mindfulness” practices, which have been popularized by present-day Zen Master, Thich Nhat Hanh. Both Mindfulness and Loving Kindness are important qualities for the practitioner of Traditional Thai Massage to develop.
The roots of Traditional Thai Massage stemmed from the Buddha’s teachings (Dharma). Practitioners continue to perform massage in order to assist with the alleviation of suffering in others. When we practice mindfulness, we bring ourselves into the present moment. When we practice Traditional Thai Massage, we have an opportunity to be mindful and listen deeply to the needs of our client. This is also an opportunity for both the giver and recipient to be in meditation together. If we are fully present we naturally enter a state of deep listening which nurtures loving kindness and understanding. Don’t we all just want to be understood? What a beautiful way to work: allowing the client to be exactly where they are, with no judgment and no agenda. If we listen and be present with our client (having no need to fix them) transformation, healing and spontaneous joy take place.
ROOTS & REMEMBRANCES
Traditional Thai Massage has come to be known as “Nuad bo Rarn” in Thailand, which often translates as “ancient healing” or “sacred medicine.” It has been passed down from generation to generation in the temples, families, and texts for more than 2500 years. Thailand, being so near to China and on the trade route to and from India, gained the influences from both cultures. In Thai Massage we can see both the influences of Acupuncture, herbs and Shiatsu/Tui-na from China as well as the relation to Ayurvedic Massage and Yoga asanas (postures) from India. All the techniques used in Thai Massage serve to open and balance the energies in the body. These energies move through pathways called Sen, which sometimes overlap with the Chinese Meridians and Indian Nadis.
According to Thai folklore, Thai Massage dates back to the time of the Buddha, in the land of India. A hermit and healer emerged from his cave and became the physician for the Buddha and his Sangha (community of monks and nuns.) This Doctor’s name was Jivaka Kumar Bhacca, presently popularized as Dr. Shivago Komparaj. Dr. Shivago would accompany the Buddha and his sangha as they would travel throughout the land delivering dharma (teachings) to the lay people. He performed bodywork on the Buddha to help him to stay healthy on his extended travels. He would teach this form of bodywork, along with the teachings of the Buddha, to monks who would in turn assist lay people in healing from sickness in both mind and body. As Buddhism made its way to Thailand, so did this form of healing.
Over the years, the Buddha’s teachings got somewhat lost in India, yet became popular and prevailed in the land of Siam (present day Thailand), and so did Nuad Bo Rarn, now translated as “Traditional Massage.” Wat Pho, a famous temple in Bangkok, still possesses some of the epigraphs of documented techniques and Sen that were engraved at the time of the Burmese invasions of 1832. Earlier texts were written on palm leaves and stored in Ayutthia, the old capitol city, and when the Burmese invaded, King Rama III had the surviving texts carved in stone.
Today, one can find Traditional Massage throughout Thailand. It is still practiced in some of the most well known Temples. Thai massage has diversified in interpretation and embellishment between the Temples, Hospitals private homes, Massage schools, Massage clinics and the Red Light District. One can still see the roots of both Yogic stretches and Meridian work in Traditional Thai massage, and with the increasing interest of westerners it continues to evolve.
MASSAGE EAST & WEST
Massage, or the practice of using touch to cure illness, has existed since the beginning of human history. It has been used instinctively long before people knew just why it had such beneficial effects. It seems to have existed under different names among all ancient cultures. References to massage have been found in Chinese literature dating back 3000 years before the Christian era.
Eastern and Western massage have taken off in different directions. In the West, the body has been approached from an objective point of view with the focus being on tangible physical structures such as organs, bones and muscles. Any malfunction has been approached mechanically as a separate entity. This differs radically from the eastern approach which has been more subjective and where the focus has been on the energy within the body. Here problems have been looked upon as a disorder of the whole body and the concept of energy lines and points has been very important.
Swedish massage, which is the most popular style of massage practiced in the West today, focuses on the relaxation of the physical body and does not have an energetic understanding of the body. Thai massage, on the other hand, is an eastern style of bodywork based on the concept of energy. The philosophy behind Thai massage will be discussed more in the section on Philosophy and Theory of Thai Massage. Fortunately, with more and more contact between east and west the best of both approaches is becoming more cross culturally shared.
HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF THAI MASSAGE
Thai people come from several different backgrounds – the main ones being Tai, Mon, Khmer and Lowa. The blending of these different ethnic groups as well as the influence of other cultures shows up in Thai culture as a whole.
It is well known that for many centuries Thailand was deeply influenced by Indian and Chinese culture. India’s influence shows up in many areas such as Thai language, literature, religion, royal administration and massage, to name a few. China’s influence shows up in other areas such as Thai food, art, architecture and medicine.
As Thailand is located between China and India, it is no surprise that the country was influenced by these two great civilizations. An active sea route existed between south India and southern China for at least 2000 years. There was also the famous overland Silk Trail between China and India, which passed through Burma, Thailand’s neighbor to the northwest. It is highly likely that many of the trades and travelers along these routes made a diversion to Thailand on the way.
The most notable contact, however, between India, Thailand and China was through the movement of Buddhism, which was brought to Thailand from India in the 2nd of 3rd century BC by Buddhist envoys. They were sent by India’s king, Ashoka, who asked them to propagate the teachings of the Buddha and to build temples knows as wats.
In terms of Thai massage, the movement of Buddhism to Thailand was important as the medical system of an Indian doctor called Jivaka Kumar Bhaccha was incorporated in the religious knowledge of the envoys. It is interesting to note here that the Thai word for massage is nuad boran which literally means “ancient massage.” Whether or not Thailand had an indigenous form of massage before Buddhism arrived is not known. Jivaka’s medical system was based on India’s ayurvedic and yogic traditions. Thai massage’s Indian influence is still obvious today from the large number of yoga like postures used, its many Sanskrit and Pali words, its spiritual foundation, as well as from Thai massage therapist’s veneration for Jivaka. In fact a prayer which invokes the blessings of Jivaka is still often recited before giving a Thai massage. Mention of Jivaka can be found in the Pali Canon, the scriptures of Theravada Buddhists who practice today in Thailand, Sri Lanka, Laos, Burma and Cambodia.
Jivaka’s greatness as a doctor and surgeon was legendary. His supreme skill as a physician was matched by his supreme devotion to Lord Buddha, whom he attended three times a day. The Buddha declared Jivaka to be chief among his lay followers. Because of his medical eminence, Jivaka was three times crowned in public as “King of Doctors,” and is therefore known as the “Thrice Crowned Physician.” He was an expert in pediatrics and excelled in brain surgery. He successfully performed intricate abdominal operations. It is no wonder that he is considered by many Thais as “The Father of Medicine.”
Thai massage theory was passed down orally from teacher to student until it was written down on palm leaves in the Pali language using the Khmer script. These texts were venerated and given the same importance as Buddhist religious writings. Unfortunately the Burmese destroyed most of these texts in 1776 when they took over Ayutthia, Thailand’s first capital
In 1832 King Rama the 3rd ordered that all of the best surviving texts be collected and studied. Based on this study, 60 stone plaques were carved of the human body – 30 of the front and 30 of the back. On these figures, points were placed on the walls of Phra Chetaphon Temple, more popularly known as Wat Po, in Bangkok as it was the earliest center for public education. Explanations were carved on the walls next to the plaques.
Unfortunately, due to the limited number of texts available then and because the dissection of corpses was forbidden in earlier Thai cultures, many inconsistencies exist in the drawings and their explanations.
Wat Po is still one of the main educational centers for traditional Thai massage. Chiang Mai, Thailand’s 2nd largest city, is the other main center. Classes are available in both cities year round as well as at many other places.
Thai massage is thriving in Thailand today as more and more people realize the benefits of traditional medicine. Due to its great popularity it is now also being practiced in many other countries and has even found its way back to India.
This text covers specifically the style of massage as done by Ahjarn Pichest Boonthumme, one of Thailand’s greatest living masters who has been responsible for training many of today’s leading teachers in Chiang Mai.
PHILOSOPHY & THEORY OF THAI MASSAGE
Thai massage is one of the branches of Traditional Thai medicine: manipulation, medicine (orals, salves, compresses and vapors), diet, and spiritual ceremonies or magical practices. These ceremonies are deeply rooted in mysticism, astrology and the supernatural. For the most comprehensive results, Thai massage (i.e. manipulation) should be practiced in conjunction with these three other aspects.
