I realize now that my first Thai massage experience wasn’t that session I received.
When I was 21, I had moved to New York. I spent the first few days walking and walking, exploring the city. Then my lower legs (tibialis anterior) hurt for days. My boyfriend at the time said to me, “Go see my mom, she’s a healer”. His mom’s a dance teacher and yoga practitioner, who founded an important school. But “healer” ? I knew nothing of yoga in 1994. Gimme a break, I said to myself. I figured, as long as it doesn’t involve needles, why not.
Here’s what she did. As I was laying on my back, she stretched and flexed my tibialis anterior and my calf muscles (their opposite muscles, in back) while applying somewhat painful compressions with her thumbs along my tibialis. It hurt, and she said to exhale when it did (and in my head I’m thinking, “breathe, yeah ok, whatever”).
The next day my pain was gone. But I only made the Thai massage connection recently, I had completely forgotten the experience. The technique she used was Thai massage: stretching the fibers, squashing them, and awareness of breath.
* * * *
Thai massage has taught me that everyone is living in some sort of pain or another. Be it physical, emotional, psychological, temporary, sudden or chronic, pain is an integral part of the human experience.
When someone feels pain, their pain is real. It is real to them, and so it exists. Whether the source of the pain can be diagnosed or not, if someone believes they are in pain, then they are in pain. It’s one of the first lessons in a pathology course, and if ever your doctor doesn’t believe you, see someone else.
Another lesson I’ve learned is compassion. More precisely, the power to choose whether to be compassionate (or not) and whether to express it (or not). When someone is suffering, I can either choose to be as aggressive with them as they are with me, or not. When we realize that someone else is suffering (too) it changes how we see them and treat them, because we understand a little more about “where they’re coming from”.
I’ve chosen to believe that the pains I’ve lived with, am living with and will live with, happen for a reason. When someone comes to see me for a massage because their back hurts, or they’ve got tendinitis or muscle cramps, I understand just how and how much it hurts, but also what can help – partly because of proper training, obviously – but also because I’ve been there.
Having been through my own pain, I’ve found ways to either cope or heal. So when I treat a client, the treatment doesn’t stop at the end of the massage. If the person is ready to receive the information, I offer advice, simple exercises based on yoga, qi gong and Thai massage thaï that require little effort and that anyone can do. These are mostly based on what I’ve been through and what has helped me personally (rather than what I may have read in a book).
And I will be clear about this: the difference between the clients who do the exercises and those who don’t is night and day. A person has *the choice* for example to change their posture in just a few weeks, or simply keep coming back eternally for massage and complaining and nothing’s changed. (Of course! “Things” don’t just change on their own, it’s up to you to change them!)
My goal is not to keep my clients for life. I am here to accompany you for a short while on your path, and then maybe offer you guidance as to which path to follow when the time comes for us to part ways. I do not know how far we are meant to travel together. I will never tell a client, you need so many massages to heal (nor a student so many practices to excel). What’s needed is the will to make a long term change in order to improve your lot. The choice belongs to each of us.
My reason for being, and the reason I’ve been through my pain, is to help others who are now going through where I’ve been. It’s a choice I make every day, because it’s an easy enough choice to make. Thai massage found me for a reason: to help others, and I believe deeply in the healing power of Thai massage.
This blog will be a tool to help others: practical advice and exercises that I give to my clients and students.