Week four at TMC intensifies
01.30.2012 - 02.04.2012
This week, I completed week 4 of my 5 week Thai massage course at TMC in Chiang Mai, Thailand. It was the most challenging week yet! Learning Thai massage is much more involved than I ever imagined.
Every day, we're exposed to new techniques, new information, and new ways of adapting a massage to meet a client's specific needs. I have accumulated 4 textbooks and have a long list of others that I am going to purchase when I get settled back home. In addition to practicing daily, 2 hr massages on one another at the school, we completed an internship at the Piyamal Elderly Service Center.
My thumbs started swelling on Wednesday and I had to muscle through the rest of the week. Thai Massage isn't always done for relaxation. It's about using pressure points to release energy blockages in order to generate a healthy flow through the Sen Sib, or energy lines, in the body. That requires quite a lot of body weight and pressure. There is a different way to sit for every position in order to save your thumbs and have the maximum effect. I haven't yet mastered these techniques and sometimes forget if I should be: sitting up, sitting down, kneeling, working with one leg over the body, pressing with straight arms, keeping my back straight, pressing my weight over the recipients body, or simply just relaxing and focusing calm energy into a gentle massage.
As if the technique alone isn't enough to remember, we spent numerous lecture hours studying anatomy, pathology and learning how to locate and clear blockages within the body. I imagine this is a mini taste of what med school must be like. I had to learn the major Sen Sib lines that flow throughout the body, including their pathways, exit points and the body symptoms that occur when there is a blockage. There are 72,000 lines in all, but they are (thankfully) contained within 10 needed for Thai Massage purposes.
The internship was the highlight of the week and made the near mental breakdown worth it. We offered free massages at the Piyamal Elderly Center. When the clients arrived, they first received a mandatory health screening. In Thai Massage, it's important to know the client's blood pressure, temperature and body ailments or conditions. If someone has high blood pressure, it's necessary to eliminate many of the positions. The temperature is important because receiving, or giving a massage while running a fever can inhibit the body's natural healing process and also disrupt the energy flow. It's also important to know about ailments such as back problems, varicose veins, pregnancy, etc. I can't remember the last time I had a massage and was asked all of these important questions. At TMC, the giver and the receiver both weigh in before and after the massage because there is an ongoing study in the field of Thai massage and weight loss. On average, the receivers consistently lose weight following a Thai massage. I've seen the results, it's incredible!
After the screening was done, we were each given a clip board with an informational sheet written in Thai. We had to wait for our teachers to translate the ailments and precautionary sites of the body and then we were given a few minutes to consult our textbooks and plan for a 2 hr massage.
My first client was 62 and had high blood pressure along with chronic knee and leg pain. I surprised myself by remembering the knee pressure points and sequences for the massage. She spent a majority of the time snoring as the 82 yr old man beside her laughed and imitated her. I took it all as a compliment. Anyone that knows me, knows I have a love for the elderly and very young. I was in all my glory sitting in a room full of 60+'ers as they snored, moaned, farted and burped with sheer pleasure. To think of it, I may just have a soft spot for anyone that will shamelessly fart in public. (Don't get any ideas, Micah! This doesn't apply to you.) Upon taking her blood pressure at the end of the massage, she was estaic to discover that it had dropped from 154 down to 123. My healing hands had done their magic!
My second client of the day was only 32 and just wanted a general, relaxing massage. Our teachers informed us that the afternoon crowd would be much younger as the older people stay home in the afternoon to watch the Thai soap operas. While she didn't snore, she was very appreciative and lingered around to pay me numerous thanks afterwards.
After such a busy week, I've been thankful for a lazy weekend. Today, I had breakfast and watched the Chang Mai Flower festival parade with my adopted "grandfather"- a 74 yr old man that rode the bus with me from Cambodia when I arrived a month ago. My roommate, Elyse, returned from a week long stay in Cambodia. I happily awoke to her smiling face this morning. I enjoyed a fun, girls night dinner this evening at a local vegetarian restaurant and also forced myself to pick up a book for pleasure and not touch my Thai Massage textbooks!
It's back to work on Monday to finish off my final week, but for now, my brain and thumbs are on vacation.
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