Living in Chiang Mai and Pai, I’ve seen tourism run rampant. Where there are tourists, tradition often feels commercialized to an outsider’s eye. It is true for city temples and Thai massage centers.
Perhaps it is not a wonder. On average, a one hour full-body massage costs only 200 Baht (3 US dollars). Training courses at big massage schools are also commercialized, so I never thought I’d end up studying Thai massage during my time here.
My line of fate had different ideas in mind for me. While in Pai, a new friend found a one-on-one training course in Chiang Mai, and suddenly I found myself heading back to Chiang Mai to study Traditional Thai Massage with Ming, an excellent and patient teacher.
Over the course of 3 days and 15 hours, I learned the skills of performing a full body Thai massage: legs, feet, arms, hands, back, and head & face. Ming estimated it would take roughly 3 hours to complete the full massage, quite exhausting for the massage therapist!
A Thai massage is not a soothing affair: a good massage puts quite strong pressure on the nerves and muscles. The placement of hands must be precise – if the strong pressure falls on a bone, the pain can be quite strong. Some of my friends have shared stories of sore limbs and bruises after a careless massage.
The philosophy behind the massage is that there are “sen” – energy lines flowing through the body. In addition to the body and mind, there is energy, which envelops the two. Energy lines form a second skin, and disturbances or blockages in energy can cause illness.
Energy lines can be stimulated through massage, which restores the proper flow of life energy.
On my last day in Pai, I had an amazing ceremony to complete my second level of Reiki training. While my course with Ming primarily emphasized the physical technique of hand placement and pressure, I felt I could combine the two energy-based techniques to achieve a strong healing presence.
In fact, I found that performing the massage required patience and while working, I settled into a pattern that felt meditative as a result of its rhythmic nature.
The next step of my journey takes me to the New Life Foundation: a mindfulness-based drug and alcohol addiction recovery center in Chiang Rai (also North Thailand). While here I hope to practice the combination of my newly gained Thai massage and Reiki skills. I am curious to witness the outcome of energy healing firsthand.