Thai massage’s Buddhist background elevates it to such a high level that it is regarded as a perfect spiritual practice in Thailand, for it exemplifies the four divine states of mind taught in Buddhism. These are: metta, good will, loving kindness; karuna, compassion, the desire to help others; mudita, sympathetic joy, gladness for the good fortune of others; and upekkha, impartiality or equanimity. The following words by The Dalai Lama describing Tibetan medicine could actually be used to perfectly describe Thai massage: “Tibetan medicine is deeply integrated with Buddhist practice and theory which stresses the indivisible interdependence of mind, body and vitality. The ideal doctor is one who combines sound medical understanding with strong realization of wisdom and compassion.”
As mentioned before, Thai massage is an Eastern form of therapy where the whole person is diagnosed and treated – not just a particular symptom. It is based on the holistic point of view that any problem is not simply an illness of a particular part, but rather a disorder of the whole being. All the parts of the body are believed to have an organic relationship which exists within an even greater whole – nature. Because of this holistic approach, treatments are usually about two hours long so that the person’s whole body can be addressed. Pichest Boonthumme, whose work this book is based upon, always points out the connections between one problem area and the other and repeatedly says, “connect, connect” when palpating. Wataru Ohashi, a shiatsu teacher, describes this in the following words: “In the Orient we believe you are built in one piece, that it is impossible to isolate a part without considering what effect it will have on the whole. We do not concentrate on the illness, but on the entire body. We do not label disease, because all diseases come from the same source – an imbalance of energy flow throughout the body.”
What is this energy? It can be defined as the force that initiates all physical and psychological functions. This life energy is absorbed from the air we breathe and the food we eat. Different cultures have given different names to this energy. In India it is called Prana, in China – Chi, in Japan – Ki and in Thailand it is called Lom which means wind. This energy is believed to travel through invisible pathways. In Thailand these pathways are called sen, in India, nadis and in China and Japan they are called meridians, channels and/or vessels. In Tibetan medicine it is said that the “…mystic channels are numerous, they are sometimes numbered 72,000 but are also said to be uncountable”. In India and Thailand it is also believed the there are 72,000 energy lines. Whatever the number of lines, where they run and what they do varies depending on the medical system involved. They are not solid realities which one can point out like in the physical body, in spite of the fact that people often try to make exact identifications with particular parts of the body. Such identifications do not hold up. There are however, more general correspondences which do have meaning and significance. The pathways according to Ryokyu Endo, “…can be felt only through personal experience and therefore belong to a world indefinable by words. Clinically, the position and depth of meridians varies infinitely according to each patient… Because of their qualitative nature, meridians can only be perceived by an equally qualitative mind. Healers are able to recognize meridians when they are in sympathy with the patient’s vital energies and there is a fusion between the feelings of the two… Meridians were discovered as a means of cure based on treatment through sympathy between the patient and doctor. In fact, meridians cannot be understood outside the concept and practice of curing the patient through the touch of the skin… Recent attempts to scientifically prove the existence of meridians by electrical responses in the living body have not succeeded because what can be scientifically proven is limited to the quantitative expressions of scientific method.”
In Thailand, out of the 72,000 lines, ten have been selected as the main ones to use during Thai massage therapy. Although it has been agreed that there are ten main sen, descriptions of where they run and what they do differ from school to school. It is important to note here that Thai massage is focused on the whole line rather than on individual points, although points can be used for treatment in addition to the line work. Descriptions and illustrations of the ten main sen, according to the findings of Ahjarn Pichest Boonthumme, can be found in the Advanced Course manual. These sen illustrations, however, are only rough maps of invisible pathways many of which travel deep inside the body and therefore are very difficult to put down on paper.
As far as the beginner’s training is concerned only parts of these energy lines are used. These segments have been referred to as Lines 1,2,3 and so forth for the convenience of Western students. These line numbers, however, are not part of the traditional Thai way of teaching which is more experiential and less analytical. Illustrations of where these line segments run are given in the Technique section.
Lastly, according to Thai Belief, the right side of the body is considered the masculine side and the left side is considered the feminine side. Therefore, in a traditional treatment, the right side of the body is treated first when working on a man and vice versa for a woman. For example, if you were working on the feet one at a time and your client was a female, you would massage her left foot first and her right foot second. Energy in women is believed to flow in a counterclockwise direction, whereas in men it is thought to flow in a clockwise direction.
