*This post was originally published on June 11th, 2012 on amywarcup.com
As of last Friday, the students are fifty percent through completing their Thai massage training. Time is passing so quickly during our three and a half weeks here in Thailand, and last week, this time was well spent. In just three days they were taught fifty-two step to comprise a 90-minute routine in traditional Thai massage. These steps they learned consist of pressure point and energy line work, deep stretching, and massage, all in the supine or face-up position.
In my very first post on this blog, I included a brief description of Traditional Thai massage. To revisit this topic, in short, Thai massage (or nuad paan boran) is a traditional healing modality that has origins dating back more than 900 years ago, although the modality as it is practiced today is fairly new. Its roots stem from Theravada Buddhism, and the art was originally practiced by monks in Buddhist temples. A session typically will consist of acupressure, energy line (sen) work along the arms, legs, back, chest, and head, and deep, yoga asana type stretches. The client remains fully clothed, and sessions are given on a futon mat on the floor. Affects from a session may include a greater sense of balance and body awareness, increased flexibility, openness, and deep relaxation. Some techniques, when applied, may energize the receiver as well.
The energetic effect of a session, however, is the primary benefit of a Thai massage session. Theoretically, Thai massage is based on a belief system that the body consists of a network of 72,000 energy channels that connect to every part of the body, including the internal organs as well as the more superficial parts of the body, such as the skin and muscles. When there is pain, discomfort, or weakness in the body, it is viewed as being an imbalance in this intricate network of energy lines. Thais refer to these energy lines as Sen lines. When a therapist is giving a session to a client, the focus should be guided by the connection the giver feels to this energetic network in the body, rather than just on the physiological aspects of the person. By working energetically with the client, the physical issues in the body will naturally become more balanced and resolved, since from this viewpoint, the body is not separate from the energetic aspects of the person.
Another key principle of Thai massage, and perhaps the most important one, is the concept of Metta. Metta is a term that derived from the Pali-canon texts, meaning loving-kindness, friendliness, and benevolence for others. In the Thai tradition, a session cannot be truly considered meaningful and healing without this intention. A session should always begin with either a prayer or intention prior to beginning the body work, and at the end, a giver should give also thank the client for allowing the therapist to have the honor to work with him or her.
After the first three days of training in the 90-minute supine Thai massage routine, the students had a practice day, followed by the testing day on Friday. The exam included both a written and a hands-on component. During the hands-on exam, everyone was required to give the full 90-minute session without using their notes. They also each gave sessions to Thai people who worked at the school, including teachers and administrators. Bree gave her session to the school owner, Mr. PP (Parowat), and Adam gave his session to a real Leusi, which is is a Thai spiritual person who often lives as a hermit in nature. Although most of them seemed nervous, everyone passed their exams…with straight A’s. Memorizing so many steps in such a short period of time may sound intensive, and it is. I’ve completed this task to learn Thai massage myself more than once, but the end result is that I came home afterward knowing how to give a 90-minute Thai massage in my massage practice. The same will be the case for the six who came to Thailand with me to study this affective and relaxing healing art. Perhaps you may consider booking your sessions with them now. They will undoubtedly have full schedules.