Today was my last day studying with Ajahn Suwat at Thara Thai Massage in Chiang Mai. (Ajahn is a Thai title, meaning something like ‘master’.) I’m very happy that I chose to study with Suwat, and grateful that he accepted me as a student.
My massage practice came about by accident really. We were taking a trip to Australia to visit my sister and family and stopped over in Bangkok for a few days. Friends from London showed us around and introduced us to a local friend who took me for my first massage. I was so impressed by it that a year later I flew to Chiang Mai to take an beginners course. This was just with the intention of learning more – but I so enjoyed it that I ended up studying more more deeply and people who had received massages in the UK encouraged me to do more.
As the benefits of the massage practice started to show more people came by recommendation, and often because they had a specific ache or pain that concerned them. This was when I started looking for resources on how to handle specific conditions. I came across one of the Thara Massage videos on YouTube about a year ago and realised that this was the style of massage I was looking for.
Ajahn Suwat has taken his own study of massage in the Thai style, but then applied his deep knowledge of anatomy to it. Through 15 years of research and observation he has noticed links of cause and effect in the human body. Because of the holistic approach of Thai medicine he has noticed things which might be missed by western medicine. As a result his practice in Chiang Mai has become recognised as the place to go if you need physical therapy.
The two week course began with four students. Two Thais, a Korean and me. We learned a basic massage routine which covered the body in the Thara house style. It is a very efficient style and could be used to give an overall general massage prior to focussing on specific needs.
Even though it would take some time to perfect this style as soon as we all had the basics Ajahn went on to cover specific ‘syndromes’. This might either be a named medical condition such as ‘plantar fasciitis’ or it might be a set of aches and pains that could arise from tension in a specific muscle. For example, who knew that tension in the Psoas (a muscle of the lower abdomen and hip) could show up as soreness in the ankle, the back of the knee, the ribs, and the front of the shoulder.?
The pattern for the remaining days was that Ajahn Suwat would teach about three different syndromes in the morning and we would then be left to practice in the afternoon. He would pop in to see if we had any problems or answer questions. If we were short of bodies to practice on his staff would often volunteer when they were not working. If he was giving a massage himself in the afternoon he would sometimes call us in to see an example of something. If we were not practising there was always the option to sit quietly in the treatment room and observe.
The second week started with me as the only student, which give me full-on attention and less time for note taking. This was a real treat although it meant that there was less opportunity for practice. Staff at the clinic were very kind in letting me practice both my massage and my Thai on them. I felt rather poor at both. On the last two days Alexandra from The Netherlands joined.
The low student numbers is normal at this time of year – it is just building to the hottest time and the air quality in Chiang Mai can be pretty poor due to the burning of the rice fields in the surrounding area and neighbouring Laos. Most overseas visitors come from Novembeer to February. I consider myself to have been very lucky to have the attention of a true master of Thai massage.
So, what now? I have a rough notebook which I intend to write up properly, which I hope will help me revise what I have learned in the process. The next stage will be to incorporate what I have learned into my existing practice. Meanwhile I have a day to get my things together, a flight to Bangkok and a day there to relax and do some sight seeing before returning home.