The important things to focus on during the basic training are to develop sensitivity to the lines, to be able to feel areas of tension and tightness, to know how to use one’s bodyweight, and to work in a relaxed and yet concentrated manner.
Sen sib, the ten life energy lines, is the heart of Thai massage and basis of Therapeutic Thai massage throughout the history of Thailand. The actual documentation of when and how Sen sib originated has not been found. The documents discovered occurred during the period of King Rama II (A.D. 1809-1824) written by Phraya Wichayatibbodee, formal governor of Chantaboon Province; the inscription on marble plates at Wat Pho during King Rama III (A.D.1824-1851); the major ancient description of Sen Sib in the Royal Traditional Thai medicine text complied by the command of King Rama V in A.D.1870. These three documents have been the main text of Sen Sib theory. The basic theories of them are the same. There are more than one name on some lines and there are some minor differences on names of each line.
Thai massage theory is similar to the philosophy of Ayurvedic which is based on life energy channels and the belief that one person’s health and well being rely on the balance of life energy. Life energy in Thai massage is called “Lom Pran” meaning “the wind of life,” which is the same as the Indian concept of “Prana.” The obstruction of Prana flow can cause discomfort or illness to a person. Sen Sib, being the major energy channels throughout the body, needs to be maintained against any blockage.
The ancient Royal Traditional Thai medicine Text indicates there are 72,000 channels twined inside the abdominal cavity. There are ten major channels leading from all 72,000 channels that spread from the abdominal cavity through the entire body. The ten major life energy channels are called “Sen Sib”. Thai massage, when applied properly, has an immense effect on Sen Sib unblocking any obstruction of energy flow, and providing balance to body-mind and spirit. The ancient Thais applied pressure points according to Sen Sib to heal certain illnesses, in combination with herbal medicine application. In the present time, some of these pressure points are being used in therapeutic massage to relieve common ailments.
Sen Sib indicates the channels of the lines as available from three important sources as follows:
1. the Royal Traditional Thai Medicine Text gathered in King Rama V era.
2. the document in ancient text “Tamla Loke Nitan” (fable medicinal story text) during King Rama II era by Phraya Wichayatibbodee (Klom), former governor of Chantaboon Province.
3. the lines inscribed on marble tablets at Wat Pho
Characteristics of Sen Sib
1. There are ten major lines. “Sen” means line and “Sib” means ten.
2. The origination of all ten lines are lying underneath the abdominal surface around the navel approximately two finger width deep.
3. Each line has a different exit throughout the body accordingly.
4. The lines are invisible. They are invisibly connected to send sensation when pressing at the right points to the corresponding directions.
5. There is “wind”, being the energy force, running through the line. If the line is obstructed, the wind can cause illness. Some lines have more than one wind, some have names for the winds, and others do not have names. However, lines with no wind names mentioned may not mean lack of wind. The ancient people merely did not mention names on some, but still indicate symptoms when there are blockages in the particular lines.
6. The lines have pressure point locations that effect the wind when pressing.
Name of Sen Sib
Most learners follow Wat Pho list of Sen Sib with minor variation. For the simplicity, to trace direction when mentioning Sen Sib, this text will refer to Sen Sib names follow from Wat Pho. The direction of Sen Sib mentioned here come from all three sources mentioned above. Most of the lines have the same direction. However, some lines do not cover certain parts as others. This text will apply all of them and indicate the differences. For the origination location points from the navel on all lines, only Wat Pho source indicates exact locations of the each line. However, the points on the marble tables are in two different scripts and difficult to interpret. The exact location of points were obtained in the findings of actual pressures traced by several experienced Thai massage teachers during the Thai Massage Revival Project in 1985. Hence, the explanation on the origin related to the navel herein is merely from Wat Pho source only. Measurement of “finger width” is not certain of which finger, since there is no exact rule. However, most teachers presume it to be the thumb.
BENEFITS TO BODY, MIND & SPIRIT
Thai massage application, by using direct pressure on muscles over most parts of the body, with a combination of stretching, to further stimulate the musculoskeletal system, which includes the joints, bones, nerves, ligaments, and lymphatic system, to create benefit to all five physiological body systems:
- Circulation system: Improves blood circulation, lower heart rate, elevates temperature of massage area, increases lymphatic circulation, reduces edema (swelling).
