Before coming to Thailand I think I had only ever had one professional massage. Now I make it my goal to get a massage every month, but when massages cost 200 Baht (6 dollars) an hour its a very manageable goal, even on peace corps budget. Thai massage is very different from the “spa” experience many people are used to in the west. It is about holistic healing, energy flow, and personal wellbeing – as opposed to pampering or luxery. The massage is done with the patient fully clothed, traditionally without an oils. The principals originate from Indian ayurvedic healing, yoga, and acupressure. The masseuse focuses on sen lines running throughout the body by applying pressure to points along these lines and then using a technique that will loosen and relax the area. Although there are believed to be many sen lines throughout the body, 72,000 to be exact, there are 10 major ones that are focused on in the massage. Thai massage is notorious for being very hard, as the masseuse will use their elbow and feet to apply pressure, sometimes even standing on the person. It also involves a lot of streching and many times the person recieving the massage will have to move into a variety of positions, to the point where Thai massage is sometimes referred to as “having yoga done to you.”
In many of the tourist areas of Thailand there are advertisements for massage courses, so I decided this was something I wanted to add to my bucket list of things to do while I was in Thailand. In the city near me there is one massage place I like to go, and I mentioned this to them on one of my visits. Apparently there was a massage Ajarn (teacher) in that city, and they said they could get me connected with her to learn there. This worked out perfectly because I was able to go on weekends right to her house, get one-on-one training, and even complete a course where I would get a certification throrugh the Thai Traditional Medical Society (which apparently I can use to work in Thailand now..).
I learned so much through the training and through it was able to understand more about Thai culture. It is considered an artform and can be viewed as a means of meditation and energy transfer. So far I have only used my training to give massages a few times, but it is a nice way to connect with people. I’ve also found that its a good way to spend time with people that doesn’t require me to speak Thai..