“Thailand? Why would I want to go there?”
I was burned out from my job and thinking about maybe taking a class, maybe getting back to massage, maybe … I don’t know what. And then my friend said, “Why don’t you go to Thailand and study Thai massage?”
To me, Thailand was at best a place with great food. What was Thai massage anyway? I set the idea aside. But then one morning, I decided to explore the idea on the internet. Right away I found an international massage school with a website that explained everything I could want to know about Thai massage and the structure of their classes. I checked out places to live, flight options, the best season to visit. I wrote down exactly how much my dream course list and living expenses would cost. It wasn’t completely out of reach, but it was an amount that I didn’t have easy access to. I set the plan aside and told myself that it was good that I had explored the option and at least I now had the facts.
In the afternoon of the same day, I received an email from a colleague asking me to bid on a big copy editing project. I copy edited in my free time, so I thought “why not?” and worked up an estimate. It was the same amount as the dream course list and time in Thailand. I was so surprised, I double-checked the numbers. It was the same. Every time.
Okay, Universe, I hear you. I’m going to Thailand.
Sick the first week and then healed
I had never traveled in Asia. I had traveled on my own before, but Asia was completely new to me. I was scared. Thankfully, Chiang Mai feels like a small town and the Thai people that I met were nice and welcoming. A respectful “sawadee-ka” (hello) and a bow go a long way in breaking down walls between tourist and local.
I registered for classes and found a place to stay near the school. On my first day I felt like I had come so far and faced every fear and challenge. I was here! I was learning Thai massage in Thailand! Would it be everything I hoped for?
In the middle of the first week I got sick. My digestive tract was rebelling in every direction. Was it the food? Was it stress? How can I learn massage like this? I went to class anyway. For one of the exercises, I was partnered with a woman from Switzerland. She pressed one pressure point on my foot and within a minute I had to run out of the room barely making it to the bathroom to throw up. I sat on the floor next to the toilet wondering if I had come this far for everything to end up like this.
No. I’m going to keep going. Missing one day or even a half day in this kind of intense learning environment can wreck the whole experience. I rinsed my mouth and went back to class. I wasn’t going to give up so easily.
The next technique we were going to learn was stomach massage. Great. If you do the procedure clockwise, everything gets moving. If you do it counterclockwise, everything stops moving. I asked my partner, this time a physiotherapist from Germany, to go counterclockwise and very, very gently. We got through the exercise and I felt better. I felt practically healed for 12 hours. I had a couple more stomach episodes, but I did the stomach treatment on myself and eventually, within a day or so, I was completely fine.
Thai massage is based on pressure and stretching. It merges 2,500-year-old theories from India with theories of Chinese medicine. My school called it “yoga for lazy people” that lets the goodness of yoga wash over your whole body in the form of a wonderful massage.
Classes were intense, practice was intense, and I loved every minute! Every single thing I learned was like a new world being opened to me. I had some knee pain one day and a few acupressure points later, I felt like I had a new leg. Thai foot reflexology was a revelation on the meaning of pleasure and a sense of well-being for my whole body.
This was IT. This was the thing that I had been looking for in massage. This was my passion and my calling.
When I got home, I knew that it was time for a change. At my goodbye party at the office, I gave a short talk on Thai massage.
And I haven’t looked back.
Author: Ilana Brown – Massage has been a hobby since I was a teenager, but I was never ready to make it a career. I took a Swedish massage course and gave massages to friends. In Thailand, I studied at the International Training Massage school in Chiang Mai [http://www.itmthaimassage.com/] and am using those skills to build a massage practice. [https://www.facebook.com/IlanaB.Massage] I still happily copy edit academic articles and books, but Thai massage is my passion.