- Musculoskeletal system: lmproves muscle strength and effectiveness, relieves muscle tension, removes toxins from muscle mass, relaxes tendon and enhances elasticity, increases joint mobility and flexibility, and reduces stiffness.
- Nervous system: Stimulates and improves activity of nerve and sensation with effects of reducing pain, enhancing sensation to the skin, and improved function of internal organs such as stomach, intestines, etc.
- Respiratory system: improves depth of breathing and relaxation.
- Digestive system: Increases elasticity of digestive tract and stomach movement, prevents and relieves indigestion.
For the mind, Thai massage offers the receiver the most renowned effect of total relaxation, thus reducing stress of daily tasks or a hectic environment. On some receptive receivers, this highly positive stress-relief effect may go beyond the present and penetrate into deep, past emotional scars and help release them.
Since Thai massage is based on the element of life and sen sib (life energy), this has a tremendous positive impact on the spirit when the giver also concentrates on the energy flow while giving massage. When pressure is applied to each point to awaken the energy through Sen Sib, coupled with gentle, smooth movement during the transition of each sequence, combined with the union of breath between giver and receiver, such sacred harmonious union will bring the giver and receiver close to a tranquil meditative state and become one.
Holistic Benefits of Thai Massage:
Thai massage improves bonding within the family. It has been custom within the tradition that Thai children massage the elders, and the elders help each other when there is need to soothe and relieve body aches and pains. Human touching increases the sense of love and caring between giver and receiver. This is an alternate method of showing their love to one another since Thais are neither used to, nor comfortable with direct expressions of love and affection by overt touching.
2. Health Care
Thai massage helps maintain health and wellness in the receiver of massage. It is and ancient tool employed to combat common ailments, increase the effectiveness of the body movements and benefit the physiological system. Thai massage also results in longevity due to a strengthening of the body’s immune system and balanced life energy.
Thai massage techniques prepare the body to ward off bed sores (pressure wounds occurring when a patient lies in one position too long), muscle weakness, headaches, dysmenorrhea (menstrual cramps), constipation, indigestion, stress, and other conditions.
Thai massage may also be able to relieve pain, sprains and inflammation of muscles, tendon, joints, as well as reduce stiffness of joints, increase muscle strength and improve mobility.
Thai massage is used as a means to stimulate paralyzed muscles to help improve circulation and function, and to maintain muscle strength. It also has been effectively applied in the rehabilitation for handicapped children as the practice at the Center for Handicap Children in Bangkok. The center trains parents of the handicap themselves and the children improve quickly with Thai massage. This may due to the therapeutic effects of human touching combined with massage effect to the life energy. Some children are able to sit up and some even are able to feed themselves after receiving on-going Thai massage.
CONTRAINDICATIONS IN THAI MASSAGE
Thai massage is safe when performed with adequate knowledge of the receiver’s physical condition. Physical disorders vary from one body system to another and the effects on the receiver depend on the massage position as well.
The practice section of this book provides cautionary notes for particular positions and should be followed strictly. Here are some guidelines to consider, and conditions which necessitate refraining from administering Thai massage or require that one proceed with caution should these symptoms occur:
1. Injury or inflammation of muscle
Reduce the discomfort by applying a cold compress to acute injury which is red and warm to the touch part. DO NOT MASSAGE THE AREA.
Apply hot compress or herbal ball to the area of the chronic injury to soften and reduce tension. Massage with caution.
2. Bone fracture or joint dislocation
Perform first aid if possible on acute injury and refer to physician. DO NOT MASSAGE THE AREA.
With permission from caring physician, during healing process, massage with caution.
3. Fever from any causes
DO NOT GIVE MASSAGE.
If the body is aching from muscle inflammation, massage will exacerbate the inflammation. It may also spread infection if the cause of inflammation is bacteria. However, giver may gently massage hands, face and head to relax and offer relief and support to receiver.
4. Varicose veins (enlarged veins)
DO NOT MASSAGE THE ENLARGED VEIN.
The pressure of massage may dislodge any clots in the vein and cause obstruction to heart and/or brain.
5. Contagious skin disease
DO NOT MASSAGE AFFECTED AREA.
The disease may be spread to other parts of the body and contacted by the giver. Massaging non-affected skin area is possible but giver must avoid the area of the rash.
6. Drug and/or alcohol intoxication
DO NOT MASSAGE.
Massage may worsen the intoxicating agent’s effect and give rise to risk of uncontrollable behavior by the intoxicated person.
Massage allowed with approval from attending physician; avoid site of tumor and the sensitive surrounding area. Reduce pressure to half of normal pressure. Do not apply pressure to lymph nodes and observe the contraindication positions indicated in the practice section of this book. Experience in massage is needed.
8. Ill health such as non-severe heart condition, diabetes, high blood pressure, stoke, and chronic illness conditions. Apply special techniques with caution as indicated in the practice section of this book.
9. Woman during pregnancy and menstruation cycle
Apply techniques with caution as indicated in the practice section of this book. Massage of pregnant woman needs additional special training.
10. When receiver is very hungry offer light snack and tea before massage. If too full, avoid positions which may cause discomfort such as face down and refrain from abdominal massage.
Note: Do not exert pressure beyond receiver’s comfort tolerance. Giver must not play a role of “medical physician”. Always refer receiver to seek professional health care advice when appropriate.
METHODS & BODY MECHANICS USED IN THAI MASSAGE
When the client arrives for the first time, make an extra effort to help them feel comfortable. They may be unfamiliar with Thai Massage and nervous because they don’t know what to expect. Have a health intake form ready for them to fill out. When they complete the intake, look it over and ask them to talk about what they have written on the form. Take close note of injuries, medications, blood pressure, varicose veins and complaints. Ask more questions if you need more information. If you are unsure about something that looks serious to you, make a call, look in a book or refer them to a Medical Doctor. Always err on the side of caution.
It is important to begin each session by first seeing the beauty and innate good in the client. It is easy as body workers to hear the client’s complaints and to search out what is “wrong” and why. I believe if we first see what is beautiful, we can help the client to enhance their beauty, then organically the pain or what some might think of as “ugly” will decrease. We are not here to “fix” the client; we are here to assist them in their own healing process. This occurs when they are ready, not when you, the practitioner, are ready. We must work with patience, love and mindfulness.
Get your own body comfortable by slowing down your breath, relaxing your shoulders and jaw, and emptying your mind. Begin the session slowly and work with a rhythm that feels comfortable for both you and the client. Some sessions may be very slow and methodical while others may be more vigorous; with practice you will get a sense of the client’s needs and develop a rhythm that works for both of you. Let the client know from the start that feedback about pressure, comfort and discomfort are welcome and encouraged.
I will always remember what one of my teachers, Avishai, taught me to say to myself when performing body work: “Thank you for allowing me to use Breema Bodywork, a similar yet different modality, that has fed my study of Thai Massage deeply. The principles in Breema are: Let the body move naturally, use the whole body, maintain physical connection throughout treatment, lean with relaxed, natural body weight, let your instinct determine pressure, deepen and release gradually, allow pressure to be firm yet gentle and remember all treatments are based in non-judgement. These principles are nice guidelines for living a spiritual life. We can choose to let our bodywork exchanges be a natural extension of our spiritual life, thus, a good reason to continue to develop our own personal practice (yoga, tai-chi, mindfulness, meditation, exercise, prayer….etc).
Mechanically speaking, again, we want to make sure as givers that we are comfortable. We work with a rocking motion that helps us to conserve our energy. Even if we are holding a placement in one of our moves, the current is still flowing. We always make sure that we are taking care of ourselves by moving without great effort. Also, it is important to always move from our center, known by the Chinese as the Tan-Tien and the Japanese as the Hara (located about three inches below the navel). Always use straight arms when applying deep pressure or weight. Always check alignment and assess whether you are comfortable while performing a move. If not, take a moment to adjust yourself so that you are. Remember to lean into the client’s body to create depth and pressure rather than use strength to create it. When using the thumbs, use the ball of the thumb rather than the tip. You may stack thumbs or experiment with elbows, heels and knees if your thumbs are tired or stressed. Check your own shoulders, are they relaxed? Are you breathing? Is your client breathing? Are they breathing deeply? Sometimes just by you deepening your own breath, the client will deepen theirs; again a symbiotic relationship occurs. We will go over body mechanics throughout the training in relation to specific moves.
The Sen, the energetic pathways in the body, originate deep in the abdomen. It is always best to ask the client if it’s okay to work on or touch their belly; you may do this prior to the session, or just before moving to begin abdomen work. Not all sessions require abdominal work. As we work on the rest of the body, stretching and applying compression to the Sen, we actually facilitate movement of energy in the organs and tissues of the belly. A complete Thai massage session moves energy and Wind (Lom.) This is the same energy called Prana in Ayurveda and Chi in Chinese Medicine.
Thai massage should be done in a rhythmical relaxed manner at a moderate pace. Touch during the treatment should be used first as a means of gathering information and second as form of therapy. Due to this approach, the initial contact in a technique should be lighter than the later ones. In general, pressure builds from soft to strong for each technique. Usually, perpendicular leaning pressure should be used for applying weight and progressively stronger stretches should be used for stretching. The therapist should rock form side to side or from front to back while working, so as to slowly shift their weight.
The therapist’s body position is of tremendous importance throughout the massage, for, with good body mechanics the work can be done easily in a comfortable and effective way. The therapist’s weight should generally be distributed between the areas of his or her own body he or she is working with, such as his or her hands, elbows, knees and/or feet. When applying pressure, the arms or legs of the therapist should usually be kept straight so that leaning power rather than muscular force is used. In general, space should he kept between the therapist’s body and the area of the client that is being worked on.
It is also important for the therapist at most times to have their “center” – i.e. their abdominal area – facing their client. It is from this center that the therapist’s power comes. In this area there is a specific spot below the navel which is the origin of this power. It is called the dan tien in Chinese theory and is located 1½ cun below the navel. A cun is a Chinese measurement using the breadth of the first joint of the thumb. This point is focused on in many Asian meditation and martial arts practices to cultivate internal power.
Thai massage usually begins with work on the feet as they are the lowest part of the body, gravity-wise. By working here first, a person’s energy can be moved upward thus helping with the circulation of energy. This is very important as our energy usually only flows downward because of gravity. Massage or inverted postures such as are performed in yoga can therefore help to remedy this.
The feet are one of four reflex areas in the body. The other three reflex areas are the hands, ears and the irises of the eyes. Reflex areas contain points that correspond with other parts of the body. When these points are stimulated there is an effect on the corresponding body part. According to reflexology, each foot represents a half of the body with the right foot corresponding to the right side of the body, and the left foot corresponding to the left side. The reflex areas on the feet are as follows:
Part of Foot Reflex Area:
Balls of Feet: Chest, Lungs, Shoulders
Upper Arch: Diaphragm to Waist, Upper Abdominal Organs
Lower Arch: Waist to Pelvis, Lower Abdominal Organs
Heel: Pelvic Area, Sciatic Nerve
Medial Side of Foot: Spine
Lateral Side of Foot: Shoulder, Arm, Leg, Knee, Hip, Lower Back
Ankle: Pelvic Area, Reproductive Organs
As you work, notice for any differences between the right and left foot, areas of particular hardness, lumps, heat, coolness, etc. Sometimes very grainy areas can be felt. These are usually deposits of uric acid and calcium crystals. By massaging these areas the crystals will be reabsorbed in the blood.
Thai massage therapists believe that work on the legs is a very important part of the massage. In a typical two or three hour massage at least one hour of the massage is devoted to just the legs. This is again partly to counteract the general downward flow of energy – i.e. to move energy up so that the upper part of the body also has energy. It is also a means of diagnosis and therapy, for problems in the legs indicate problems further up in the body such as in the abdomen, back or shoulders. Ryokyu Endo says, “…treatment on the legs will to a certain extent, soften any body since most of the sen lines run through the legs, by working on these lines one can affect the sen in the rest of the body.
Thai people believe that the abdomen is the center of the body – that it is a window which reveals intimately what is happening inside. Since this area contains so many vital organs, great care should be taken when working here. Begin with light contact and gradually increase the pressure. Make sure to work slowly and sensitively.
The back is of crucial importance as it contains the spine through which 95% of the body’s nerves travel. These spinal nerves affect almost every part of the body including its organs and glands. Likewise the condition of the body’s organs is reflected in the back. As all of the internal organs are affected by what happens in this area, it is very beneficial to spend a lot of time and care when working on the back.
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